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By Oken Jeet Sandham
So many politicians used to make promises at the time of elections that they would solve the Naga political issue if they were voted to power. We have seen how the Central leaders in the past even set timeframe to settle the Naga political issue during their tenures. Even Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in his second term as Prime Minister kept assuring that the Naga issue would be resolved during his tenure (his 2nd tenure as prime Minister) but he failed to fulfill what he had assured.
Even then Union Home Secretary GK Pillai, while talking to the press after reviewing the “Special Attestation Parade” held at Assam Rifles Training Center and School, Shukhovi, near Dimapur in 2010 said the Naga issue would be resolved in 12 to 24 months. But the solution did not come. He, however, cautioned that it was a “difficult problem requiring imaginative and innovative solution,” while saying that no final settlement could come about by having talks with one Naga underground group.
Narendra Modi, as soon as he became Prime Minister in 2014, also gave a timeframe of 18 months to find a solution to the Naga political issue. His timeframe of resolving the Naga issue was also quoted by none other than Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang. RN Ravi, Interlocutor of the Center-NSCN (IM) talks, however, denied that such timeframe was set by the Prime Minister. Interestingly, Modi completes 26 months in office.
No surprising, all the political parties, regional or national, at the time of elections, would include the settlement of the Naga political issue as a top priority in their election manifestoes. On top of it, almost all the candidates, during their election campaigns, would promise at the top of their voice that they would resolve the issue if they were elected or their parties were voted to power. The political parties, which were rivals one another, would also indulge in mud-slinging and blame games for not seeing any tangible solution to the Naga political issue. So generally, the Naga political issue dominates every election in the State.
The main Opposition Congress in Nagaland had been alleging that former Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio had promised to resolve the Naga political issue within three months if the NPF was voted to power in the 2003 Assembly elections. But Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi at an election rally at Kohima in March 2014 criticized Rio of making an incapable promise of solving the Naga political issue within three months if the NPF was voted to power in the 2003 Assembly elections. “Whatever energy I have, I will put in for resolving the Naga problem,” he said. “But I cannot promise that it will be solved within three months. My heart is in trying to get peace and harmony back in the State.”
Rio, who is now the lone Lok Sabha MP from Nagaland, ruled Nagaland for eleven years but the solution to the Naga issue still remains elusive.
Today setting timeframe for resolving the Naga political issue or even mentioning the settlement of the issue as a top priority in future election manifestoes of any political parties will hardly create any attraction and enthusiasm for the masses. The political relevance of such exercises seems to be fast disappearing because of whatever promises made in every election became hollow slogans only to woo the electorates and not for actually finding a solution to the Naga political issue.
In fact, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio was the luckiest and is also present Chief Minister TR Zeliang as they both became the Chief Ministers one after another from the same party under the same banner of Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) when the political talks between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) had been going on in full swing. They did not have much work on the Naga issue for the fact that almost all the Naga Political Groups (NPGs) had already been in truce with the Government of India.
Unfortunately, the NSCN (K) walked away from the ceasefire with the Government of India in 2015. But one must know that the group had walked away from the ceasefire after maintaining it (truce) for 14 long years with the Government of India. During this long 14 years of truce, Delhi had not tried to give them even minimum opportunity to start even informal talks. Such situation actually forced them to walk away from the ceasefire agreement and now the whole world seems to be turning against them for actually no false of theirs. It is yet to see Delhi’s next moves as to how their formula of “inclusiveness for a comprehensive solution” will be worked out.
And since the elections are fast approaching to Manipur and Nagaland one after another, we will witness several leaders from national political parties including Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, coming in with so many timeframes for settling the Naga political issue and other developmental promises.
Well, we will not be surprised to see many of our own State politicians who will also come with a lot of promises and timeframes again in the coming elections and one wonders whether the people will still enjoy listening to those clichéd gimmicks.