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Naga Club centenary: Deep divisions threaten to soil historic celebration

By Our Correspondent Updated: Oct 24, 2018 12:58 am

Our Correspondent
Kohima, Oct. 22 (EMN): The confusion surrounding the centenary celebration of Naga Club continues even as the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) and the newly revived Naga Club showed no signs of relenting and went ahead with the preparations, as of Tuesday, for their respective celebration programmes.

The freshly revived Naga Club will be organising a lead-in general public meeting to the centenary of the Naga Club at RCEMPA in Jotsoma on Oct. 30 and the main celebration on Nov. 29 at Khuochiezie Ground in Kohima, while the NSF will be celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Naga Club on Oct. 31 at the Naga Solidarity Park in Kohima.

The erstwhile Naga Club, formed in 1918, is renowned for its historic Naga Hills memorandum of 1929 written to the then British Statutory Commission headed by Sir John Allsebrook Simon for safeguarding the rights of the Naga people. The memorandum is considered to be the first written record that establishes Nagas as one people, and their political position. The memorandum is said to have been drafted by Rüzhükhrie Angami, a teacher during that time, and signed by 19 others.

‘Don’t forget Naga Club and NSF were best allies’

Against the backdrop of all the allegations and counter allegations on the legitimacy of the newly revived Naga Club and separate celebrations of the centenary coming to fore at a time when Naga society is facing division on many fronts, Eastern Mirror contacted peace activist Niketu Iralu for his opinion on the ongoing issue between the two groups. The pacifist had this to say, “What we must not forget in the deteriorating crisis is that Naga Club and NSF were the best of allies yesterday! Naga Club was important for the NSF and NSF was equally important for Naga Club. Their interdependence was symbiotic in nature and their common strength.” Iralu remarked that from the accounts of some former NSF leaders, it was learnt that but for the decisive action taken by the NSF at a critical juncture, the historic Naga Club building would have been appropriated by the state government by sheer default.

“Yesterday, the question of who was more ‘legitimate’, more ‘mandated’, or of greater value to the Naga people just didn’t arise. Whether the parents are more important than the children, or the other way round, for the proper growth of a family is certainly a strange question to ask. That such a question has arisen suddenly at this stage shows what our damaged relationships have done to us,” he asserted.

“The differences have surfaced between the two crucial Naga institutions because our accumulating unsolved problems are overburdening our minds more than we are realising. And the better angels in all of us are anguished over what we have started to do to one another. We say we are surprised and angry that both sides have taken polarising positions that are hardening. But we should not be surprised because the distrusts and vengeful resentments towards one another that we have all caused in our different ways are now manifesting themselves. Our urgent need now is to address the roots of our resentments and distrusts together with God’s help,” Iralu said, emphasising on the need for readiness to be transparent about one’s wrongs/mistakes.

Queried if anyone today can claim to be the rightful representatives of the Naga Club of 1918 and responsible for the Naga Hills memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929, Iralu said he sensed this as a misinterpretation of the discussions to establish the facts of the history of the formation of the Club. From what he knew and from his own involvement in the discussions which started a few years back about the coming 100th year of Naga Club’s formation, he stated no one has claimed they were entitled to be the rightful representatives of the Naga Club.

He felt that misinterpretation of the discussions due to the pressures of the differences had led to the conclusion that those trying to resuscitate the Naga Club were motivated by something more than establishing the facts.

A descendant’s appeal

“I stand here as a descendant of a signatory (of the memorandum to the Simon Commission) with a very heavy and pained heart to see these very unfortunate developments which have come about surrounding a document which I thought was pure, innocent and so precious to all of us,” asserted Khriehutuo Sekhose, the son of Rüzhükhrie Angami, during a coordination meeting between the newly revived Naga Club and descendants of the 20 signatories of the historic memorandum at the Red Cross Building in Kohima on Monday.

He wondered how or what events have led the people to such a state today that they could not come to an understanding when descendants like him were looking forward to the celebration of the Naga Club centenary.

Strongly putting across his opinion that the descendants do not have any claim to the (memorandum to) Simon Commission or the Naga Club, Sekhose said that to him the Simon Commission was ‘a gift from God to Nagas and our fathers, grandfathers or great-grandfathers those who signed were there at that point in time to be used by God.’

He appealed to all not to destroy or allow any controversy surround the historic petition. Expressing that having twin celebrations would make everything meaningless, he sounded a clarion to all the Naga people to ‘give it a thought and bring about an understanding.’ He acknowledged the contributions of the NSF towards the welfare of the club and also underscored the need for all to acknowledge one another. “If there are two celebrations, I will be very very honest, I cannot go to any one,” he said.

Descendants of other signatories also shared their views and thoughts regarding the celebration during the meeting. All of them expressed concern over the differences in opinion and the separate celebrations and erection of two different monoliths commemorating the 100 years anniversary of the Club. While some suggested that the Naga Club needs to get legally registered, some pointed out that the body and its history should not be compromised.

One of the descendants questioned why the celebration of ‘something so pure and clean’ had to be reduced to ‘like other aspects of our lives in Nagaland’. He stated that the Naga people were already very confused that it needed no further ‘adulteration’. Pointing out that the people needed to seek God’s guidance for this celebration, he asked the elderly Naga Club members to take the initiative and try to mend fences with the student body.

By Our Correspondent Updated: Oct 24, 2018 12:58:13 am