Monday, July 26, 2021
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Are the Indo-Naga peace initiatives heading in the right direction?

It is rather unfortunate and unexpected of R.N. Ravi to ignore and distort the facts of history and label the Naga national workers as criminals, outlaws, as those who have been led astray, etc. and the Naga National Groups as some extra constitutional entities. No one in their right sense and holding the role and position as he would insult the honour of the Nagas by distorting the Naga history (as Ravi did while delivering his speeches for Nagaland Statehood Day and India’s Republic Day) if they desire to see peaceful solution to the long protracted Indo-Naga conflict. His speeches were in direct contradiction to the Framework Agreement and the Agreed Position; he is undoing himself, and probably the historic agreements for peace, as an honourable Interlocutor for the Government of India. His recent attitude and actions raises serious concerns about his acumen to look into the interests of both the Nagas and India. For instance, harping on the “16 Point Agreement” as the historical truth of Naga aspiration is to nullify all the recent peace initiative and developments.
History is the soul of nationalism. There can be no nationalism without the history of a people. It is more than the records of what happened in the past; it tells us who we are and why we are where we are today. The sense of who we are determines the making of history and history informs and shapes the identity and destiny of the people in turn. To distort or deny history, whether great or obscure, is to deny the truth of one’s identity.
Modern Naga identity cannot be separated from Naga nationalism. Prior to it, Naga identity was constructed by the others, especially the British colonizers. Though Naga nationalism, like the nationalism of any other people, has been shaped by the historical processes, the necessity to go for arm struggles was not the choice of the people; it was rather imposed on us. In this context, it is right to say that the Naga National Council (NNC), especially under the leadership of A.Z. Phizo, started a new chapter of Naga history. It was he who ignited and took the fire of Naga nationalism to both the literate and the illiterate Nagas and also aggressively campaigned the Naga rights to the Indian leaders.
Naga nationalism was originally a non-violent movement. To recount some historical events, in 1947 the leaders of the NNC peacefully negotiated the “Hydari Agreement”, met and talked with the Indian leaders like Gandhi and Rajagopalachari who acknowledged the right of the Nagas to be independent, conducted the Naga plebiscite of 1951 democratically, boycotted the first Indian General Election in 1952, etc.
However, Naga history took a new twist when Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India and his Burmese counterpart, U Nu, visited Kohima on 30th March 1953. Because of some manipulative Indian bureaucrats, the NNC delegation was denied an appointment with Nehru and even refusing them the request to submit a memorandum; this was in total disregard to the Naga traditional way of receiving/hosting guests and so the crowd left the public ground feeling insulted and infuriated. The action of the public did not go well with Nehru and that afternoon itself, the NNC leaders having no other option being hunted and with death threats went underground.
When it was made clear to India that the Nagas would not join the Indian Union, India started sending thousands of troops to occupy the Naga territories. Rampant and inhuman atrocities including torture and killing of innocent public were committed by the Indian armed forces. For example, Zasibito of Jotsoma was shot dead on 18th October,1952; two Mima village elders were tortured to death and their bodies were dragged around Kohima town to instil fear in the minds of the people. Troops in thousands were also deployed to the Eastern Naga areas. Massive operations were carried out to hunt down every surviving Naga nationalist and to bring the Nagas under submission. The NNC as an unarmed peaceful political body found itself helpless against the military onslaught, and the unabated violence of the Indian armed forces on the innocent Naga public backed by Draconian laws forced the NNC to organize itself into a government. The Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) was thus formed in 1956 (by merging together the Honking Government representing the free Nagas and the NNC representing the Naga Hills) to defend the rights and honour of the Nagas. Thus Nagas out of necessity took up arms for defence and protection against the barbaric and heinous crimes perpetrated by the invading Indian armed forces.
It must be noted that peace is not possible without regard to truth and justice. If truth is respected, and the honour of the people is safeguarded, then understanding and appreciation of each other is possible. That is how many of the conflicts in the Naga society have been resolved. When conflicting parties meet to solve a problem, it is almost taboo to first speak about the interests and rights of the self or to find fault with the other. Instead, the parties would first admit their limitations and mistakes. This is done so as not to insult the wisdom and honour of each other. It is a common thing to quote a traditional saying, “Humans err, not stones and sticks”, and then overlook the faults of each before proceeding to deliberate on resolving the conflicting issues. In this way, the process of negotiation not only brings forth justice and peace but also healing and understanding. Is this Naga traditional model too primitive for exploring peace process in the world today?
Bendang Sangtam
Joint Secretary, Naga National Council (NNC/FGN)

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