The journey of Naga issue!

Oken Jeet Sandham

By Oken Jeet Sandham

Decades old Naga political movement has a lot to tell tale. Basically, the Naga political movement was for the Nagas to live as a “free nation” but it became complicated when the British left India without settling many problems including Nagas. In fact, they have created a political mess in whole of the Indian sub-continent. As such what we are seeing today is not the Indian creation but the British.

In spite of all these, the Naga leaders of Naga National Council (NNC) started engaging in series of discussions with leaders of India prior to the British’s transferring of power to them, expressing their clear conscience of living as a free nation. After knowing that whatever discussion on the matter would not fructify, the NNC leaders went ahead to declare Naga Independence on August 14, 1947, one day ahead of Indian Independence on August 15, 1947. This is the turning point in the history of Naga political struggle.

To strengthen their movement and reaffirmation of Independence, NNC had conducted “national Plebiscite” on May 16, 1951. They said 99.9 percent of Nagas voted in favor of “a sovereign Nagaland.” With this mandate, the NNC adopted the Constitution of Nagaland on March 22, 1952.

This “extraordinary” development raised the specter of huge trust deficit between the Government of India and the NNC. In the meantime, NNC continued their vigorous campaign consolidating their position but things were not that bad till such time when Delhi took a decision to crush the surging Naga movement with their military might.

To give extra ordinary power to the security forces fighting against the Naga underground people, Delhi, for the first tem, brought out the “Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958.” It has become one of the most controversial Acts today in the country – drawing flaks from around the world. Nagaland was like a laboratory theatre for the Indian army to experiment the new “Act.”

Imagine, the hell bent in the 50s, 60s, 70s when so-called educated Nagas had hardly realized the nature of the Act. Only after decades, people started raising the specter of it.

Strangely, it took Delhi 42 years to declare the Naga issue as “political.” It was Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao who while visiting Nagaland in 1989 had declared that the “Naga issue is political,” and “it needs political solution.”

When Manipur went into flames after Assam Riles jawans allegedly raped and murdered Th Manorama, Indian Army General commented that the Army was not the solution to the issue but the political approach. The Army took 57 years of the futility of using their forces against region’s insurgency problems.

People may say many things of the Naga political struggle today but if one looks back at the 50s, it is simply horrible. I had interacted with many Naga elders in many villages. Their stories were all the same. The Naga people had suffered enough at the hands of the Indian army. Indian army had burnt down many Naga villages, granaries, raped many Naga ladies, tortured numerous males, killed many, etc. Most of the boys in the 50s could not go to schools for fear of being beaten or arrested by India army, while males including teenage boys had to take shelter in jungles for days, weeks, months. Some were starved to death. All these horrendous acts were perpetrated on the innocent Naga villagers in the name of fighting Naga underground people. And the Nagas underwent all these unwanted just because they wanted to live as a free nation.

By then, most of the NNC leaders went “underground” as they were hunted down by the Indian army and in fact, one of the most charismatic Naga leaders, AZ Phizo, he himself had to flee to London. It is unfortunate that though the British knew very well, they did not help find solution to the problem they had created. They did not object Phizo taking shelter in Britain either. It’s a mockery at the way the British played with the Nagas.

These are untold stories of the Nagas because in those early days, no pressmen, no outsiders (read foreigners), no communication facilities were there. The Nagas did not know such importance either. It is only after mid 90s or say, after Delhi’s ceasefire with NSCN (IM) in 1997, the importance of mass media came in Nagaland.

There were various occasions where many Naga leaders both overground and underground tried to solve the Naga political problem. Overgound Naga leaders initiated process and even contacted Phizo at London. We have seen series of correspondences between many state politicians including Dr SC Jamir and Phizo.

