Wednesday, October 5, 2022

In pursuit of peaceful resolution

As Nagaland observes Peace Day on September 6, it would be worthwhile reminiscing on how it came to being. The first cease fire attains 58 years on September 6,2022. Its story began violent hostilities plunged the erstwhile Naga hills during the fifties. During those dark days, villages were grouped and people placed behind barricades. The inhuman suffering of the people was indescribable. In order to save the innocent people from such humungous tragedies which went unmentioned in the national media, Baptist Church leaders led by Rev. Longri Ao and Rev.Kenneth Kerhuo decided to prevail upon the battling sides to give peace a chance. At the third Baptist Convention in Wokha town from January 31 to February 2, 1964, the Baptist Church resolved to play the role of peacemakers under the leadership of Rev.Longri Ao and Kenneth Kerhuo. During the three-day convention, more than five thousand Nagas attended the convention where it was resolved to propose “Peace talk”. At the church’s request, the government of India agreed to utilize the services of Jaya Prakash Narayan(the first director of the Peace Mission) which also included Rev.Michael Scott (of the Anglican Church) and then chief minister of Assam, B.P.Chaliha. The relentless endeavour of the Peace Mission actively supported by the church leaders headed by Rev. Longri Ao and help and patronage of the State Government, finally resulted in an agreement for Cessation of Fire signed by the then Governor Vishnu Sahay, on behalf of the Government of India and the Peace Mission while Zashei Huire, Biseto Medom and L. Benito had signed on behalf of the FGN. Although the agreement was officially declared on September 6, 1964 it was actually signed on May 23, 1964 at Sakraba Village in Phek district. The declaration of Naga cease fire on September 6,1964 led to eruption of joy as church bells rang to herald peace. Six rounds of negotiations was held between the government of India under prime minister Indira Gandhi and the FGN led by its ato kilonser Kughato Sukhai. After six rounds of inconclusive negotiations, starting from February 1966, talks eventually broke down on October 3,1967. Jaya Prakash Narayan quit the Peace Mission, while Rev.Michael Scott was deported for allegedly favouring the Naga group. The Peace Mission was disbanded in 1972 after the government of India unilaterally abrogated the cease fire on August 31,1972. However, the church under Rev.Longri continued to pursue peace and this led to formation of the Nagaland Peace Centre in 1974. The Nagaland Peace Centre was headed initially by Dr.Longri after which Dr.M.Aram was made its director. The Peace Centre did its best to be a mediator but then Indira Gandhi refused to talk anymore till the NNC gave up its demand for sovereignty. Though eventual peaceful solution did not materialise, yet the 1964 cease fire was mainly due to the relentless efforts by the church. Even today, the challenge to secure a final and lasting solution, if it could be achieved, would be a befitting tribute to those leaders who believe in peaceful resolution.