The Nagas: Beyond The Ceasefire

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By Mongaimo Dovih D

INTRODUCTION

The Nagas belong to a distinct Mongoloid race, occupying the northeastern part of India and western part of Myanmar.  There are approximately 40 sub- tribes. Nagas were once headhunters, as they used to cut off the heads of the enemies and preserve them as trophies. Traditional Naga religion took various forms of Animism. Today the Nagas are dominated by Christians after the onset of the British colonization. In 1832, the British invaded the Naga region for the first time. In 1879 the British set up post in Kohima, declaring it a British district in 1881.

For better understanding of the issue, the contents are broadly divided into three phase:

  • Pre- ceasefire,
  • Mid-ceasefire and
  • Post-ceasefire (theoretical view).

PRE-CEASEFIRE

Since the Nagas have been known for their pride and independent identity, the process of politicization led to the urge for an independent Naga nation. However when the memorandum before the Simon Commission was rejected, the beginning of political conflict between Nagas and the Government of India started. When the Asia’s hour of freedom from colonial rule was at its peak, the Naga National Council under the leadership of A.Z. Phizo (NNC President) had also declared Naga independence on 14th August 1947. This led to the arrest of A.Z.Phizo in 1948. Disappointed with his talks with Nehru, he turned to armed rebellion.

The Indian Army resorted to harassment, tortures, rape and killings. In the name of counter-insurgency measures, numbers of black laws, such as the AFSPA, TADA, NSA, etc., have been imposed upon the Nagas.

However, some moderates (Naga People’s Convention) felt that it would be better for the Nagas to be in Indian Union.  The crucial 16-point Agreement was signed in 1960. On Dec 1, 1963, Nagaland became a full-fledged state. The NNC felt that the 16- point Agreement was a complete sell out of the Naga Political struggle. Eventually Dr. Imkongliba the NPC President was assassinated. Since violence was so rampant, the Nagaland peace council was set up and a cease-fire agreement was signed and became effective from September 6, 1964.

 

MID-CEASEFIRE

The first ceasefire and talks broke down in 1972 when an assassination attempt was made on the Chief Minister of the state. In November 1975, the NNC signed the infamous Shillong Accord. The accord was condemned by many Nagas and it marked the beginning of factionalism. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed in the late 1970s by Thuingaleng Muivah, Isaac Swu and S.Khaplang. The NSCN further divided into two with the breaking away of Khaplang. The 1990s were marked by violence between the faction groups.

The NSCN (IM) signed an indefinite ceasefire with the GOI and negotiations continue till date. Recent trends in talks indicate that the NSCN(IM) have narrowed on their demand for sovereignty and instead strengthened the demand for autonomy and unification of all Naga areas in Manipur, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland which is unacceptable to the Khaplang group. However, the negotiations on how to solve the existing problems between the Naga and the Indian government still persists.

THE DARKER SIDE OF NAGA FREEDOM FIGHTERS:

However, what was once a people’s movement in the early stages, the Naga freedom fighters has lost its way. Internal splits have created many factions claiming legitimacy and collecting ‘tax’. Internal conflicts have led to bloody wars. They continue to be actively involved in illegal activities including extortion, kidnapping, inter-factional clashes besides imposing various tax to all types of commercial enterprises and establishments. The extortion network spreads over all naga inhabited areas. The extortions are mainly carried out by some low rank cadres who are mostly school dropouts.

As per ceasefire ground rules, they are not supposed to indulge in extortions. Moreover it’s a sin to extort money in the name of “Nagaland for Christ”. The question arises among the Naga public as to whether they are truly patriotic.

ILLEGAL TAXATION AS HINDRANCE FOR YOUNG ENTRPRENEURS:

Youths believe that business is not profitable due to illegal taxation. It’s a practical problem among the educated Naga youths due to the presence of many factions .This discourage youths in venturing into business which escalates the number of unemployed youths.

TRIBALISM-THE BIGGEST STUMBLING BLOCK TO UNITY:

Until and unless we do away with tribalism, all our efforts for unity through reconciliation, not only amongst the underground factions but also among the different Naga tribes will remain as elusive as before and our glorious dreams of something worth achieving will remain as far-off dreams.

When we go through social networking site like facebook (especially groups maintained by Nagas) we find many comments which are “ism” intended and this can distort the Naga unity. There is an evil notion that the Nagas in present Nagaland state think that they are the true Nagas and the rest Nagas are just “wannabe”. This mentality should be buried as it only invites wrath from God.

