Central rule could derail Naga peace talks, says Rio

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS

Kohima : Former Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio has termed the imposition of central rule in the northeastern state as “nothing but a murder of democracy and unconstitutional” and said it could hamper the ongoing peace talks.

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“A single wrong step at this juncture would jeopardize the peace process as this is a very sensitive issue,” Rio said, and threatened to move the court against the imposition of central rule.

Rio said: “Some of our friends are already consulting legal experts on what steps to take.”

President Pratibha Patil Thursday gave her assent to a recommendation by the union cabinet to dismiss the Bharatiya Janata Party-backed Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) government, two months before it was due to complete its five-year term.

The decision came after Nagaland’s coalition government headed by Neiphiu Rio managed to stay in office even though it lost a no-confidence vote moved by the opposition on Dec 13.

A controversial decision by Speaker of the Nagaland assembly K. Peseyie – barring three independent legislators from voting in the no-confidence motion and declaring as invalid nine ruling Nagaland People’s Front MLAs for defying a party whip – helped Rio to stay as chief minister until Thursday.

Rio accused the opposition Congress of masterminding the dismissal of the elected government.

The Congress party, however, denied the charges.

“We simply wanted the dismissal of the Rio-led government as they lost the right to be in power after losing the no-confidence vote,” I. Imkong, state Congress party president, said.

Meanwhile, National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Isak-Muivah faction (NSCN-IM), leaders refused to react saying they would ‘wait and watch’ the political developments in Nagaland.

The NSCN-IM is currently holding peace talks with the central government after the two sides entered into a ceasefire in 1997.

The NSCN-IM, the oldest and the most powerful of around 30 rebel armies in India’s northeast, wants the creation of a ‘Greater Nagaland’ by slicing off parts of neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh that has sizeable Naga tribal populations.

The regional states are opposed to the NSCN-IM’s demands.

Despite apprehension by the former chief minister, top Naga leaders said there was no need to worry about the peace process.

“I think it would be wrong to think that way. In fact, the imposition of president’s rule would create a space for interrupted peace talks without any political interference,” N. Krome, general secretary of the Naga Hoho, the apex tribal council of Nagaland, told IANS.

“It is for their own interests that politicians make such comments out of fear and apprehension regarding the peace talks.”

Elections in Nagaland are due in February.