Whither-Ward is NAGALAND Moving?

S C Jamir
(Former CM & Governor)

Time for Brutal Honesty:

The time has come for Nagas to wake up from our self-imposed state of hapless inertia and be brutally honest about what has been happening to our beautiful land and its people. The past may teach and inspire us, without holding us captives; the present messy conundrum may awaken us to the stark realities that ruthlessly stare at us and the beckoning of the future should inspire resolve in us to stand up and goad us to undertake the solemn task of reshaping our own destiny. We live in an irrevocably interconnected and intertwined world in which there and are things we alone can decide and do for ourselves; but there are many more things we cannot decide or do on our own even when those matters directly affect us. It is more than high time for Nagas to climb out of the imaginary world that some people try to create through archaic rhetoric, threat and intimidation, not grounded on the realistic world we are wedged in, and face headlong the world of reality courageously and positively.

Nature’s Pristine Beauty and Heaps of Dry Bones:

The story of Nagaland evokes a sense of awesome majesty and dismal misery. Majesty, because the State is endowed with beautiful mountains and hills that smile with rays of morning sun whose bejeweled beauty does not fade away until the veil of darkness overcast the sky. With the advent of dawn in the distant horizon, we see the greenish majesty emerge from the world of darkness but now these hills and mountains seem to stand still like a young lady in a dark, gloomy mood under the moonlit sky, with the world in mute silence, attempting to whisper to us something that is infinitely sad, grave and tragic which the world cannot understand. Such is the contrasting world of Nagas today. Like Ezekiel’s vision in the Bible, the entire landscape of Nagaland appears to be a labyrinthine valley of death, scattered as it were with heaps of dry bones everywhere ~ lifeless bones of decades of political demagoguery and status-quo rhetoric denuded of flesh and blood that has lost the life-throb and mojo that once aroused and propelled an entire people in pursuit of a higher and brighter destiny for themselves. Nagaland today is mired in a deadly political quagmire. Of all the States on planet earth, tiny Nagaland today is governed by most number of governments and authorities, constitutional and extra-constitutional. Underneath the veneer of calm and orderliness, the intermingling power-play, by various political bodies and authorities have left state governance on the verge of collapse and the socio-economic development of the State lurching and lagging behind all others. If all the multiple extortions collected in various different forms and ways with total absence of public accountability, together with all the generous funds that flowed into the State from the Government of India and loan sources during the last two decades for poverty alleviation, rural life uplift and socio-economic development of the State were to be tabulated, the emerging figures would be astoundingly large. And, if against such colossal resources that became available to the State we try to ascertain and match the corresponding dwarfed, languishing, stranded or non-existent assets on the ground, the emerging contrasts and contradictions would perhaps be nothing less than shocking! We would perhaps then see the future of the State and its children hijacked away to some nothingness by some ruthless monster, called corruption. Without confronting head-on and addressing the root causes that have reduced our lot into heaps of ‘dry bones’, simply indulging in high sounding, bombastic rhetoric divorced from reality, and political power juggling and positioning with the sole objective of power-grab will never quicken and revitalize the ‘dry bones’ that our plight has become today.

Drifters on Never-ending Road of Quicksand:

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. Years went by when the Nagas, confronted with political ‘Manifestos’ soaked in foreign Communist ideology under the garb of ‘Nagaland for Christ’, found them totally incompatible with the Naga customary and democratic ways of life. What traumatized the Naga sensibilities even more  deeply were the shocking and wanton fratricidal encounters and killings that ensued, which appeared to engulf the entire spectrum of Naga society ~ brother ruthlessly killing brother almost anywhere and everywhere they encountered each other as political adversaries, under the vaunted slogan, ‘Nagaland for Christ’. Today, engulfed in suffocating multiple extortions and multiple governments in the land of believers in Christ, the common people find themselves bombarded regularly by furious vituperation, slander and thunderous invectives hurled against each other and against anyone who would dare to disagree with them.

