Nagaland is quietly heading towards a constitutional crisis just before the state assembly elections, which is supposed to take place on February 27, and a state-wide bandh is feared from February first week unless Election Commission of India and Government of India defer the polls.
Here is everything you need to know about the whole issue.
What is actually the crisis that the state is heading to?
As of January 31, 2018, eleven political parties, both regional and national, have decided to not contest in the upcoming polls unless a permanent solution of the long standing Indo-Naga political problem is reached.
Which are the parties that have agreed to not fight in the elections?
Naga People’s Front (NPF), Indian National Congress (INC), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Nationalist Democratic Peoples’ Party (NDPP), Nagaland Congress (NC), United Nagaland Democratic Party (UNDP), Aam Admi Party (AAP), National Congress Party (NCP), Lok Jan Party (LJP), Janata Dal (United) and National People’s Party (NPP).
BJP, however, have the opinion that election is necessary for solution and raised a counter slogan ‘Election for Solution’ but allegedly going against the party, state BJP executive member Kheto Sema joined the other 10 parties to sign the declaration of not contesting the election on January 29. He has been suspended from the party promptly.
Various powerful civil societies in Nagaland, since last year, have been advocating for ‘Solution before Election’ and with time, the slogan has only gained momentum. According to a report of Nagaland Page, many politicians are not happy about the declaration but they had to comply under the pressures of Naga organizations.
Besides, Naga underground groups have also asked the politicians to not participate in the elections.
What is the Indo-Naga political problem?
According to the Nagas, the Naga inhabited areas always had existed in ‘full sovereignty’ from time immemorial and the inclusion of these areas as parts of Assam in the Indian union and Myanmar after independence gave birth to the whole problem. As a consequence, several militant groups over the years have sprung up in the region, NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K) being the two major groups.
Though to give autonomy to Nagas the state of Nagaland was created in the year 1963 under Article 371 (A) in the constitution of India, much similar to Jammu & Kashmir’s Article 370. But the move, according to Nagas, scattered the Nagas further in four different states i.e., Nagaland, Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Presently, almost all the Naga underground groups or factions are in ceasefire agreements with the Government of India and a ‘Framework Agreement’ signed between GoI and NSCN (IM) on August 3, 2015, brought everyone on the edge of their seats, because it is viewed as a breakthrough and final solution between the Nagas and India. But since nothing in the agreement has been made public yet, many are also suspicious about the agreement.
What is there in the ‘Framework Agreement’?
As of now, everything about the contents of the agreement has been kept secret until the negotiations between the parties culminate and a final solution is reached. Since the signing, however, statements by different politicians and hearsays about the contents have suggested that there might not be ‘sovereignty’ for the Nagas and there would not be integration of all Naga inhabited areas forming Nagalim or Greater Nagaland.
As recently as January 29, 2018, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had assured Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal that no part of Assam will become part of Nagalim, after violence broke out in the Dima Hasao district of Assam, which led to the death of two protesters, over reports that parts of the district would be included in the proposed Greater Nagaland.
Similar statements by different politicians were made over and over again in the different states of Northeast India which are concerned about the agreement.
Why solution before elections is seen necessary?
Nagaland organizations are of the view that if elections happen as scheduled, the solution that Nagas are expecting would take longer and would continue to elude the Nagas and a solution before election would bring stability in the Naga society. Another side of the story is that Naga politicians, since the signing of the agreement, had made statements that if a solution is reached and it requires the state government to step aside then Nagaland Legislative Assembly would be dissolved. So what happens if a solution is reached a few months after the elections?
Is everyone in Nagaland in the same boat about the bandh and deferring the polls?
The civil societies, Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) and most of the apex bodies in the state appear to be in the same boat. However, on social media, there are many, especially the young Nagas, who are questioning the moves of the powerful organizations.
Last year around the same time, the situation of Nagaland was critical on the issue of 33% women reservation in the Urban Local Bodies election and even internet was shut down in the state for weeks. This time, too, Nagaland is heading towards a similar situation and maybe into even greater crisis.