Election for solution or otherwise?
The incumbent Nagaland State Assembly is set to expire on March 12, 2023 which means the neighouring State would be going to polls in the next three months or so. Election is a ubiquitous feature in any democratic set-up or representative government. Election comes and goes, and this is a periodic affair. Just as much as elections kindle hopes and expectations, they also breed disappointment, despair and frustration. This was exactly the scenario witnessed in Nagaland during and after the 2018 Assembly election vis-a-vis the decades old political dialogue between the Government of India and Naga militant groups, and the long awaited solution. BJP fought the last Assembly election under the slogan ‘election for solution’ but almost five years have passed and another election is round the corner but no solution has been materialised yet. This is indeed a tragedy for all stakeholders, specially the people. Some keen observers and analysts have already commented that any solution to the Naga issue is unlikely before the next Nagaland Assembly polls. They have even hinted that the same slogan ‘election for solution’ is likely to return in the 2023 Assembly election. Many quarters have already started questioning if the slogan ‘election for solution’ was coined with the sole motive of wooing voters in the name of ‘solution’ without the right dose of political will to bring the peace talks to its logical conclusion. It looks like the decades old political dialogue has been caught in a deadlock. But no negotiation, political or otherwise, can make any headway if the negotiating parties stick to their guns and refuse to accommodate each other’s points of view. At the same time, all the observers understand the difficulty and complexity of securing a breakthrough toward inking a final settlement given the contradictory standpoints adopted by the Government of India and the NSCN-IM.
Whereas the Government of India has categorically stated that it cannot accommodate any separate flag or constitution for the Nagas, the NSCN-IM has time and again unambiguously asserted that it would not accept any solution which does not grant them a separate flag and a separate constitution. Again, whereas NSCN-IM General Secretary and principal negotiator Thuingaleng Muivah claimed that sovereignty and Naga integration were very much on the agenda of the peace talk, the Government of India repeatedly assured all the neighbouring States of Nagaland viz; Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur that their territorial integrity would not be affected. Even after the questions of sovereignty or complete independence and integration of Naga inhabited areas are removed from the picture, there is still no meeting point between the Government of India’s standpoint and the rebel group’s demands for separate flag and separate constitution. To break the deadlock, either of the two negotiating parties or both must concede something. As commented earlier in the same column, if both the parties choose to stick to their guns, we fear the much hyped and long awaited solution may turn out to be a damp squib. If the Government of India is not willing to make any concession and NSCN-IM stands adamant on its demands, the only thing the Government of India can do is seal a final settlement with the NNPGs, without NSCN-IM. But any solution of which NSCN-IM is not a party cannot be called a solution in the real sense of the term and any amount of peace achieved through such a solution will not last long. Perhaps, that is why the Government of India has been dragging its feet on sealing a final settlement to the Naga political issue. Yet, no political dialogue or any kind of negotiation can continue indefinitely. At the same time, no political party has the moral right to give false hopes to the masses, just to win elections.