Take a glance at the other side of the same coin. The Naga leaders of the older generation were not that qualified academically. However, enthused with clear realistic vision for the people, they committed themselves completely to the service of the people. Most unfortunately, the Naga political movement that was launched as a peaceful, non-cooperation movement, tragically turned into violent armed conflict between the Indian security forces and the Naga underground cadres, resulting in unleashing of unparalleled brutality and indescribable suffering to the innocent public. It was in the midst of this horrendous saga of human tragedy that the Naga People’s Convention(NPC) was organized, operationalised and with active dialogue between delegates and representatives of all Naga tribes, the NPC drafted the memorandum very consciously and judiciously featuring all the prevailing exigent strenuous social-political realities. It needs to be understood by all concerned that while commenting on the 16-Point Agreement, one should sets his feet upon solid rock of fact and truth. Statehood came into being not from the blue, but it was through collective wisdom of the representatives of the 16 tribes of the then Naga Hills of Assam and the Tuensang Frontier Division of NEFA and unanimously adopted the 16-Point Memorandum, that eventually became an ‘Agreement’ with the GOI known as the 16-Point Agreement.

To today’s Naga leaders and people,, living, thriving and enjoying merrily off the fruits of the sacrifice and visionary efforts of the NPC of over six decades ago, who try to decry the merits of the 16-Point Agreement, let it be made loud and clear without bias or prejudice towards anyone, that the 16-Point Agreement led to creation of the present State of Nagaland, was not a matter of guesswork, but of mathematical precision. It was no rhapsody or poetical fiction nor a fume fancy. It was a monumental achievement to pave the way for the people of Nagaland to play pivotal role in nation building. The then tiny population of 3,69,200 people, the NPC had succeeded in providing A Special Safeguard for the distinct Naga identity in the Constitution of India under Article 371(A). This unique feature is available to the State of Nagaland only!

Today’s modern-day politics of Nagaland on both sides of the spectrum appears to be marked by near endless defections, reformulations, reinventions, re-christenings ~ all in the name of the Naga cause, the same old wine changing the shape and colour of the container bottle endlessly ~ unwittingly laying bare total lack of morality, political principle or conviction and above all character, guided completely, as it appears, by outright self-interest and self-advancement. From social media posts, news media reports, releases given by social activist groups, statements made by political bodies, C&AG Audit Reports, and various sources including from the successive damning indictments of NITI AAYOG on Nagaland’s dismal performance on socio-economic development, today’s general public are aware of the dismal plight in State governance. They are frustrated, disillusioned, and find themselves caught helplessly in the vortex of totally unexpected twists and turns of Nagaland politics, keenly aware but unable to do anything about the dark and uncertain Naga journey that never seems to see daylight. The sudden spurt in the demand for new districts is an outburst of the people’s desire to have something tangible in their possession and ownership. They are least bothered about the viability or otherwise that such creations entail, especially of the additional financial burden that an exceedingly oversized and ever-expanding State Government organization crunches on a State that is solely dependent for its survival on Central funding largesse grants and releases.

Our journey together as a people, instead of taking us forward to new frontiers of peace and greater heights of development and progress, appears to be taking us downhill towards a state of helpless inertia and paralysis or chaotic decline and a failed State. Can we as a people afford to journey on like this any further on this road that seems to lead us nowhere?

Need for Realism and Re-invention of the Naga Journey:

* We can no longer afford to remain stuck where and how we are now, still much less to the vanished bygone past, especially with the potential possibilities of the desirable changes staring at us, if only we would have the collective will, courage and unity to move forward. Time and the world around us will not wait for the Nagas to catch up with them. Other States which appeared on the political scene long after us have gone ahead of us. We are not in competition with anyone, but we owe it to our children and the upcoming generations to move in sync with the fast changing times and irrevocable realities.

* In the context of the present Naga political saga, since the signing of the 1st Ceasefire with the GOI in 1997, which was around a quarter of a century ago, the international geopolitical content and dynamics have undergone vast changes. India today is a much stronger and much more powerful global player. There is absolutely no chance or possibility in the light of India’s international standing today of any sensible foreign country standing up openly in internationally accredited Forum for the Naga cause of more than seven decades ago, and no fool-hardy country however big or strong will risk the misadventure of a costly and futile international war with India to try to liberate a tiny, far-flung, land-locked, economically non-viable Nagaland through armed invasion! Such wishful thinking and fantasy should not even be allowed to stray through one’s meandering imagination.

* The Naga people have been long-suffering and have shown enormous patience. The existing conundrum of years of subjecting the people to times of indiscriminate killings and traumatic pain, followed by multiple extortions, multiple extra-constitutional impositions and deprivation by the powers-that-be of what they believed was the legitimate due to the State and its people through alleged mis-governance and corruption, can cause unexpected and uncontrollable outbursts from the people. History is replete with such stories. The common people’s patience should no longer be strained or tested further. Everyone concerned should expedite the Naga peace process towards a final conclusion and allow the unfolding of a new chapter of the Naga story. The State and its people more than deserve this long-awaited reward.

