Post Mortem

A saint of our time

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/8/2019 12:33:31 PM IST

 (From previous issue)

After the war and his return from Burma, Phizo was at his pragmatic best when he as President of the maiden Naga political body, the NNC, sent a memorandum to the British Government on the 20th of February, 1947, appealing for the setting up of an interim government of and for the Naga people 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 to live. This was not accepted by the British, but this memorandum of the NNC to the British government did not go unnoticed by the Indian government.

In June 1947, the newly British appointed first Indian Governor of Assam, Sir Akbar Hydari, along with the British Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills, Sir Charles Pawsey, held negotiations with the Phizo led NNC. The negotiation led to a compromise on both sides whereby all administrative authority was to be vested upon the NNC as the sole authority in the Naga Hills and that all forests and lands originally in the Naga Hills District would be restored. This agreement was for a period of ten years at the end of which the Nagas would have the right to determine whether to continue with the same or not.

India, however, soon after, went back on its word and declared that there was no question of the Nagas having any right to terminate the agreement. This about-turn in the interpretation of the 9th clause of the 9 Point Agreement was not taken seriously by the majority in the NNC, chiefly due to the oratory skill of Sir Akbar Hydari in convincing the NNC members that Nagas can built upon this agreement.

ZA Phizo, however, knew better and more. He knew for a fact that the Indian government represented by Sir Hydari, a trusted henchman of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, was adopting the same British policy of saying one thing and doing the other. He had no illusion over the fact that when the Indian government could brazenly give a unilateral interpretation of the most important 9th clause of the agreement after it had been agreed, the remaining eight automatically counted for nothing. To compromise on the 9th clause would be to forfeit, for all time to come, the one legitimate absolute right of the Nagas that encompasses every aspect of the Naga character and heritage. Phizo understood with certainty that as long as the integrity of the 9th clause of the agreement was maintained, anything would be possible, but once compromised, nothing would be possible.

While the majority in the NNC were willing to cut ten times to get a measure, Phizo knew that, once the agreement got inked, India would never give Nagas the chance of even a second cut, and that, it was always better and prudent to measure ten times to get a cut. According to Phizo, to accept the 9 Point Agreement with its unilateral Indian interpretation of the 9th clause would simply amount to nothing short of an outright sellout of Naga right and history.

What if Phizo, in order not to go confrontational and therefore abiding with the wishes of the majority, accepted the 9 Point Agreement? Today, we get to analyze and see that, in that eventuality, Nagas would have fallen, hook, line and snicker, right into the well laid plan of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, implemented through the office of the Indian Governor and British Deputy Commissioner.

Nagas would have then been condemned to the status of a small hill district of Assam with no escape whatsoever. Slowly but surely, India would have seen to it that the essence of the Naga character get thoroughly diluted. The Nagas are that one race of people who all, even as independent village states, fiercely resisted the British more than any other people in the North-East. Subduing the Nagas was important for India as it would have served as an example to all the other multi ethnic indigenous people inhabiting the North-East to not even think of raising a voice against any decision of the Indian government.

Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, would have never waited for ten years to adopt the classic British policy of playing one Naga tribe against the other. Phizo was the only glue that had brought the Naga tribes together. Had Phizo not been on the scene then, Nagas would have been so fragmented with its inherent inbuilt superiority complex of existing as proud independent village states that the question of coming up with the idea of an interim Naga government itself would have not arisen. India would have simply swamped over the Nagas, piece by piece, subduing whatever resistance here and there, and then forcing the Naga villagers to be porters and laborers of the Indian military as they beefed up their presence in the border hills to meet the Pakistani and Chinese challenge. 

Statehood with special provision in the Indian constitution did not come to the Nagas out of the blue. It is not as if out of nothing the Nagaland Legislative Assembly is enjoying power which no other state legislative assembly in India, with the exception of J&K, enjoys. It was the visionary ground work done by Phizo who withstood tremendous unforgiving pressure, both from his peers and the authorities of that time, and his uncompromising stand over Naga right, paved the way that forced India into a corner and compelled it to blink.

Phizo gave his all for the Naga people. That he withdrew from the scene to save the people is another story. Yet we (purposefully) misconstructed him and blamed him for not being there. As much as he knew the minds of the British and the Indians, Phizo could read the twisted minds of fellow Nagas. ZA Phizo knew he had to be there, alive, alone, and at a distance so that the Naga people could live together and have a future.

Right from the time he was exiled and detained in Burma, Phizo knew that he had to ask for ten. Answering the question of a villager as to whether Nagas will get independence, Phizo had said, (Quote) “If they don’t give us ten, atleast we can expect nine. I have not asked for nine, lest they give us eight.” (Unquote). This is ZA Phizo for you. Till his last breath he did not waver, and asked for ten. And for this he willingly shouldered all the blame. He died alone in a far away land so that we could live together at home. If not a saint, then who is a saint?

(Concluded)

Benito Z. Swu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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