A blast near Dimapur Railway Station that left one person dead three days before the elections showed that the 15-year-long ceasefire in Nagaland has achieved a peace that is tenuous at best. As Kaka D. Iralu, a hardliner who believes in Naga independence, said: “The Army may have ceasefire with the Nagas, but the Nagas do not have a ceasefire with other Nagas.”
The State government has never been directly involved in the talks even as successive governments have claimed to be “facilitators” of the dialogue. Many in Nagaland believe that every time “hints” are dropped that a breakthrough may be on its way hopes are raised only to be dashed later. The current elections themselves belied a similar promise.
But with the NPF proving its popularity beyond doubt by securing an absolute majority in the 60-member Assembly, will it be allowed a greater role in the discussions in the coming days is a question many observers ask.
Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leaders S. C. Jamir has charged that the impasse in the peace process stems from the Centre’s “suspicions of and mistrust” of Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s government even as he alleges that it is “remote controlled” by the NSCN(I-M).
Several political leaders and observers have asked that the talks be held with greater transparency. As Akum Longchari, editor of a local daily The Morung Express and a member of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation pointed out, claims that the insurgents were “ready to compromise” on certain demands are only reported in the mainstream papers and not heard from either officials or the NSCN (I-M) leadership. “The fate of the Naga people cannot be decided when the people are in the dark,” he said.
NPF president Shurhozelie Liezietsu has emphasised that there is a need for greater transparency, but in the prevailing atmosphere of distrust little headway can be expected.
The links between the NPF and the NSCN (I-M) is a matter of speculation, but the party endorses one of the main demands of the rebels that has proved to be a stumbling block in the peace talks — the integration of areas inhabited by Naga tribes in the neighbouring states of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
This highly contentious issue is one that puts the Naga insurgent groups on a collision course with the people of other ethnicities in its neighbouring states.
Ahead of these elections, the Congress had promised an early solution to “the Naga political problem” if the party is voted to power. Now that the NPF has been voted in, it remains to be seen whether the Centre will resume dragging its feet.