Post Mortem

Reconciling with history

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/28/2020 12:53:13 PM IST

 The top priority for the Nagas today is reconciliation. National reconciliation is the No.1 priority before any other thing because there are just too many heart-rendering stories which have accumulated during the prolonged freedom struggle for a Naga nation. As such, there must be healing of these wounds through forgiveness and national reconciliation for a final settlement of the Naga political problem.

National reconciliation, however, can come only if we first reconcile with the truth of our history. Nagas have a distinct unique history, not a make-believe history. Our tendency to hold on to make-believe history renders all attempts to national reconciliation all the more difficult, if not impossible.

The formation of the Naga Club in 1918 can rightly be said to be the beginning of the Naga National movement, because before the formation of the Naga Club, there was no public forum or organization  for the Nagas to express their views. Thus to meet the urgent need of an organization, the educated Naga youths, based in Kohima, founded the Naga Club in January of 1918, at Kohima. They visualized that very soon the British would leave India and soon the Naga political problem would arise. They, therefore, started persuading the British not to link up the Nagas with the rest of the Indians.

The problem with us Nagas is that we have created controversies where there should have been none. We simply insist on the make-believe without bothering to cross-check the remotest possibility of it all. How else can we justify our insistence on the theory that the Naga Labour Corps returnees are directly responsible for the formation of the Naga Club in 1918?

The sojourn of the Naga Labour Corps  to France in 1917 was the very first time that five tribes qualified themselves as Nagas collectively thus giving them that real feeling of oneness  and a more meaningful sense of an identity based on conviction as never before. However, to credit the Naga Labour Corps returnees as responsible for awakening the political consciousness of the Naga people resulting in the formation of the Naga Club in October 1918 which subsequently after 10 years led to submission of memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929, is too far fetched to say the least, and is a distortion of history. Yes, some member of the NLC who had been to France were very much involved in the deliberation of drafting the memorandum to the Simon Commission under the aegis of the Naga Club as members. But they definitely were not involved in the formation of the Naga Club which was birthed the same year in 1918, but before the arrival of the first batch of returnees in June and the second group in October.

Common sense dictates that after having faced the horrors of war in a far away foreign land, and then travelling for months together to return, the top most priority of our raw villagers would have been to reach their respective villages at the earliest possible time – forget about spending even a night at Kohima. Even a make-believe proposition must carry some weight of merit. The case of NLC returnees being responsible for the formation of the Naga Club carries no weight whatsoever.

One can very much agree with the view that legitimacy and contention over the Naga Club should not be the issue as it belongs to every Naga, but at the same time, it legitimately becomes an issue when its history is distorted. Our moral value should not allow us the liberty to misinterpret the past. In the Naga memorandum submitted to the Simon Commission in 1929, one of the signatory was Nizhevi Sema Naga who was made Dobashi by the British. He is stated to be a Naga Labour Corps returnee and regarded as one of the noteworthy pillar from where our nationalistic ideal stands today. It is said that in the Sema area, Labour Corps was organized under the leadership of Nizhevi. However, on close examination, as per the record of one of the very worthy kin of Nizhevi Sema Naga, it is unclear whether Nizhevi himself went to France as Naga labour Corps. Now, when things are unclear, we cannot say that it is clear.

This is never an attempt to undermine an individual at any level, but just a sincere approach in the interest of history and posterity that the records are in black and white without any grey in between. Doing so will go a long way in reconciling with history. And, I believe, reconciling with history is the first step towards making good towards our top priority for the Nagas today which is national reconciliation.

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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