Peace parleys stalled, Nagaland polls may happen on time

 The two-decade old Naga peace talks between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-Isak Muivah faction) seems to have been stalled as both sides again have few outstanding issues to be resolved.
In view of the hardened stances of both sides and reluctance of NSCN (Khaplang) faction so far — despite dropping hints to rejoin the talks process, stage is almost set for elections in Nagaland, sources said.

“There are still four-five pending issues to be resolved between NSCN (IM) and Centre even as Greater Nagaland demand as pursued by NSCN (IM) seems to have been dropped,” a key source said.Till 2016-17, some of the issues which appeared like “hanging fire” were demands pertaining to a separate Constitution.

Separate flag for Nagaland and passports for Nagas while External Affairs and Defence could be joint subjects.
The NSCN (Khaplang), which walked out of peace talks in 2015, is being pursued to rejoin the parleys afresh but the process may still need some time.

“Elections are due, democratic process and are time-bound. Polls cannot be postponed indefinitely and President’s Rule is no panacea to run a militancy-hit state,” a senior official told UNI.

In some areas, progress have been made — in others talks were on between NSCN (IM) leaders and Government’s negotiator RN Ravi, sources said. However, Government of India believes that a sense of “reasonableness and purpose” is visible and a realisation has dawned that — “If we fail now, may be we may never succeed”.
Unlike Mizoram, the insurgency issue of Nagaland offers more complexities as Nagas inhabit in present day Nagaland and parts of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and also Myanmar. The term of the present Nagaland Legislative Assembly expires on March 13, 2018 and the government of India as well as Election Commission have “constitutional obligation” to conduct polls.

On the political front, key players BJP and its ally Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) are all out gearing up party poll machinery, the opposition Congress in the state is also not against polls per se.

“Elections should be held on time….if no final and acceptable solution is arriving within two-three months. What is important is that Nagas want a solution which is transparent and accepted by all stakeholders,” a senior Nagaland Congress leader said.

NPF leader and former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has met a number of key central leaders including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and insisted that “Solution before Election” demand may be looked into with all seriousness. 

Sources said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh also held one-on-one talks with Chief Minister TR Zeliang and assured him that all aspects of the issue would be looked into.

Nagaland unit of BJP has geared up into full time action and even in rural pockets like Tizit, Mon and Kiphire along international border — political activities in view of ensuing polls have been set into motion.

In fact, the prospect of holding elections brightened last month after BJP chief Amit Shah appointed MoS Home Kiren Rijiju as saffron party’s poll in-charge for Nagaland. Mr Riiju almost in as many words has said that victory of BJP was essential for peace and development in the militancy hit state.

The apex tribal body Naga Hoho appealed to the Naga people from different walks of life to defend the “inherent rights” for seeking solution to the insurgency problem and “not to allow holding of elections”. 

Other groups like Gaon Burrah Federation of Nagaland comprising village chiefs has also opposed elections.The Nagaland Assembly has last year passed a resolution urging the Centre to usher in an honourable and acceptable solution to the Naga political issue “well before the assembly election” — but now the time seems to have run out and all roads lead only to polls.

Despite its Hindutva inclination, the BJP has grown as an organisation in the predominantly Christian state in last few months and moreover its alliance with regional party NPF gives it a ready legitimacy among the people, sources said.

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