Tribal groups’ shutdown cripples life in Nagaland

Kohima, Feb 13 (IANS) Normal life came to a standstill in Nagaland as the indefinite shutdown called by tribal Naga organisations got underway on Monday to force Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang to resign.

The tribal groups, under the banner of Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) and Joint Coordination Committee (JCC), have intensified their agitation after Zeliang refused to accede to their demand and step down and their three-day ultimatum in this regard ended on February 10.

Nagaland has been in turmoil since last month after the Naga People’s Front (NPF)-led state government decided to hold local body elections in 12 towns across the state.

Three people have died and many injured following clashes between the police and the public who were opposing the conduct of the civic elections, where provisions have been made for reservation of seats for women.

Nagaland has never elected a woman legislator since it gained statehood in 1963. The lone woman MP from the state was Rano M. Shaiza, who got elected in 1977.

“We will continue with our shutdown till the Chief Minister resigns,” NTAC Convenor K.T. Vielie told IANS.

The state secretariat, state and central government offices, banks, educational institutions, shops, businesses remained closed, and there was no movement of public and private transport.

The National Highway-2 connecting Dimapur, the main commercial town of Nagaland with 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 from any untoward incident.

“There has been no untoward incident during the shutdown hours (from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.) as people refrained themselves from venturing into the streets,” Nagaland Police chief L.L. Doungel told IANS.

“Security forces were deployed along the National Highway-2 to ensure that there is a smooth movement of vehicles to Manipur. However, there were no movements of vehicles,” the police official said.

Doungel said the police were taking all precautions to ensure that there is no further breakdown of law and order.

Zeliang, who termed the demand for his resignation as “unreasonable” and “unconstitutional”, in his radio talk on Monday said that the government was open for dialogue and more consultations.

“The tribal organisations should come forward for interactions and sharing of views and opinions without any bias or hesitation,” he said, while appealing to all sections of the society to nurture and preserve the good image of the tribal organisations.

“What has happened is a great shock to not only the Nagas but also to people all over the world. We cannot allow such a situation to prevail. It is only leading to chaos. We should resolve the present situation through mature appreciation and dialogue. Let us put our heads together to build the Nagaland of our dreams instead of mindless confrontation and more violence,” Zeliang said.

On the Urban Local Bodies elections, the Chief Minister said that his government has given in to their demands, namely the postponement of the civic polls and declaration of those elections held on February 1 as null and void.

Zeliang also appealed to the agitating groups to lift the shutdown to enable the students to appear their crucial examinations and to let the tens of thousands of government employees whose family members rely on their salaries for livelihood attend offices to work and draw their salaries, and at the same time, to allow the business community to carry out their normal trade to sustain themselves.

–IANS

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