Former Chief Minister of Nagaland and Governor S. C. Jamir is free to say and write what he wants about the Indo-Naga political problem and the state of affairs in Nagaland, with one important caveat, that among all Nagas to date, he has made the most successful and illustrious political career for himself in the service of the Indian Government by opposing his own people’s cause: Naga people’s political and human right to self-determination.
He was party to the Naga People’s Convention and the Indian Intelligence Bureau-inspired so-called 16-Point Agreement that led to the creation of the State of Nagaland in 1962, the state he went on to lead as Chief Minister for 18 years, between 1980 and 2003, after which he was rewarded by the Indian government with governorships of Goa, Odisha, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. It must be easy and comforting, even self-congratulatory, for S.C. Jamir sitting on his exalted perch of rare privilege to look back on the wreckage his long public life helped create in Nagaland, and to condemn it now as “heaps of dry bones” in the manner of biblical prophets of old and in the name of “brutal honesty.”
But brutal honesty works both ways. S.C. Jamir is no Ezekiel of the Naga people. He can say what he wants, but he does not speak for the Naga people. He never has. He has made a habit and a career of misrepresenting a minority Naga voice as though it were the voice of the Naga people. This is what he does, again, in typical fashion, in “Wither-ward is Nagaland Moving?” For him, Nagas who do not reside in the state of Nagaland don’t count. So he reminds us that Naga integration is off the negotiation table with India. And Naga peoplehood and our right to political self-determination are alien concepts to him. So self-determination, too, is off the negotiation table. The existence of Nagas outside of Nagaland — in Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Northwest Myanmar – is a non-issue for S. C. Jamir. This is because he has built his life and ambition in direct opposition to Naga unity and integration. He has religiously pursued a divisive ideology, one dedicated to surrendering his people’s rights — including the right to life — to military laws like AFSPA and to the will of the Indian government he serves, humbly accepting the terms of the oppressor over the Naga people in exchange for personal advancement that he somehow equates with the advancement of the Nagas. Because his fortunes are tied up with the Government of India, must he force the Naga people to do the same?
Granted, S.C. Jamir must surely have done good works among communities close to him during his decades of holding positions of power and authority. These must be recognized and lauded.
But we are here talking about his public role in the long struggle for Naga rights as a people. He has the right to condemn the Naga Political Groups’ “brotherly ruthless killings” and “extortions.” But he has no right, after what he did against the Naga people’s political movement, to claim a rightful place in it, as he does in the following: “We, the elderly generation of Nagas have vivid memories of how with practically nothing in hand, but fired up by their vision and conviction, and propped up by the sole resource of the active support of common Naga villagers, the Naga political movement started and was carried on against what appeared to be impossible odds.”
This is true of most elderly Nagas. But wasn’t he instrumental in checkmating the movement with the divisive 16-Point charter of demands? Even S. C. Jamir cannot have it both ways. And now he expresses compassion for the NPGs he ditched, after calling them murderers and criminals, whose guilt must be assuaged in a “Post-Solution” period. He reminds us that understanding their pain “plays very important part in moral economy of the society.” He concludes with an exhortation that “Our selfishness keeps us in chains within ourselves,” and “Sympathy breaks this iron chain.”
Psychology has a term (projection) that may be at work in S.C. Jamir’s subconscious life manifested in his words. His is a cry for public sympathy. He wants to be free of the guilt of selfishness and betrayal buried deep within him, which he projects on to the Naga Political Groups. Naga people are not here to adjudicate spiritual matters, but we should help break the iron chains holding S. C. Jamir down, after all Nagas believe in freedom. Problem is, we cannot help him unless he looks into the mirror and recognizes himself for who S. C. Jamir really is, what he has done, and what he continues to do, to oppose the cause of Naga self-determination and freedom from laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Because S.C. Jamir often invokes Christianity as a guide to personal and public life, the Naga people live in hope for a new S.C. Jamir who will, finally, stand up for his people’s right to self-determination and integration. Governor S.C. Jamir, you asked and answered: “Wither-ward is Nagaland Moving?” We, too, have a question: What is so wrong for the Naga people to want to live together in an undivided ancestral homeland and to govern ourselves without an external power imposing its will on us with military force?
Global Naga Forum