For many of us who had attended this “Consultative meeting” on the 15th of October 2020, it was rather disappointing to read a one sided predetermined news coverage of the event the following day. It was obvious from the word go that the Government had intended to doctor the entire episode to suit its whims and fancies by setting a restrictive guideline on participatory confidentiality…down to the extent of disallowing the press fraternity from entering the meeting venue. This kind of unfortunate restriction stifles the very spirit and purpose of consultation where, efforts ought to have been made to spread the level of awareness to the people at large with the honest points of view being exchanged by such a multi-spectrum representatives in attendance…instead of concealing the factual proceedings that even the Fourth Estate allowed itself to willingly be used.
At this stage of a desperately compromised system overall, let me focus on the issue that needs to be highlighted. It may be bluntly stated that the presence of the 14 Tribal Hohos constituted the very presence of all the Tribes living within the boundary of the State of Nagaland as the backbone of this ‘consultative meeting’…while not trying in any way to undermine the other “tribal offspring” NGOs, Civil Societies and responsible personalities present in the meeting. They (14 Tribal Hohos) submitted a concise memorandum expressing their common endorsed concerns that: while it was their ardent desire that the Indo-Naga negotiation should be brought to a closure at the earliest, it was equally an important matter that the substantive issues contained in the “competency clauses” be made known to the stakeholders before…underline BEFORE… it is enacted. This, to my mind, is the eye of the storm…in fact a TSUNAMI…that could devastate the State of Nagaland all over again in the post solution scenario IF THE VOICE OF THE 14 TRIBAL HOHOS GOES UNHEEDED! In this regard I am very tempted to candidly say that both the British and the Indian Colonists hardly acknowledged or respected the true existence of the Nagas as an equal human race…preferring to dictate terms of their own, devoid of natural courtesy to even consult the Naga “savages” about their future…(in the distant and the recent past). The heartless negligence that was perpetuated by the Colonial British was sustained by an equally indifferent Indian Colonist in the aftermath of its own independence…preferring to sustain the default line of their earlier alien master. This is the unpardonable reason why our very own Naga families are still living within the geographical boundaries of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Mynmar.
But for the current analysis…it is equally obvious that the Nagas no longer want their land to become the killing field all over again…as has been emphasised in the resolutions that have been adopted in this consultative meeting. The term “inclusive” can have several connotations including “integration of all the Naga territories”…but most of all it also reflects the implicit desire of the stakeholders wanting a final solution that is enacted by all the Factions in unison. Lasting solution would however just be a wishful thinking if the final settlement is enacted with one group without the other. It would not take a rocket scientist to conclude that Nagaland will become a killing field all over again and the common man most of all will helplessly suffer the consequences of it all in the crossfire…for no fault of theirs. This would be the most unwanted and unfortunate impending reality foreseeable.
The consultative meeting has therefore, covered the general bases as best it could… but failed to acknowledge the most critical aspect of the final reality which was reflected by the 14 Tribal Hohos of Nagaland and the Senior Citizens Association of Nagaland. The Naga people do generally believe that all the National Workers, be it the 7 NNPG (working committee) or the NSCN (IM) would have the best interest of the Nagas at heart in their negotiation with the GoI. However, when issues such as the “Pan Naga Hoho, eyeing Intangki national reserve forest as its intended HQs” peeks out from within the “Competency Clauses” of the NSCN (IM), it has generated a very sharp negative resentment and suspicion. In his official interaction with the Tribal Hohos and other NGOs/ Civil Societies, on the 18th October 2019, at Japfu Hotel conference hall, Shri. R.N. Ravi, Interlocutor Governor of Nagaland had confirmed that the NSCN (IM) was demanding that Pan Naga Hoho be created as a “statutory cultural body” with an advisory role capability and that it should independently be funded by GoI. When questioned as to how two statutory bodies…Pan Naga Hoho and the Elected Government…could coexist within the same given system…the explanation given by him at that time was that Pan Naga Hoho would be a “Statutory Body” by virtue of its creation through an Act of Parliament. In as far as the advisory role of Pan Naga Hoho was concerned, he explained that it would be akin to any other NGOs advising the Government but that the Government would have the liberty to accept or reject such an advice. However here too, it appears that the NSCN (IM) has since shifted their original goal post and now wants Pan Naga Hoho to have a mandatory role rather than an advisory one that would supersede the statutory authority of an elected government in power…be it in Nagaland, Manipur Arunachal Pradesh or Assam. One issue come out sharply: That the GoI was not particularly averse to creating Pan Naga Hoho through an Act of Parliament with an advisory role…perhaps not a mandatory one. This brings us to the crucial question as to whether Indian Parliament can enact an ACT of creating a “purely cultural body” called the Pan Naga Hoho in contravention of Article 371A. Indian Parliament has no jurisdiction on the subjects of Custom, Tradition and Culture concerning the Nagas as validated by Article 371A. This is entirely a State subject matter and should be left undefiled. GoI ought to be aware of this fact and ought not to even broach the subject matter at all…knowing well that such an Act on their part would severely impair the already shaken spirit of trust in the Indian system. Then there is the question of Intangki Reserve Forest being targeted by the NSCN (IM) to establish this Pan Naga Hoho HQ. The Nagas of Nagaland have not been shouldering the excruciating burden of taxation for all these years like beasts of burden in the name of self-determination and instead lose control over the property that we already have under our possession. Nagas of Nagaland will not be prepared to accept such an arrangement emerging out of the so-called solution where the opinions of stakeholders have been totally ignored.
Finally, the fact that the 14 Tribal Hoho representatives had walked out of the meeting hall when the NMA and the NSF were given the podium time…speaks volumes. Both these organizations had made their points of view that there can be no solution without the issue of Flag and Yehzabo being addressed by the GoI. Since this issue had been raised during the consultative meeting without any pointed discussion on the subject there remains an extremely uncomfortable question on the “Yehzabo” itself that begs for answers. Is NSCN (IM) intending to impose their present Communist Yehzabo on the Naga populace? For instance Part V Article 1. of their present Yezahbo on the subject of LAND AND FOREST states: (Quote): “all the land and forests that may be made mention of by the Government shall be nationalised” (Unquote); Such a Yehzabo will never be accepted lying down by all the villages, communities or individuals within the State of Nagaland. This is without doubt a recipe for civil war.
Confusion and lack of clarity abound without an effort of honest sharing by those who represent the stakeholders. In an atmosphere of suspicion it is difficult to forge unity of purpose. Therefore the stand taken by the 14 Tribal Hohos and the Senior Citizens Association of Nagaland should not be lightly ignored in the greatest interest of all concerned. Let the stakeholder know first what is being sought for before inking the final settlement…if the ultimate objective is for “lasting peace”.
Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd)
3rd Mile Thilixu Village;
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