A brief paper presentation on;
“The Naga Political Assertion and its impact on the Naga Society”
at the 51st Annual Conference cum Games & Sports Meet of the Tungjoy Youth & Students’ Organisation held at Tungjoy on the 22nd of January 2010. Nagaland page.
– Neingulo Krome, Member, Forum for Naga Reconciliation.
“Even if heaven falls and all the rivers runs red with blood, I will not allow Nagas to be Independent”, “I will station one Indian soldier for every tree in Nagaland and wipe them out within one week” says India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru when Nagas made their political assertion. Again another Prime Minister Mr. Morarji Desai said; “I will exterminate all the Nagas without any compunction” when Naga student leaders went to meet him and to ask him to solve the Naga political problem during his visit to Kohima. And we are experiencing those impact ever since and even today despite peace processes and political negotiations which are purportedly being held at the highest level, without conditions and in a third country.
My dear fellow Naga brothers and sisters, every time we meet on an occasion like this, we want to talk about the political history of the Nagas and question the possible outcome. Even when we eat and drink, things seems incomplete without some talks and thoughts on the Naga political issue. No wonder, this political assertion has all of us engaged with it in one way or the other. Some in support and some against it, but every single one of us are caught in the same impact, where for some people it may be for the better and for some others for the worse. And again there are many assertions, although the general assertion of the Nagas as a people may be only one, which is based on the historical and political rights of the Nagas for a free Naga Nation.
On the other hand, we also had few Nagas asserting the interests of the Government of India against Naga interest which impacted the Naga society much beyond repairable damages. One such assertion would be the signing of the so-called 16-Points Agreement of 1960 between representatives of the Naga People’s Convention and the Government of India. And this has gone down in the Naga political history as the greatest damage ever done to the Naga Political assertion which created the present state of Nagaland within the Indian Union. The Naga assertion for Political Independence suffered the biggest blow and the people paid the highest price then and are even paying now and will continue to pay the price of this mistake till cent per cent of the people’s assertion are achieved. God only knows how many of us in the present generation or the next will live to see that day. Even the present Peace Process which has now run into the 13th year and the earlier Peace Talks of 1960s are victims of this mistake.
We also had the Shillong Accord of 1975 which needs no elaboration, but which struck the last nails to the coffin of an undivided Naga National Council and gave birth to multi-national political groups resulting in “Nagas killing Nagas” in the name of “national cause or principles” while our enemies watch and instigate. This certainly was not an assertion but a by-product of an impact bereaved of visions to even see the terrible consequences that were clearly written on the walls.
These two events are altogether quite two different things, one by over-ground politicians and the other by “Underground Organization”. But there were two things in common. On both the occasions, the signatories were called and taken to Delhi and Shillong respectively for signing the documents prepared by the Indian Government. And on both the occasion 1 person each did not append their signatures, where in the first case the person who did not sign came back home in a coffin and in the second case, the person came home shouting; “if I ever sign such an Accord even the leaves of the trees in Nagaland will not spare me” or something of that nature as it was relayed in native language.
The third thing in common which supporters of the two events say is that, it was the best thing to have happened at that time. But we need not be judgmental about that but leave them to the best healer, which is “time” and move on without “crying over spilled milk”. There could be more similar impairment of political visions and assertions in a more than 60 years of political conflict which may not have reached the public ears, but they could be things that are best left unsaid. For some others, it may best be forgotten.
When the Government of India signed the first Ceasefire with the Federal Government of Nagaland in 1964 after installing the first Legislative Assembly in Nagaland, subsequent to the inauguration of Nagaland Statehood as the 16th State of the Indian Union, several rounds of talks were held, with the Indian Government offering “anything under the sun” except Sovereignty. This was reciprocated by the Naga leaders who would take nothing but Sovereignty. Both the Indian Civil society and the Naga public knew little on this developments and were not curious enough either. After 8 (eight) years of asserting their respective positions, the talks ended in a dead-lock and military options to crush the Nagas were re-enforced.
