Views & Reviews
End of Year Sentiments on the Naga Flag and 2023 Naga Peace Talks
On the Eve of 2024 New Year, Washington, DC based Naga-American Council (NAC) would like to summarise their observations of the Naga Peace talks with the Government of India (GOI) and re-clarify their position on the Naga Flag. The last press release about the Flag sent on April 14, 2023 about the India government forcing the Nagas to submit to the Indian flag and vice versa as offensive caused an explosive array of opinions and emotional reactions. Especially since 96% of Nagas do not identify themselves as ethnically Indian. When a Naga looks in the mirror they pridefully see a Naga face not an Indian face. This article was widely circulated in the Indian and Naga press of the first quarter of the year and is still being talked about till this day.
After the press release went out the Naga-American Council decided to investigate the history of the Naga Flag and by tracking its development. NAC’s researchers has verified indeed it was birthed as a result of the unique political history of Nagalim.
Dame Grace Collins, Honorary President of Nagalim wants to reiterate again NAC is not affiliated with any one faction or the Indian government but represents all Nagas residing in India, Burma, America, and other nations they reside in. NAC’s goal is to be neutral and be a truly collective voice for all Nagas and our tagline is “One Naga Voice” to the US, UN and international community. We hope to be invited to assist in helping mediate a settlement to this ridiculously drawn out conflict and pushes for 2024 to be the year that finally settles this conflict into an honourable win-win solution between GOI and the Naga people.
NAC staff sentiments:
1) The official position of the flag by NAC is “We believe in the respect of a people’s right to their identity and allegiance for their own flag, as well as the mutual tolerance and dignity of others’ right to do the same,”
2) “We recognise the Naga Flag embodies more than 75 years of political aspirations towards the achievement of the Nagas’ own sovereignty and self-determination,”
3)”We understand that the Naga Flag would inspire different meanings and nuances to different countries, and we respect this diversity,”
4) If the Nagas view their flag as political, it is important to acknowledge and respect that perspective.
5)India never implementing the 2015 Framework Agreement with PM Modi government is a gross waste of time and has severely broken the trust of the Nagalim people with the PM Modi and the BJP party. Modi actions are typical of politicians promising things they never plan to implement in order to get elected. NAC asks all Nagas to really study the upcoming 2024 elections of which party would most likely treat the Nagalim case fairly and look at the past actions or non actions before they decide to support a tertian party. PM Modi has time to make good on his promise to implement the 2015 framework agreement to restore trust before election time.
6) The word, Democracy is interpreted by GOI differently than the international standardised version of word.
NAC’s American viewpoint on the Naga Flag reflects a broader trend in interpretation of unrecognised flags, where symbols, such as flags, can also carry deep political meanings. For example, the Confederate flag which is not an official flag, which is often displayed in the southern states of America, has been a subject of controversy due to its political association with slavery and racism. Similarly, the rainbow flag, which is often used as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride, has also taken on political significance in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Collins explained in America, it can be inferred that symbols do also carry political meanings in American society.
NAC’s UN Outreach Coordinating Team has also discovered that nations can be recognised by the UN and other sovereign nations without a flag. Recognition of a nation must also includes various factors such as territory, population, common genetics government, and ability to engage in international relations. A flag is just one symbol of a nation’s identity and does not necessarily determine its recognition by other member countries of the UN.
However, it is also important to consider the context in which the flag is being used to recognise that the Indian government may have a different perspective on the matter. Allowing the Naga flag to be hoisted in Indias’s federal buildings could be seen as the Nagas wanting to join the Indian government. NAC observed that GOI actually has much more to gain by allowing the Naga flag to be hoisted in a 001 federal building meaning the Nagas are being recognised as wanting to be a part the Indian Union who are allowed to hoist their flags in federal buildings. “India recognising the Naga flag could be construed as Nagas’ ascension into the Indian union, as it signifies an acknowledgment of their distinct identity and a willingness to engage in peaceful negotiations towards a resolution of one of their long-standing requests.”
The Naga- American Council cautions GPRN to develop a healthy interrelationship boundaries and to be very clear that they are a separate nations, want peaceful and mutually beneficial relations in building their economy.
Therefore allowing the Naga flag to be hoisted in federal buildings may be the best and least expensive goodwill gesture and move by this or the next Prime Minister of India. The Naga flag has been around ever since the Naga political movement started more than 75 years ago and the flag has been waving around India freely. And for that NAC applauds India for civilised about the Naga Flag and not being malicious or destructive of their flag.
During the historic signing of the 2015 Framework by PM Modi agreement which was widely publicised and documented in the GOI archives and in the international press.
The Indian Government publically “acknowledged/recognised the Naga National Flag” according to the Government of the Peoples Republic of Nagalim, MIP Statement on the Position of the Talks, Dec. 8, 2023. During NAC’s investigation of Indias’ stance on flags we found out when it comes to the recognition of flags, India does have their own protocol and guidelines that it has to follow. The hoisting of flags in federal buildings and official events represents the sovereignty of the Indian nation and its unity. It is a symbol of national pride and represents the unity of all Indian states and territories. India recognises one national flag to cover all 28 states. India also recognises and celebrates the cultural and religious festivals of its various states.
