Delhi to Kohima

The Nagaland government's assertion that it has the right to frame its own energy rules and exploit its natural resources has been met by a stentorian response from the Centre. Waving Article 371(A) at the state government, it has sought to establish that it has no such powers. According to the Union government, while the constitutional provision allows the state assembly to choose not to implement Central acts on certain subjects, these do not include Central subjects such as the exploitation of natural resources under the soil. It has also argued that the article gives Nagaland the "negative power" to reject parliamentary acts, but not the "positive power" to legislate on areas that may fall under Central control. As the wrangling gets more legalistic, there is a real danger that the Centre might be missing an opportunity to resolve the matter in a more political, and indeed, more sagacious way.

First of all, Delhi needs to look again at Kohima, and acknowledge the vast transformations in a state defined by a long insurgency stemming from Naga nationalism, which reached its peak in the 1980s and '90s. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), which signed a ceasefire agreement in 1997, has been in closed-door talks with the Centre for over 15 years now. Over the years, the NSCN (IM)'s demands have changed shape it no longer wants a sovereign state, asking instead for a greater Nagaland, or Nagalim, which would include Naga-inhabited areas outside the state. An insecure politics centred on identity appears to have found a new centre of gravity in aspirations for greater autonomy and control over economic resources. In framing the Nagaland Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulations, the NPF government, led by Neiphiu Rio, is attempting to take ownership of such aspirations. The influence of militant groups within the state has been challenged in other ways. Large civil society mobilisations now protest against the parallel tax structure imposed by underground organisations to fund the insurgency, demanding "one government, one tax".

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