All speculations regarding elections in eastern Nagaland were laid to rest after the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) said it would no longer boycott polls and ensure support for ‘fair and peaceful conduct of elections’ in Nagaland.

This comes after ENPO, the apex body that represents seven eastern naga tribes from six districts of Mon, Tuensang, Kiphire, Longleng, Noklak and Shamator, churned out an agreement in a meeting with Union Home Ministry chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday. 

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According to one tribal council president, the new arrangement would facilitate the creation of a Frontier Nagaland Autonomous Council comprising of 40 elected representatives, seven nominated members and two esteemed members.

The ENPO had earlier decided to boycott the polls with tribal councils issuing notices until their demand for a separate ‘Frontier Nagaland’ state was met. The organisation had sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs twelve years ago, in 2010, on the same and resolved to mobilise the masses demanding statehood on their August 2022 resolution. 

What bolsters this movement is the lack of administrative presence in these contiguous hilly terrain without proper road networks and infrastructural set-ups.  The region lags behind in literacy and job participation as compared to other regions in this frontier state. Starting monsoon, the region becomes untraversable owing to landslides and flash floods while it is also bearing the brunt of extreme weather events squashing the harvest of subsistence farmers. 

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Gradual Optimism 

While not very elated at the Centre’s decision to grant Eastern Nagaland an autonomous council, a tribal council member EastMojo spoke with, expressed his optimism at the offer and said this encourages them to further negotiate with the government at the helm about their end goal. 

At present, Eastern Nagaland has 20 MLAs in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly with 12 BJP members, who are in a 20:40 seat sharing agreement with the Neiphiu Rio-led Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP). 

The ENPO issued a statement on Saturday, saying, “Following the request of the MHA to review August 26, 2022 resolution of ENPO and its constituent Tribal Bodies and frontal organisations to abstain in any election process and the subsequent assurance given by the Hon’ble Union Home Minister to ENPO officials on February 2, 2023, the ENPO in due consultation with its constituent tribal bodies and frontal organisations hereby relaxed the 26th August 2022 resolution with immediate effect.”

“ENPO requests all its citizen to cooperate with the government in the conduct of election and not create any law and order problem within ENPO jurisdiction,” the statement added.

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What about the Accord?

This novel political development comes at the backdrop of ongoing Indo-Naga Peace Accord between the Government of India and NSCN-IM & NNPGs, a deadlock that awaits a result. 

In the build-up to polls, Civil Society Groups have demonstrated asking for solution before elections. The 15 Naga Hohos that appealed to the Government of India to expedite the solution have said that ENPO and eight other Naga tribes had agreed to support the ongoing peace talks between the Government of India and Naga Political Groups. 

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