Therefore, allowing the Naga flag to be hoisted in federal buildings could be a step towards acknowledging the Nagas’ distinct cultural and political identity. However, GOI may have concerns about this being a precedent that recognising the Naga flag could be set for other separatist groups in India. If the government were to allow the Naga flag to be flown in federal buildings, other separatist groups may demand similar recognition, possibly leading to further conflicts and instability.
Ironically as the supposedly the “Worlds Largest Democracy” a political party that demands that all of Indian becomes a Hindu nation, allowing churches to burned down without repercussion and enforcing anti-conversion laws does not fall under the concept of of the International Standard of what is a Democracy. NAC is so outraged by the hypocrisy of GOI lack of peoples right to practice religious freedom ( for all religions in India especially Muslims and Christians) as clearly documented in the US State Department Human rights reports 2022 giving India a very low report card grade on Human Rights abuses in India.
Recently Collins came a cross an article published in Business Today, the Economic Times and other multiple media and is reprinting excerpts from the Dec 5, 2023 article an interview with Shashi Tharoor. She concurs with esteemed Shashi Tharoor when he said to Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah “He was wrong to say ‘No country had multiple constitutions and flags’ and it was not true and cited that all 50 states in America have their own flag and Constitution.” He further added that each of the states in Australia has its own Prime Minister along with its own Constitution and flag.
Surely Shashi Tharoor has a more worldly and credible perspective. Tharoor is the only Indian to achieve one of the highest senior positions at the UN as an Undersecretary so GOI should be proud of his accomplishments on the world stage for India. Tharoor said to Amit Shah “look around the world, there are many federal countries where there is more than one constitution, more than one flag…. So there is no bar against this. I mean, you can say that in India, we don’t want this. That’s fine. But don’t say no country can have it because other countries do have, said Shashi Tharoor”.
“HM Amit Shah said that there can be only ‘one flag, one head, and one Constitution’ in the country. “How can one country have two Prime Ministers? Two Constitutions or two flags? Whoever did it was wrong,” Amit Shah said while speaking in the Lok Sabha.”
NAC’s American team is bewildered how can Amit Shah be so closed minded or has he never traveled the world to have such parochial view of India amongst 193 countries recognized nations? If India claims to be the”Worlds Largest Democracy” they should allow all such flags to fly freely without judgment or flag burning thus fostering a free and democratic nation. Collins said “America has 50 state flags and we do not have any major problems of secessionists” secessionist movements, as it can be seen as a threat to the unity and integrity of the nation. According to the same GPRN Statement on the Position of the Talks. The “unique history means Nagas have the history of Independence from time immemorial. They have never been an integral part of India or Burma by conquest or consent. By unique position it means that the Naga issue is a case of resistance against invasion forces and not that of a secessionist. These two hard fact the Indian leaders acknowledged.” So the Naga Flag is not an issue of secession when they have never been a part of the Inidan union but one of defending their land from invasion.
NAC also notes if GOI wants to really move from being a 3′ world country economically then they have to change their outdated mentality of having only one religion, and they cannot force Hindu conversions and enact anti-conversion laws.
Collins said everyone knows Indians are super smart in engineering and computer technology, but it may not be so widely known that the intellectual of India’s in America, Indian parents train their children to memorise the dictionary from front to back and inevitably win almost every “Spelling B” contest in America. However sounding out a word, pronouncing a word and spelling the word does not mean they understand or interpret the word correctly. Collins said perhaps senior level Indian officials need to get an internationally recognised and standardised dictionary to fully appreciate the characteristics of what constitutes a true “Democracy” Obviously the BJP backed Hindustan Indians in India use a different dictionary and need to pick up a International Standardised Dictionary to understand the meaning of this English word “Democracy”.
However the main issue is that GOI behind the scenes in the peacetalks understands and agrees to Nagalim’s, NSCN/GPRN political history as being different from other groups because they never joined the Indian union by “conquest or concession” And both entities agrees this is a result of the British colonial rule divinded the Nagas. Besides GOI and Naga-American Council many other powerful groups abroad like the UN, UNPO and EU are too quickly learning this truth. Ultimately, finding a peaceful and mutually beneficial solution to this issue will require a willingness to listen, understand, and work together to find common ground. This can include addressing issues such as political representation, economic development, and cultural preservation.
One way to approach this issue would be through education and awareness campaigns. India could educate its citizens about the significance of the Naga flag and work to shift the perception of the flag from a symbol of separatism to a symbol of Naga political/cultural identity. India has a rich but complicated culture of diversity, with various religions, languages, and multiple ethnicities trying to coexist within its borders. Instead of being the next modern version of Tower of Babel they need to foster more tolerance of differences with all and find a common language so everyones perspective is on the same page.
Naga-American Council wishes all the people of Nagalim, India and Burma a peaceful and mutually respectful 2024. The year that marked the end to conflicts and to a future shaking hands building a bright and beautiful prosperous future as side by side neighbours. “Life is too short to be negative and toxic. Fighting is out. Kindness is In. Love Covers All Problems. Happy New Year!”
Communications Liaison for Naga-American Council firstname.lastname@example.org