Naga Plebiscite Day: Drawing hope and apprehension

A volunteer looks on at the banner reading ‘Nagas Without Borders’ displayed at the NBCC Convention Centre, Kohima during the Naga Plebiscite Day observed on May 16. (Morung Photo)

A volunteer looks on at the banner reading ‘Nagas Without Borders’ displayed at the NBCC Convention Centre, Kohima during the Naga Plebiscite Day observed on May 16. (Morung Photo)

Morung Express News
Kohima | May 18

Commemorating the Naga Plebiscite Day, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation organised a day of prayer and thanksgiving on May 16 in Kohima. The event at the NBCC Convention Centre witnessed participation of various leaders and representatives from the Naga political Groups (NPGs) and civil society organisations.

The Morung Express caught up with some of the people, who all wished for anonymity, to capture their thoughts, expectations and significance of the day.

Significance of the commemoration
A political observer and analyst regarded the Plebiscite as the backbone of Naga nationalism. He held that it was the result of collective effort and no political group should claim sole ownership.

He said that it was a first witnessing almost all the NPGs coming under one roof to commemorate the day, reflecting a semblance of alignment with the fundamental principles despite the divisions. 

The event was meant to foster unity and understanding among the diverse Naga political groups, said a theologian engaged in church ministry. He termed it as a “positive step towards reconciliation.”

“The commemoration of the Naga Plebiscite Day traversing beyond political groups is something to be appreciated, especially in the present context where we have multiple Naga political groups,” stated a research scholar. 

The initiative, he maintained, serves as a potent reminder of the common history that must never be forgotten. “It becomes more significant as some groups might try to take complete ownership of the Plebiscite thereby excluding other Naga groups who could not participate in the exercise due to various reasons,” he added. 

He said that the commemoration should be seen as an attempt to bring the groups together through an undisputed historical event and the commonality of “our” unique history.

Mere symbolism?
Bridging an obvious divide has been the essence of such commemorative conclaves. To which the scholar remarked, “For now, I see such events are merely symbolic as people are not even bothered anymore.”

He though maintained that it does not negate the potential of bridging the divide, while adding that the efforts have to be collective and sincere, beginning with the top leaders of the NPGs, state politicians, religious leaders, civil society organisations and the general public.

While noting that the FNR has been in the forefront since the signing of the Covenant of Reconciliation on June 13, 2009, the Political analyst commented that celebrating this event together by the NPGs was rather “a bit late.”

He also held that if the FNR can rope in other civil society organisations and tribal bodies in this initiative, with a definite road map, “Then pressure will be on the NPGs to act as per the desired aspiration of the Naga people.”

The theologian also echoed a similar tone emphasising the symbolic nature of the occasion. He felt that church leaders could do more by spearheading the reconciliation process. According to him, they church leaders have been no different from the masses, engulfed by tribalism and lacking drive to narrow a growing chasm. 

Mixed emotions
“Although the event saw the participation of different political groups, the key leaders from most of the political groups were missing during this ‘historic’ occasion,” noted the scholar attributing it to lack of seriousness and commitment to come together.

He noted sparse participation from the common people, which otherwise, would have been a very educative event for the younger generation. 

The scholar also suggested that the participation of the elected representatives and former lawmakers would have given more scope to the event, which he maintained should not be limited to the NPGs only. “I am still sceptical of the ‘reconciliation’ among the Naga political factions,” he stated.

“If the NPGs stand for the cause of the Nagas, observing such programmes together should be an eye opener towards achieving reconciliation and fostering unity and arriving at a settlement together,” commented the political analyst.

The theologian pointed to a lack of genuineness, holding that some of the NPGs leaders as adopting a “holier-than-thou” attitude.

“While I appreciate their presence, I couldn't help but sense a lack of seriousness in their approach,” he said, adding that poor attendance at the event could serve as a sign of the public losing interest.