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Naga Political Destiny

‘Man is by nature a political animal.’ – Aristotle
The political consciousness amongst the Nagas developed separately in isolated village republics; they enjoyed absolute sovereignty over their territory and population practising direct democracy. They fought against every intruder into their territory protecting their liberty and ways of life. The invasion of the British Imperialist into the Naga country and their subsequent rule introducing Christianity and western education converting the Nagas from animism into Christianity and providing an impetus to the growth of their collective identity and political consciousness, are epoch making era in the history of Nagas.
There are many theories about the origin of Nagas but none of them is satisfactory. No one even knew how they came to be called ‘Nagas’. Basing on another hypothesis, we would imagine that there were hordes of people migrating from place to place in search of a suitable land for habitation in small batches for centuries all over the foothills of the Himalayas and the South East Asia covering vast distances. Some of these migratory tribes belonging to the Sino-Tibeto-Mongolian race distinctly identifiable by their physical features, customs, traditions and languages happened to settle down in between the present countries of India and Myanmar. They spoke different languages but their customs and practices were very similar. Hence the anthropologists and sociologists called them ‘Nagas.’
Today, the Nagas have happily adopted that collective name as one entity; bringing a sense of oneness and belongingness. Gradually, realising that Nagas were different from the other communities in India they wanted to return to their old village republics and independent life as before the arrival of the British Imperialist and petitioned the British Empire through the famous Simon Commission before India got her independence requesting the British Empire not to hand them over to India but allowing them to decide their own political destiny after quitting India. This prayer was not granted, creating the genesis of Naga movement for self-determination.
The mass movement for self-determination under dynamic leaders like AZ Phizo became more organised making it into an international question and located their headquarters in London. The GOI created the state of Nagaland out of a hill district of Assam in its attempt to appease the agitating Nagas but failed to satisfy, since many were left out. Many Nagas are still residing in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Myanmar. Thereof, the struggle continues.
The Naga solidarity began to degenerate and wane as it progressed dividing into many factions led by different charismatic leaders each claiming to be fighting for Nagas. Apparently, their struggle is becoming more for personal or tribal supremacy over their rivals and control of the Nagas than for a common political destiny as before. The ordinary Naga is confused about who is what and which one is the right faction to be supported. In the process, many patriotic Nagas died in the hands of their own compatriots owing to rivalry, jealousy, suspicion and thirst for power. Many attempts were made in the past to settle the question of Naga quest for independence with India but failed. Every successive state government is embroiled in the activities of the Naga nationalist movement, groping for the final solution inhibiting its progress like no other states in India as the multitude of its citizens are involved either directly or indirectly. The constitutional provisions for more autonomy and special protections guaranteeing their rights are not successfully implemented; largely ignored by the GOI or by the ignorance of the state government — only creating false hope and dissatisfaction amongst the people.
The present generation of Naga leaders are more educated, sophisticated and better exposed to the outside world popularising the struggle for self-determination by reaching out to more world leaders and international organisations, winning friends and supporters. Accordingly, we expect the Naga leaders and GOI to bring some important changes improving the lot of Nagas living in different parts of India out of the ongoing negotiation. However, it has been going on for more than twenty years without any visible or concrete solution. It is so perplexing whether the GOI or the Naga leaders or both are dithering and responsible for the protracted negotiation. The people are losing patience and the initial enthusiasm that greeted them and their hope and trust in their ability and leadership to
achieve anything for the Nagas, begins to wane. Some of them even start openly expressing their dismay and ingratitude.
Meanwhile, we are told that the proposal for a separate flag and constitution for Nagas is not acceptable by the GOI. It further says that there is something called ‘competencies clause’ which needs more discussion. The public doesn’t know anything about the flag and constitution controversy but they are told from the beginning that ‘they have agreed to settle the Naga question within the constitution of India’. Do they abide by it? In India, having a separate flag and constitution is a very normal thing for any organisation if it is not against the constitution of India. So why is a simple demand rejected?
Regarding the ‘competencies clause’, we cannot comment since the details are ambiguous and shrouded in mystery. Albeit, the Nagas in Nagaland strongly feel that the whole areas inhabited by Nagas must be incorporated with them into one body strengthening the present state without which there cannot be any agreement or political solution. The idea of having a shared government violating the state borders diluting the power of the Nagaland state for the Nagas without the integration of their ancestral lands sounds perplexing, ridiculous, delusional, absurd, illogical and unrealistic. Land must go with people. We cannot create permanent guests or refugees. The present state of Nagaland should not be disrupted or weakened in any manner by the proposed political solution. Rather it should be further reinvigorated and strengthened for greater development. In any case, the negotiation must conclude as early as possible. Astounded by the news that the parties are still haggling and squabbling over the details which ought to have been ironed out during the past so many years without their knowledge, the public feels deceived and betrayed. Will the talk last forever? How will they implement any agreement without their consent?
Notwithstanding, the fate of the negotiation, the leaders deserve respect from the Nagas. Emerging from the village republics just a little over hundred years ago achieving so much despite obstacles within such a short time comparing ourselves with the other human civilisation; we feel proud of the progress made so far. Had we not fought for the protection of our liberty and identity, even today, we would have still remained just another backward hill tribe and tiny district of Assam! Progress is rather sluggish and interrupted by the
incessant political struggles and search for the elusive final political solution since the state was created.
Nevertheless, paying homage to the memories of our past and present brothers and sisters who fought courageously for the betterment of Nagas, we must rehabilitate them into our society allowing them to retire honourably. We cannot expect too much from a single generation of politicians to fulfil all the aspirations of Nagas. One day, they must pass the political baton to the next generation. If someone still feels that they can improve upon what has been achieved so far, then, they may start another chapter for the political destiny of our people. We must keep on marching forward towards greater progress.
Besesayo Kezo, IPS, Retd DGP