Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio (c) addressing the media on Thursday

Kohima: Weeks after Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio and leader of Opposition TR Zeliang met Union home minister Amit Shah in Delhi over the Naga political issue, the ruling government and the opposition party came together on Thursday to address a joint press conference but ended up sharing their differences.

As per Shah’s advice, the leaders conducted the formality of addressing a joint press conference in Kohima presenting their own stands on the Naga political issue, without any interaction with reporters whatsoever.

A ‘remarkable’ and ‘rare occasion’

CM Neiphiu Rio began by expressing how “privileged” he felt to be “sitting together” with his colleagues from both the opposition party and the ruling government on this “rare occasion” for a joint press conference, which was necessitated after the meeting with Amit Shah.

Like him, Leader of Opposition TR Zeliang also expressed delight about the “unprecedented remarkable event” as the “Naga political settlement is the aspiration and the desire of the Nagas” and it is important for both sides “to be one on this issue, at this juncture to facilitate for an early settlement”.

According to Rio, even after long years of ceasefire negotiation and countless consultative meets, the desire of the Nagas is “to forgive and forget, to reconcile and to come together” since the Naga political issue is “One Naga, One issue, One people”.

Saying that solution should be inclusive, the chief minister recalled the meeting with Shah where the union minister had said that there should be only “one solution”. While the Naga People’s Front (NPF) refrained from attending the recent consultative meeting on Naga political issue organized by the state government on October 15, Rio said that during the meeting with Shah in Delhi, the leader of opposition had said endorsed the resolutions that were passed that day.

According to him, Shah requested both the leaders to “go back” to Nagaland and “have joint press conference and endorse the resolution”. However, the leader of opposition made no mention of endorsing the resolution during the joint press conference.

Also Read: IB working to resolve the contentious issue of flag and constitution: Shah to Naga leaders

Differences on the Joint Legislators Forum (JLF) on Naga political issue

The NPF is ready to work together provided that all the legislators, cutting across political party lines, sincerely dedicated to working towards achieving a common goal by being active facilitators, said TR Zeliang.

When the Centre is “seriously working to resolve the protracted Naga political issue” and the State government posses the “same seriousness”, he said that the opposition will “fully cooperate” and is “prepared to work together on a common platform”, other than the JLF.

Zeliang said that in this regard, a letter was submitted to the CM on November 2 to consider the proposals of the NPF Legislature Party which were taken after due deliberation in a meeting of the Legislators and in consultation with the NPF Working Committee.

One proposal was for the formation of a common platform under the CM’s Chairmanship, where all 60 MLAs and the two MPs of the state can be members, by doing away with the traditional JLF, headed by the Speaker. He suggested that as per need, a Parliamentary Working Committee be constituted with fewer members represented by three major Legislature groups, the NPF, NDPP and the BJP.

He said that with the Chief Minister heading the forum and a committee in place, there will be better coordination and fewer complexities that are faced under the banner of JLF. Zeliang also said that the Speaker’s role in the forum is no longer a “neutral chair”.

Responding to this, chief minister Neiphiu Rio said that the JLF also have the same members as proposed by the NPF—all elected members and two MPs. Rio said that one cannot “undermine” the role of the speaker in the forum.

The CM said that the NLA speaker Sharingain Longkumer, despite being a young member by age [and experience] is “highly qualified and knows his job”. As the Speaker made no mistake, the CM said that changing the role is “disrespect to the [Speaker’s] chair”.

Questioning the need to “change and bring another nomenclature to bring people together”, Rio said, “We are already together”. He then appealed the NPF to rejoin the JLF to “work together” as it has been doing since 2004.

To abandon the JLF and to go to another platform, and to do away with the consultative meeting on Naga political issue held on October 15 is not acceptable, said Rio. While it is not easy to bring various organizations together, Rio said that the recent consultative meeting was attended by 39 organizations and a total of 206 persons in attendance.

He further said that if the NPF agree with the resolutions that were passed during this consultative meeting, the party and its legislators led by TR Zeliang “may endorse the resolution and work for the settlement to the Naga political issue”, so that there is no issue “left behind”.

Also Read: Only way forward is unity & oneness: Nagaland CM on peace talks

To pave way for settlement of Naga political issue

TR Zeliang said that the NPF party also made another proposal to summon a “special Assembly session” at the earliest to discuss Naga political issue. “A thorough deliberation in the Assembly by the elected members, followed by the adoption of Assembly Resolution at this juncture is the most important and need of the hour,” he said.

Saying that it is time to “revisit the commitment” on the Naga Political Issue, the leader of opposition added, “Should the situation demand, as committed in the past, the elected members should be prepared to step down and pave the way for settlement”.

CM Rio responded by saying that in many assembly sessions, discussions had taken place on the Naga political issue. He also recalled that during a JLF meeting in February this year where he sought the opinion of the opposition party if any proposal or agenda needs to be discussed and further take it to centre.

“But if we go and ask the government of India to give us settlement at the earliest, the central leaders always tell us that the ball is in your court, you have to come together and have to understand the situation. We are ready anytime,” he said.

Meanwhile, an update from the CMO said that the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) in a meeting held after the press conference endorsed the resolutions of the October 15 Consultative Meeting and supports the seven point resolutions which were unanimously adopted.

The house also resolved to continue with the JLF as “there is no requirement to discontinue with the JLF at this crucial and late juncture”.

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