Naga political issue in the Assembly: ‘No compromise to unique history and rights’
• On centenary year, Rio pays glowing tribute to founders of Naga Club; acknowledges their feat of placing Naga aspiration for the first time ‘in black in white’
• Legislators, cutting across party lines, agree on the need to bring those groups not included in the ongoing Indo-Naga talks to negotiating table
Kohima, Sep. 21 (EMN): Discussion on the protracted Naga political issue dominated the last day of the second session of the 13th Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) in Kohima on Thursday.
Members from both the treasury and opposition benches shared their opinions and concerns on the developments towards the settlement of the Indo-Naga political problem.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio who initiated the discussion stated that the Naga political struggle was one that has been marred by violence and bloodshed, where many precious lives have been lost. He said the indomitable spirit of the Nagas to be free from any outside occupation gave rise to the fight for sovereignty and instilled a mass aspiration to live together as one family. The chief minister recalled the contributions of the Naga Club, which was formed in 1918 and had submitted a memorandum to the Simon Commission on January 10, 1929 asserting the rights of the Nagas and their desire for self-determination. Stating that 2018 is the centenary year of the Naga Club, he paid due tributes to the founders of the club for placing on record the aspirations of the Naga people “in black and white” for the first time in history.
While highlighting the significant past events in the history of the Naga struggle, Rio also acknowledged that the NLA has in the past, passed five resolutions on the integration of all contiguous Naga inhabited areas. He said the People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA) had placed the Naga political issue at the top of its agenda and as such, the Political Affairs Committee of the PDA and the elected members of the PDA held a consultative meeting with all the Naga tribe hohos on May 11 last in Kohima. He expressed hope that this would strengthen the collective voice of the Nagas.
Despite political differences, he reminded the members, it is their bounden duty as representatives of the people to come together and facilitate for an early solution to achieve the mass aspiration of the Naga people to live as one people in cohesion and in harmony with each other.
The leader of the house appealed to all Naga, irrespective of political affiliation, tribe or any other association, to join hands with one another and with the JLF so that together, they can forge ahead into the future without any ‘compromise on our unique history, culture, traditions, political and democratic rights’.
Also participating in the discussion, BJP legislator Mmhonlumo Kikon said the paradigm that defines the step towards the solution should now look on the need of the people as ‘times have changed’. He impressed upon the members that the future of the present generation is different today, and therefore, solution is not only about negotiation of political rights but where economic rights is duly facilitated as well.
Kikon said the creativity and contributions of the newly reconstituted Joint Legislators’ Forum (JLF) on Naga political issue should be towards enabling facilitation towards the right direction and lead towards a solution that will not divide the Nagas further.
The lone JD legislator, G Kaito Aye stressed on the need to strengthen the peace process for a solution and stated that it was time for all the political leaders, irrespective of party affiliation to come and forge together, and consolidate efforts towards taking responsibility for an early solution. He also strongly asserted that no one should be allowed to sabotage the process.
Advisor Imnatiba said legislators were not political scientists neither national workers so they could not be too idealistic and at the same time be too realistic that they cannot look beyond the given situation. However, he said as politicians, they could and should act as a pragmatic bridge for a smooth transition.
Minister Tongpang Ozukum pointed out that due to the imposed boundaries, government, and rule on the Naga people, the aspiration of the Nagas to live under one administrative roof was yet to become a reality. While insisting that Naga integration must be an integral part and an instrument of political settlement, Ozukum also asserted that as Nagas await for solution they must understand that this is not the time to point fingers towards each other, nor the time to criticise one another or pull each other down, but to come together in unity.
Opposition MLA CL John was of the view that since it was the government of India that ‘forcefully divided’ the Naga people in 1963 by geographically separating the people into two countries (India and Myanmar) and four states in India without consulting them, it (government of India) should take the task to unite the Nagas. He also put out a word of caution that as representatives of the people, legislators should not, in any way, make the mistake of saying that Naga integration is not possible.
