Within a span of just two days, nine civil society organisations wrote to the prime minister of the country to defer the assembly elections in the state. Even on the third day more organisations joined the chorus and still counting. The Naga Hoho also joined in the refrain; solution first before elections. It was only 19 years ago that such a slogan by the Naga Hoho- ‘No election without solution’ instead turned out to be the end-game for some state politicians while some got elected uncontested. It was then hardly 6 months after the ceasefire agreement between the NSCN(IM) and the Government of India came into effect in August 1997.
The general tone of the previous slogan was mostly based on the agreed upon terms prior to the signing of the ceasefire. The most notable being that of unconditional talks to be held at the prime ministerial level. It somehow indicated then by the proponents that the need for elections under the constitution of India was not required. The irony is that even after so many years the solution not election slogan has to be repeated, as a permanent solution to the Naga political issue is still elusive. Much water has flown under the bridge in the last 19 years and the unofficial agreements if ready may have shifted from the initial objectives of both the parties.
This time round too, the benefit of doubt goes to the civil society and also the negotiating parties that surely something might be in the offing. The timing of the demands and letters to the prime minister is quite conspicuous. The wisdom of the civil society to defer elections is also not questioned. As it is the case in Nagaland, elections have become a play of money and power with many unseen and unexpected overtones rearing its ugly head. Therefore not a single election passes by without an incidence of violence, at times leading to death, across Nagaland. Nothing divides the Naga society as elections.
Nevertheless, as stated earlier in this same space, if the final solution has to be disclosed to the people and discussed before the final implementation then the presences of the 60 legislatures who were elected democratically through secret ballot becomes a necessity. The conglomeration of tribe organisations were never divided in the Naga history as the present case and these organisations may not have much say when it matters most. If the approval of the traditional bodies has to be taken approval then one has to either go to the tribes or the village instead. The need to have state leaders also become more pertinent if the solution has to be within the ambit of the Constitution of India. The image of India is also at stake because any solution without elected state leaders might portray wrong impressions among the global community.
The one option left is to announce the final settlement when the current legislatures are still in office. That gives the government about 45 days only unless an ordinance if promulgated. In the meantime the civil society, as a second option, need to start rebuilding the Naga society so that even if elections are held it should be an exemplary one. Peaceful and clean elections. Such propositions are Utopian but there is no harm in trying, to make a better future for the lim and its people.