The emergence of Naga People’s Convention (NPC) had changed the course of Naga history as they were responsible for the birth of a full-fledged statehood of Nagaland in 1963. In the following year in 1964, ceasefire was declared between the Government of India and the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) through the initiative of NBCC. Subsequently, they were engaged in political talks for finding settlement to the problem. The talks collapsed after six rounds. The problem remained and became more compounded as there were Naga leaders who ran the affairs of the Indian state of Nagaland needing to defend the “Sovereignty and Unity of India.” The Naga underground people became more aggressive needing to fight against their own people on the one hand and Indian army on the other. The political process became trickier and riskier. Assassination of Naga leaders started, so also many abortive assassination attempts on Naga politicians. The Naga underground leaders and the Naga overground people were at loggerheads over the Naga issue.

Then the Shillong Accord came in 1975. This Accord had done maximum damage to the NNC. The immediate fallout of this Accord could be seen by the formation of another Naga underground group – The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) in 1980. After about a decade, the NSCN was split into two in 1988—one headed by Isak Chishi Swu and Th Muivah and the other by SS Khaplang and Dally Mungro. Following the split, hundreds of Naga underground cadres and high functionaries including Dally Mungro lost their precious lives due to factionalism. Sadly, it went on in large scale even after the Government of India’s ceasefires with NSCN (IM) and NSCN (K). This had led many intellectuals and intelligentsias to questioning the rationality of the ceasefires with the Government of India. Some poised questions as to why Naga underground groups could not cease fighting amongst them when they could with Indian security forces, while wondering on New Delhi’s remaining as mute spectator allowing factions to go free for all. This is where mass based Naga civil societies came in to intervene.

Even after present DAN Government came into power, they set up committees to facilitate unity and reconciliation amongst the factions. In its second tenure, the DAN government constituted Political Affairs Committee (PAC). Its members had extensively travelled and met leaders of various factions. They discussed the exigency of having unity and reconciliation amongst them. But everything seemed quite smooth till such time when the PAC mooted the idea of having a “Naga Common Platform.” Members for Naga Common Platform would be drawn up from different political parties, NGOs, representatives from all the tribal hohos, veteran Naga politicians in the likes of Dr SC Jamir, Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, RC Chiten Jamir, etc. The basic premise of such arrangement is to evolve a consensus or majority opinion of the Naga people towards ongoing talks with New Delhi. With such mandate endorsed, the Naga underground leaders could talk with New Delhi.

Unfortunately, the formation of Naga Common Platform did not materialize and the emergence of Joint Legislators Working Group (JLWG) has actually overtaken the role of PAC. Thereby the role of PAC carried no weight at this juncture and it appears to be only duplication.

On the other hand, Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) also came into being in 2008 with renowned priest Rev Wati Aier as Convener. Since then, they had initiated series of programs for leaders of various Naga underground groups to meet and share about their feelings of love and affection and understanding.

They avoided touchy words and issues but primarily concentrated on “reconciliation” so far. They could succeed in breaking ice and further strengthen the journey of common hope. Who believed that members of NSCN factions would agree to meet each other and form a combined team to play soccer against combined team of different Naga NGOs. But the idea worked at last. It is a fantastic idea. Now the ball started rolling and gradually the ghost of fear of meeting one another has drastically reduced.

These successive positive developments could pave way for the top leaders of NSCNs and NNC/FGN to come and attend the “Highest Level Meeting” of leaders of Naga underground groups.

The FNR has come a long way since its birth with a mission.

Their “Highest Level Meeting” for top leaders of the NSCN (IM), NSCN (K) and NNC/FGN is “landmark.” One should give credit to the FNR and other agencies working tirelessly to make the event a success. NSCN (IM) general secretary Th Muivah, NSCN(K) general secretary N Kitovi Zhimomi and NNC/FGN president S Singnya along with their senior kilonsers (ministers) came to attend the historic “Highest Level Meeting” – they called it “September Naga Summit” – on September 18 at Dimapur would go down in the annals of Naga political history. The three leaders had inked “Covenant of Reconciliation,” committing to working out their differences as outlined in it (Covenant of Reconciliation).

This would end the most unwanted factional killings and begin a new chapter in the history towards strengthening the Naga Reconciliation.

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  1. Time has come for the writers to focus on the development. The region needs development and not insurgency now. Enough is enough. Nobody including insurgent leaders have least interest in solving the issues because they don’t want to kill the milking cow. It is stupid to go on researching on insurgency.

