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Population figures disputed by ENPO and Nagaland State Cabinet

Nagaland News

Nirendra Dev
NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 7: One can always put a paper boat in water but it is also true ‘water’ will soon get into that boat.
The problem with administration and governance with the Tuensang-Mon region, now a hub of as many as six districts, is more than just human error.
Circumstances and historical legacy ~ like water boat and water ~ also played a part. The institutions of governance were never quite built up and the focus remained elsewhere, many say.
Corruption, greed and non-performance of Neta-Babu combine could not be underestimated.
In hindsight, the fact that the Nagaland Cabinet had red flagged statehood for the ENPO region and rather favoured autonomous Council is no rocket science or state secret.
But according to sources in Delhi, the ENPO anguish is essentially due to the manner statecraft was mishandled at various levels vis-à-vis Eastern Nagaland since statehood was earned for Nagaland in 1963.
Interestingly the State Cabinet used the years-old issue of ‘Naga unification’ of all contiguous areas in strengthening one of their arguments.
In a few confidential reports submitted to the Union Home Ministry, the State Government had said, “The Cabinet strongly reiterated its position by the four resolutions already passed by the State Assembly on various occasions, demanding integration of all contiguous Naga inhabited areas under one administrative umbrella”.
This has for long been a part of peace parleys but the concept had its own issues. During the September 12, 2022 meeting with Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio and State Ministers and legislators, Home Minister Amit Shah had quizzed what about the Nagas of Myanmar. On this a feeble response from a senior politician was, “Sir, it is out of box”.
This issue also threatened to alter the boundaries of three other States ~ Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Assam ~ which had been opposed vehemently in all three States. In fact, in Manipur even Naga legislators and towering personalities such as Rishang Keishing were part of those who adopted unanimous resolutions that no compromise on Manipur’s integrity would be entertained.
Rising above party affiliation, Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh had opposed visit of Thuingeleng Muivah to his native village in Manipur in 2010 ~ a request the then Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had agreed to.
The Nagaland Cabinet in their report had also made it clear that while formation of an autonomous council could be taken up, “the Cabinet was of the firm view that the Government of India is expected to know what would be the best way of resolving the issue at hand (ENPO demand for a separate state)”.
It is worth mentioning here that according to Clause 10 (b) of the 16 Point (or Statehood) Agreement, there was a provision for setting up of a Regional Council with elected representatives from all the tribes (from the region) and the Governor may nominate representatives to the Regional Council.
It was also stated that the “Regional Council will elect members of the Naga Legislative Assembly”.
In their charter of demands in the context of grievances, the ENPO leaders had submitted before the Centre that the dissolution of the Regional Council in the 1970s has affected the representation of the Eastern Nagaland in the political set up.
The Nagaland Cabinet had countered this argument maintaining that “initially the area sent six MLAs to an Assembly of 46 which works out to 13% only. This was raised to 12 in an assembly of 52 in 1968 which again works up to 23%”. The State Government in its report also said, “However, upon discontinuation of the Regional Council in 1974, Mon and Tuensang districts were given 20 MLAs to be directly elected along with the rest of the State. This works out to 33%”.
Importantly, there remains a sharp difference between the versions of ENPO and the State Cabinet in the context of population share. The State Government officially says population of the ENPO region has remained 28.8% of the entire State of Nagaland but the ENPO claim has been that almost 50% of the State’s population resides in these districts.
The 2011 Census figures indicate that the population of these districts (then only four) was 5,72,098 only and that worked out as 28.8% of the State’s population was 19,78,502.
Notably, yet again, while the ENSF had complained that no one from the region was made President of the influential Naga Students Federation, it is well known that no leader from the region could become Chief Minister.
Chongshen Chang from Tuensang district had become Deputy Chief Minister in 1990 under the United Front Ministry headed by KL Chishi in 1990.
The Ministry, however, lasted only for a month and Chishi was toppled when two rivals of the time ~ SC Jamir and Late Vamuzo ~ had joined hands. Incidentally, incumbent CM Rio was Chishi’s Power Minister but he was also a disqualified member and so was Chongshen Chang.
As pradesh Congress chief Chingwang Konyak missed chief ministership in 1993 when he lost Assembly polls from Wakching and later he was not given ticket for Tehok Assembly seat. Chingwang resigned as pradesh chief and subsequently quit Congress.