Post Mortem

Romanticizing distorts history

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 9/13/2020 12:25:19 PM IST

 In the time of today, we are being exposed to so much of information through different mediums that there is confusion as to what to believe, what not to believe, or to differentiate the truth from the make believe. We, certainly, are at our wits end and very confused. Everybody has a point of view, and therefore, presenting one’s point of view is not an attempt to discredit another’s point of view.

Yes, our grandfathers and fathers were uneducated. They, however, had the wisdom to discern. As compared, Nagas today are more educated, but cannot actually claim to be more wise. We today seem to have preferred more of the academic and less of the logic. Maybe it is because we are more into romanticizing without attempting to go indepth, and, therefore, creating more confusion for ourselves. We have even romanticized the Naga political issue according to our own posture, and so much that we are ever ready to discount the view of the other.

This writer is of the opinion that romanticizing immediate events or that of the past may result in the veiling of the truth and distortion of history. We might romanticize for cushioning our comfort zone today, but we can never escape from the truth which our children and grandchildren are easily going to pin-point.

Today, every Naga, young or old, understands that the Framework Agreement signed between the NSCN (IM) and the GoI is a direct acceptance of the unique history of the Nagas by the GoI, and, therefore, appreciates the signing of the agreement. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, even went international about the signing of the Framework Agreement with the Nagas.

The problem arises with the romanticizing of the Framework Agreement by the NSCN (IM). This is hard to accept because it defies logic to accept a mere framework agreement as the solution. Framework is but a sketch – a beginning. The substance is yet to come, and it is for the people to then see and comprehend. The framework agreement in itself, therefore, can never be the solution. The end, however, cannot come without a beginning and therefore the NSCN (IM) can take all the credit for having made a beginning. 

The same problem of romanticizing an event is with the WC of the NNPGs as well. Immediately after a meeting with the GoI’s interlocutor, R N Ravi, media cell of the WC declared that the defining hour is approaching for announcing an honourable and acceptable solution between the Nagas and the GoI. The Naga people would like to know from the WC of the NNPGs as to what is meant by an honourable and acceptable solution. Nagas have been striving for a solution with the GoI for the last 73 years. An honourable and acceptable solution must be there. The people need to be enlightened about this.

For 115 years, the British subjugated the Nagas. The British, therefore, were actually the primary enemy of the Nagas. Nagas, however, never let down the British in its greatest hour of need. With the heroic assistance of the Nagas, the Japanese were defeated by the Allied forces in 1944, but what did the British give the Nagas in return? The least they could have done in return was to ensure the consolidation of the Naga areas under one administrative umbrella, and encouraging the Nagas to live and stand as one. This they never did and instead left the Naga people, divisioned by their creation of artificial boundaries, at the mercy of India.

The British subjugated the Nagas simply for their own convenience but yet took the high moral ground by professing that it was the white mens’ burden to civilize the Nagas. Nothing can be further from the truth because it was the Americans who came with the Bible, and not the British who came with the sword, that civilized the Nagas. The Britishers came bringing death and chaos to the Nagas and left in the same manner. Even worse, they divided the Nagas with artificial boundaries for their administrative convenience. Everything in between was just posturing and words. They never intended to do good for the Nagas. They knew the Nagas were headstrong and took advantage.  

73 years hence, the British are not apologetic. Time to time, they come to Kohima, visit the war memorial cemetery, and romanticize their occupation of Naga country. Sadly we are emulating the British by romanticizing about the past events and even our current situation, according to our posturing.

What can be more blatant than our romanticizing of the Naga Labour Corps of 1917? It simply is unimaginable that 2000 Naga villagers volunteered to become labourers in a far away foreign land, and that too, in a war theatre, in support of the British war effort. Even more astounding is that, among the so many Naga tribes, only five tribes responded to go to war in France as labourers. This is food for thought, and we need to go indepth.

There is no bravado or honour whatsoever in going to war as labourers to a far away land purely in the interest of a colonial power. A war which had nothing to do with the Nagas. Instead, for the Nagas, the defeat of the British in the war would have even meant liberation from British occupation. Our grandfathers were not educated, but they certainly would have been aware of the situation. Why then did they go? What compelled them to not say “no” to the British when majority of the Naga tribes had refused to go? The pressure to enlist must have come from the Dobashis (interpreters) who served as agents of the British. It is documented that the British had empowered the Dobashis to exercise power and act as their proxies. Much like some our GBs of today, many Dobashis during British time were corrupt and exercised unreasonable powers to intimidate hapless villagers. 

Nothing else can otherwise explain why proud Naga warriors and headhunters lamely succumbed to become labourers, to work, more or less, as slaves, in a foreign land, in the thick of war, much aware of the slim chances of coming back alive.

My grandfather, who was club-footed due to a fire mishap, too, was a member of the Naga Labour Corps. I sincerely believe that he would not have liked and agreed to our romanticizing of their sufferings, pain and indignity as labourers, forced to work in a foreign land, to safeguard British imperialism. They certainly would have wanted the future generation to remember how they suffered as they marched for days together, only to be packed into trains and ships, as sardines in a can. They would have not wanted us to forget about the indignity they were subjected to as labourers in the war theatre, and about how they escaped death by the skin of their teeth. They would have wanted us to remember all these so as not to let the future generations ever suffer what they had endured. They would have never wanted their indignity glamorized or romanticized. 

The first world war was all about trench warfare. Nothing was and is more horrific than trench warfare. Naga Labour Corps (or for that matter, any labour corps) were literally cannon fodder in the first world war. If we reflect, we can, with conviction, conclude that it was their innocence that shielded many back home alive. Justice, I believe, is done by heralding the injustice and acknowledging the pain and sufferings endured by the innocent.

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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