Post Mortem

Misinterpretation of the Naga political settlement

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/4/2020 2:06:09 PM IST

 In order to understand why we should build a safe atmosphere to facilitate meaningful debate in any controversial topics, what they meant to us, and why younger generation should inculcate the habit to examine our political history with honesty, it is prudent to commence by examining two turning points in the history of the Naga political movement and their implications even to this day.

The first major turning point is best explained with an extract from the essay ‘Exploring Democracy in Nagaland’ by an anthropologist, Jelle JP Wouters. He states: “In December 1963, Dr. Radhakrishnan, India’s then President, flew to Kohima to inaugurate Nagaland state. ‘Friends’, he began his speech: ‘I have great pleasure in inaugurating the new state of Nagaland. It takes an hounoured place today as the Sixteenth State of the Indian Union…(our) attempts to secure you the fullest freedom to manage your own affairs have culminated in the creation of Nagaland State… May I also express the hope that, now that the wishes of the Nagas have been fully met, normal conditions will rapidly return to the State, and those who are still unreconciled will come forward to participate in the development of Nagaland.’”

Members of the NPC agreed with this statement made by then president of India. S.C. Jamir (2016: 96) remarks: “It is still a baffling proposition as to how a tiny district, the district of the Naga Hills of Assam province at first became Naga Hills-Tuensang Area and then a full-pledged state.’ The NNC, and its loyalists, however mourned the new state as a divisive ‘sell-out’ and instantly rejected the new state’s legitimacy to govern. Phizo himself was unequivocal in his judgment of NPC members: ‘They are traitors. Every one of them. They have betrayed us and dishonoured the martyrs who died for our cause (cited in Steyn 2002: 118).’

In modern Naga political history, few events remain as controversial and contested as the creation of Nagaland state. It divided Nagas politically into two different camps—the people of the new state and, the other, those supporting Naga independence—although the distinctions between them (and have) overlap on various dimensions and they seem to share more common characteristics than differences. Most Naga ‘overground’ politicians tend to nourish sentiments of sympathy towards the larger Naga political cause, while Naga undergrounds, or ‘national workers’ as they became known, routinely seek access to the treasures and benefits the new state puts on display.

Divergent political positions on the new state were also articulated in the post-statehood democratic domain. The Nagaland Nationalists Organization (NNO), the political party that swept the first post-statehood elections in 1964, emphasized in its manifesto that the “achievement of Statehood was a triumph of the people’s will (cited in Jimomi 2009: 49).” Its later political adversary, the United Democratic Front (UDF) disagreed: “People of no other state in India have made sacrifices like the Naga, so much so that the State of Nagaland is not considered as a gift, but as a State created for a price dearly paid: a sacrifice of over ten thousands lives (cited in Nibedon 1978: 282).”

The second major turning pointis the Shillong Accord. As Abraham Lothain ‘The Hornbill Spirit: Nagas living their Nationalism’states that the Shillong Accord, instead of resolving the Naga issue, created a divided house, splitting the nationalists into NNC and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

What we can conclude or gather from these two turning points is that it is not only the central government, but even the Nagas themselves were rendering their own interpretation and version of the terms of the final settlements vis-à-vis statehood and the Shillong accord according to their self-interests, thereby fueling political instability. While, on the other hand, the GoI considered the creation of Nagaland state to be the final settlement to Naga issue, which some Nagas, through the NNO and few succeeding political parties and state politicians, considered or interpreted the same.

Another note worthy remark of the speech during the inauguration of the Nagaland statehood was that he addressed the audience as the Nagas, not Nagas of Nagaland. 

(To be concluded)

Pakinrichapbo, Advocate, 

Samziuram Village Peren

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