To say that the state of affairs in Nagaland is in suspended animation at the start of 2023 would be an understatement. Presently, there are various speculations within the political circle as well as the common person regarding two issues – the demand for ‘Frontier Nagaland’ as well as the solution to the protracted Naga political issue.Both issues continue to dominate public discourses as the New Year begins.
While the elusive solution to the Naga political issue has been a recurring theme over the years, things become more ‘animated’ in the run-up to any change of guard in the State Assembly. With the current tenure of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly ending on March 12, 2023 as per the Election Commission of India data, while the official machinery has been doing groundwork in preparation for a possible election, however, there was a considerable lack of ‘electioneering’ by various political parties so far. To recollect, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had told the media last month that all the 60 members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly had decided to withhold campaigning till December 2022 in “support of the Naga solution.”
Moreover, a new dimension has been added to the trepidation over the current state of affairs with the Eastern Nagaland People's Organisation (ENPO) reiterating its stance on January 3 to boycott elections “until and unless a separate statehood ‘Frontier Nagaland’ is fulfilled as demanded by the people of Eastern Nagaland through the grassroot.”
The visit of the Central Committee constituted to study the statehood demand in December as well as the proposed visit of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah on January 6 and possible visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi thereafter, have fuelled further ‘apprehensions’ on both issues. While the Nagaland State Cabinet appealed to the ENPO on January 3 to reconsider the demand for a ‘Frontier Nagaland’ state, the latter’s statement on the same day as well as the chain of events in the recent past suggest that either the issue would linger or an ‘alternative’ arrangement would be made.
The jittery over the issue was perceptible with the State Government Spokesperson and Minister for Planning and Coordination, Neiba Kronu telling the media after a meeting of the State Cabinet that a clearer picture would emerge during scheduled Shah’s visit regarding the prospect of electioneering.
With different but related issues colluding, there is also the question of whether the Union Government would ‘accelerate’ the process of ongoing Naga political talks to accommodate competing imperatives, thereby undermining the ‘solution’ for political exigency. Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio also reportedly hinted at the ascendancy of ‘economic packages’ rather than a conclusive political solution while discussing the issue on the sidelines of an event on Tuesday.
As noted in this column last week, the ‘physical’ political markers that have divided Nagas into different States as well as international boundaries appear to have widened further while the State enters into a New Year ‘anxiously’ with most internal issues unresolved and ‘deferred.’ Against the backdrop of the development of the rapid chain of events in the first week of the New Year, the jitters over the state of affairs will continue at least till the first half of January.
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