Centre must come clean on Naga pact

A serious and extraordinary situation may be developing in Nagaland which is scheduled to go to the polls on February 27. The new assembly has to take oath by March 13 and the Election Commission has announced the poll schedule. But most political parties in the state, including the ruling Nagaland People's Front (NPF), are not happy with the decision to hold the elections. As many as 11 parties had actually decided to boycott the elections, though a few of them may yet participate in them. The Naga Hoho, an umbrella body of Naga tribal bodies, which wields much influence in the state, and many civil society groups had called for a boycott of the elections if the Centre went ahead with them without concluding the Naga peace agreement. Only the BJP, and a newly formed party, the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, with whom it has formed an alliance, want the elections to be held. The BJP was in an alliance with the NPF till last week.

At the heart of the problem is the framework agreement signed by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM) and the Centre in August 2015, which is said to accommodate in some form the Naga militants' demand for Nagalim, a 'Greater Nagaland' consisting of areas in the neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. There has also been speculation that the Naga state would be granted a limited degree of sovereignty. These suspicions were strengthened by statements made recently by an RSS functionary. Protests have already started in neighbouring Assam and two people were killed in police firing recently. The government has refused to make public the details of the agreement. Instead, the government should have cleared the air before deciding to go ahead with polls. There is uncertainty now and widespread fear that the election will be marred by violence. The militants have warned that any "national worker" who defies the decision of the Naga groups will face serious consequences. Though nominations have been filed and the core committee of the groups that called for the boycott has been dissolved, there is unease among parties and the people now. Elections, without the people's support and involvement, only hurt the democratic cause.

An agreement which has serious implications not only for Nagaland and neighbouring states but for the entire country should not be kept under wraps. It has to be based on consultations with all stakeholders and a consensus among them. The government should reveal the terms of the agreement it has reached with the Naga militants, lest fear, rumours and speculation make the situation worse and mar the election.

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