The Election Commission of India has announced the schedule for three state assembly elections—Nagaland, Tripura and Meghalaya. The elections are being held in these northeastern states amid increasing regional turbulence. The Nagas are restive over the delay in implementing the 2015 framework agreement signed by the NSCN (I-M) and the Centre. Tripura’s tribals are raising a demand for carving out a separate state. A new convergence is taking place among groups supporting the demands of a greater Nagaland and the division of Tripura for a new tribal state.
The Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura, allied with the BJP, has offered to merge with former Congressman Pradyot Debbarma’s Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA). Pradyot has taken a hard-line stand on the creation of Greater Tipraland, a tribal state carved out of Tripura. His pro-indigenous people party recently scored a landslide victory in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council elections. Tripura is seeing the rise of a new regional alliance of tribal parties and a shrill campaign for a tribal homeland.
In Nagaland, too, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) decided to form a ‘Council of Naga Relationships and Cooperation’ to “explore, at the earliest, realistic ways for Nagas to move forward on the basis of Naga historical and political rights”. The Centre has been conducting simultaneous talks with NSCN (I-M) and the seven NNPGs. Then there is the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), which has threatened to boycott polls if their demand for Frontier Nagaland, comprising six districts mainly inhabited by seven tribes spread over 20 assembly constituencies, is not met. Elected MLAs of all these 20 constituencies have signed letters of support to the ENPO’s demand. Government interlocutor A K Mishra was sent to Nagaland to engage with the ENPO and assure them that their demands would be considered. Meanwhile, the demand for creating a separate Garoland from Meghalaya is also gathering steam. The strategic importance of India’s northeast cannot be overstated, especially with China repeatedly testing India’s resolve to defend its borders. It is time to work towards the closure of key issues facing the bordering states in the northeast.