Post Mortem

The Apex Hoho as the collective Strength (Voice) of the Nagas

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/18/2019 12:10:48 PM IST

 Time has changed, peoples’ perspective and priority have altered, and understanding and expectation have changed. Are the changed mindset of the people still in conformity to the collective vision for a common goal of the people? Looking back into the history of the Naga TOGETHERNESS and how it had evolved over the years, to me, is quite revealing which I would like to share with general readers. It is good to know the past to determine what we need to do for the future.

1. The British Influence on the Naga: Historically, the advent of British occupation of the Naga territories and subsequent consolidation into a single administrative jurisdiction, and subsequent introduction of  certain positive measures, such as, prohibiting head hunting practice, construction of a net work of bridle paths connecting the interior adm units etc, were the first step enabling the Nagas to come together. Further, appointing DB (Dobasha) in the administrative centres and GBs (Gaon Bora) in all villages who were knowledgeable in their customary law and traditional ethos, and Christianization of the Nagas had all been contributing factors enabling the divided Nagas to come together. These were the positive contribution of the British Administration. For the first time such measures had brought about a dramatic change in their life style and attitude and come to realise the advantage of living together without fear of one another.

2. The Naga Club: over the years, with their free movement and free social interaction cutting across the village or tribal boundaries had made the Naga realised the need of a larger platform to air the issues of common interest and to know each other more closely. This is how the Naga Club was formed at Kohima in 1918. The Club was further enriched by Naga Labour Corps returnees joining the Club with their exposure and experiences in Europe during the 1st W War. The Naga Club had then represented the collective voice of the Nagas.

 Its notable contribution   had been the famous Memorandum presented to the Simon Commission (the Indian Statutory Commission) on 10th January 1920 at Kohima demanding before   that the Nagas should be excluded from the new  reform scheme and   be left  ‘alone” as they were before  when the British leaves  India. Their representation (Memorandum) was a success as the Naga territory was declared “Excluded Area” in the government of India Act of 1935, keeping outside the purview of any provincial legislated laws but kept directly under the control of the British administration, the Governor.  

3. The Naga Nationalist Council (NNC): The Naga Hills District Council formed under the initiative of the last British Deputy Commissioner, Kohima Sir Pausey was renamed as the Naga Nationalist Organisation (NNC) in 1945 at Wokha session. Then the NNC had taken over the responsibility of representing “the collective Voice” of the Naga in Socio-political matter. The NNC team met the British government cabinet committee members in Delhi in April 1946 and firmly conveyed to them that the Nagas political destiny should not be arbitrarily decided without consulting the Nagas. Their representation was honoured by sending the then Governor of Assam Sir Akbar Hyder Ali as the representative of the government of India to Kohima to discuss political future of the Nagas as desired. He had concluded the historic 9 point Agreement with the NNC members representing the collective aspiration of the Nagas at Kohima in June 1947.

The Agreement was an article of faith for the Nagas and believed in honouring it by the parties in letter and spirit. Unfortunately, in spite of repeated assurances from the governor’s office giving false hope all along,  on 9th Nov 1949 the than Governor Shri Gopinth Bordoli himself admitted that the Government of India no longer recognised the 9 point agreement. It was the most shocking news, an ultimate betrayal by the government of India which was taken as the core insult to the Nagas. 

 On 24/1/1950 the NNC informed the GOI and all foreign Embassies that the Naga do not accept the Constitution of India reaffirming the declaration of Naga Independent day on 14th August 1947. Subsequently, the NNC was declared as a secessionist organisation and all hell was let loosed by the Indian Army committing heinous crimes  indiscriminately on the innocent Naga villagers but were protected by draconian laws like The Armed Forces Special Powers  Act 1958.etc.

4. The Naga Peoples’ Convention: Since the NNC was not visibly operating, the Naga Peoples’ Convention (NPC) was emerged to represent the ‘Voice of the Naga’ They had in their 3rd meeting at Mokokchung, in Oct 1957, drawn up the 16 point memorandum which was later converted into 16 points Agreement between the government of India and Naga convention Team with certain modification. Thus, the Nagaland State was created out of this political agreement which is unique to Nagaland state, but it was opposed by a section of the Nagas who believed in nationhood   rather than the statehood.

