Laws of Damocles
[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or the present younger generation the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of Nagaland’s statehood along with the much hyped Hornbill festival are much being looked forward to.
That is fine and should be so. However, perhaps they along with the older generations need to also really introspect as to where we are at this stage of our history. In these fifty years, two generations have been born and have had the greater benefits of education. But “whither goest we” should be the question they must ponder in all its implications and ramifications—even as of right this moment.
In the midst of all the gaiety at hand, most of us tend to forget that we Nagas are still living in the throes of several laws that hang over our heads like the sword of Damocles in various forms and which fortunately has not been much in use but has not rusted as yet. And yet the security of our people is still on somewhat shaky ground.Laws are enacted for the security of the people because it forms the core of national security. However, some of these laws applicable in Nagaland are not applicable in other parts of the country.
The Assam Maintenance of Public Order, 1953, then Assam Disturbed Areas Act, 1955, was enacted two months after then Prime Minister Nehru who came to Kohima with his Burmese counterpart, U Nu, suffered a disastrous public gathering. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958—AFSPA—(later amended in 1972 to extend the area of operations), and the Nagaland Security Regulation Act, 1962 were initially promulgated to deal with Naga insurgency. Through the provisions of these laws, the Naga people in general underwent/suffered harsher and inhuman measures in subsequent years.
The AFSPA was applied on Naga soil to counter heavy-handedly the Naga struggle to ensure their independence which they declared on August 14, 1947, a day before India’s Independence. In “My years with Nehru” the then director of Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB), B.N. Mullick wrote that the political and historical situation in which the Act was introduced was therefore, a situation of war. This “war” began in Tuensang but which the Nagas described as “invasion.”
The Indian Government ostensibly described its action as an “internal matter” but this was done through brutal military might. The AFSPA favoured protecting the security forces rather than the overall safety and security of the people.
This was followed by the National Security Regulation Act, 1962. This Act is even more draconian than the AFSPA. In addition to all the clauses of the AFSPA, this Act further empowers the civil and police authorities. Its provisions regulate every activity of the people. Freedom of movement is suspended, the right to private property can be taken away at any time, free trade is not available, collective fines are allowed, and people can be killed with impunity by civilian authorities.
Also, without prior permission of the same authorities, no complaint can even be registered with or accepted by the judiciary! This law made possible the infamous “village groupings.”
To compound the situation a bit more (threateningly?), the Unlawful Activities Act, 1967 also joined the list of these “extraordinary” laws thus heaping more indignities upon the Nagas. Unfortunately, very few have questioned the legislation of such laws which are still extant and negate everything promised in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution..
These extra-judicial laws violate basic universal human values and thus human security. They also violate international covenants that India has entered into and is committed to uphold. They reduce India’s image in the world. They nullify the values with which India fought for its very own independence and its avowed adherence to non-violence policy.
These extra-judicial laws continue to betray the Government of India’s delay in seeking solutions through dialogue and political process vis-à-vis the Nagas and the fruition of their political aspirations. However, meetings and negotiations, talks or dialogues across the table as intrinsic part of the political process have been going on in leaps and bounds for so many years with no agreeable and honourable solution in sight as yet.
On the other hand, despite the sword of Damocles in so many versions, attempts have been going on concerning the development and allied fronts. In spite of shortcomings, India is still a democratic country and far more reasonable than most other nations—in fact it is the largest democracy in the world but somewhat hampered with the longest written Constitution whose provisions tend to overlap each other.
Sure, celebrate the good occasions but always bear in mind that as a very minor community in the world, we Nagas have to be more circumspect in our dealings but forward looking in spite of parochial tendencies and rigid mindsets.
The older generations have done whatever they could. Now it is up to the gen-next to ensure that out identity is still intact.
All we now need is to decide, act and thus ensure what the 32nd US President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) who led his country both during the Great Depression and World War Two said: “These unhappy times call for the building of plan….that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”
FDR also emphasized: “We cannot always build the future of our children but we can build our children for the future.”
The Golden Jubilee of the statehood of Nagaland, the 16th state of the Indian Union is indeed a milestone. Equally significant is that the milestone runs parallel to the crossroads of our future. It remains locked in the direction the 16-year old ceasefire dialogue between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM) will take.
The history of the Naga political aspirations has been fraught with divisions brought about by our inability to speak the truth at every crucial juncture.
The enemy lies within.
Our weakness lies in allowing principles to be sacrificed for personal or communal gains, the hunger for authority and power and control. Our comprehension that “might has got to be right”.
Our track record on the fast lane ( deaths caused by alcohol consumption/ drugs/ accidents/HIV/increasing number of orphans etc …) far outdo the honest, steady, routine, daily plodding and sometimes mundane but respectable way to hold on to integrity.
It is our inability to unite on a common goal which challenges the survival of the Naga society in the next 50 years.
It is to be hoped that the next generation will live up to expectations and continue to hold aloft the Naga traditions that make us unique, along with the ability to keep up with the world.