This time when the Government of India signed the second Ceasefire with the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, led by Chairman Isak Chishi Swu and General Secretary Th. Muivah, in 1997, the Naga Civil Society organizations took the lead to strengthen the hands of the negotiators and decided to create an “interference free space” for talks to take place. Towards this, a Boycott Call or rather deferment of elections under the slogan “Solution not Election” was given by the Co-ordination Committee of all Naga Civil Society organizations and Churches against the holding of the Nagaland State Legislative Assembly scheduled for 1998. Rather than proving sincerity to the Peace talks, the Government of India imposed its “Constitutional Obligations” and installed an Indian National Congress (Indira) led Proxy Government in Nagaland as all the other political parties refrained from contesting the elections to stand with the people for solution of the Indo-Naga political problem. What happened after that is within everybody’s knowledge and the DAN Government of Nagaland stands in power today as a living testimony of the people’s verdict.
But if you were to ask me, where is the Naga political assertion leading us to and what would be the impact on the Naga society? I would say; Nagas also have to learn from our past mistakes and also try and think outside of our own narrow “Naga Box”!! Today I stand before you as a humble member of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation. But I also want to tell you that despite the many weaknesses and limitation that FNR may have, it has started to help the Naga people who are the managers of the Naga political assertions to think outside that narrow “Naga Box”. And that is why the leaders of the different political groups have started meeting and talking things out even within a new mechanism call the “Joint Working Group”.
Again for a moment I want to share the stories of other people who also live through very serious conflict situations, in conditions much worse than that of Nagas. One such case will be the Bougainville experience. But to make a long story short, let me just say, they have fought for their Independence from Papua New Guinea and in the process started killing each other just like us – Nagas. But then they said, “If we kill each other who will take care of Bougainville when it gets Independence”? So they decided to reconcile with each other and started talking with the Government of Papua New Guinea. And they entered into a Peace Agreement in 2005, in which they are given full Autonomy to run their own Country and Government for a period of 15 years. At the end of which will be a period of 5 years, during which time period they will decide whether they will choose to stay Independent or remain with Papua new Guinea.
Whereas in South Africa, after Nelson Mandela was release in 1990 and African National Congress (ANC) won the 1994 elections with Mandela as the first President of Post Apartheid regime, an Act called PROMOTION OF NATIONAL UNITY AND RECONCILIATION ACT, 1995 was passed and the TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION (TRC) was established under this Act. Thereon, after conducting public hearing from both victims and perpetrators, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chairperson of the TRC handed over their report to the President of South Africa on 29th October 1998 where about 22,000 individuals or surviving families appeared before the Commission. Those who confessed their crimes were granted Amnesty and others who were victims were granted reparations. But when some of us visited South Africa last month in December, we also saw that many did not appear before the Commission. Many of them out of sheer fear that they may not get real justice. But we also met with people who were both victims as well as perpetrators and we saw some real reconciliation where they even re-told their stories to us. And all of them had this to say; “we have forgiven each other but we shall not forget”. And when TRC finished its work and the Government approved its report, they did it on a two word commitment “Never Again”.
Nagas loves to talk big things, perhaps as we are doing now….but we have to put our fears behind us and confront our future with courage. We also should not shy away from our responsibilities both as leaders and followers or even as mere public and make decisions where it is due. Most of the time, we keep waiting for others to make decisions for us and by then the opportunity has gone away from us. While Nagas are talking about the talks, peace, unity and reconciliation etc for all this years, several struggling people who may not have fought even half of what we did, have already found solutions in one way or the other. And besides Bougainville and South Africa, East Timor, Aceh and Sarajevo etc. are a few examples. Out of this few countries, East Timor which got Independent on 20th May 2002, has only 14, 609 Sq. Kms in size and 1.1 Million in population as of the United Nations Census sources in 2009. This calls for us to start to stop talking and talking about the peace talks or others gossips, but live out our lives in action before even our own neighbors overtakes us. Already even in India the Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and now Talengana have overtaken us even though the nature of the problem may be completely different. The truth is, we are just too proud of our history and bask in the glory of the past without doing anything in the present. Other may not have histories that they can boast of, but they do what needs to be done in their present situations.
So let us wake up and walk together with OUR PAST NOT BEHIND US, BUT IN FRONT OF US so that we are constantly reminded of our past mistakes and not repeat them again.