Rio ready to serve where the people wants him to
A mammoth turn out at the civic reception proves he is still popular among the masses
DIMAPUR, MAY 24 : This was an adoration of the kind that the people have in store for only the rarest of their leaders. And the outpour of such adoration from a mammoth assembly of people on Tuesday afternoon at the airport was an irrefutable testament to Neiphiu Rio’s status as one of the tallest, if not the tallest, Naga leaders today.
Even more so, the convergence of the people – whose sheer numbers made the event look like an epic political rally instead of a reception event – at the airport was a clear message as to where the public loyalty lies in the aftermath of the suspension of Rio by the NPF leadership.
Conversely, this clear and loud reposition of public faith was reciprocated by Rio vowing to keep fighting for truth and justice. “We will keep fighting for the Nagas wherever they are, and we will support the peace process, we will see that the framework agreement is implemented,” he vowed.
The Lok Sabha member made it clear that he would never relent. “I am not afraid because I have your support,” Rio told the gathering who had assembled to welcome him on his return from Delhi on Tuesday.
He told his supporters that the suspension issued by the NPF leadership had hurt him. Not only was the suspension an act of “back-stabbing and betrayal” but also an attempt to sabotage the Indo-Naga political process, he said.
According to Rio, the NPF leadership suspended him because he had spoken the truth. He narrated how some of the NPF leaders had started a secret signature campaign to install TR Zeliang as the chief minister once Rio was to vacate the position.
“They did all these without my knowledge. That is not regional in character, that is not Naga in character. Why did they have to flee to Kaziranga? That cannot be called open and transparent democracy,” he said while informing that despite all that, he had given his consensus to TR Zeliang’s candidature in the end.
Another incident was when the erstwhile NCP legislators merged with BJP and the ruling NPF dispensation responded by disqualifying the legislators involved. “We asked them not do so but they did not heed to our advice.”
Then after some months, G Kaito approached Rio telling him that the former had the support of the majority of NPF legislators and thus, both Rio and the late Rajya Sabha MP, Khekiho should gave their support to him. “Kaito had 22 MLAs while TR Zeliang had 15. So we gave our support to Kaito because in democracy majority wins.
“But even when all these happened the NPF president refused to meet Kaito’s group,” Rio said. Such turn of events, he said, prompted him to speak his mind. “How could I keep quiet? And now they are blaming everything on me. I cannot carry all of their mistakes.
“If we go against their individual interest, they label us as anti-party. And then, show-cause notice. And now they are saying that I want to enter state politics. I went to Delhi to work for the Nagas on the mandate of the masses and if the people want me to come back, I am ready to serve the Nagas. The entire Nagaland is my constituency, if the people want me, I am there.”
On the present NPF leadership’s contention that Rio was not a founding member of the party, the MP reminded how the Nagaland Peoples’ Front came into being. “And now they are saying that I am not a founding member. Sorom nai! (Shameless!)”
Rio also appealed the Naga people, especially the youth, to accept what is going to be offered as a settlement to the Indo-Naga peace talks. “If we do not accept this, if we miss the opportunity, then our youth will not get their opportunities. Settlement will ensure political benefit, social benefit and economic benefit. You cannot remain silent. You have to come out and fight for these opportunities that will be available to you.”
In his concluding remarks, Rio appealed the NPF leadership to “rethink” their decision. “They cannot keep our mouth shut. We are for NPF but one that is based on our principles. We will grow from strength to strength. We will not relent.”
Cannot have a liar for CM
Former minister and an independent legislator in the present assembly, Thomas Ngullie on Tuesday challenged chief minister TR Zeliang to produce his original academic documents before the Naga people, while accusing NPF president Dr Shurhozielie of sheltering a “liar.”
The senior politician reasoned that if Rio was suspended for questioning the authenticity of Zeliang’s academic credentials then the latter should “come out and show to us” his original documents. “We cannot have a liar as a chief minister,” Ngullie said.
Citing the example of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose educational qualification was questioned by the Delhi Chief Minister, Thomas said that the national BJP President Amit Shah and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had produced the educational qualification certificate and mark sheet of the PM to the nation. This gesture clarified all doubts and elevated the stature of the Prime Minister within and outside the country, he said.
Why cannot Dr Shurhozelie produce the marksheet of TR Zeliang to the Naga people, Thomas questioned, and demanded that the president of NPF should come clean on the issue. Otherwise, he should not protect and defend a liar, he stated.
On the recent turn of events in the state political arena, Ngullie said that the “situation” has crossed its limits. “It is like we have a brand new bus but with a new and unskilled driver. We need an experienced driver.
“Because leadership should be strong then only the lieutenants can be strong too,” he said. On the present political crisis in the aftermath of the suspension of Neiphiu Rio, Thomas compared the situation to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbour which “awakened the sleeping giant America.” The sleeping giant has been woken up, Thomas stated.
He further questioned the commitment of the present leadership of the Nagaland government on the Indo-Naga political issue. Ngullie also said that the dealing of state’s finances was being done in a very inappropriate manner which had resulted in complete breakdown of relationship between the government and the masses.
Because we cannot remain silent
According to veteran regionalist, Thenucho Tunyi, the people assembled on Tuesday were there “because we cannot remain silent, we are disturbed.” He said that the present NPF hierarchy has conspired to betray the trust and goodwill of the Naga people.
Shurhozielie is the de facto CM
Imkong Imchen, who was the first NPF member this year to get suspension notice, said that the NPF has adopted the Sonia-Manmohan style of rule once employed by the Congress at the center. “In this model, Dr Shurhozielie is the de facto chief minister,” Imchen said.
He also said that demanding change of leadership was “never, never, never” an anti-party activity. “Leadership are made subject to the mandate of the people. So how can Dr Shurhozielie interpret it as an anti-party activity?” he queried.
Imchen said that the NPF leadership, instead of giving unflinching support to the only MP raising the Naga issue in the parliament, had decided to suspend him. “Why? Reason is best known to the autocratic and dictatorial leader.”
Rio is the father of backward areas
A former president of the Eastern Naga Students’ Federation, YP Chellio, said that the eastern Naga people consider Rio was the father of backward areas. “Because he has contributed so many things to us,” he said.
It was during his tenure that Longleng and Kiphire districts were given recognition, he informed. “We look upon him as a visionary leader. And I request our Naga people not to forget that.”
Rio saved us from communal Congress in Manipur
Athuan Abonmai, the founder general secretary of NPF Manipur narrated how Rio rescued the Nagas in Manipur from the “clutches of communal Congress government” while asserting that the Nagas in Manipur would never forget his contribution.
He said that the decision to suspend Rio was “an unwise decision on the part of our big brother” in Nagaland. “I request the party to rethink and reconsider it or else we will face the worst.”