In Nagaland democracy is in ICU, just before elections

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In Nagaland democracy is in ICU, just before elections

The run up to elections is perhaps the most beautiful festival of democracy that we witness. There is nothing more amazing than seeing people exercise their electoral power even when the polls are tight.

Of course, democracy does not end with voting. The right to protest is just as important, at least when it comes to defending our democracy. So, I was also ‘happy’ to see yesterday’s protests that greeted Home Minister Amit Shah during his visit to Nagaland. The protesters had a very simple message: solve the Naga problem.
Now, if only it were that simple, right?

The Naga political crisis is as old as the state itself. Yet, as of January 2023, we are no closer to a sustainable, permanent solution acceptable to all parties. While I welcome an end to the bloodshed between the separatist groups and the Union of India, the Nagas continue to pay the price of this never-ending conflict. And I use the word imbroglio because, at this point, it’s getting really embarrassing. Rebel groups want some things the Center doesn’t want to concede: that’s fine. But what next?
Now, I won’t waste words explaining the problem: many well-informed people have written books, not just articles, chronicling the problem and if you’re interested, Google is at hand. What I want to talk about is the absolute refusal of both sides to budge from their positions. The central government is more than aware of the position of the Naga rebels and this was evident during the tumultuous governorship of RN Ravi and when he was removed as the governor of Nagaland in September 2021, few, if any, blinked an eye. . But if the narrator was the ‘problem’, what did we do in the 18 months that followed? I wish I had an answer, but I don’t.
And if you think the government and the rebels have used this time to talk to each other off the record and prepare for official talks, I have news for you. We are now further along than ever before in terms of reaching an agreement. If anything, we are regressing as we speak. Recently, the Working Committee (WC) of Naga National Political Groups (NNPG), an umbrella organization of seven rebel organizations in the Peace Mode, accused Nagas of “highly obstructing” political dialogue. For this, Nagaland BJP chief Temjen Imna did not utter a word of rebuke.
The Working Committee went so far as to describe Saath as “an unprincipled, opportunistic and morally bankrupt man”.

“Mr. Temjen Imna Along has stirred up Naga political issues and played every dirty trick in the book to frustrate the progress of Indo-Naga talks. State BJP leadership’s habit of treachery has made Nagas People’s trust has been deeply damaged,” the statement said.

If you see signs of reconciliation amid such caustic remarks against a national party leader, I appreciate your optimism. not me.
The Working Committee went so far as to describe Saath as “an unprincipled, opportunistic and morally bankrupt man”.

“Mr. Temjen Imna Along has stirred up Naga political issues and played every dirty trick in the book to frustrate the progress of Indo-Naga talks. State BJP leadership’s habit of treachery has made Nagas People’s trust has been deeply damaged,” the statement said.

If you see signs of reconciliation amid such caustic remarks against a national party leader, I appreciate your optimism. not me.
And mind you, it is Nagaland’s misfortune that Naga political dialogue is not the only concern. There’s another elephant in the room, which has reared its head recently but has the ability to throw a spanner in the works. Until the second half of last year, few outside Nagaland had heard the term “Frontier Nagaland”. And unlike the raging Naga issue, the demand for a separate Eastern Nagaland state comprising six districts is not decades old. It was first picked up as recently as 2010 and had been in cold storage for most of the last decade before being picked up last year.The demand for a separate state is, above all, a reminder that even in ‘backward’ states, some areas are more backward than others. This is a legitimate demand that deserves an honest debate. But how is it that the Government of India (GoI) has agreed to provide a separate legislature with access to fiscal, judicial and administrative powers for border Nagaland, as some are claiming? How is it that we are trying to solve another problem before solving a decades-old problem? If Frontier Nagaland becomes a reality, what will happen to the Naga political problem?
At present every organization wants to claim that it will decide the fate of democracy in Nagaland. Some want to boycott elections, some want others to boycott. It seems that whatever the problem, democracy will be the main victim here. And this, more than anything else, is an ominous sign for the progress and well-being of the Nagas.

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