On January 29, 2018, representatives of 11 electoral political parties of Nagaland declared that they would not put up candidates in the February 27 elections to the state assembly. The joint declaration they signed after meetings with the Core Committee of Nagaland tribal Hohos and Civil Organisations (CCNTHCO) said “We on behalf of all the political parties and the intending candidates have, in compliance with the wishes of the people, decided not to go ahead with the issuance of party tickets or filing of nominations.”
The CCNTHCO has been leading an agitation demanding a political resolution to the long standing Naga peoples demand for self-determination under the slogan “solution before election”. The 11 electoral parties include the ruling Naga Peoples Front (NPF), the Nagaland branches of various all India Parties including the BJP and the Congress, as well as various other state and All India parties. (This was the situation as of 1 February. Subsequently, there has been a change.)
The CCNTHCO announced that it will implement a state wide bandh from February 1, 2018. Anyone who violated the decision to boycott elections would be regarded as “anti Naga’. CCNTHCO convenor Theja Therieh, who is also president of the Nagaland Tribal Council, said that “For the first time Nagas from different civil organisations have come together on the decision of solution before election. There is not a single organisation which is opposing this stand.”
Referring to NSCN(IM) and the Working Committee of the Naga National Political Groups which have been holding negotiations with the Central government for a political solution to the Naga problem, he said that both these organisations would issue a joint statement making their stand on “solution before election” clear. “There were lots of differences. But ultimately we agreed that we are one and we cannot sail in two boats, our destination is same.”
In August 2015, the Government of India had announced that it had reached a Framework agreement with the NSCN-IM on the demand of the NSCN-IM for self-determination of the Naga people. In 2017, the Government of India also signed an agreement with the Working Committee of the Naga National Political Groups, which represents six other Naga political organisations fighting for Naga self-determination.
The CCNTHCO has declared that whatever the agreement reached between the government of India and the Naga political organisations involved in the negotiations, the final decision on whether the solution is acceptable or not will be decided by the people. “Unless we know what is the content of the agreement people cannot just blindly accept.”
The CCNTHCO convenor said that the Central Government had decided to go ahead with the elections despite repeated representations submitted that there should be a political solution to the Naga national problem before elections. Even the Nagaland Assembly had passed a unanimous resolution in November 2017 demanding that there be no elections until there is a political solution to the Naga national problem.
Explaining the reasons for opposing elections, the CCNTHCO pointed out that all the efforts made by Naga people to forge political unity around the common demand for self determination would be destroyed if elections are held. “…there will be lot of polarisation. Those who are negotiating with the government of India will be divided. They will support their own candidates and parties and the political process will be hampered.” Describing the terrible situation facing the people of Nagaland, he said “We don’t want election to take place and have another five years with 10 governments. We want solution first so that we have one government with legal authority instead of 10 governments ransacking the state. Enough is enough. We cannot allow this to continue.”
This is the reality of Nagaland. The so-called elected civilian government has no authority. What exists in Nagaland under the façade of civilian government is the brutal rule of the Indian State through its armed forces. Apart from the plunder by the civilian government and the armed forces, the Naga people also face the burden imposed by numerous armed groups fighting for self-determination.
Earlier, on January 25, the spokesperson of NSCN (IM) called upon the Naga people to decide “whether we choose solution or election; whether we choose freedom or slavery.” He declared that “election is anti-thesis of solution. Solution is about the future of the Nagas whereas election is about the Indian constitution; solution is about the unique history, culture and identity of the Nagas whereas election is about India; solution is about the land of the Nagas whereas election means it is about Indian territory; solution is about the principle of self-reliance whereas election is about dependence on others; solution means Naga people will be the epicenter of Naga politics whereas election means Delhi will be the high command of the Naga politics.”
The Naga people have realized through their own bitter experience that periodic elections do not offer any solution to the burning problems facing the people and society. They do not ensure that sovereignty vests in the people and people are the decision makers. On the contrary elections merely legitimize the brutal dictatorship of the big bourgeoisie headed by the biggest capitalist monopolies over the land, labour and natural resources of the peoples of India, including the Naga people. In the case of Nagaland, elections have been used to coopt a small group into the oppressive state apparatus to share in the loot and plunder of the people.
Furthermore, elections are a tool in the hands of the ruling class to smash the political unity of the people. Every election is used to exacerbate divisions amongst the people along lines of religion, caste, language, nationality, tribe, as well as party affiliation.
The Naga people have a history of waging courageous struggle for self-determination from colonial times. The Indian state has unleashed the most brutal armed repression against the people, but failed in crushing the aspiration for national rights. It has tried to divide the forces fighting for national self-determination using its intelligence agencies as well as through separate negotiations with different groups.
The Indian State has pursued the diabolical plan of setting the different peoples of the North East against each other. Towards this end, it carries out propaganda that the interests of the different peoples inhabiting the North East are hostile to one another and irreconcilable. It uses its electoral political parties to inflame passions, setting one section of the people against another. In this way it works to ensure that the peoples of the North East do not unite in the common struggle for their national rights against the Central State.
The developments in Nagaland show that the people are seeing through the diabolical game plan of the Indian State. The struggle of the Naga people for sovereignty is a just struggle. It is part of the struggle of the working class and people of India for reconstituting the Indian Union as a voluntary union of nations and peoples, with each having the right to self-determination including and up to separation.