* We honestly believe that the final political settlement between the Naga Underground leaders and the GOI will be an honourable one which will give a better and brighter future to the Nagas. In order to facilitate this, since the ultimate goal and objective is one and the same, our Underground brethren should , for the sake of the common Naga cause, set aside their personal differences and unite to come up with one voice and one stand for the final ‘Accord’. Also with dignity, the fact should be accepted humbly that within the meaning and framework of honorability, the Nagas can only take, possess, and cherish what through the agreed upon political process, India, the Central Government in Delhi and the Indian Parliament gives to the Nagas.

* Neither Naga sovereignty nor Integration figure on the body of both the Framework Agreement of August 3, 2015 and the Agreed Position of November 17, 2017, respectively, it is understood that the issues of Naga sovereignty and integration of Naga areas are off the negotiation table. This would mean that Nagaland continues to remain as a separate and distinctive administrative and political entity. Under the decisive leadership of Mr. N Modi, the Honourable Prime Minister, the ‘Framework Agreement’ of 2015 and ‘Agreed Position’ of 2017 were both signed and subsequently ratified by all concerned. With so much time that has already lapsed, it would indeed be ideal and most opportune if during the present tenure of the dynamic and decisive leadership of Mr. N Modi, the Honourable Prime Minister, the final Naga ‘Accord’ is inked and a new Naga journey initiated in the year 2022 itself which happily happens to be the 150th anniversary jubilee year of the advent of Christianity on Naga soil.

* The challenges that would lie ahead of the final Naga Peace Accord would be overwhelming. Consolidation of enduring peace, initiating genuine reconciliation in the blood-soaked Naga society, absorption and assimilation of the erstwhile Underground brethren into normal life, resetting and streamlining the governance process, grounding of agreed-upon political issues ~ all geared towards preparing the ground for the new dispensation to take off ~ are just some of the major issues that may need to be addressed. All this indeed would be most challenging. Decades of violence have made many orphans and widows and even now the tears of the aggrieved families have not been dried up. To avoid any more bloodshed in the post settlement, as Christians and their society there are two fundamental doctrines of ethics, which stand out prominently above all others and give it its peculiar grandeur and its pre-eminent excellence are the doctrine of forgiveness. This is the maxim for Christians. Here Nagaland Churches can play their part.

* There will be both physical as well as psychological problem for the ex-UGs. Many of them will find it extremely difficult to adjust with the normal lives and on the other hand many of them will suffer from guilty conscience. They have committed crimes while they were underground at the fiat of their authority. Here we have to put ourselves into their shoes and do something concrete to remove those fears from their minds. It must be remembered that sympathy plays very important part in moral economy of the society. It is this noble sentiment which makes us to go out of ourselves and enter into the feelings and wants, into the difficulties and sufferings of others, with a view to afford relief. Our selfishness keeps us in chain within ourselves. Sympathy breaks this iron chains and drag us into the bosom of the sorrowing brother, so as to make us feel as he feels. With this spirit we have to approach the problem of the ex-UGs so as to create a peaceful and harmonious Naga society.

* In order to cut the Gordon-knot of the Naga political conundrum, members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly in their wisdom propounded two extraordinary formula to help resolve the vex Naga political problem at the earliest for which they have pledged among themselves to uphold the sanctity of their commitments. Formation of party-less or opposition-less government for the sole purpose of Naga political solution is a classic example even though it looks outlandish in political vocabulary but it is a solemn commitment of Naga elected members to achieve their goal. Furthermore, they have also made official declaration to vacate their seats to pave the way for the new political dispensation. These commitments were published widely in all the dailies and conveyed to the leaders of India. The people of the country in general and the people of Nagaland in particular are therefore anxiously waiting and watching the practical demonstration of their commitment and its consummation. It is hoped that they will surely exhibit and prove beyond any shadow of doubt the true spirit of Naga honesty and truthfulness and exemplify to the world what Nagas can do. Is it also not an opportune time to take most impactful step of making the way in this Naga Church Jubilee year to expedite and conclude decisively the final Peace Accord, leaving the field completely open for the GOI and the Naga national leaders, with no excuse, but to chart out the new journey ahead. This will be the most effective way of facilitating and expediting a final conclusion to the protracted Naga peace process. Needless to say, this issue should be a regular prayer concern of all Nagas everywhere, and particularly of all Naga Churches everywhere, led by the NBCC.

God bless Nagaland and all Naga brethren.