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EDITORIAL: Studying May 28, May 30, The NPF conundrum

The situation calls for statesmanship of the highest order. It also calls for a mature response from the people, particularly the Meitei community. On May 28, Nagaland Chief Minister Nephiu Rio along with some of his senior Cabinet colleagues are set to arrive at Senapati district headquarters to formally kick start the formation of the State unit of the Naga People‘s Front, the political party, which is heading the Democratic Alliance of Nagaland coalition Government in the neighboring State.

On the face there is nothing wrong in a political party coming to set up base in Manipur, but not everything is as it appears to be for the political under current leaves a lot of room for speculations, fuelled by misunderstanding and total lack of trust amongst the people, especially those divided by the Nagalim or Greater Nagaland issue. It does not need a political expert to put a finger on the factors for the air of distrust and speculations since diplomacy has been abandoned a long time back, in the belief that it makes better sense to put one’s card on the table rather than keep it close to one’s chest. Subtlety is passé’.

The Naga Peoples’ Front came to power at Kohima in 2003 riding the wave of Naga Nationhood. Rio, a onetime trusted lieutenant of SC Jamir, left the Congress, formed the NPF and saw to it that his former mentor/leader was dismissed to the periphery of Naga politics at a time when the demand for the creation of a Greater Nagaland was gaining currency and those opposing it were beginning to make their intention more audible and more clear. In other words, NPF was formed on the foundation stone of a “Greater Naga Nation” which was first given shape and life by Th Muivah and his men and the publication of the “Bedrock of Naga Society” penned by SC Jamir came to be an apt political opportunity for the advocates of a Greater Lim to rally around.  This in short is the background under which the NPF saw the light of day and one of the immediate fallouts of the new political development is the manner in which the concept of a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim began to gain currency.

It is against this backdrop that Mr. Rio and some of his Cabinet colleagues have announced their plans to visit Senapati district headquarters on May 28 and give life to the State unit of the NPF. It may just be a co-incidence, but be sure that everyone would have taken note that the tripartite talk, involving the Centre, the State Government and Naga civil society organizations of Manipur, will be held on May 30, just two days after Mr. Rio’s proposed tryst at Senapati. Just the right recipe for mischief makers from either side of the Lim divide to further drive the nail of disconnect and transform an issue, which is strictly political in nature, into a social confrontation. The situation is dicey and sensitive and this is the reason why we have stressed on the need for all the stakeholders to display political maturity for there are bound to be some elements who will come to the fore with their own vested agenda.

It is therefore a given that while Mr. Rio and some of his Cabinet colleagues will descend on Senapati as distinguished guests of some section of the people, particularly the Naga civil society organizations, there will be others, including the State Government, who may see the proposed visit as nothing less than some mischievous game played to score for the Lim demand. May 28 is the proposed date for the NPF and on May 30 the tripartite talk amongst representatives of the Union Home Ministry, the State Government and Naga civil society organizations of Manipur will be held. The tripartite talk has its seeds in the Senapati Declaration of the Naga People’s Convention on July 1, 2010 and the main agenda, as put forward by the Naga organizations, spearheaded by the UNC, is to sever all ties with the State Government and urge Delhi to make the necessary alternative arrangements.

The demand raised by the Naga civil society organizations is pregnant with the unstated but nevertheless understood demand raised by the NSCN (IM). This is a brief summary of the background of the proposed tripartite talk and whether it is out of political compulsion or due to the sensitive nature of the issue at hand, New Delhi has been singing the “not clear” tune to the State Government, though the points raised in the July 1, 2010, Senapati Declaration, have been placed before it in black and white and the first round of talk has already been held on December 3 last year at Senapati district headquarters. Or Delhi may just be trying to gain political mileage out of the imbroglio, for remember it was against Delhi that the NSCN (IM) and earlier the NNC first raised their banner of revolt.

There is also no love lost between a good section of the people of Manipur and Delhi. Maybe this is how politics even out things. The date for the Manipur chapter of NPF has been announced for public consumption and while the task before Mr. Rio and Naga civil society organizations is set, the real test will lie in how Imphal respond to the new development. Mr. Ibobi is certainly in a situation where every step he takes has the potential to be misinterpreted. Should the SPF Government just look on and not raise a voice or should it act tough and say No is No? Will Manipur take a leaf out of Arunachal Pradesh and make it clear that the NPF is not wanted here nor will it prefer the indifferent posture, lest any voice may be taken as giving too much importance to a political party, which exists only in Nagaland? There are no easy answers, but the uneasy feeling that not everything may appear as innocent as they seem is hard to ignore.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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