The agitating tribal groups in Nagaland on Wednesday served a fresh ultimatum to Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang to resign or face further protests over his decision to conduct civic bodies elections with 33 per cent reservation for women. In a related development, legislators of the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF) are in a huddle to discuss the “change of guard” in the wake of the prevailing law and order situation in the state. The Nagaland crisis was on since January, after the NPF-led government decided to hold local body elections in 12 towns across the state. The government later declared the civic elections as “null” and “void”. Three persons were killed and many injured following clashes between police and the public, who were opposing the civic polls.
On Tuesday night, the legislators also met at the official residence of Zeliang and deliberated on their plan of action if the agitating groups — Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) and Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) — further intensified their agitation. “There is a possibility of change of guard, if the tense situation in the state refuses to subside. Some of the NPF legislators have put in their signature to replace Zeliang with NPF President Sharhozelie Liezietsu,” a NPF legislator, who wished not to be quoted, told IANS.
When IANS tried to contact Zeliang and Liezietsu for their comment, they did not pick up their phones. In the 60-member house, the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland coalition government, which comprises 48 NPF legislators, including suspended legislator Imkong Imchen, four Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and eight independents. “We are giving him (Zeliang) another three days time to resign gracefully. We hope that he accede to the demand of the people,” NTAC Convener, K.T. Velie told IANS.
“We are bothered who is going to replace Zeliang as Chief Minister since the NTAC and JCC are apolitical groups. We cannot allow a person who has blood stains on his hands and betrayed the people and the church to lead our state,” Velie said. He said the JCC and NTAC have also resolved that all apex tribe bodies should call their respective legislators to withdraw their support to Zeliang on or before February 17, failing which the tribe bodies would debar those candidates from entering within their jurisdiction in the next election.
In fact, NPF legislator Neiphrezo Keditsu had resigned as Chairman of Nagaland State Mineral Development Corporation Limited on moral grounds since one of the persons killed in the Dimapur police firing was from his village. Meanwhile, normal life remained paralysed as the indefinite shutdown sponsored by the tribal bodies entered the third day on Wednesday after Zeliang refused to accede to their demand and step down. Their three-day ultimatum in this regard ended on February 10.
The state secretariat, state and central government offices, banks, educational institutions, shops and other businesses remained closed. National Highway-2, which connects the main commercial town of Dimapur with the poll-bound state of Manipur, was also affected. Volunteers were seen picketing the road to prevent traffic movement and the government employees from attending their official duties, even as security forces were seen patrolling the roads to thwart any untoward incident.
Former Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who is also the lone Lok Sabha member from Nagaland, briefed National Security Adviser Ajit Doval about the current situation with regard to the civic bodies elections. Nagaland BJP legislators have appealed to the agitating tribal groups to come to the negotiating table with the government and resolve the matter amicably at the earliest in the spirit of understanding and forgiveness.