Nagaland is hurtling towards a crisis with a conglomeration of Naga civil, tribal organisations and Naga insurgent groups compelling 11 political parties – both regional and national – to not participate in the February 27 Assembly elections. “Authorised representatives” of the 11 political parties have signed a joint declaration to not file nominations with the Core Committee of Nagaland Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) and seven Naga Nationalist Political Groups at Hotel Japfu in capital Kohima.
“We on behalf of all the political parties and the intending candidates have, in compliance with the wishes of the people, decided not to go ahead with the issuance of party tickets or filing of nominations,” read the joint declaration. The Nagaland BJP state unit which had skipped attending the first two meetings of all political parties with the core committee also endorsed the declaration on Monday.
CCNTHCO co-convenor and Naga Hoho vice president HK Zhimomi said that anyone, whether members of political parties or members of underground groups, who don’t heed to the call of the people will be treated as “anti-Naga.”
“There is going to be a crisis,” accepted Theja Therieh, Nagaland Tribal Council president and CCNTHCO convenor when asked whether he expects the Centre to back off, but he was confident that BJP would not like to provoke the Nagas who stand united at this juncture. “They (Centre) cannot concede, it’s a constitutional process. So we are prepared to enforce a complete statewide bandh on February 1 if the Election Commission proceeds with the election process.”
Former minister and state BJP executive member Kheto Sema signed the declaration to stay away from elections for his party. While the core committee of Naga civil bodies asserted that the state BJP president has authorised Kheto to endorse the collective decision, BJP national general secretary in-charge of North East Ram Madhav, speaking to indianexpress.com, categorically stated that no one in the BJP state unit had been authorised to sign on any “paper”. “The (BJP) state unit will take action against the member who has signed the document,” he said.
When asked to comment on this, Theja Therieh reaffirmed that all signatories of the joint declaration have been “authorised” by their respective political parties. He informed that the declaration has been signed with the knowledge of Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, in-charge of Nagaland elections. Rijiju was present at the Nagaland chief minister’s residence when the core committee had gone to meet NPF president Dr Shurhouzelie for his endorsement on the declaration. “Let them suspend their party member. I don’t believe it,” Therieh said told of Ram Madhav’s statement.
Adressing the media following a marathon discussion and signing of the joint declaration, Therieh said, “For the first time Nagas from different civil organisations have come together on the decision of solution before election. There is not a single organisation which is opposing this stand.” He also informed that a four-hour long deliberation was held with the two parties negotiating on the political solution with the Government of India. “There were lots of differences. But ultimately we agreed that we are one and we cannot sail in two boats, our destination is same.” The NSCN-IM and the Working Committee of the Naga National Political Groups (conglomeration of six separatist groups) have decided to issue a joint statement making their stand on solution before election, he informed.
Therieh further added that the Centre decided to go ahead with the elections despite repeated representations submitted on solution before election. “The two negotiating parties have reached an advanced stage where solution can arrive anytime; there just needs to be political will. At this juncture we do not understand why this negotiation has to prolong.”
Asked if they have given the Centre any time limit for the final the solution, the core committee members said that though they can’t set any time limit. “We don’t underastand why negotiation has to prolong indefinitely.”
“We are not against the constitutional process, it is not an anti-India movement. But if at this moment elections are announced we know that there will be lot of polarisation. Those who are negotiating with the government of India will be divided. They will support their own candidates and parties and the political process will be hampered. So the political process is a priority,” Therieh said while voicing hope that the “Home Ministry will recognise the people’s sentiments and take a call. “We don’t want election to take place and have another five years with 10 governments. We want solution first so that we have one government with legal authority instead of 10 governments (state government and the parallel underground governments) ransacking the state. Enough is enough. We cannot allow this to continue,” Therieh said.
HK Zhimomi asserted that there will not be a repeat of 1998. In 1998, all parties except Congress had boycotted the elections following a call by the Naga Hoho and the NSCN-IM. Congress had swept the elections winning in 53 seats and while independents bagged seven. The NPF party was de-recognised and their party symbol was frozen as they had responded to the boycott call and not participated in the elections. Zhimomi said, “They don’t want to travel the same route again which the party president (Dr. Shurhouzelie) has been stressing on again and again. But they said we will not come in the way of people’s aspirations.”
“The spirit that have been displayed by the political parties is overwhelming,” noted Therieh.
Asked if they are in the know about the content of the solution being worked out, the core committee members asserted the negotiating parties would definitely take all stakeholders on board as the solution has to be acceptable to the people. “We told them very clearly that we cannot guarantee whatever you bring we will accept unless people are taken on board. Unless we know what is the content of the agreement people cannot just blindly accept,” he said.
The political parties which signed the declaration on Monday are” Naga People’s Front (NPF), Indian National Congress (Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nationalist Democratic Peoples’ Party (NDPP), Nagaland Congress, United Naga Democratic Party (UNDP), Aam Admi Party (AAP), National Congress Party (NCP), Lok Jan Party (LJP), Janata Dal (United) (JD(U) and National People’s Party (NPP).