The Naga poll boycott

All Naga political parties have decided to boycott the ensuing elections to the State Assembly on February 27.  The reason is that the Centre has not spelt out what it wants to do to settle the long-pending Naga political problem. The demand for poll boycott is so strong that even the BJP, which can, by no stretch of imagination, be called a ‘Naga’ political party, has been forced to join the boycott, much to the chagrin of, it seems, the party’s all-India leadership. The elections have been called by the Election Commission or the Centre. Not to take part in the elections therefore amounts to expressing a lack of confidence in the Centre. And rightly so, because the Centre has been dragging its feet for nearly three years now on the modalities of solving the problem.
It is nearly two and a half years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed the Naga Framework Agreement with Isak Chisi Swu and Thungaleng Muivah, the two top leaders of the NSCN(IM) in August, 2015. Details of neither the ‘framework agreement nor the discussions held by the Prime Minister with the Naga leaders were made public. A section of Nagas had been agitating for a sovereign Nagaland outside India and had resorted to armed insurgency to attain their goal. Since 1997, peace has prevailed because the Ceasefire Agreement between the Centre and the NSCN(IM) has been periodically renewed and peace has been held.
It is ‘understood’ – because neither side has formally said it – that the Nagas have now reconciled to a degree of autonomy within India, short of independence.  The rider – again it is ‘understood’ – is that the Centre should bring all Naga-inhabited contiguous areas of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur under one State to be called Nagalim. And here lies the rub. None of the States concerned is agreeable to cede any territory to the proposed Nagalim. As the details of the Framework Agreement have not been placed in the public domain, doubts persist both in the minds of the Nagas as well as the people of these three States. The Centre’s cryptic silence since the signing of the Agreement has only complicated matters. This time the Naga political parties seemed to have decided to thrash out the issue of creating a Nagalim and force the Centre to come out with its exact plans for bringing about a permanent solution. If the Centre still does not spell out its views and maintain a silence on this issue, poll boycott may lead to other forms of protest. The Centre has to take into confidence all stakeholders and spell out clearly what it wants to do to settle the Naga problem.

Friday, 9 February, 2018