Chaos prevailing in Nagaland following the State government’s announcement to roll back its earlier decision and hold elections to Urban Local Bodies (ULB) on February 1 has led the State to an impasse. There was simmering rage against the government decision and following the death of two youths- Khriesavizo Metha of Chiechama village and Bendangnungsang of Aonukpo village from police firing on the protestors, it has just erupted.
The three demands laid down by the protestors are- Stepping down of Chief Minister and his entire cabinet, declaring the ULB elections as null and void and suspension of all police officers involved in the January 31 incident. However, the government has declined to resign and set up an independent joint enquiry committee for the killing. They have only agreed upon the demand of cancellation of elections. However, this offer is definitely not welcome for the masses and as per the latest reports; situation is just going to get worse. The mob is now planning to take the last remains of the two slain youth to the residence of the Chief Minister.
What led to the dispute in Nagaland?
People in Nagaland believe that the State Government betrayed them which have led to such strong protests. A friend from Kohima on conditions of anonymity says, ‘People were opposing the ULB polls in Nagaland because it was infringing on the special rights for Nagaland guaranteed by Article 371(A) of the Constitution. Later, the church stepped in and in a tripartite talk between the government, church and the tribal organisations, it was decided that the election will be deferred. However, as the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court ordered for the election to be held, the government went ahead with it. The people of Nagaland felt betrayed as the government didn’t even respect the church, which is such a revered institution in Nagaland.’
However, he also made it clear that the belief that 33% reservation of women was the reason behind the protest is untrue. ‘ That was one of the many reason actually, not the only reason. The main protest was for government infringing Article 371 (A).’
Impasse in Nagaland
Even though the T R Zeliang government has withheld polls and also pay ex-gratia to the families of the victims, popular sentiment is way too much against them. People on the streets are literally baying for their blood and this time, they are not going to settle for anything lesser than the resignation of the CM with his cabinet.
At this moment, life has come to a standstill in Dimapur and Kohima with the situation resembling Manipur a month back. A journalist friend from Dimapur said, ‘ There is lot of similarities with the Manipur situation, you know. They have also suspended internet services to stop circulation of any kind of rumour or conspiracy theories. Even the cellular services are very bad. Normal life and business of people have come to a complete standstill and we don’t have any idea when things will improve.The government was very lax and they completely misread the situation which has led it to escalate in such a manner.’
So, while we are hoping that the deadlock will be resolved soon, the chances of that happening soon look slim. With pressure mounting on Zeliang from all corner, it might be one hell of a task for him to get out his government from the soup they’re in now.
Words- Nabarun Guha