The Indo-Naga Political Issue
Wherever the British imperialist annexed territories during the preceding centuries, tragedy and a legacy of chaos followed. Even the Nagas were not spared from such a tragedy. The hasty, precipitous, and ill-conceived plan to transfer power to the rightful ownersdivided India into two countries, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead andmany millions displaced in its wake, and creatinga chaos, rightfully called a “shameful flight” by Winston Churchill. This ill-conceived plan also brought abouta subsequent series of events of catastrophicproportions, from whichthe Nagas have been suffering ever since. Theeffectshavecontinued to multiply, with chains of consequences extending through time to the present. Like a shattered pot, the Naga country has beenbroken into many pieces,and now needscareful mending and restoration. If any lesson is to be learned from these tragedies, all of us (including India) must examine the facts very carefully in order to avoid a similar tragedy.
Nagaland is notQuebec,nor is it Taiwan. Quebec, a French-speaking province in Canada,has attempted to secede from Canada. Taiwan, considered by mainland China to be its province, is culturally and linguistically inseparable from the mainland; 98% of its population is made up of Chinesewho migrated from the mainland years ago, yet the island isdemanding autonomy. However, unlike Taiwan and Quebec, the Nagas are not trying to secede, in this case from India. Nagaland and the contiguous Naga-inhabited areas legitimately belong to the Nagas. The Nagas had been living in their own territory for hundreds of years, as a free and distinct people, until the British arrived and messed up everything. The Nagasdid not come and take over that whichbelonged to India.In fact, it was the other way around. On the basis of territory, culture, linguistics, race, and religion, the Nagas are separate and different from the rest of India. It is morally repugnant that the Nagas should have to shed blood to regain something that legitimately belongs to them.However, the repossession can be achieved.
Who, two decades ago, could have imagined that the Soviet Union—one of the super-powers—would disintegrate? Who could have dreamed that the political prisoner Nelson Mandela would become president of an apartheid South Africa? Who, just a decade ago, could have imagined Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi ending their lives in such circumstances? Who, a few decades ago, could have conceived of transforming the heavily entrenched theocratic Muslim nations like Iraq and Egypt into democratic systems of government? And who, adecade ago, could have imaginedthat a black man would become the president of the USA, let alone for a second term?
Yet all these events, and many more besides, have happened and continue to happen right in front of our eyes. Each is the result of a collective effort with a collective imagination. The acclaimed historian and writer,Howard Zinn, wrote“People, when organized, have enormous power, more than any government.” However, there are times when it seems as though not only the future but also the present seems bleak and uncertain; few recognize what a radically transformed world we live in, one that has been transformed not only by technological innovations but by dreams of freedom and justice, and transformed by things we could not have dreamed of a short time ago. For some, such as the Nagas, the challenge remains. But it is only a matter of time. On one side are formidable forces: money, political power, and guns. On the other side are the people and a power greater than money or weapons: the truth.Never underestimate the power of the people, or of the truth, in altering the course of history.
Currently, it appears that there are two very different views on the concept of sovereignty in Nagaland, thanks to the evolution of Naga politics. On the one hand,there is a group of people that insist on the traditional idea of freedom, inspired from time immemorial; a concept that the Nagas lived (until the arrival of the British) as a free and independent people, and shouldunder no circumstances be yoked or denied of their birthright and freedom—an absolute and progressive approach. On the other hand, there isanother group of people who, based on thecurrent situation, seem compelled to take advantage of the opportunity it affords, before it disappears. They follow this path even if it is not what they ideally seek; meaning that, even if it is less than a fully-fledged sovereignty, it is acceptable because there will not be another chance like this—a fatalistic and opportunistic approach. If this latter conceptionmaterializes, the results will be similar to, althoughwill become many timesworse than,the Shillong Accord. If the Shillong Accord brought disgrace and division, why repeat it? No-one goes on languishing over past tragedies. Instead, we learn from those mistakes, make amends, and move forward. The latterconceptionis based on the ideathat the Nagas must seek freedom from India because the Nagas presently belong to India. The current idea of seeking political solution within the Indian Union is deeply problematic: it is antithetical to what the Nagas have been fighting for over the past six decades,demanding the return of their rightful freedom to be ruled by theirown people in their own way, as existed during pre-colonial days.
