Cutting across party lines, all 60 MLAs of Nagaland called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday and sought an early settlement of the vexed Naga issue. Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio even offered to resign to pave the way for a “partyless interim” government and return of peace in the State.

“We told the Prime Minister that the Nagas want an early solution to the six-decades-old problem. After 15 years of ceasefire and political dialogue, the Naga people feel that it is long enough for the government of India to understand the issue. Underground groups also feel the same way. We have come here to convey that the Nagas are now desirous of an early settlement, honourable to them,” Mr. Rio told journalists.

Two MPs from the State — one from the Lok Sabha and the other from the Rajya Sabha — were also part of the delegation that met Dr. Singh and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.

‘A historic step’

Mr. Rio said the coming together of all MLAs was a historic step that represented the desire and aspirations of the people.

Refusing to set any deadline for the Centre, he said: “We are hoping that good sense will prevail and lead to early settlement. If the government of India fails to reach a settlement, it will be a lost opportunity. All political parties have surrendered their position, which is very rare. They have pledged to make any kind of sacrifice to have a permanent settlement.”

Going into the background of the Joint Legislators’ Forum of MLAs formed in November 2009, Mr. Rio said all MLAs had been working hard to facilitate talks between the rebel groups and the government. The Assembly passed a unanimous resolution in July this year to pave the way for an “alternative arrangement” for the sake of permanent peace in Nagaland, and the entire region.

Senior Congress MLA and Leader of the Opposition Tokheho Yepthomi said: “We have informed the Prime Minister and the Home Minister that unless advantage is taken of the conducive atmosphere prevailing in the State, it will be a lost opportunity, which could lead to violence as underground groups are getting restless.”

Elections were due in March next, but instead of conducting them, Mr. Yepthomi said, the Centre should form a partyless government, wherein underground groups would also have an important role to play.

Territorial issues

Notably, the ruling Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) and the Congress differ on territorial issues, but they have agreed to cooperate with the Centre in clinching a solution. On the other hand, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) wants integration of the Naga areas outside the State to form a Greater Nagaland that would affect at least three States in the region. But this demand has been rejected by the Centre.