Before addressing the main focus on Naga Hoho, belated as it may, I would like to first take this opportunity to clear the air of misunderstanding that seems to still be festering in the minds of the 14 Tribal Hoho representatives against the Senior Citizens Association of Nagaland (SCAN) in the backdrop of what transpired in a meeting with the Governor/ Interlocutor Nagaland at Hotel Japfu conference Hall on 18th October 2019. While addressing a view on the contentious subject of “Competency Clauses” (CC) which was partially disclosed to the members present in that meeting by the Governor/ Interlocutor, SCAN was the sole member present who strongly advocated a ‘slow down’ on the 31st October 2019 dateline as against every other NGOs impatiently clamouring for a speedy conclusion of the talk. SCAN was of the opinion that it was of an absolute imperative that the complete contents of CC must be put on the table transparently and the stakeholders must first be given the opportunity to review the same before the final settlement was inked. It was in this connection that I had categorically stated that even the Apex Tribal Hoho representatives present in this meeting did not have the mandate to approve the contents of the “Competency Clauses” on their own without going back to their respective Tribes for final endorsement by their people through a thorough consultation on each and every content in the CC. This was said in consideration of the fact that the CC would irreversibly impact the lives of each and every Naga for all times to come…positively or negatively…once formally signed as an agreement and that it was an inalienable right of the stakeholders to therefore be given their deserved time to be consulted and be heard. The reference to ‘mandate’ in this case was therefore to do with a specific focus on ‘Competency Clauses’. It had absolutely nothing to do with the legitimacy of the ‘mandated’ authority of the elected members of the respective Tribal Hohos. No sane Naga would question their standing as elected leaders within their respective communities. However, if this honest clarification still finds no clarity of understanding to their satisfaction within the Tribal Hohos…then let me in all humility render my sincere unreserved apology to all our Tribal Hoho Presidents and Office Bearers…since it was I who made this statement…though representing SCAN…and request them all to let this unfortunate misreading be put to rest in peace from here forward. We are in the midst of a very volatile crossroad of history and need to collectively put our heads together for a more important and relevant agenda of discussion for the sake of all concerned. Remember the agitated retort of even the Governor/Interlocutor while debating on this subject that “it was impossible for the Nagas to come to any united conclusion on any given issue”. To my mind, this was a rather amateurishly misplacement of judgement on his part like all the other Indian leaders before him. Mr. Governor/ Interlocutor may have to take time out from his busy schedule to educate the Nagas by telling us which kind of a remarkable civilisation, which kind of a remarkable people on planet earth, actually had/have that remarkable capability of agreeing with each other 100% in every given issue, every given time, all the time. We are certain that India is not one such place, to say the least, for him to stand seemingly tall and point his finger and underrate the Nagas on this score. Suffice is to say that, we are living in a democratic environment where the decision of the majority dictates and I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Nagas too can and will find a majority consensus on the subject. All that the Nagas need is an unabridged detail of the Competency Clauses and a reasonable timeframe to review it. So, fellow Nagas, we are up against important personalities representing GoI who think we are incapable of finding a united decision as a people, on the one hand and an expressed view of even the NSCN (IM) terrestrial upstairs that the Nagas public will not be able to understand or comprehend the profundity of their CC contents, on the other. Do we sit back and do nothing and prove them right?
Today we are beginning to see some semblance of sporadic activity of the “14 Tribal Hoho” expressing their collective views as “14 Tribes” this or “14 Tribes” that. In as far as their initiatives are concerned we do applaud them for their effort. However, can we pause for a while and seriously consider the present lacklustre picture of “14 Tribes” coming together in a loose formation without a collective Apex identity? Just think about this carefully. Where is the status of our collective Tribal honour gone with this non-descriptive image of a “14 Tribes” without a collective identity in our own land? In Nagaland context, the “14 Tribe” affiliated Naga Hoho was recognised as a very well structured traditional body, unlike other NGOs, drawing its strength and authority through a hierarchy that is rooted down to the ‘Traditional Council of Elders’ now known as “Village Council”. Therefore, given a strong disciplined and visionary leadership, Naga Hoho can resurge as a tremendous force to be reckoned with, not only within the Naga Community but way beyond our boundary. This is what Nagas desperately need to re-establish right now…to express the collective will of the Nagas of Nagaland with authority to our National Workers and to the GoI. Well, it upsets one’s mind to think that the Nagas of Nagaland once had a proud and honourable Apex organisation called the NAGA HOHO that commandeered a reasonable respect amongst the Tribes of Nagaland across the board…but was surreptitiously usurped by those who did not belong within it. This dismal picture of reality is at variance with the so-called ‘brave Naga Warriors’ that we are so prone to proudly trumpet at every given opportunity…yet we surrendered Naga Hoho without a fight.
Somewhere along the road, the bighearted leaders within the Naga Hoho opened the floodgate to other Tribes from beyond the State without considering the fact that such a magnanimous gesture would severely dilute the very essence of our exclusive identity that was so absolute necessary for us to sustain and nurture as the Apex platform to broadcast the ultimate voice of the people of Nagaland. With the inroad of other Tribes from beyond our State the original founding members became a voiceless minority within their own kitchen. With oxygen thinning out in their environment, all the suffocating “14 Tribes” slowly but surely walked out of their own kitchen (Naga Hoho) one after another. This is an amazing enactment of the ‘Arab and the camel’ fable in real time. The very existence of Naga Hoho has now been reduced to an irrelevant mouthpiece of someone else that has no prioritised concern with the ground reality of the Nagas of Nagaland. I sincerely believe that it is an opportune moment for the Nagas of Nagaland to rethink and rewind the clock to the time when Naga Hoho belonged to us. The time is rife for the Arab to reclaim his tent.
By saying this, I am not advocating that the present Naga Hoho should disappear. Not at all! There is no harm done if this Naga Hoho continues to exist but must rectify the misnomer and be re-christen as a Pan Naga Federation or Hoho where Nagas from every other geographical boundary can congregate and keep the spirit of integration and other common cultural matters alive till such time the ‘due democratic process’ finds a common home for all the Nagas without exception. Until then, the simple solution lies in the change of name which should appropriately be adopted in consonance with the background of its affiliated membership…but certainly not as Naga Hoho which already has a legitimate owner…the “14 Tribes” of Nagaland. Our 14 Tribes ought to feel honour bound to reclaim what is ours…if we have any honour left within us at all.
Today…nobody but nobody in his/her right frame of mind would underestimate the mindboggling complexities of the Indo-Naga political settlement wherein certain percentage of compromises would invariably have to be made from both sides of the negotiating table in a sequence of give and take before a conclusion can be reached. It is within such a critical pressurised timeframe that the Nagas of Nagaland sorely needs to have clarity of collective vision and wisdom to lend a helping hand in this complex proceeding. Instead, we are groping around in the darkness without even a formal platform to express our common stand in it all. We have completely lost our initiative and bearings.
It is under such compelling circumstance that I strongly repeat that the “14 Tribes” should urgently sit together and reclaim Naga Hoho…and provide sensible leadership thereafter. At the end of the day it may even come to pass that the Naga Hoho representing the 14 Tribes of Nagaland may very well be called upon to participate in the signing of the historic final settlement document…if we are to believe the GoI wanting a comprehensive inclusive agreement.
KHEKIYE K. SEMA IAS (Retd)
3rd Mile Thilixu village;
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