The State hood had brought many beneficial socio-economic developmental activities and privileges to the Nagas. Many jobs were created bringing employment to the people. However, the long term negative impacts on the Naga society outweigh the positive initial gains especially in matters of Naga political movement for a nation in the making, instead it had deepen the divide in the Naga society seriously affecting the unity effort.   

 For, (a) The Divide were between: (i)  the Nagas of Nagaland Vs  Nagas outside, (ii) the Indian supporters  Vs the Naga supporters resulting into  an immediate  political assassination starting with the killing of Dr. Imkongmeren in a broad daylight at Mokokchung. He was the first president of the Naga Convention and had just return from Delhi after finalisation of Nagaland state creation.

(b) Boundary; A  hasty, arbitrary and haphazard fixation of the newly created State boundary declaring the unverified 1925 boundary line of the erstwhile  Naga Hills district with the neighbouring districts of Assam  as the constitutional State boundary. (It was an arbitrary line fixed by the British for their administrative convenience only). For this arbitrariness, right from the day one, border dispute with Assam started for which no solution is in sight and unless the government is serious about it Nagaland may lose at the end and remain an emotional unfulfilled dream.

 The lofty dream of integration of Naga inhabited contiguous area into one consolidated Naga autonomous region is also becoming an elusive distant dream. These controversies with no visible solutions are mainly the offshoots of the state formation. The geographical and administrative divide is now percolating into mental divide among the Naga people in general which is weakening the feeling of oneness and goodwill toward each other. 

 On the hind side, the Naga convention leaders were knowingly or otherwise trapped in an appeasement ploy of the government. It was clearly an act of political expediency to pre-empt and disable the growing influence of Naga political movement and consolidation of Naga unity. It was a strategy of the detractors planned right at the time of creation of the state. It was thus destined to create more problems in the long run rather than solving the problem. In this regard, BM Malik (X-IB Director) has pertinently remarked in his book that ‘the formation of Nagaland state in the present form was to break the Naga solidarity.  Serious collective effort is call for to take conscious possible corrective measures to salvage the Naga society from a permanent divide.

5. The Apex Naga Hoho:15th Nov. 1994, Wokha.- After the formation of the Nagaland state, for quite a long time, the collective Naga voice at the apex level had been missing to take up issues of common concern on any matters. It was under the aegis of Lotha Hoho, various Naga tribal representatives were assembled at Wokha once again on 15/11/94. The convener Dr TM Lotha had, made a pertinent introductory remark that the Nagas felt, ‘we are one with pride and a sense of belonging and that should be preserved and promoted further’. In pursuance of that direction, they put up two   important agendas for deliberation. That were (a) the feasibility of forming an Apex Naga Organisation consists of tribal hohos. (b) To collectively take up the Assam-Nagaland Border crisis .The summit had also discussed with concern the growing dissension among the Naga national workers(UG) weakening the Naga national movement. They appealed for tolerance and reconciliation among themselves.

The 2nd Summit, Kohima on 15/6/1995:- the APO president has emphasised upon the need for a Neutral Apex Naga Body consisting of all Nagas including those from outside Nagaland regardless of political or religious affiliation or status. A highest Non-political and Non-partisan forum of the people can be an effective bridge to unite the divided Nagas again. He appealed to the gathering to see that the formation of a common platform becomes a reality. 

The issues taken up were (a) for unity of UG factions for early political solution.(b) protection of Naga territorial  integrity in the line of traditional boundaries.

The 3rd Summit at Phek on 12-4/3/1996:-In the Summit 7 (seven) important resolutions were passed relating to, stoppage of factional fights, repealing of ‘Black law’ in operation in Nagaland, sending Naga delegates to Delhi to appeal to the central leaders to agree for unconditional political talk, and to admit the Naga tribes from other states mainly from Manipur into the Hoho fold, to finalise the Hoho constitution and to hold the next summit at Mokokchung. 

(To be concluded)

T. N. Mannen IAS (Rtrd)

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