Memorandum of the Case of The Naga People for Self-Determination and an appeal to H.M.G. and the Government of India
Pursuant to a resolution passed by the Naga National Council at Kohima on the 19th day of February, 1947, this memorandum has been prepared by the National Council, which is the National Organization of the Naga people, and is the embodiment of expressed desire of the mass of the Naga Nation. The National Organization has its roots among masses through (i) Village Council (ii) Sub-Tribal Council (iii) Tribal Council (iv) Central Council (v) The Naga National Council.
The Memorandum seeks to present the case of the Naga people for self-determination, for the realization of which an appeal is made to H.M.G and the Government of India to set up for the Naga people an Interim Government for a period of ten years, at the end of which the Naga people will be left to choose any form of Government under which they will live.
The Land and the People
Anyone who turns his eyes on the map of India will find Assam as the eastern province of this Sub-Continent, and one of her eastern districts is the present Naga Hills. The district was carved out arbitrarily for administration purposes. But the Naga people are spread over a wider area and they are to be found in the Naga Hills district proper, the ‘un-administered area’ between Assam and Burma, in the North Cachar Hills, and even in the contiguous parts of Burma. The area covered by the Naga people will thus extend to some forty thousands square miles, though the Naga Hills District (administered) portion alone covers an area of over four thousand square miles people have grown into more than two lakhs. Competent observers place that population of the un-administered territory as double the number in the administered area; while the number of Nagas within the Burma boundary is nearly three lakhs. The future of this million soul is going to be seriously affected in the proposed new constitution for Burma and India.
The Naga people were Independent and their country was not subjugated by the Ahom Kings of Assam valley, who ruled for seven hundred years. The Naga Hills never formed part of Assam or India at any time before the event of the British suzerainty over the Assam Valley by the Treaty of Yandabu. The British first attacked the Naga people in 1839, but the fight went on forty years till the Ao Naga country was taken over in 1889. Since then the Naga people have remained loyal, friendly and peaceful.
In the first Great War, two thousands of Nagas people served in distant France to help the British and Allied causes. In the recent Global War, when the Japanese Army attempted to invade India through the Naga Hills, it was the co-operation of the Nagas both in intelligence and jungle warfare which enabled the British Forces to halt the invasion at Kohima the headquarters station of the district, thus saving Assam and the rest of India from the devastation of war.
These freedom loving Nagas look up to His Majesty’s Government and the Government to do the just and the proper thing and grant them their just demand for setting up an Interim Government of the Naga people.
Psychological Factor and Relationship with the Plain People of Assam
The modem world recognizes the importance of psychological implications in dealing with states and nations. To have peace within and without, it is necessary to know the tradition and national aspiration of people and respect them. The country is extremely hilly, without good roads and the people simple, primitive and divided into tribes and clans. Parts of the Nagaland are so inaccessible that the authorities have left them undisturbed and it is popularly known as the ‘un-administered’ territory even now.
Mr. Mills in his monograph on the Lotha Nagas defines the area inhabited by the Naga tribes as bounded by the Hukawng Valley in the Northeast, the plains in the Brahmaputra Valley to the North West of Cachar of the South West of the Chinwin to the cast. In the South Manipur Valley roughly marks the points of the contact between the ‘Naga’ tribes and the very much more closely inter-related group of ‘Kuki’ tribes vide page xvi of the monograph.
The Naga Tribes are not a single tribe, but a whole group of them, Angami, Rengma, Sema, Tankhul, Mao, Phoms, Konyak, Lotha, Sangtam, Chang, Zemis, Kabui, etc. each different from the others in custom and dialect, but all clearly related from the others in forming a distinct block. They have a distinct culture of their custom and ways of living arc widely different from those of the plains people of Assam or others of India.
The Naga people in the administered area of Naga Hills District number 189641, according to the census of 1941. Mr. T.O. Hudson in his volume on the ‘Naga Tribes of Manipur’ published in 1911, mentions the state-contains about 8,000 square miles of which 7,000 square miles arc Hill territory as opposed to Valley territory arc inhabited by Naga and Kuki tribes, hill people who number slightly more than one lakh. While accepting with due reserve the familiar distinction between Naga and Kukis it may be pointed out that the tribes commonly classed together as Naga and Kukis’ occupy definite area in these hills…Now these attitude of the people and to respect them.
The attitude of the people has a great bearing in the formation of the national politics in framing the future constitution for India certain thought provoking factors must not be ignored.
(1) Ethically the Nagas are from a distinct stock.
(2) The Nagas have distinct social life, manner of living, laws and customs; and even the method of governance of the people is quite different.
(3) In the religion, the majority of the Nagas arc Animists; but Christianity which was introduced by the American Baptists long before the event of the British is now speedingly spreading. Such factors as the above make it imperative that Nagas have a separate form of government.
Naga System of Administration
The Nagas have an efficient system of administration. Most the tribes retain to a considerable degree their ancient laws and customs and village organization which have lasted through centuries and these form an integral part of their life, and, once destroyed or allowed to decay can never be replaced by a system so suitable to them. Democracy in its purest form exists among Nagas.
The basis of the Naga system is the village organization. Every village is an independent unit in the tribes. Villages are managed by a council of elders and men of influence, elected by the people. Such a policy, such a state of society and democracy life cannot be found in any other part of India.
In the 1935 constitution for India and Assam, the areas inhabited by the Nagas were kept outside the jurisdiction of the Provincial and Central Popular Government, and were formed into ‘Excluded Area’ where the legislature had no sway and the Nagas were kept as the special responsibility of the governor of the province in his capacity as the Crown Representative.
The other words, the Naga people have had no connection with the policies of different groups of Indian politicians. Ought the British Government or the Government of India to throw this society into the heterogeneous mixture of Indian Races?
A constitution drawn by the people who have no knowledge of the Naga Hill and the Naga people will be quite unsuitable and unacceptable to the Naga people.
Thrown among forty crores of Indians, the one million Nagas with their unique custom of life will be wiped out of existence. Hence this earnest plea of the Nagas for a separate form of Interim Government to enable them to grow to a fuller stature.
In the light of the facts stated in the fore-going paragraph and in view of the isolated geographical position of the Nagaland and taking into consideration the unique characteristics of the Naga policy and the compact block of the Nagaland.
This memorandum is placed with the authorities for setting up of an Interim Government, GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE, with financial provisions for a period of ten years, at the end of which the Naga people will be left to choose any form of Government under which they themselves choose to live.
Naga National Council
Source: This Memorandum has been reproduced from the booklet titled “The Vision of T. Sakhrie for a Naga Nation”
by Ahu Sakhrie