    • Freedom is so right. We need to start concentrating on development. Enough of insurgency and it is definitely stupid to keep keep continuing research on insurgency. Research on economic development is the key.

  2. While appreciating the pains Oken Jeet Sandham had in his writing of this story, I take it one-sided one. Oken Jeet had missed that under what situation the Indian army had to fight against Naga militants in those days. How many Indian soldiers lost their precious lives and how many innocent Nagas were saved from the jaws of Naga militants, who were so rude in those days, by the Indian soldiers. These points are completely missed in his write-up.

    • @ M Josji…

      If you go to attack someone, or trying to take away someone’s liberty, you are bound to be attacked and killed. nagas did not go to fight the indians. It is the indians that came and troubled the nagas so why should the nagas remain as a mere spectator? How dare the indians come and killed the nagas in their own soil? You call the INdian’s lives precious but how about the precious lives of the nagas? Woman raped inside the church, youths were killed, elders were tortured to death, graneries burnt… etc etc etc…. what do you say?

      • Hi Agongmei!

        First of all lets imagine the same scenario with Nagaland being a part of China and our Naga brothers having the same issue! Do u think u would have the freedom to even type the above comment? Forget alone the common Indian knowing of what happened in Nagaland in the 50’s and the 60’s or even now do u think that the media would have been allowed to broadcast in Nagaland?! What freedom are you talking of? Here you have the freedom of talking and today we have a media which would not only raise public anger in Nagaland but throughout India if any atrocities were committed against Naga men women or children!

        “Some” Muslims wanted to form Pakistan…what happened there!?
        – Decades of Army rule.
        – Bangladesh partition.
        – Birth of terrorism etc etc……

        Best part is they dont fucking know who is calling the shots in Pakistan!?

        Today Nagaland also does not have a stable relation between its own tribes. They have their own problems! Birth of a Naga nation tomorrow would mean more problems and an unstable neighbour for India which is already surrounded by a host of unstable freaks!

        On the other hand coming back to Nagaland……..the precious lives lost on the Army or the Nagas side are both condemnable! But why are we not discussing what role the insurgents had to play? Remember what happened in Sri Lanka? When the IPKF (Indian Peace Keeping Force) went in Lanka they were attacked by both the LTTE as well as the Lankans. By the end of it we lost more lives than the 1971 and china war put together and what was the result? India messed up its relations with Lanka as well to the extent of the PM Rajiv Gandhi being attacked at the guard of honour by a Sri Lankan soldier! The same is happening here!

        My friend Mr. Oken Jeet Sandham went to have a word with the senior tribal folks…what is the assurance that what they are narrating really happened….things like these might have or have not happened…if they did at that time we cant really do much but pray for them…but if the same happens now u have the whole of India behind u guys…we are commoners as you are. Law and order is not denied in our land even if it is delayed! It hurts to know that in the eastern corner a few of my brethren refrain from calling themselves Indians!

        I am a catholic residing in Mumbai and a native of Goa. It boils our blood when we heard that christians were killed in one or the other part of this nation and other mass riots against catholics like the one in saffron ruled states. Still why we stick to this nation is because we have not just grown up here but know these riots are just a passing phase as India develops the future holds much better things for us than what atrocities happened in the past. Basic things like calling people from the north easteners chinkis or Muslims pakistanis are out coz more and more of us realise we are one unit ….that is India and not chinkis or pakistanis that one would call us depending on my caste or looks!

        Its high time we realize our strength as a united nation than as groups of caste or tribes looking for a separate nation….because it is nothing but breaking from a unit and being a minnow waiting to be crushed than being a super power itself!

  3. Oken Jeet has narrated painful stories how Nagas had faced in the past. Certianly, Naga movement could have happened without root cause. One has to traced to it. Sadly, the movement for which many had sacrificed does not semblance now as can be examined from the present scenario. This is true of other revolutionary movements in the region. The love of such movement by general publics are not there these days. Earlier people voluntarility joined such movement, now forced recuitment. this tells everything. However, reconciliation is appreciated and it is the only way for us.


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