Well from our side it is going on well but the problem is from the Indian government side
Interviewee : Th. Muivah Interviewer : Sanjay Kumar Date published : 9/20/2008
Interview date : 6/2/2008
Th. Muivah’s Interview with Sanjay Kumar, ANI.
2nd June 2008.
61 Lodhi Estate, New Delhi.
Sanjay: What’s the status of the talks?
Muivah : Well from our side it is going on well but the problem is from the Indian government side. They still find it difficult to take any positive steps. That is the main reason. Of course, somehow we are pulling together along the positive line.
Sanjay: I heard that you are studying Indian constitution?
Muivah: We are examining not only the Indian constitution but the constitutions of many countries. We will examine any constitution carefully, what would be acceptable we will accept and incorporate them in our constitution. And that is the purpose of finding some possible means but it does not mean that we would accept Indian constitution. But it is good to understand it, to examine it and if provisions are there acceptable to us surely we will accept. But those accepted provisions will have to be incorporated in our constitution.
Sanjay: So what are those things which you think that the Indian constitution can accept and what are those demands and what are your areas which you think that the Indian constitution can’t accommodate? Can you specify?
Muivah: At the moment it is hard to say or to point out the positive ones but in general it can be understood that human rights is acceptable. The Indian constitution is in many ways democratic. Yes, we are also democratic; we can accept but the point is that even if we accept what are acceptable to us, our constitution will have to be a separate one. I think you get my point.
Sanjay: So you want a separate constitution for yourself and a separate constitution for India but this separate constitution does not mean sovereignty for you, you are willing to work in the broader framework, if I understand, right?
Muivah: You know all the countries all the nations here on earth are inter-dependent. From that perspective if we are to talk, the terms sovereignty is limited everywhere not only to the Nagas or to any particular nations. So the term sovereignty should be interpreted from this perspective and in the end what can be best said is that the fate of the Nagas will have to be decided by the Nagas and that is sovereignty to us. But can we be totally independent of our neighbors? It is not possible because we are living in a world where there is inter dependence so we have a lot to depend on India and vice versa. India may also depend on us too.
Sanjay : Yes, basically if I understand in a common person’s language you are willing to be part of India, but in a broader framework. You don’t want an independent nation. You are willing to be a part of this broader framework, broader federal structure for India.
Muivah: At the moment that question does not arise. It is no compulsion on the part of the Nagas to be a part of the Indian union. It is not the choice of the Naga people; neither can it be the historical basis for the Nagas to do so? And if it is so, of course, you cannot expect us to be a part or to become a part of the Indian nation? It is a big question.
Sanjay: So you are very much open to this idea of being part of Indian federal structure. Simple answer.
Muivah: We can be a part of each other in the sense that a federation of India on one side and Nagalim on the other working out clearly the type of relationship between the two. That sort of steps may be positive.
Sanjay : So the demand of the NSCN is to create an independent nation? I think you are willing according to the present world reality you are adjusting your earlier demand of independence to some sort of federal solutions.
Muivah : No, no, no, that question doesn’t arise. You know Nagas have been living as an independent people and that is our history, that historical facts cannot be questioned. So we are not demanding from India our rights. Our rights belong to us and we stand for that. But if there can be any adjustment or an understanding that can be arrived at between India and the Nagas, we will not hesitate to do that provided it does not entail the loss of the right of the Naga people to decide their own future. I think you understand me.
Sanjay : What’s the government’s response? You have been engaging the government for the last more than ten years. How sincere and how are they buying time or just like you think that they are sincere in holding and engaging you and finding a solution to this problem?
Muivah : The point is that from the Indian side they don’t have the political will to take positive steps. I don’t want to say further than this whether they are sincere or not that is a different issue again. But do they have the political will to solve the problem? I don’t see that in them.
Sanjay : And also your organization NSCN (IM) is like you have so many other factions who also claim to represent Nagas and they are fighting with you that also affecting your ability and standing amongst the Nagas. Does it affect you?
