P. Shilu Ao
P. Shilu Ao (December 24, 1916 – September 19, 1988) was a Naga politician who was involved in the negotiations leading to the creation of Nagaland, in the far north-east of India, as one of the states and territories of India in December 1963. Ao then served as the first Chief Minister of Nagaland until August 1966. Ao played a part in persuading the Indian Government and Lok Sabha to accept Nagaland's statehood, but was not able to reconcile many Naga nationalists, who regarded him and his party as stooges of the central government.
Ao was born in the Longjang village of the district of Mokokchung to Metongchiba Pongen and Melungnenla Imchen on December 24, 1916. He was schooled at the Impur Mission School and completed a bachelor's degree and a law degree from the Cotton College, Guwahati and the Guwahati University. Like the majority of Naga people, he was a Christian. He then worked as a school teacher, as a headmaster and the Inspector of Schools at Kohima. Having joined the administrative service of Assam in 1954, Ao served as an assistant commissioner and first class magistrate with the Government of Assam from 1954 to 1960.
In 1960, Ao resigned from government service and entered politics joining the Naga People's Convention (NPC). The Naga inhabited regions of Assam had been racked by insurgency ever since India's independence in 1947 with the Naga National Council under Angami Zapu Phizo calling for Naga independence from India. The Convention, established in 1954, however took a moderate stance calling for the establishment of a separate administrative unit within Assam by merging the Tuensang division of North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) with the Naga Hills District of Assam. The Government of India agreed to this demand in 1957, creating the Naga Hills and Tuensang Area. In 1960, Jawaharlal Nehru met an NPC delegation and the Government of India and the NPC signed a 16-point resolution, which called for the establishment of a state of Nagaland. Nehru announced the acceptance of this resolution in Parliament on August 1, 1960. Ao was part of the NPC team that drafted the resolution and met with Nehru and was one of the signatories of the accord reached between the Nagas and the Indian government.
In February 1961, under the Nagaland Regulation Act, a 42-member Interim Body with a five-member Executive Council was set up with Ao as the Chief Executive Councillor. Under the Nagaland Act of 1962 the state of Nagaland with its capital at Kohima came into being on December 1, 1963. The Interim Body and the Executive Council became the Nagaland Legislative Assembly and the Nagaland Cabinet and a five-member ministry with Ao as the Chief Minister was sworn in by Vishnu Sahay, the Governor of Assam and Nagaland the same day. Ao served as leader of the house of the Nagaland Assembly for 5 years from 1961 to 1966 and as Chief Minister of Nagaland from December 1, 1963, to August 14, 1966, during which time he also led the Naga Nationalist Organisation (NNO) to victory in the first Nagaland Assembly elections of 1964.
Ao's government passed a resolution in 1964 calling for the integration of all Naga inhabited regions with Nagaland and in May 1964 a ceasefire agreement was concluded between the Naga insurgents and the Government of India. Ao had attended the negotiations only as an observer on the government side, as the insurgents refused to recognize his state government. The same year, he also survived an assassination attempt. Although the NNO held an absolute majority in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly following the elections of 1964, Ao's government was voted out in a no-confidence motion introduced in the Assembly in August 1966. Following Ao's ouster, he was succeeded by his NNO colleague and Speaker of the house T.N. Angami as Chief Minister.
Following his resignation as Chief Minister, Ao was appointed chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in 1966. He headed a committee set up by the Planning Commission to appraise the functioning of tribal development programmes in the Third Five Year Plan. The committee made several recommendations on tribal welfare policy, classification of tribes and on protective and administrative measures for tribal communities. In subsequent elections to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly, Ao performed poorly, but he remained a senior party leader of the opposition United Front of Nagaland for several years.
Ao died at Mokokchung on September 19, 1988, following a prolonged period of ill health and was buried with state honours two days later. As head of the NPC, Ao enabled Naga politics to adapt to and adopt successfully the Indian parliamentary democratic model of governance, despite problems with insurgent groups continuing. In 2004, J B Jasokie a former Chief Minister of Nagaland revealed that he had voluntarily stepped aside to allow Ao to become the state's first chief minister on account of the latter's seniority and perfect understanding, despite having won more votes among the legislators than Ao.
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