Naga traders and public leaders insist that only an early political solution would take out Nagaland from the menace-like grip of the extortions – which are called ‘taxation’ by armed Naga groups.
Demonstrators carried placards reading ‘We Want Solution, Not Election’ and ‘Political Talk Cannot Be Indefinite’.
The rally was called by Naga People’s Action Committee – a non-political community-based organisation floated with the initiative of the civil societies and Nagaland Gaon Burrah (Village Elders’ Federation).
Various chambers of commerce and the Dimapur District Citizens’ Forum also extended support to the rally wherein speakers called for an early solution to the Naga issue and to bring a logical end to the 25-year-old negotiations.
The Naga peace negotiations formally began in August 1997 between the potent insurgent group NSCN-IM and the Centre during the stint of I.K. Gujral as the Prime Minister.
Officials say the talks have been completed by October 31, 2019; however, raising the bogies of Flag and a separate Naga constitution by the NSCN-IM leadership headed by Thuingaleng Muivah have stalled the talks.
In state capital Kohima and other towns like rural pockets of Shamatore, Phek and Mokokchung kept their business establishments closed during the rally period.
The NPAC organised the rally to put pressure on the stakeholders, the Government of India and Naga armed groups.
The NPAC has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for an early solution to the Naga political issue. The letter said, “The public rally (of August 5) urges upon the Government of India to ‘implement the concluded political negotiations’ and arrive at a solution without any further delay.”
“Unresolved Naga issue has produced countless scoundrels and thieves and in the name of political issues, threats and intimidation have stifled the growth of the Naga society; which you assured would be a vibrant one,” the communique added.
It also said, “The rally is a firm signal to the Government of India that the people of Nagaland will welcome the solution and uphold it under any circumstances.”
The letter is signed by NPAC convener Theja Therie, co-convener Shikuto Zalipu and and K. Imkhung.
Shikuto Zalipu of GB Federation said that in 2018 also the BJP and the central government had promised an ‘early solution’ and so nearly five years since then – it is time the Government of India delivers peace and solution at the earliest.
An umbrella group of Naga insurgent groups operating within the state of Nagaland – NNPG – led by N. Kitovi Zhimomi is keen for an early signing of a final peace pact.
While NSCN-IM and the Centre have inked a Framework Agreement on August 3, 2015; two years later on November 17, 2017, the NNPG and the government have signed an Agreed Position.
Since the last few months several top Naga leaders including BJP’s floor leader in the assembly and deputy Chief Minister Y. Patton have given strong indications that a final peace pact will probably be inked by August 15, 2022.
“It was a significant announcement by a senior BJP leader. The BJP-led NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi should now walk the talk and give Nagas the much sought after ‘Peace and Solution’,” a spokesman of NPAC told IANS.
“We have maintained that the people on the ground want a solution and are preparing to create a clear passage for<br>smooth landing of Peace and Solution to the Nagas,” he said.
However, the rally organisers have charged the incumbent Neiphiu Rio government and the NDPP-BJP-NPF coalition regime of ‘betraying’ the cause by ditching solutions in favour of elections.
Polls are due in Nagaland by February-March 2023 along with Tripura and Meghalaya. The two coalition partners NDPP and BJP have on July 26 kicked off the political and electoral process among themselves by signing a seat sharing agreement.
The NPAC leaders have stated that the 40:20 seat share deal between NDPP of Neiphiu Rio and the BJP was not acceptable to the people in general at this juncture.
An NPAC leader said, “The seat share pact indicated that Chief Minister Rio is looking forward to the 2023 election. Chief Minister Rio cannot be allowed to jeopardise Solution for his self-interest.”
The pro-Solution NNPG has also blasted the NDPP-BJP deal and of course there were some initial signs of dissension among the rank and file of BJP in Nagaland. Even the Deputy Chief Minister Patton had initially opposed the seat sharing agreement of July 26 saying he was not consulted.
The seat share pact was announced after Chief Minister Rio held a meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah in Parliament premises in Delhi on July 26 in presence of Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Medozhatuo Rutsa, president of Kohima Chamber of Commerce & Industry, has said that an early Naga political solution “will herald in peace, economic progress and will more importantly fathom out the predicament of taxation”.
Notably, ‘Taxation’ is a major social and economic mess in Nagaland which in effect means rampant extortion by various armed Naga militant groups. In the past, some armed groups have spoken in favour of such practice saying there ought to be ‘taxes’ on the people.
Security officials have termed these as illegal and even recommended actions lately.
Theja Therie, NPAC convener, also has said, “No business is progressing in Nagaland while government offices are busy collecting money and paying out to national workers…why should Naga people remain under the shadow of someone who cannot bring solution.”
His references were obliquely to the NSCN-IM leadership, the state authorities and also the Centre.
Many say when the NNPG opposed the BJP-NDPP seat share pact, it actually reflected the group’s lack of confidence in the present arrangement in the state for taking the peace process forward.