‘Nagalim Uncovered’: Speech delivered by Lt. Ge. (Retd) V.S. Atem
Author’s name : GPRN Published by : GPRN
Date published : 10/30/2007
I have traveled thousands of miles across lands and oceans to be here with you so that I may share the torment and resilience of my people, who have since the mid-1800s lived under the yoke of colonialism. Even today, two hundred years later, in the era of democracy and globalization, the Naga people still languish under �military rule�. We are denied the desire to live peacefully as free men and women.
The struggle for survival and existence is one which the Nagas, an ancient people have waged, making it one of the longest political conflicts in Asia. Isolated from the rest of the world, Nagas have struggled resiliently and alone, against various rulers. Denied our rights as an independent entity, we are victims of both old and new colonial powers, which together have worked at the expense of the right of the Naga people.
Who would have ever thought that brute force will still be considered and used as a means to resolve political difference in this day and age? But there are many governments that still follow ideology of force instead of harnessing peaceful means to resolve conflicts. In a world where disparity is increasingly arising out of different value systems and beliefs and less no political ideologies, the Naga determine to affirm �non-violence� values of dialogue and negotiations to resolve any differences whatsoever.
Naga believe in the non-violent movement led by Mahatma Gandhi. Our Naga leaders at that time were delighted when they met Gandhi on 19ty July 1947, who told them, �Nagas have every right to be independent. We did not want to live under the domination of the British and they are leaving us. I want you to feel that India is yours. I feel that Naga Hills are mine just as much as they are yours, but if you say, it is not mine the matter must stop there. I believe in the brotherhood of man, but I do not believe in force or forced unions. If you do not want to join the Union of India nobody will force you to do that�.
Sadly Gandhi was assassinated for his beliefs and subsequent leaders stayed away from the values of Ahimsa and were determined to bring the Naga into submission. Not wanting to accept any form of foreign rule, the Nagas formally declared their independence on 14th August 1947 from the British India Rule. The declaration of the Naga independence stated that Nagas were reclaiming the status they held as an independent people before the British came. The declaration was sent to the King of England, the Government of India and to the Secretary General of the United Nations on January 1950. The Nagas informed the Indian Government, the United Nations and those countries that had their embassies in New Delhi that the Nagas do not accept the Indian Constitution. The Naga people had never been apart of what today constitutes the Indian Union. The Naga leaders took decision to organize a Naga Voluntary Plebiscite, and informed the Government of India on 1st January 1951 of their extensions. The Plebiscite was held on 16th May 1951. The results tabulated finally in March 1952, was a 99.9 percent vote for a sovereign independent Naga state. A Naga delegation met the Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru on 11 March 1952 to convey the decision of the Naga people for an independent Naga state. Once again the Naga political rights were ignored by the Indian Government and armed persecution against the Naga was launched on a massive scale, kept hidden from the world.
In May 1997 after more than five decades of intense fighting that causes much human suffering and pain on both sides, the military leaders of India acknowledge that the Naga rights is of political nature that cannot be solved through military means. This recognition is significant because the Indian Government had been trying to stifle the Naga movement through its arm forces, and by imposing its own solution to quell the Nagas. During this period the Indo-Naga relations was one of bitterness and had where deception, betrayal and intensive military campaign was unleashed upon the people.
After years of failed negotiations, and subsequent informal diplomacy in Paris and New York, the Indian Government and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) have bilaterally declared a ceasefire since August 1997 to create a congenial atmosphere for unconditional talks at the highest level of the Prime Minister, in the third neutral countries. Though the world of ignorance, for the four million Nagas it brought hope and opportunity to heal and reclaim our rightful place as a free nation.
On 11 July 2002, the Indian Government in a joint Communiqu� issued from Amsterdam for the first time in Indo-Naga history, made an official statement recognizing �the unique history and situations of Nagas���and agreed that talks should proceed in an accommodative and forward looking manner so that a lasting and honorable solution can be arrived at�. This recognition is a framework for how the talks can proceed and shows that the uniqueness of the issue demands a unique solution.
Nagas are fully committed to upholding the rule of law and our commitment to peace and democracy are absolute. We have taken every opportunity to enter into peaceful negotiations because we believe that the ultimate solution will be a political settlement. But for the Nagas to have peace, we must have a willing partner in India. If India is willing to recognize the rights of the Nagas, Nagas will recognize India�s realities ten times more.
Nagas are aware of the impending realities in which we live and more so of the fact that we occupy an important geo-political strategic location surrounded by the great powers of India, China and Burma. Nagas are not going to obstruct the right of our neighbors who are at full liberty to determine their own destiny. The Nagas will undoubtedly respect our neighbors! The vision of the Nagas is to uphold the ethical and moral principles of democracy and liberty. Nagas will on our initiative and volition work towards contributing the fulfillment of the United Nations purpose to prevent future wars and its goal for world peace.
It is now ten years, and with no honorable solution in sight the Nagas are going tired and weary. We feel that our sincerity to peace has been misused as India has aggressively used this ceasefire for her own interest. The Indian Army is now the largest development agency in Nagalim; and it has weakened the credibility to find a peaceful and honorable solution that would lead to a strong democracy. This breach of trust has put the whole peace process into jeopardy.
Nags do not wish to be forced back to war. Our rivers have run red with blood and the cries of our children have echoed through the hills. We know the price we have paid for our freedom. When we know that there are peaceful ways through which we can resolve differences, war is the last option. Nagas do not want the peace process diverted and destroyed by vested interests that do not want a peaceful solution to the more than 50 years old Indo-Naga political conflict. For the sake of peace, we need your intervention to safe the peace process and to stay it till it results in a solution.
Nags are of the view that the peace process must not be subjected to the pragmatism of governments, but must reflect the principles of justice and democracy where all peoples have equal rights. Nagas have the belief that the peace process should be an issue that remains above party politics, for greater things are at stake. The time has come to deal with some of the difficult issues in the negotiations, and Nagas are prepared for that. It will not be easy.
As a Naga I appeal to all peace-loving governments to be adequately concerned and responsible in holding both Nagas and India accountable to peacefully resolve their conflict through negotiations. Nagas need you to assist in restoring mutual trust that will strengthen the peace process in which the two entities can engage each other in a sincere and honest way.
A peace resolution to the Indo-Naga conflict will have wider geo-political implications. It will be a step in strengthening other peace processes to resolve political differences in the region. The immediate consequences will also have far reaching impact within the Indian sub-continent. India�s own democracy will be strengthened and she can start diverting her huge defense budget away from counter insurgency policies, towards more pressing social issues for the upliftment of the millions living in poverty in India.
A peaceful solution will increase the potential of regional peace, stability and demilitarization in the region. Violations of Human Rights will decrease and conditions of living will improve, contributing to the objectives of the United Nations, which is in the best interest of all nations. A strong India is in the interest of everyone, and for India to be strong, it must solve the Naga issue first.
God bless you and America.