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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2641

No dull moment in Nagaland

By M Rama Rao - Syndicate Features


With elections due in February, 2008, there is going to be no dull moment in Nagaland. Some even say it is killing season in the border state. An extremely high-profile political figure S.C.Jamir, former Chief Minister and currently Governor of Goa, was attacked while he was on his way to his hometown Mokukchung. Six remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were exploded as his 30-vehicle convoy drove past a culvert and there was an exchange of rifle fire between Mr Jamir's bodyguards and the attackers. That none of the attackers was injured or killed retains the mystery of their identity, giving free rein to allegations that it was the handiwork of the NSCN faction led by Issak Swu and T Muivah.

The NSCN (I-M) on its part has denied involvement in the attempt on Jamir's life and has dubbed it as a "stage managed affair" intended to generate sympathy wave in the run upto the elections. Yet its statement does reveal an apprehension -- that the threat perception generated prior to Mr Jamir's visit was intended to facilitate a full-scale police protective shield that would enable Jamir to conduct what it calls "free-wheeling movement to campaign during the forthcoming election in the state, expected in February, 2008". The statement dubbed the incident as an attempt by Jamir to ‘hoodwink the Nagas’ in order to serve his own election interest.

There were other incriminating factors that point to the NSCN (I-M) extreme discomfort over Jamir's presence in Nagaland at this juncture (he entered Nagaland by road via Assam instead of flying into Dimapur). One was the “Azha” -- a kind of Naga fiat -- issued on September 28 by the NSCN (IM) council of kilonsers against Jamir, and Alemtemshi, an IAS officer not to step on the soil of Nagaland. According to Ungma Senso Mongdang (USM) a rival political entity, the “Azha” is “in utter disregard and violation of the birth right and settled customary practice and norms of the Nagas”. The other is the publication of a pamphlet titled ‘16-Point Agreement-Bedrock of Naga Society’ considered to be Jamir’s defence of himself with regards to issues related to NSCN, and the ominous statement issued in Dimapur that the thing "be put at rest sooner than later” is being quoted a proof of intention of "putting Jamir to rest".

At the root is S.C. Jamir's unflinching adherence to the belief that Nagaland's future lies best with the rest of the people of India. He has always proudly proclaimed that he is Indian and would do all he could to keep the Nagas within the four walls of the Indian Constitution --something anathema to the NSCN (I-M) that is trying to fashion a new arrangement that is seen to be the slenderest of thread connecting the future "Nagalim" to the Constitution of India with most of the linkages hollowed out and practically rendered infructuous. For this Jamir has had to suffer four attempts on his life, the most serious being in Nagaland House in New Delhi when a bullet meant for his heart was stopped by something kept in his shirt pocket.

As it was to be expected the assassination attempt raised the political temperature to an immediate high and the Nagaland Congress Party was quick to demand the resignation of the Neiphiu Rio-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government and the imposition of President's Rule in advance of the February elections. Amalgamation of all Naga-inhabited areas on Nagaland's periphery is an emotive issue both within Nagaland and in the neighbouring states and when the BJP led NDA government appeared to suggest during the talks with the NSCN (I-M) that amalgamation was possible Manipur went up in flames, literally.

Something similar has happed to the NPCC. The Manipur Congress has been extremely agitated by the 10-point resolution adopted by NPCC at its Annual General Session held at Congress Bhavan, Kohima. The resolution decided to urge upon the Centre to implement in toto, Clause 13 of the 16 Point Agreement of 1960 calling for the integration of Naga contiguous areas. It pointed out that the integration clause had remained elusive and unfulfilled for the last forty seven years. “The NPCC resolves to urge upon the Government of India to implement the agreement in toto”.

The Congress led Secular Progressive Front (SPF) Government of Manipur denounced the resolution as "provocative". Communist Party of India, CPI, Manipur unit, a constituent of the SPF, pointed to the contrariness of the resolution when it said that the Centre will never heed to the move as the UPA is committed to safeguarding the existing state boundaries of the North-eastern states. The opposition Manipur Peoples' Party (MPP) urged both the AICC and Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) to clarify the position, "failing which, MPP will take that the Congress has been playing a key role in breaching the boundaries of the NE region".

Politically, the NPCC resolution puts the Nagaland Congress on the same side of the fence as the NSCN (I-M) and that is where the S.C. Jamir incident takes a murky turn. He has been the Chief Minister of Nagaland for more than a dozen years and while his tenure had been marked by assaults by insurgents of several hues there was no doubt that he was firmly on the side of India. In fact the NSCN (I-M) accuses Jamir of creating and nurturing the rival NSCN led by Khaplang who belongs to Nagas from the Myanmar side of the border--a factor that feeds on a Greater Nagalim encompassing not just the contiguous Naga-inhabited areas within India but also those lying in Myanmar -- a potentially irritating factor that could undermine Indo-Myanmar relations at a time when China is wooing that country. Already Beijing is providing economic and military assistance to Yangon in return for military bases like for instance the electronic listening post it has set up on the Cocos Island in the Bay of Bengal.

DAN Chief Minister Rio has had his hands full trying to control dissidence within the ranks of the coalition. He inducted a member of the NPA constituent into his government to balance out the resignations and withdrawal of support by two Independent MLAs. The working president of the NPA resigned on health grounds. The current position in the State Assembly is that the DAN has a strength of 33 in a House of 55 after five members resigned from the House in protest against the policies of the DAN government. The coming elections, therefore, portend drastic changes.

- Syndicate Features -

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