Muivah: Yes, in some ways you are right but you know different groups cannot be ruled out and it is not an exception to the Nagas; it is natural in the course of any revolution but the point is that you know traitors cannot influence the course of history. It is the people who would decide their destiny every where and that is the case. Yes, there may be some groups of people who claim that they represent the people and they represent the cause, but this had been settled. When we were approached by the Indian government during Prime Minister Narashimha Rao’s time and in the talks there in Paris, I personally told him, “Mr Prime Minister, your government is there and we respect that, why don’t you talk with NNC? Why don’t you talk with the K (Khaplang) people? We will not stand in the way when you talk with them, but we will not be a party to it”. The Prime Minister replied, “why should we talk with them? The issue is not with them; the issue is with you; the people are with you. This is the reason why we are in search of you to seek a solution, to find a solution because you can do that but these people cannot do. They are in my hand; what can they do? The issue is not with them”. So, you know, from that you can very well understand.
Sanjay: But then the recent factional clashes sir in Nagaland has really disturbed the people and the people are coming out against all groups whether it is IM, whether unification whether it’s a K (Khaplang) group people are coming on the streets. Does that worry you?
Muivah: You know, naturally people wouldn’t like to see Nagas fighting among themselves, that is the common sense. Let them have their expression but one has to get down to the ground realities. What is the reason over which these people are fighting against one another? That is the very point.
Sanjay: Is the reason like you all the groups want to dominate the trading market?
Muivah : No, no, no, that question does not arise. If there is any problem I would rather say there must be some reasons making them necessary to take their own course. Ok, you know government of India has made their position very clear. They are not going to talk with this people because the issue is not with them, why? Because NNC surrendered in the Shillong Accord. Is it the time for the government of India to talk with the NNC for the second time? I don’t think so. Of course if they have the determination or the policy to do like that again we have nothing to say. Do you expect the government of India to have accord like the Shillong Accord for the second time? I don’t think India government would go for that. Ok, this time we have heard Mr Azheto’s group coming up. They said, “We are for unification” and ran away. They occupied a portion near Dimapur. Government of India declared: “They are illegal, we don’t recognize them”. See those illegal people or those people who are not recognized as a party or a genuine party even by the government of India cannot be taken into consideration when it comes to talk about the issue because it represents the will of the people. How can Azheto and other groups claim that they represent the people? How can they claim that? It is simply not possible because they have committed defection, they have defected themselves from the mainline. So Naga people will have no regards for them.
Sanjay: They say that they also represent the wills of the Naga people; you also claim that you represent the real wills of the Naga people.
Muivah : Ok, let me put you a question. Nagas have their history. NNC was the only authentic organization of the nation and all of us were party to it, I mean member of it. Unfortunately they sold out the right of the nation in the Shillong Accord and nobody can deny it. Am I to accept the Shillong Accord for the sake of unity? Do you think that it is the will of the people, the choice of the people? No, then I have to deny it I have to condemn it. It is not the question of faction, but who is right and who is wrong? This is the question? So superficially, there may be noises claiming this and that but when we get down to the ground realities you will know the reality.
Sanjay: You are now an elderly statesman in the Nagas dominated areas whole Nagalim. Are you going to do something to stop all these factional clashes? What do you think should be done and what are the steps NSCN (IM) will take to stop these factional clashes because so many lives get lost, live is getting disturbed in Nagaland that disturbs you? What are the steps you are going to do?
Muivah : We will try to understand everyone but not at the expense of national rights. I will not try to please anyone at the expense of national rights. That is our philosophy. That is the reality behind our political philosophy.
Sanjay: They blame that you start these factional clashes and you said that they don’t represent that. Is this war between you suffering? How are you going to adjust like you are accountable to the people finally and you must also be aware of the people’s mood. The younger generation’s mood has changed; they don’t want these things to happen any longer.
