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Promises of peace and progress Applause for Naga tradition

- cong leader woos with deference

Kohima, March 27: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi today said the Congress would support a peaceful solution to the Naga political problem.

Addressing an election rally here, he did not promise an early solution but said the Congress would pursue a solution with the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah).

Rahul said the Congress government had taken a bold decision to invite the NSCN (I-M) leaders for talks and that negotiations were on.

He termed Nagaland chief minister Neiphiu Rio’s promise of finding a solution to the Naga political problem within three months in 2003 as “unprecedented”. Even though the Naga People’s Front-led Democratic Alliance of Nagaland (DAN) has been in power for 11 years, a solution has eluded the people of the state, he added.

“I am not like your chief minister who had promised something impossible to the people,” Gandhi said at the packed public ground in downtown Kohima.

However, a senior Congress general secretary said a solution to the Naga imbroglio was expected soon.

Earlier, in his welcome speech, Nagaland PCC president S.I. Jamir said elections in the state were focused on finding a settlement to the Naga political dialogue.

“We request you to find an early political settlement and a logical conclusion to the peace talks,” Jamir said. The people of Nagaland have reposed great hope in the Congress leadership, he added.

“We, therefore, request you not to disappoint us when we need you the most,” he said.

Rahul told the emotional crowd that he respected and believed in the culture and history of the Nagas. “Our opposition wants to impose on your culture and that is the biggest difference between the Congress and them,” the Congress vice-president added.

He said there were many things to learn from the Naga way of life.

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had borrowed the concept of the functioning of village development boards from Naga villages.

He also appreciated Naga society, which has been practising democracy for thousands of years, while India become a democratic country only in 1947.

Rahul said Nagaland is suffering because of the DAN’s “misgovernance”.

“The DAN government has put Nagaland in reverse gear,” he said amid huge applause. “The chief minister should put Nagaland in top gear,” he added. The Congress vice-president regretted that Nagaland’s economic growth had slowed down because of massive corruption. But he appreciated the traditional practices of Naga society.

He said the Congress was ready to allot 50 per cent reservation for women in all local groups and 33 per cent in Parliament and state Assemblies.

Congress leaders, including CLP leader Tokheho Yepthomi, criticised Rio for passing a resolution not to grant 33 per cent reservation to women in the state Assembly.

Rahul said his party would ensure the opening of women’s police stations in the country and promised improved road, rail and air connectivity in the Northeast.

Also on the party’s agenda was the creation of jobs for 100 million youths in the country. The government’s Look East Policy would absorb thousands of youths, Rahul pointed out.

On atrocities committed on the people from the Northeast, Rahul said there were some people who do not understand and respect the rich culture and tradition of the region. He assured the people that that his party would see that the people of the Northeast would feel at home in New Delhi and other places.

“I am going to be a special representative of people of Nagaland and the Northeast. My doors are always open for you. I want to build a prosperous Nagaland and the Northeast,” Rahul added.


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