John urged upon the JLF to renew the mission to approach the NSCN and the Naga National Council (NNC) to come to the negotiating table as well.
NPF MLA Yitachu shared his view that Nagas have witnessed many agreements, and now it was time to ponder how the government of India had responded to the Naga pursuit for their legitimate historical rights. He said a settlement was awaited based on the ‘Framework Agreement’ of August 3, 2015, while reminding that the previous JLF had pressed for ‘solution first, election later’ but the representatives of the party who is in power at the centre had advocated the slogan ‘election for solution’, and now they should keep their word.
For MLA Kuzholuzo Nienu, the goal of the Naga people was not less than sovereignty and though the Naga society was shredded into divisions, the Naga political issue was the only thing that binds the Naga together. He expressed concern that many statements were being made from different quarters, confusing the people. With the government of India having talks with the NSCN (IM) and the six NNPGs separately, he voiced apprehension how it was going to bring the issue to a ‘logical conclusion’.
MLA Vikheho observed that when an issue concerning a people gets prolonged, communication breaks down, divisions occur, numbers come to matter over principles and psychological warfare begins. He felt that a meaningful dialogue among the Naga, tribes, groups, NGOs and neighbours was needed for achieving a solution.
Leader of opposition TR Zeliang in his remark, said that the Naga political issue has dominated the political discourse of the Nagas as well as political agendas and manifestoes of various political parties in Nagaland during the last seven decades. He however stated that the matter of integration would be best left to the negotiating parties. While endorsing the new resolution of the NLA, Zeliang appealed to all the elected members to be united towards the Naga political issue as he felt only unity can only bring permanent peace.
Imkong L Imchen in his address said the JLF was constituted without party lines for a common cause under the chairmanship of the speaker, therefore it should be termed as an assembly resolution. He said Nagas are emotionally united but politically separated through manmade boundaries.
He said Naga political groups are not on talking terms amongst themselves, leaving aside NSCN , but all of them are in talks with the government of India. He further opined that more disunity would crop up in the future thereby prolonging the attainment of our common goal.
He also quipped that Naga issue was becoming more complex with every passing day and therefore all the 60 elected members should put their heads together transcending political party lines and work for a permanent solution at the earliest.
Toshi wungtung said that it is very relevant and inherent to state that Nagas are all geographical prisoners and victims of the colonial invaders, the British and the Indians.
He added that our destiny has been already shaped but circumstances led to the present scenario but we must not give up our birthright to live as one entity without artificial boundaries and borders sketched by other colonials.
Pohwang Konyak in his speech said that the twenty-one years of talk about Naga solution after the ceasefire was signed has confused everyone. Looking back at history, he stated, the 16-point agreement was inked with the blood of the Nagas which birthed article 371(A) which we are yet to wholly implement or utilise, thereby rendering it a mockery. He also lamented that that when Naga civil societies are also divided, leaving aside the various Naga underground organisations, we are not in a capacity to talk about Naga solution. He also requested the house to reach out to NSCN and try to bring them under the negotiating table for ceasefire after all it is the Nagas who are suffering and carrying this burden together.
Temjen Imna Along in his speech said that the JLF was the right platform to speak and voice out the concerns of the people and leaders alike. He asked the House to be united, leaving aside one’s political affiliations and personal differences for the common good of the Nagas.
Muthingnyuba Sangtam in his address said as long as tribalism, discrimination and nepotism exist in our society, Nagas’ common dream for unity would remain distant.
He said Nagas should first try to ‘exile those moral weaknesses’ before striving forward on the path of a common and united solution for all.
During the session, the House passed the Nagaland Goods and Services Tax (Amendment) Bill 2018. Chief Minister Rio also presented the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India in the House.
The Second Session of the 13th Assembly was adjourned sine die by the NLA Speaker Vikho-o Yhoshü after the transaction of all the business listed for the sitting.