The British administration has introduced a uniform system of administrative control toward the later part of 19th century in Naga territories occupied by them. It had enabled the different Naga tribesmen to mix with each other more freely without fear. For the first time, they came to realise the advantage of living in peace with each other instead of fighting among themselves. Secondly, the advent of Christian missionaries into Naga land had also significantly contributed toward enlightening the Nagas by introducing Christianity and teaching of the 3Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) to the Nagas for the first time thereby ushering in a new dawn of modernity. Further, the returnee of the Naga Labour Corp members from European front after the 1st world War (WW1) had strengthened the formation of the Naga Club with their new experience in European countries. They had the opportunity to come closer and understood each other better while working together during the War. They also become aware about the progressive society and nation building comprising multi-racial communities living in harmony under one national government in other parts of the world.
All this development in a short span of historical timeframe has convinced the Nagas that they are from the same group of people belonging to different families forming into different tribes but distinct from the other non-naga communities. They become aware of the need to come closer together as one people and form into a distinct Nation of its own.
Under this background, the formation of the Naga Club in 1918 was the rational outcome of the general felt need of the people for a common platform which the then Naga enlightened elders rightly converted into reality in forming the Naga Club at Kohima. The members were the representatives of all the tribes available mainly in Kohima and the nearby areas at that time. But the Club was formed for the benefit of all the Naga tribes inclusive of those living within the British administered areas as well as those Nagas living in unadministered Naga territories.
Their main objectives of forming the Club were ;-( a) to bring about ‘UNITY’ and feeling of ‘FRATERNITY’ and ‘ONENESS’ among all the Nagas tribes inclusive. (b) To preserve, protect and consolidate the Naga socio-political identity. (c) To look after the welfare and unity of all the Naga tribes.
This formation was an important turning point enabling the leaders to foster a closer understanding and relationship among themselves. It had given them a platform to collectively share their dreams, ideas to define their common vision and goal, chart out the action plan together towards fulfilling the common Naga socio-political destiny. The Nagas should be grateful to their far sighted vision. Since then, the Club has symbolized the foundation of the Naga Unity and common movement for a distinct National entity. The Club defined objectives has become the source of aspirations and the foundation of all the subsequent formation of political or social organizations of the Nagas, like the NNC, NSCNs or Naga HOHOs etc.
The Naga journey together for a political goal had begun formally with the submission of the historic Memorandum to the British Statutory Commission headed by Sir Simon, (with Mr. Clement Atlee as member who later became Prime minister of UK) on 10th January 1929 at Kohima demanding exclusion of the Naga Hills from the Reform scheme of India leaving the Naga alone as before when the British leaves India. The Memorandum was meant for all the Naga tribes living within and outside the British administered areas then. It is no monopoly of a tribe or a grouping as clearly seen from the writing of the memorandum, I quote, “We claim not only the members of the Naga Club………but also other regions of Nagaland”. Thus, every Naga were made a member of this club and has every right to be part of its activities of this historic institution, share and subscribe to the noble legacy of the founding members. The purpose of the Memorandum was achieved when Naga Hills was ‘Excluded’ from the purview of the Government of India Act 1935, and placed directly under the Governor of Assam.
The Club Centenary Celebration should therefore be an opportune moment to show case the common vision of the Nagas, undertaken right from that time onward and to reflect critically on the journey so far, toward that ultimate goal and take needed midcourse corrective measures. However, the irony is, as we reach the 100th milestone, the Naga today appears to have forgotten the real purpose and objectives of the club mainly the “Unity “and closer relationship among the Nagas for achieving the common goal for the future. It calls for tolerance of each other, respect for other’s view and accommodation, not arrogant-divide. To reconcile the differences through discussion and negotiation in the interest of common survival and better future.
Today the prevailing attitudes and thinking of the Nagas are very divisive, self-centered, intolerant, short- sighted and unpatriotic. It is seen from the way the Nagas society is fragmenting without any exception in both the UG and Over ground organizations, such as (NSCN (IM),(K1),(K2now),(U),Reform Group, NNC-, NFGN etc.) Among the Over ground Groups, Tribal HOHOS bifurcation into multi-Hohos (Nagas of Nagaland, Central Naga, ENPO, etc). All the fragmented organizations talk of UNITY as the paramount need of the hour but nobody is willing to listen to the other. The trend of fragmentation was set knowingly and unknowingly during the formation of the Nagaland state hurriedly without proper examination on various aspects such as, integrating all Naga inhabited territories, restoration of alienated Naga territories, on boundary issue and so on. Since then Nagas spent more time, energy and resources in fighting among themselves rather than unit to fight for the common goal.
It is sad to see the controversy generated in organizing the centenary celebration at the Apex Level by different organizations, each claiming the legitimacy in doing so. It has created confusion and disappointment and dampened the enthusiasm among the concern well meaning people who were looking forward to the occasion expecting to be an opportunity for renewal of the spirit of unity and recommit to the common cause for an early honorable end to the oldest political movement of a tiny group of people but stubbornly determined movement. Will the present trend of intolerant attitude of the Nagas be the reflection of the true mind set of the people after coming this far? Hope not, otherwise it will be a real tragedy if the Nagas march together for a socio- political goal ends in more fragmented society in both physical and mental term to the delight of the detractors mainly due to the self-contradiction and selfishness among the Nagas. The present trend appears to be heading toward a point of divide and fall. As Christian, Nagas today should not forget the Israelites’(Noah’s descendants) people failure to construct the Tower of Babel, due to their arrogance, disunity and intolerance among them and forgetting to obey God’s command (Gen.11) resulting into permanent dispersal in different direction.
NAGAS need to collectively ponder more seriously to take appropriate corrective measure lest the movement end in shameful failure due to our self contradictions, short sighted selfishness and personal rivalry among the leaders, forgetting our set goal, and abandoning God though pretend to be God fearing. The tremendous sacrifices made so far over the century in terms of both men and material resources should not be allowed to be wasted due to our weakness and selfishness. United we stand, divided we fall, that’s the universal rule so also God’s warning (Bible, Mk 3.23-26).Quote, ’If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” The divisive tendency is working overtime in the mind of the Nagas which must be stop and reverse it urgently.
Nagas should not forget that over these long years of struggle, too many of the finest young men and women of the Nagas have been sacrificed and many families have faced devastating unspeakable tragic experiences over the years. Can the Nagas forget those dead or living ‘Unsung Heroes’ whose spirit must be watching the happening today among the Naga people? Let us not forget the priceless sacrifices made by the thousands and thousands over the years. And also the hardship and trauma of unpleasant experiences faced by everyone till now. The Nagas in general should make an attempt to rally round together once again for a final push tell the political common struggle come to a logical, honorable end which is under a protracted negotiation of the last more than two decades. The patience is running out and the fatigue syndrome is setting in both the negotiators as well as the general public but the end is yet to come.
The manner in which the centenary celebration is being organized by different bodies at the apex level has not created the expected and needed enthusiasm to rekindle the spirit of unity for a successful achievement of the common goal. Can it be possible to end the year of celebrations by organizing a closing finale function where all the different bodies e.g. Tribal Hohos, Students, Club members, and so on, come together to renew the Naga togetherness to march the remaining journey towards a political settlement?. We still have miles to go to the end and the ending will depend solely on the marchers, the NAGAS.
T.N.Mannen IAS (Rtd)
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