Looking beyond statehood
K. Tia Longchar
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he recurring challenges facing the Nagas in relation to the statehood since the turn of this Millennium and the beginning of this century has been due to the embroilments caused by the different interpretations of statehood through different prisms of interest. The nature of our Naga identity has made the Naga tribes stapled under the state of Nagaland obliged to certain duties towards the rights of the Nagas living outside the tutelage of the statehood. It was perceived threat to its territorial integrity that the Manipur uprising of June 2001 happened, over declaration of ceasefire extension “without territorial limits” in Naga inhabited areas. The ongoing ethnic conflicts between the Rengma Nagas and Karbi in Assam have been blamed on the “third force”. Indeed the third force has been actively regenerating since the Merapani Border dispute between Assam and Nagaland in 1985. A primary implication of these events are rooted in the blueprint of the 16-Point Agreement that was signed to create the Nagaland State. One of the point of agreement was for the coming together of “Naga inhabited contagious area” making our neighboring sister states to gang-up and form a rigid barrier to the common Naga aspiration. Laski defines the State as “a territorial society divided into Government and subjects claiming, within its allocated physical area, a supremacy over all other institutions.” It was this “allocated physical area” one of the basic element of the state that was relegated to the back seat in the impromptu liaison that led to the premature birth of Nagaland state due to the intense internal and external political compulsions. Like a short lived illusion created by a magician, some crucial points among the 16-Point Agreement have been surgically and subtly removed. Nagaland had been unceremoniously transferred from the Ministry of External Affairs to Ministry of Home Affairs. The payouts to Nagaland from the Consolidated Fund of India have also been halted. The special status of Nagaland under Article 371 is now under question by none other than step-motherly Ministry of Home. These are clear indications of a systematic dismantling of the pillars under whose strength the state was founded. Political analysts and policy makers are clearly thinking of a strong centralized federal setup, where power to a maverick state like Nagaland is curtailed and uniformity is finally extracted from all other states. It is only a matter of time that this devolution of power will boomerang. The burning question is whether to re-affirm the 16-Point Agreement and be implemented in toto within a certain dateline? Or that, the present status quo of scraped statecraft is acceptable? Or of a wider statecraft, undergoing complete architectural outlay and foundational engineering inclusive of its “political uniqueness” that need to be conceptualized and critically addressed.
This dialogue should include what Professor Zimmern in his book “Nationality and Government” wrote and is of relevance to the Naga context “While Nationality is subjective, Statehood is objective; While Nationality is psychological, Statehood is political; While Nationality is a condition of mind, Statehood is a condition of law; While Nationality is a spiritual possession Statehood is a enforceable obligation. While Nationality is a way of feeling, Statehood is a condition inseparable from all civilized ways of living”.
As a Christian State that has attained the Biblical 50th year of liberty and year of God’s favour, there should also be some work of significance in this direction. These are contentious issues pertaining to how Nagas divided by demarcated boundaries need to reiterate a vision and roadmap that we can project for a common future. This can only be hammered under the anvil of public debate, discussion, discourse and interaction with an accommodative spirit based on egalitarian rights of all Naga tribes. This collective voice will then form a true cohesive democratic society and earn us a place in the evolutionary global scenario.
India having been under the colonial discriminatory policies should no longer continue repressive and regressive laws like the Arms Special Act of 1958. Nagaland has been the perfect guinea pig for the likes of present-day Machiavellis and Kautilyas to execute shrewd political maneuvers with deft swiftness and deadly precision to spread dissensions and fragment the dynamic Naga society. It is not without reason that the “political rum” and free flow of unaccounted money has depleted and corrupted the character of the indomitable spirit of the Nagas, that flamed the Naga nationalism. On the other hand, few pockets of elitist groups have been harbored to hold the power corridors of the State. In case of any failures or mismanagement the unresolved Naga cause is the perfect scapegoat. Sadly, many leaders of different Naga political groups’ banks on the doles of these privileged few.
Nagas stepping into the arena of modern civilization is only a century old. What is remarkable is the people’s ability to adapt and change, be it the spread of Christianity by the American missionaries or the acceptance of British polity and administration. History had thrusted upon the Nagas the two World Wars that have directed the course of Naga history. It was in the land of “equality, liberty and fraternity” France that our forefathers were enlightened to form the Naga Club of 1918. It was loyalty and allegiance to the British Crown that Nagas stood against the invading Japanese and won the Battle of Kohima in 1944,which was one pressing reason for the Britishers to leave India and barter away the Nagas. Nagas have always been resilient and united to face challenges triumphantly. Unfortunately, the over-working political machinations have churned a tsunami that have shipwrecked that coveted unity. Now, most of the fragmented national political groups are in lifeboats and rafts struggling to stay afloat. The choice is either to drift away into the abyss of no return or paddle towards the lighthouse and assemble under one roof. The need of the hour in order to solve the protracted Naga issue, is to search for certain operational principles for pragmatic implementation based on core values; to give Nagas a chance to be global citizens. Naga need not fear any force on earth to erase the rightful historical events and vicissitudes that have marked the Naga struggle if we only trust and believe in each other again, to create that “Naga Dream” we all aspire for.
The natural geo-political dynamics can make Nagaland either a buffer-zone like Switzerland or a flash-point like the Balkan. India precarious border situation with neighboring China and Pakistan has made them as the adage “adversary of my adversary is my friend”. It was Nehru’s ‘Forward Policy’ that led to the Indo-China war of 1962. It was also in 1951, that the disputed Tawang town was consolidated into the Indian union under the command of Major Khathing, a Naga. It is quite ironic that China’s claim to Arunachal excludes the Naga inhabited territory. China designs are not only to claim territory but the red Dragon is fuming its periodic flame to assail a systematic calculus of warfare when the opportune moment comes; unlike the knee jerk trample that India always resort. China would stop at nothing in emerging as the undisputed Asian power and thereafter a global superpower. Any talks on “land swap” would be tantamount to further festering in legalistic landmines and counter claims. Developed fissures always lead to crack and seepage especially on unmarked territory; it will be mired with masked diabolic designs under different leadership. In the brewing struggle for power between the two civilization, United States has strategically entrenched in Burma with a realpolitik policy and they would definitely wriggle mileages over the three Naga Self-Administered provinces in Myanmar.
It is converging to a point of mutual benefit that India need to take some pre-emptive actions in the current flux Naga-affair before it crystallize . The “Look East Policy” of making North-East Region a economic hub and land-link with South-East Asia, is a policy in the right direction. It is indeed a herculean task to bring abroad a gamut of indecisive Indian political atrophy, the spineless Home Ministry, the procrastinating bureaucracy and the paranoid military top brass to charter a destination to solve the Naga imbroglio. Having navigated the Non Alignment Movement to its logical end during the Cold War, nations looks upon India as the natural leader of democratic global eminence; that treat nations great and small, respectfully with the golden rule of conduct and Gandhian principles of non-violence. It should not belittle its global stature by stifling the Naga aspirations in its own backyard. If Nagas today with one voice have a message for India, it will be in the same essence as to what dignified Porus replied to magnanimous Alexander, to be treated on equal terms. Nagas tryst with destiny can be envisioned true to the Japanese proverb saying, “Vision without action is daydreaming and action without vision is chaos.”