A tribute by Gen. (Retd.) Viyalie Metha, Kedahge, FGN on the 17th Martyr’s Day
Dear Fellow Countrymen,
We are gathered today to pay homage to the thousands of brave men, young and old children who sacrificed their lives for the nation. On this day Oct. 18. 1952. ZASIBITO NAGI S/o Vizelhou Nagi of Jotsoma was killed by Indian Forces. We observe Martyrs’ day to remember their valour and celebrate their lives. Our journey has not always been peaceful.
In the Naga History even before the Britishers arrived, sporadic conflicts occurred with our neighbours but we were never under the subjugation of any foreign power. We lived as free people blessed with a land of beauty and riches are second to none. Our ancestry is adorned with courage, loyalty and honesty.
But the unwelcome arrival of outsiders soon changed that. The Treaty of Yandabo, 1826 changed the socio-political landscape of South-East Asia. Following which, in 1832, Captain Jenkin and Lt. Pemberton entered Nagaland via Manipur with their troops. This marked the start of a new conflict which lasted till 1880 when the “Verbal Agreement” was made between the British and Naga leaders. However, the seeds of internecine conflict had already been sown.
Simon Commission and British Treachery.
The Statutory commission popularly known as Simon Commission came to our land on January 10, 1929 and held talks with our leaders who declared, distinctly, that after the Britishers leave they would return to their own way of life as before. However, Britain failed to respond to our Memorandum.
Between 1940 and 1950, our leaders sent letters and memorandums to both Winston Churchil and Clement Attlee who were the Prime Miniters then, but they turned a deaf ear. This demonstrated British treachery and haughty attitude towards Nagas.
Rapid Historic Events (1947-1952).
This period witnessed significant political changes in quick succession.
o 1947 Assam Governor Akbar Hydary came to Nagaland propounding the Nine-point Agreement with a thinly-vieled warning that things would turn worse should we choose to ignore it. But he died shortly in Manipur after leaving Nagaland.
o Prakasa succeeded him as Assam Governor.
o Mhondamo Kithan resigned and Visarü Angami succeeded him as NNC President.
o 14 August, 1947 Nagas declared their Independence.
o Britain leaves India.
o 1950 December A. Z Phizo became NNC President.
o 1951 May 16, Plebiscite held, wherein Nagas unanimously declared not to be part of the soon- to-be formed Indian Union.
o 1952 Nagas rejected India’s first General Election.
True to Akbar Hydary’s threat, India’s unlawful incursion in our land and blatant disregard of our freedom and deteriorate the situation which eventually led to the first martyr on 18 Oct. 1952 when ZASIBITO NAGI was shot dead in Kohima during a peaceful public rally. The procession itself was sparked because of the excessive high-handedness of the Assam police on a Sema boy while he was in their custody.
Today we are gathered to honour our Martyrs’. They lived and died for us, their blood and tears they shed to defend our land are priceless. Even in the midst of untold sufferings and pain, they never gave in. They believed in freedom and even in death they were victorious.
Today many of them lie in unmarked graves but their stories of unparalleled valour continue to inspire us and give us renewed hope each day. We have set this day apart to be called “Martyr’s Day” to honour them. Thank God for our patriots who preserved our freedom for us. Let no men forget what they sacrificed for our Nation. Keep their spirit alive by believing in what they believed in.
My dear countrymen, it is not too much for us, to visit their graves, place a bouquet of flowers over them and whisper a prayer. Let the Reverend toll the church bell and let the multitude see our flag flying gallantly on the hills. But shed no tears, for our victory had been assured long ago. Wherever you are, look up into the heaven for that’s where we will meet them one day.
Comes rain or sunshine; never forsake the living God for He has made us a nation for the world to witness His power and faithfulness.
May God bless you all. “We shall overcome”