NO SOLUTION WITHOUT INTEGRATION:

No permanent and honorable solution can be hammered out without bringing all Naga-inhabited areas under one roof. Though the Naga sovereignty issue encompasses all Nagas, firstly integration of all Nagas within India should be stressed followed by integration of Naga areas in Myanmar.

COMMON LANGUAGE:

Common language is one of the strongest elements of Nagas’ unity. Therefore, language of convenience among Nagas like Nagamese and English should be encouraged. English is however increasingly becoming the preferred language of commerce and office. This phenomenon is also driven by globalization.

PEACE EFFORTS:

The churches and organizations like the Naga Hoho and the Naga Mothers’ Association have worked towards reconcialiation.In June 2008, a reconciliation meeting of the Naga factions, mass-based Naga organizations and tribal Hohos was organized by the Naga Reconciliation Forum, headed by Rev. Wati Aier.

THE NAGA NATIONAL GOVERNMENT:

Frustrated Nagas wanted change and now there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  The Naga faction groups have agreed to form a single government. The recent top-level meeting of the FNR brought together the NSCN (IM), the NSCN (KK) and the NNC/FGN, forming a single faction the “Naga National Government (NNG)”.They agreed to one government, one tax and one army for the Nagas. Meanwhile, Myanmar-based leader SS Khaplang has boycotted the NNG.

 

POST –CEASEFIRE (THEORETICAL VIEW)

This is the most crucial stage where the leaders may encounter problems where one wrong decision could have adverse long-term effects and lead to severe mistakes and considerable failures.

POSSIBILITY OF AUTONOMY:

Recent talks has created rumours as to whether the leaders have narrowed down the demand from sovereignty to autonomous  which is unacceptable to Khaplang and to all the Nagas in Myanmar particularly. At the same time, by speculation most Naga public will go for nothing less than sovereignty as every Naga dreams of a Naga nation with optimism.

SPECULATION:

Leaving aside autonomy, there are some speculative points which we need to examine in order to be an independent Naga nation. Once we become a nation, we would require:

• Resources to run the Government, Administration, Judiciary, Police, Civil Services etc.
• Resources for Army, Air Force and other Defense related expenditure.
• Providing education, health care, water supply etc. for the people.
• Establishing diplomatic missions, at least with major countries
• Finding avenues for employment for our educated youth within the nation.
• Establishing our own Postal, Telegraph and Telephone services, Customs and Excise machinery, Banking services, Currency and Coinage, Industries etc.

CIVIL WAR PHOBIA:

Every Nagas fear the eruption of civil war which is a legitimate concern. It may lead to huge loss of lives and economy. However we must be positive as nothing can be achieved without taking risk and challenge.

A MESSAGE TO ALL NAGA BROTHERS AND SISTERS

Though we may live in different states under Indian Union or in Myanmar let us all foresee our land becoming a prosperous nation minus bloodshed, poverty and civil war. Let not our ancestors’ sacrifices go in vain, for they suffered untold pains and miseries and left us a legacy which is rightfully ours. The present statehood is not what our ancestors sacrificed their lives for.

Therefore, let us all rise up and direct our dream towards the brighter side. And avoid comparing Naga nation with India as this is where most Nagas go wrong. Let’s learn to use our patriotism in the right places.

CONCLUSION

The formation of ‘One Naga Government’ is likely to have a significant impact on the on-going Indo-Naga political negotiation. The agreement on ‘Naga Concordant’ will pave way for every Naga political organization to get involved with the Indo-Naga talks. With these important changes taking place in Naga political movement, the common Naga people can see the coming of brighter future for Nagas.

Though the peace talks may keep continuing till an amicable solution is obtained, let us all be optimistic not forgetting

“UNITED WE STAND, DIVIDED WE FALL”. KUKNALIM!!

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Will the Nagas be able to live without the patronage of India? India is a country obsessed with the philosophy of not parting with even an inch of land it already has inherited

  2. Dear brother,
    Well thought and deeply analyse the problem of Nagas problem. There will be serious issues that  will persist even if you achieved your goal of nagalim/independent Naga nation, problems like food, economy, communication and other essential services for a nation.
    Economy/Currency is complex issue. Another important aspect is your economic index/GDP index.  Can nagalim/independent Naga nation stand its own?

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