Muivah: That is general argument but for me I am a revolutionary. I used to get down to the ground realities; I don’t fly in the sky. Shillong Accord was condemned by whom? By the people by us and so we represent the people. Is there anything wrong? No, there is no wrong. Faction here and faction there may be there but who condemn the Shillong Accord? Who saved the cause of the Nation? By Azheto or by whom? These are noises in the air and in the thin air they will vanish. So we have to see to it that the reality of the ground is understood.
Sanjay: Recently one more faction came up this United Naga People’s Council in Senapati districts. They say that they also break away from NSCN (IM).
Muivah: Yes let them go away. That’s alright if they don’t want to stand for the nation let them go away. We don’t mind, we don’t bother about them. They may create situations; let it be, but the point is, are they standing for the national rights?
Sanjay: But sir, the division among the Nagas you think it is good for the Naga society in general.
Muivah: Yes you are right. We don’t want ourselves to be divided. There is no doubt about it but you know your aims, your views supposing are different from those of mine, naturally we are divided. Now we are living in the world of ideas; if your interpretation of the issue is different from that of mine, naturally both of us cannot be united. The question of unity does not arise there. The question of who is right, who is upholding the historical rights of the Nagas arises. Defectors are there, traitors are there and these people cannot be termed equal with us. Traitors are traitors, defectors are defectors. Those who are really standing for the cause, we have to value that. This is the call of the world in any case of revolutionary struggle.
Sanjay: Recently there was this news item that Chairman Isak Chishi Swu had a telephonic conversation with Mr Khaplang. You agree that that is true? And if you say yes what is the motive/purpose behind this engagement.
Muivah: It is no wrong on the part of any Naga leaders to seek understanding with anyone. If they can understand each other well and good but their understanding will be on what? That is the main issue. But it’s no wrong that I seek understanding with others.
Sanjay: So what transpires? What do you discuss? What Chairman Mr. Swu discussed with Mr. Khaplang?
Muivah: I think they have understood to some extent but just over telephonic conversations for one time is not sufficient to bring about correct understanding between them.
Sanjay: But the thing is that for the first time after 1988, you establish contact with them. That’s a historical thing. How you want the people to know why you establish contact and what’s the motive and what force you to? Are you having a different strategy?
Muivah: The point is that Mr. Khaplang had made his position clear stating that the so called unification is not for unification. They simply claim that they stand for unification but in reality they are not and so we have nothing to do with them. That is the point he has already made clear. So, actually if it is so, then there is possibility between us to understand together or to come closer. That should be done.
Sanjay: Are you thinking of working together in future or coming in together in future the K group and IM group? Should I visualize that in the near future both of you are going to work together for Naga cause.
Muivah: It is hard to say but it is no wrong for one to expect something positive. But the point I would like to stress is that if we can come to the very point that we have to stand for the right of the Nagas yes, it is possible.
Sanjay: So you don’t deny that, in the future you can come together and some sort of unification between these two factions possible, like Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and Mr Khaplang sitting together one day. Do you visualize that possibility, the old friends coming together?
Muivah: Well towards that end naturally they may be talking over the phone but it is hard to say. If Mr. Khaplang or anyone can keep themselves standing their own ground there is possibility among the Nagas or even between us.
Sanjay: I didn’t get your point. What do you expect from them?
Muivah: If I allow myself to be used by our adversaries there can be no unity. But if I can prove myself that I am standing my own ground, of course, you can understand me Khaplang can understand me. There is possibility of coming closer to each other. But so long as supposing I allow myself to be used by my adversaries Mr. Khaplang can never come to me. Likewise so long as Mr Khaplang entertains himself to the desire of the adversaries how could you expect me to come very close to him? It’s not possible. You know, in practical politics things are not easily reasoned out.
Sanjay: So you are going to like in coming days some more telephonic conversation and might be one to one meeting possible visualized?
Muivah: Well, that cannot be ruled out.
Sanjay: Not ruling out future contact with Mr. Khaplang faction and the process of some sort of unification and understanding.
Muivah: Yes, you are right.
