Division of state: BJPs old promise comes to haunt Nagaland

Division of state: BJP's old promise comes to haunt Nagaland

In the 60th year of its statehood, the spectre of disintegration looms over Nagaland as the BJP’s old promise came to haunt the state.

The seven Naga tribes, inhabiting six remote districts, have now geared up for a final showdown to achieve their demand for a separate state, which the BJP had promised to grant them 10 years ago.

The tribes under the aegis of their apex body, the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), will call on Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on December 3 (Saturday) to push for the demand.

Will boycott assembly elections

The ENPO and other civil society organisations, representing the seven tribes, have threatened to boycott the ensuing assembly elections in the state due in February-March next year if the Centre fails to favorably respond to the statehood demand.

Annual Hornbill Festival boycotted

To prove the seriousness of their resolve, the seven tribes have boycotted the state’s biggest showpiece event, the annual Hornbill Festival.

The 10-day event commenced like every year on the Nagaland statehood day on December 1 (Wednesday) at Kisama, the picturesque Naga heritage village some 12 km from state capital Kohima.

Pavilions allotted to cultural troupes representing seven tribes of Chang, Konyak, Khiamniungan, Yimkhiung, Sangtam, Phom and Tikhir at the venue remained unoccupied as they abstained from taking part in the festival adhering to the boycott call.

This year not a single artefact, attire or even cuisine depicting the culture and tradition of these tribes was allowed to be showcased in the festival.

Eastern Naga Students’ Federation (ENSF) and Eastern Nagaland Women Organization (ENWO) too had issued a strict directive to “individual, group or organization and government agencies” not to display any cultural items associated with the seven tribes during the festival.

17 major tribes, other sub-tribes

Nagaland has 16 administrative districts, inhabited by 17 major tribes along with other sub-tribes.

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Each tribe is distinct in character from the other in terms of customs, language and dress and can be easily distinguished by the distinct designs of their traditional costumes, jewelries, headgears they adorn.

Each tribe also has its distinct language and well-demarcated ethnic territory.

These seven disgruntled tribes inhabit Mon, Tuensang, Kiphire, Longleng, Shamator and Noklak districts.

Frontier Nagaland as a separate state

They first placed the demand for creation of Frontier Nagaland as a separate state cubing out the six eastern districts before the central government in 2010.

They raised the demand alleging that the six districts remained neglected as the development funds are cornered by the other districts.

Then BJP national president Nitin Gadkari had assured the tribes in December 2012 that if the BJP would come to power at the centre, their demand would be fulfilled.

“We have been reminding the BJP of its promise ever since the party came to power in 2014. The first round of talks with the Centre over the issue was held in 2015. The last such talks were held in December 2021,” said ENPO vice president W Bendang Chang.

The ENPO secretary W Manwang Konyak said the Union home ministry invited them for a discussion with the home minister.

He said the seven tribes after years of neglect have now decided that “enough is enough.”

“The six districts are home to about 48 per cent of the state’s population and elect 20 that is one-third of the state’s 60 MLAs. Yet, only about 12 per cent of the state government jobs are bagged by the tribes from these districts. This disparity itself manifests the rest of the state’s indifferent attitude towards us,” Manwang Konyak added.

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 An 11-member ENPO delegation will meet Shah.

Autonomous council for underdeveloped districts

The Nagaland government has already recommended to the Centre for creation of an autonomous council for the underdeveloped districts to address the sense of alienation among the seven tribes.

“Our party-led government has conveyed its stand to the Centre that the issue of neglect raised by the ENPO could be addressed by creating an autonomous council comprising the six districts,” said Chingwang Konyak, president of Nagaland’s ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP).

Chingwang himself is a Konyak, one of the agitated seven tribes.

Incidentally, the NDPP is an ally of the BJP.

Bifurcation demand not viable

Nagaland Pradesh Congress president K Therie appealed to the seven tribes to reconsider their demand saying creating a state, bifurcating a small state like Nagaland, would not be viable.

He said his party favours the creation of a mini-secretariat in one of the eastern districts to take the state’s power centre closer to the eastern districts.

Both Therie and Konyak however admitted that the tribes have genuine grievances, which needed to be addressed.

Also Read: Nagaland preps for grand Hornbill Festival

Therie also stressed the need for the implementation of 33 per cent job reservations for the seven tribes.

Chinwang said his party is awaiting the outcome of the ENPO’s meeting with Shah. So is the entire state.

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