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Extremists want comforts of life, not solution to Naga issue: Nagaland Deputy CM

Deputy Chief Minister of Nagaland and BJP leader Yangthungo Patton, left, along with Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. File

Deputy Chief Minister of Nagaland and BJP leader Yangthungo Patton, left, along with Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh. File | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Senior extremist leaders do not want a solution to the “Naga political issue” so that they can continue to enjoy the comforts of life with public money, Nagaland’s Deputy Chief Minister Yanthungo Patton has said.

Speaking at a programme of the Central Nagaland Tribes Council in Wokha last week, he said the Centre was very clear on not allowing a separate Naga flag and constitution as part of the peace deal. The extremist National Socialist Council of Nagalim, or NSCN (Isak-Muivah), has been insisting on the flag and Yehzabo (constitution) for settling the peace process that started in mid-1997.

In a video of his speech that has gone viral on social media, Mr. Patton is heard saying: “Some big (extremist) leaders do not want solution. They want to keep relaxing and enjoying the comforts of life with money collected through extortion and taxes.”

The extremist groups in Nagaland run parallel governments, surviving on a range of “taxes” collected from villagers to traders and government employees.

“If this continues, I would say, go to hell. You won’t go to heaven. How can you go to heaven by causing so much hardship to the public? We must come out openly now. It is high time. Enough is enough. There is no other topic,” he said in a departure from the political tradition of playing it safe in Nagaland.

Mr. Patton is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is a constituent of the United Democratic Alliance government in Nagaland headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio’s Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party.

Four MLAs of the Naga People’s Front and two independents are also part of the alliance in the State’s opposition-less 60-member Assembly, which refers to the extremists as “national workers”.

The Deputy CM’s “outspokenness” has attained significance ahead of a meeting between Home Minister Amit Shah and Mr. Rio’s team to discuss the Naga political issue in New Delhi.

Mr. Patton said the Nagas must try to bring solution to the protracted problem under the leadership of Mr. Rio, who, he said, was struggling for settlement.

Nagaland Minister and BJP leader Temjen Imna Along had in March angered the NSCN-IM by stating in the Assembly that Mr. Shah said the Nagas would not achieve separate flag and constitution even in 400 years.

Role of money in polls

Mr. Patton said the Centre should resolve the Naga political issue by August 15. “If not resolved now, the issue will take another 100 years. This is because the general election is approaching and no one knows whether the BJP will be able to form a majority government,” he said.

Assembly election in Nagaland is scheduled for February 2023, a year before the next Lok Sabha election.

Mr. Patton was candid about the role of money in Nagaland’s electoral politics.

Insisting that elections in Nagaland were different from other States, he said a candidate in Mizoram had once sought an additional ₹5,000 after spending ₹30,000 and two pigs during his election campaign.

“If he had contested in Nagaland, he would have demanded ₹5 lakh to ₹5 crore,” Mr. Patton said.

The first signs of a solution to the Naga political problem came when the Centre signed the Framework Agreement with the NSCN (I-M) in August 2015. The Centre signed another deal called the Agreed Position with the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), a conglomerate of seven other extremist groups.

The peace talks with both the NSCN (I-M) and the NNPGs are over. The NNPGs say the contentious issues can be pursued after inking the final peace deal. But the NSCN (I-M) has maintained there can be no solution without the Nagas being granted separate flag and constitution.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 1:53:40 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/extremists-want-comforts-of-life-not-solution-to-naga-issue-nagaland-deputy-cm/article65418980.ece