Cutting across party lines, all 60 MLAs from Nagaland petitioned the prime minister last week for an early resolution of the Naga issue. Led by chief minister Neiphiu Rio, the legislators even offered their resignation in favour of a consensus interim government to facilitate a permanent peace plan acceptable to all stakeholders. Festering for six decades, the Naga insurgency has claimed more than 20,000 lives and has been one of the main hurdles to peace and development in the northeast. The latter is particularly true given that the dual Naga demands of sovereignty and greater Nagaland affect at least three other states in the region. This was exemplified during the four-month-long blockade of Manipur last year by Naga and Kuki groups, each asserting their ethno-nationalist agenda. Hence, a solution to the Naga issue would be a game-changer for the northeast and provide a helpful template for the resolution of other ethnic conflicts in the region.
That said, since the government’s ceasefire agreements with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) in 1997 and its Khaplang faction in 2001, negotiations on a permanent peace plan have proceeded at snail’s pace. However, there are emerging signs of consensus around the concept of shared sovereignty and creating autonomous councils for Naga-dominated areas outside Nagaland. But the main challenge still remains getting all factions and interest groups on board. It is here that the legislators can help forge a minimal understanding among the various Naga groups as well as with the Centre. This would pave the way for lasting prosperity in the region.