The shutdown called by the Core Committee of Naga Tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) was observed on February 1. However, the shutdown was not the all-Nagaland shutdown as envisaged by the CCNTHCO. On January 31, four Naga bodies that are a part of CCNTHCO opted not to observe the shutdown. The Angami Public Organisation (APO), the Chakhesang Public Organisation (CPO), the Lotha Hoho, and the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO) gave different reasons not to comply with the decision taken by the apex body.
The APO published a contradictory press release stating that they would neither persuade nor dissuade any person from filing their nominations. They also mentioned that they would not boycott the election. Another part stated that ‘no bandh shall be allowed in Angami inhabited areas on February 1.’ The contradiction however arose when they mentioned that “[t]his clarion call is made for and in the larger interest of the Nagas in its quest for peoplehood and nationhood which we are aware cannot be taken lightly.”
The CPO however, declared that they would have a ‘prayer day’ instead of the shutdown, and urged the people to ‘stay home and pray for the Naga political solution’. The Lotha Hoho on the other hand took a more pragmatic stand in not supporting the shutdown. According to The Morung Express the decision was taken as the details of the ‘solution’ were unclear andd the Lotha Hoho decided that they could not participate in the shutdown if these facts were not known. They also stated that they did not want a repeat of 1998, and that all the political parties are not honest with their commitment.
The most interesting of the four groups who declared that they would not observe the shutdown is the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation. In a press release the ENPO stated the reason for not observing the shutdown was so that the public would not face any inconvenience in ENPO areas. However, the ENPO had received a letter from the Ministry of Home Affairs on January 31 inviting an ENPO team to hold talks in March. From around 2005 the ENPO has been agitating sporadically for a separate state called ‘Frontier Nagaland’ which would comprise of what was formerly known as the ‘Tuensang Area’. The Tuensang area was later divided into Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, and Tuensang. The ENPO has held public meetings in 2013, as well as met with the Ministry of Home Affairs in 2015. In September 2015 the ENPO held bilateral talks with the MHA on the issue of Frontier Nagaland.
The ENPO has based its statehood demand on the lack of infrastructure in the four districts and a perception of neglect from the Union Government as well as the Government of Nagaland. The infamous draft agreement prepared by Jagdamba Mall he listed the ENPO as one of the parties to the agreement. In clause 8 he mentions the creation of a Union Territory of Frontier Nagaland comprising of Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Tuensang and Noklak, which was created in December 2017. The demand of ENPO for the creation of Frontier Nagaland has been vehemently opposed by the state government as well as other civil society groups. The demand is also one which makes a mockery of the idea of ‘Nagalim’.
That the MHA has decided to send a letter calling an ENPO delegation for talks in March this year at the moment that Naga organisations seem united for once, reveals a cynical strategy. How the six Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) including the NSCN(IM) will respond to these developments is something the Union Government must worry about. The 70 years of war with the Nagas was not an issue that was dealt with by sending more troops. The NSCN was created at a time when the population of Indian forces in Naga areas was greater than the population of the Nagas. If the BJP Government of India is truly serious about the peace process, they need to consider the implications of their actions. Playing hardball in Nagaland will be as counterproductive as it has proved to be in Kashmir.