6 Eastern Nagaland districts abstain from voting over Centre’s delay on ‘frontier territory’ demand

6 eastern nagaland districts abstain from voting over centre’s delay on ‘frontier territory’ demand

6 Eastern Nagaland districts abstain from voting over Centre’s delay on ‘frontier territory’ demand

Guwahati/Dimapur: Far away from the rest of the country, people abstained from voting Friday in six districts of Nagaland after the Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation (ENPO), a civil society organisation, announced its decision to abstain from the electoral process.

A day before the Lok Sabha voting, the ENPO issued a notice announcing an “indefinite total shutdown” all over the Eastern Nagaland jurisdiction, in support of which, people in the six districts of Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Noklak, Shamator, and Tuensang stayed away from exercising their constitutional rights.

However, government servants on election duty, district officials, state and central security forces, medical and emergency services remained exempted from the shutdown.

The ENPO has been demanding a separate ‘Frontier Nagaland Territory’ (FNT) since 2010, as successive governments have allegedly paid less attention to the eastern part of the state.

Of the 60 assembly constituencies in Nagaland, there are 20 legislators from these six districts. Nagaland has one Lok Sabha seat, which is with the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP), an ally of the BJP.

In the history of Nagaland, which attained statehood in 1963, this is said to be the first time that the people abstained from voting in a part of the Northeast state.

All 20 constituencies under the ENPO, including Tuensang Sadar I and II, Shamator Chessore, Pungro Kiphire, Noklak, Longleng, Aboi registered zero voter-turnout, sources in the State Election Commission said.

Nagaland registered a voter turnout of 56.91 percent till the last reports came in.

Earlier in the day, Nagaland health minister Paiwang Konyak was allegedly put under “house arrest” with ENPO members assembling outside his residence at Tizit in Mon district. ThePrint tried to reach out to the ENPO leadership and the minister over the issue, and a response is awaited.

Why the bandh call

At a meeting in February, the ENPO, which is the apex body of Chang, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Phom, Sangtam, Tikhir, and Yimkhiung tribes, had decided not to participate in any central and state elections against the Centre’s delay on FTA demand. Various other stakeholders had also attended the meeting held at Chenmoho village in Mon district.

On 1 April, the ENPO wrote to the Nagaland Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), reaffirming its commitment to the ‘Chenmoho Resolution’ to not participate in any central and state elections “against the failure to settle the creation of ‘Frontier Nagaland Territory’ as offered and assured by the MHA on 7 December, 2023.” It was to be settled before the announcement of the Model Code of Conduct to the Lok Sabha election this year, the ENPO mentioned in its letter.

“The ‘Chenmoho Resolution’ represents a unanimous consensus among the Eastern Nagaland populace, and we reiterate our absolute, unconditional, unwavering commitment to uphold it,” the notice stated.

On Friday, members of the Kiphire Village Council and student leaders turned up at the government primary school-turned-polling station in Kiphire to announce their support for the ENPO resolution.

Images on social media from the other districts showed empty benches laid out at school compounds where arrangements had been made for polling. Armed security personnel stood guard nearby.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the ENPO and Eastern Nagaland legislators was underway at the organisation headquarters at Tuensang to dwell upon the future course of action.

Responding to a show cause notice by the CEO office Thursday, the ENPO stated that the shutdown was a “voluntary initiative” by the people, and that there was no question of “coercion or enforcement by the ENPO or any other authority.”

“It is pertinent to mention that ENPO does not possess any mechanism to enforce its resolutions or orders. We operate solely on the basis of voluntary participation and consensus among the Eastern Nagaland people,” reads the letter signed by ENPO president R. Tsapikiu Sangtam.

Stating that Eastern Nagaland is under ‘public emergency’, the ENPO mentioned that the goal of the public notice published Friday “was to reduce the possibility of disturbances in the Eastern Nagaland region, under the ENPO jurisdiction, and the risk linked with gatherings of anti-social elements.”

The Nagas have been critical of the Centre over various issues, ranging from the delay of over two decades in finding a solution to the Naga political demand to New Delhi’s assurances of standing with the people of Eastern Nagaland.

Last year, a three-member committee headed by Centre’s interlocutor A.K. Mishra, held talks with ENPO members.

In February last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated that the Centre stands with the people of Eastern Nagaland and that a workable solution would be reached under the efforts of the Neiphiu Rio-led NDPP-BJP government. Shah also lauded the ENPO’s decision to withdraw the boycott call to the state election.

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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