Whether you like it or not, politics is always messy; politics means opportunity. As pointed out by Harold Lassen, politics is about who gets what, when, and how. As I have espoused in the recently published article “Spears Cry Out—Revisited” as well as in the original edition entitled “Spears Cry Out”, there is no place for dirty politics in our efforts to reclaim the Naga Sovereignty. This is because it is our basic right and God’s endowed birthright to us. We don’t need to rush into making hasty decisions just because an opportunity might disappear. That is simply nonsense; it is pure politics.
Whatever decision needs to be made, be it about regaining total freedom and nationhood or a lesserstatus than full sovereignty, it must be decided by the people and not by a few individuals.This includes the state legislators who went to inform the Indian Prime Minister oftheir willingness to resign,en masse, to pave the way for a newly constituted government to be set up within the Indian Union. One might argue that, since the legislative leaders are the elected representatives of the people, they have the right to carry out theresponsibilities vested on them. Is that claim true in every situation? Let us assume that claim to be true. If so, the next question is this: have all elected members discussed these matters with their respective constituents and have they come to a consensus that whatever they are doing represents the voice of the people? If not, they do not have the right to misrepresent the people. And what about those Nagas whoseterritories lie outside of the province of Nagaland? Have their views and consent been taken into consideration with respect tomatters of integration?
As regards the various faction-groups, they themselves well know that none of them carries the legitimate mandate and support of the people. They are simply playing the survival game. These factionshave not only created more problems but have made existing issues even more difficult to solve. What we need is a refined diplomacy rather than theguns and other deceptive methods currently being usedby various factions. The factions have givenIndia a windfall, an opportunity which otherwise would have cost India dearly. Instead, sadly, the Nagas are paying the price. The so-called “Peace Talks between India and IM” are a disgrace to all Naga conscious-thinking people. Rather than condemning and avoiding the short-sighted, hand-picked, and protracted “peace-talks,” other groups are demanding their right of involvement. How many separate peace-talk groups will the Nagas need to solve the Indo-Naga political issue? Is it five, ten, one hundred groups? India can relax and smile; and they have been doing just that.
It is a familiar pattern. For over a decade, the IM has been playing acat-and-mouse game with India, supposedly for the Indo-Naga political settlement but without the mandate of the people, benefiting no-one other than Isaac and Muivah, who have reduced their own credibility to zero. As long as the various factions continue to operate separately, no amount of “peace-talks” will bring settlement. And no settlement should be accepted when carried out separately with any one group.
True patriotism lies in advocating and supporting the values a people cherish: in the case of the Nagas, it is the pursuit of regaining our liberty and sovereignty. When our leaders compromise, undermine, or attack those values, it is being unpatriotic. On the other hand, if patriotism means supporting the policies of our government or leaders without question, then weare on our way to a totalitarian system. What the Nagas need is quality leadership. When led by honesty and integrity, buttressed with the mandate of the people, we can attain our desired goals. In a crucial journey such as this, it is critical that welay aside ourdifferences, unite and come together as a people, and fight the good fight: a fight that is legitimate—that is, to reclaim our own land and country—and not an attempt to secede from a powerthatillegitimately claims ownership over our territory.Indeed, the urgency of the hour is the need for refined diplomacies over guns and deceptive methods.
As the current situation reveals, the rest of the world viewsthe Indo-Naga problem as resting with the Naga people, more specifically with the various faction groups. We need to first fix our own domestic problems before we can undertake major issues that requireconsiderable skills and diplomacy. No-one else, and certainly not India, can define our destiny; it is the Naga people ourselves who must choose our own destiny.
The various steps I recommended for helping solve the Naga political problem, whichoriginally appeared in the “Spears Cry Out” article in 2007 and which were restated in a recent article entitled “Spears Cry Out—Revisited,” will not be repeated here. Those readers interested in learning the suggested recommendations are referred to the latter article, which was printed in the Nagaland Post and Morung Express on September 1 and September 4, 2012, respectively.
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