Sanjay: It is the longest movement in the history of the world, I think more than 50 years now. Nepal Maoist fought they won and they are going to form the government. Your movement has been still going on. What future do you see?
Muivah: You know Nagas will have to go on fighting for their rights because they cannot afford to exist themselves selling out their rights. This is a hard reality. So we will have to go on resisting but if there is any nation including India to understand us well and good that we can. This is the reason why we have come so far talking with the government of India. In the past, Roy Choudhury the then Commander in Chief of the Indian Armed Forces said, “Military solution is not possible”. That very statement convinced us. Well they have come to realize that solution is not in the military might but in political talks. So we have come to talk with the government of India. How many positive steps we have taken, see?
Sanjay : Last time when I met you, sir, you were a bit angry. There was lots of angst in you. You talk about ok if the situation comes to that part we are willing to get back to the jungle also and take up our guns. You are mellowed this time not that competive should I know the signal I should understand you.
Muivah : If I am conditioned or if I am compelled to take up my guns I have to because I cannot be passive to any imposition on me; I have to resist but if government of India would not choose to take up arms and fight against the Nagas why should we go and pick up arms and fight against them. Some days back when I met him (Prime Minister) he said, “Mr. Muivah we must seek peaceful solution and solution must be honorable, acceptable to both taking into consideration the right of both the parties”. This is what he assured. Last time also when we met him for the first time here in 2005 he said the same thing. If it is so, why should we take up arms? You know, that would be not wise.
Sanjay: So you are also very optimistic that peaceful solution can be found for this Naga problem?
Muivah: Yes, that is the expectation we had before but from the Indian government side they want to impose their constitution on us. So we have told them nothing doing. Why, because we will not accept any imposition on us; we will accept any solution that is honorable to both.
Sanjay: They say that you are seeking some sort of arrangement like Jammu & Kashmir. They have a separate constitution but at the same time they are very much part of the Indian Union.
Muivah: No, these things are not that easy. You know, the possibility of honorable solution could be expected only when we work and talk on the basis of historical facts. Then of course, Nagas and Indians can come very close to each other. How much or how far that I cannot say at the moment, but this is what we want.
Sanjay: People in Nagaland and Manipur and other places are so worried about this extortion thing they find that their live is held and they blame to only the Naga factional leaders and the factional groups. Like different factional groups imposing different taxes on common people.
Muivah: I think people are right when they complain. People are right because they cannot afford to give at the same time they find it difficult to oppose anyone also because those people are with arms, so we understand their difficulties. But unfortunately, sometimes people will have to bear such circumstances.
Sanjay: They blame you also and that, IM group came and take tax I have evidence on TV.
Muivah: We are a government. We have the right to levy taxes from the people. There is no doubt about it.
Sanjay: They don’t say taxes they say extortion.
Muivah: No, no, no, extortion will be a different story; some bad elements may do that. For that they may blame us. As a government, if I am to talk, we use to collect taxes and nothing more than that.
Sanjay: What will be your message to the younger generation?
Muivah : We want to leave an honorable history for the younger generation to inherit. And that is the life mission because their future is most precious to me, their freedom is most precious to me. This is my message.
Sanjay: You also feel that violence is not a solution.
Muivah: Violence is not the solution of course but if it is imposed on us, then we will take up arms; there is no other way. Do you remember what Mahatma Gandhi said, “Nagas have every right to be independent, there should be no fighting, no blood shedding” that is what he said. But Nehru started boasting himself and says that, “it will be a matter of few days for the Indian Armed Forces to crush the Nagas” when Nagas were approaching for peaceful solution. So, situation had been created and it has come up to this day. Not by the Nagas but by the Indian big shots. We cannot accept this kind of terms and imposition on us. Naga history is Naga history; it is not given by the Indians. No, you have your history and I respect your history. Do you respect our history? You don’t respect. This is the problem.
Sanjay: But despite that you are very optimistic that only peace is the way?
Muivah: Yes, I hope in peaceful solution but it requires much effort from both sides.
Sanjay: Thank you sir.
Muivah : Thank you