Kohima: Ahead of the 2023 state Assembly elections, members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA), irrespective of their political affiliation, signalled a pressing need for resolving the Naga political issue.
One of the resolution unanimously adopted by the legislators during the ongoing session of the NLA on Tuesday stated: “All members of this House have come together under the same banner in line with the election manifestos of all political parties committing ourselves to the people that all the elected members are prepared to make any sacrifices for an inclusive, honourable and acceptable solution to the Naga political issue.”
As the topic of the Naga political issue dominated the day, minister for planning & coordination, land revenue and Parliamentary affairs Neiba Kronu, who initiated the discussion, said: “As a facilitator, we will pursue and try our best to bring a solution”.
Kronu said that as observed during the meeting of the Parliamentary committee on Naga political issue held on Monday, there are two Naga political groups negotiating with the Government of India (GoI). However, the talks are going “different ways” as one group — NSCN-IM — focuses on Framework Agreement (FA), while the other —NNPGs — focus on “Agreed Position”.
“We must bring the negotiating parties together so that they can have discussion and dialogue with the government of India. For them, they may have more time but for us, as discussed, we don’t have time,” he said.
Kronu added that the legislators will be compelled to “come back to the public” and that unless something is done “as early as possible”, the election will be near by the next year. Questioning how it will “go back to the public”, Kronu said that if the political issue is not resolved, the entire “system” will be affected.
As the Centre and the negotiating groups have arrived at an understanding, he said that it is a crucial time put in more effort.
Framework Agreement interpreted as per interest: Imkong
MLA Imkong Imchen from opposition bench expressed concern over the interpretation of the agreement signed between the Government of India and the NSCN-IM. He said that as both sides have not defined the words of the Framework Agreement, both are at liberty to interpret according to their interest.
This, according to him, is a setback and a fatal issue and so, he urged the negotiating parties to speak the truth and not mislead the people. He also said that as “trustworthy facilitators”, the members of the Assembly must also speak the truth.
Cannot allow multiple governments to function: Nienu
MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu, while participating in the debate, said that it is high time for the government to show its “existence” and put an end to an era of extortion, kidnapping, killing, and so on. He said that in the name of “peace process”, extortions are taking place regularly.
“We cannot allow multiple governments to function under us,” he said, referring to the various Naga political groups. He questioned on what is “holding” back the negotiating groups from “winding” the peace talks.
Nienu said that the Centre and the state government must be “bold enough” to call the Naga negotiating groups for a “round table conference”. Highlighting that there is lack of “political will”, he said it is about time that the Naga peace talks be concluded.
Further, he said that the Naga political groups which cannot sign the agreement should be brave enough to abrogate the ceasefire.
Issue before us is NSCN-IM and Centre: Zeliang
Leader of Opposition TR Zeliang, while appreciating the NNPGs for disclosing the contents of the ‘preamble’ or ‘agreed position’, said that the issue before them [legislators] is the Centre and the NSCN-IM.
As facilitators he said that the MLAs are supposed to know the contents of the competencies mentioned in the Framework agreement, saying that both the NSCN-IM and the Centre has “refused” to disclose about the competencies agreed between the two.
While six years have completed since the signing of the Framework Agreement between the NSCN-IM and the GoI, and almost four years have also passed since the Agreed Position was signed, he said: “It is high time for all the Nagas, particularly the 60 elected members, to pursue the matter vigorously for a peaceful settlement as desired by the Nagas and GoI”.
With the formation of the Parliamentary Committee, he said that it is the right platform to invite the two groups to come together “over dinner or lunch for better understanding”. He said “If both the parties could arrive at mutual understanding, there is no reason why two parallel talks with two interlocutors should continue, which may further divide the Nagas rather than solving the issue”.
On the “apparent sour relationship” between the NSCN-IM and the interlocutor RN Ravi, he said there is more confusion as both are not forthcoming about the contents of the competencies. However, as legislators, he said that they must work to hammer out the differences at the earliest through proper dialogue to materialize things.
Further, he urged the negotiating groups to “seriously consider and accept the fact that unity amongst them will bring forth manifold positive results and lead them to a common meeting ground”.
Naga society badly divided underground and over-ground: CM
During the discussion, Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio said that at present, the Naga society is “badly divided” even among the Naga political groups, previously called “underground” and on the “over-ground”.
While Naga groups have been engaged in collecting taxes, and doing all kinds of activities, he said that the over-ground is divided in tribalism, politics and in the social life as well. He cited how the 103 year old Naga Club—which is one of the first political organization that took birth, is also badly divided with two groups marking its 100 years celebration.
However, considered as honourable members of the state Assembly by the public, he said that “all blames” comes to the elected members. He said that 12 resolutions on the Naga political issue have been passed in the NLA since 1964, and if a new resolution is passed again, it will stand as a record.
While some legislators have questioned on what the “competencies” agreed between the NSCN-IM and the GoI, Rio said that Centre’s Framework Agreement with the NSCN-IM and Agreed position with the 7 NNPGs are “similar and carry similar meaning”.
The CM said that in both the agreements, the Centre has recognized the Naga history. “Our uniqueness is totally different,” he said, urging the members not to take it lightly.
On the three contentious issues—Integration, Flag and Constitution, Rio said that according to the centre, integration is not possible.
However, it has signalled the possibility of an emotional integration through the Pan Naga Hoho where the Naga flag can be used.
So far the issue of the Constitution is concerned, Rio said that if discussed word by word, there is the possibility of a meeting point. He therefore urged the public and the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to come together and give the “last push”.
Furthermore, the CM urged the Naga negotiating groups to resume the peace talks and set aside their indifferences.
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