According to experts, Naga ancestors migrated from China and settled in the present Naga homeland. They were the aboriginal inhabitants of the virgin land they conquered. The areas of land that the different Naga tribes’ ancestors possessed were contiguous. In other words, the length and breadth of Naga ancestral domain was a continuous stretch of land mass without any intervening foreign land mass in between. Before the British invaded Naga lands, Naga ancestors lived in their own village states independently. It was a historical fact that there was no common Naga nationhood under a monarch or corporate federal democracy under a unified political structure. Geopolitically, there was neither unification nor separation or disintegration. Village state independence was inherent.
Following the treaty of Yandabo in 1826, the British annexed Assam and created British India and British Burma in which, Nagas became innocent casualty. Most of the eastern Nagas went to British Burma while the western Nagas and Tuensang area went to British India. That arrangement persists until today. In the western side, the British invaded Naga lands and succeeded in unifying cluster of Naga ancestral villages into administrative blocks. In the process of reorganization (both political and administrative), south Nagas went to Manipur King, central/western Nagasconstituted into Naga Hills district under provincial Assam and north Nagas including Tuensang area into Northeast Frontier Agency. That way the British succeeded in disintegrating the Nagas politically, for administrative purpose by creating artificial barriers within Naga inhabited areas. Nonetheless, the geographical landmass contiguity of ethnic Naga homeland remained indisputably intact.
Nagas demanded independence from Great Britain. British ignored the Naga demand. Thus, the Naga National Council (NNC) declared Naga independence on August 14, 1947. Nagas did not demand independence from India. Naga independence by declaration preceded India’s independence. That was the cornerstone of sovereign Naga right. NNC ratified the declaration of independence by conducting a national plebiscite on May 16, 1951 with a resounding 99.9% mandate for independence. Then, NNC integrated the Nagas separated by artificial barriers and consolidated into one sovereign territory as Nagaland. NNC adopted a constitution (Yehzabo) in 1956 and defined the territories of Nagaland in Article 1 of Yehzabo. NNC formed the national government called the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) to run the affairs of the nation as well as to defend the nation from external threat. By that time, India had already invaded Nagaland.
In 1957, the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) negotiated with the Government of India (GOI). NPC convinced the GOI for a separate administrative unit outside Assam by merging Naga Hills district and Tuensang area of NEFA that emerged as, ‘Naga Hills Tuensang Area’. In 1960, NPC and the GOI signed 16-point agreement for statehood. Nagaland became the 16th State in the Union of India in 1963. That created artificial barriers in Naga inhabited areas, exclusive of southern, northern and eastern Nagas in Burma occupied Nagaland.
Clause 13 of 16-Point Agreement stated, (quote) “Consolidation of Contiguous Naga area – The other Naga Tribes inhabiting the areas contiguous to the present Nagaland should be allowed to join the Nagaland if they so desire” (unquote).This article threw enough light to prove 3 things-
1. It proved that India acknowledged the contiguity of the land mass of Naga domain areas.
2. It proved that India created artificial barriers in Naga territories by drawing state boundaries
3. The phrase “if they so desire” proved that choice to integrate with present Nagaland State entirely rest with the aboriginal people inhabiting the areas. There was nothing which indicated that integration should have the concurrence from neighboring states. Historically, they have no claim over the interiors of Naga lands. They can only lay claim to as far as their borders with the Naga inhabited areas.
The phrase “should be allowed to join the Nagaland” put the onus on the government of India to integrate other Naga tribes outside present Nagaland into Nagaland State. The clause made integration India’s subject. That was obviously the reason for which, Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) had already passed 5 assembly resolutions on Naga integration issue. NLA has to fulfill its obligation.
Until early 1980s, integration of Naga inhabited areas had not figured in political lexicon of Naga independence movement. Early Naga leaders were very clear that integration was integral to sovereignty. Integration was no longer an issue because Naga integration took place at the time of forming the national government (FGN). In recent years, the demand for Naga integration from the GOI has largely changed the narrative of Naga independence envisioned by pioneers. Demanding integration from India is in complete contrast to Naga sovereignty. It is a climb down to compromise sovereignty. For that matter, even shared sovereignty is a compromise. Shared sovereignty will have relevance only after India or other nations recognize the sovereignty of Nagaland and not before. In the context of Naga sovereignty, there is nothing more to integrate. Even viewed from India’s context (with sovereignty out of picture), there are only artificial barriers to remove and nothing to integrate. India created those artificial barriers separating the Nagas, politically as well as emotionally. Nagaland State boundaries are the artificial barriers. Without first removing those artificial barriers, resolutions on integration are meaningless. Neighboring States are opposing Naga integration because they have the perception that Nagaland State is going to take away part of their state’s territories. The phrase “should be allowed to join the Nagaland” created an obstacle in this aspect. Naga aspiration for integration interpreted as “to live under one administrative umbrella” can happen only by breaking the artificial barriers from within and not without. Let us imagine that the boundaries of Nagaland state are removed. Do we not see a unified southern, central and northern Nagason Indian side without barriers? This is unlikely to happen even in remote future so long as Nagas in whichever states they are now remains in Indian Union. This will happen only in fulfilling the original Naga aspiration of sovereignty. With indisputable Naga history of independence, who can say it is a pipe dream?
(The writer is a member of a political party. The views expressed here are his personal views)
Dr. K. Hoshi, Phek Town, (On-Email)
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