Views & Reviews
Naga Senior Citizens Appeal to Prime Minister
Honourable Prime Minister Sir,
The Nagaland Senior Citizens Association takes this humble privilege of prayerfully wishing you well on behalf of the Naga people. Ours is an apolitical Association of Elders having weathered varied experiences of life at the age of 60 years and above from various Tribes of Nagaland. We are trying the very best we can to sensitively understand the evolving political and social scenarios beyond and around us with honest concerns. At our ripened age we have neither the energy nor the inclination to pick up an axe to grind and therefore our opinion is purely limited to what we sincerely believe to be in the fair interest of India and our people. Without prejudice therefore, we respectfully but candidly share our considered views in the hope that it would in some small way assist you in your quiet time deliberation before taking your final call on the following issues.
1. “Framework Agreement”: When two adversaries resolve to settle their differences through peaceful means it offers a legitimate reason to applaud the effort as in the case of “Framework Agreement” of 3rd August 2015 between NSCN (lM) and the Government of India (Gol). What however remains a repugnant enigma is the non-transparent nature of this agreement that has persistently spawned unmitigated suspicion in the minds of the original stake holding majority from Nagaland. Gol will have surely noticed that the Nagas of Nagaland had politely clapped their hands when the Framework Agreement was signed but did not spontaneously jump with joy in celebration like those of our Southern brothers from Manipur. That in itself registers a telling depth of how delicately balanced tribal value system can be. It is extremely important that any monumental decision which is bound to irreversibly impact the destiny of a people must first be reviewed for majority consensus by those whose lives are directly being put on the line. This is a universally acceptable norm that any honourable democratic society is expected to adhere to. Deviation from this principled path can only negate the espoused objectives. In Nagaland context, it is all the more imperative for the Gol not to casually misread or misjudge the complex ground reality where multiple Armed Factions are in contention, aggressively nursing divergent views on the subject of Naga Sovereignty and Integration which could potentially lead to an explosive confrontation in the aftermath of a settlement with a single Faction claiming dominance. Shallow mandates and endorsements being propagated through collaborated consultations with self-serving sycophant leaders and yes-men do not necessarily represent the core concerns of the down-to-earth majority. Nagas must not be forced into another Civil War amongst ourselves. We are therefore firm in our collective conviction that there is no alternative to an inclusive approach of all stakeholders being taken on board as equals as the best and only possible option for achieving genuine lasting peace.
2. Issues on “Transfer of Traditional Ancestral Land” and “Integration”: It is our bounden duty to candidly remind the Hon’ble Prime Minister that the Nagas have never been seriously consulted in any major political decision undertaken by the Government of India in the past which directly and adversely sabotaged the legitimate destiny of the Naga. The international Boundary settlement between India and Myanmar is one such heartless instance where immediate families and clans within the same village were dismembered as foreigners overnight. Longwa Village in Mon District bordering Myanmar is a glaring example of this fact with the International Boundary running right through the centre of the Angh’s residence. This Chief now crosses the International boundary every other minute without passport or visa within his own kitchen. It also brings to mind the “9 Point Agreement” entered into between the Naga National Council (NNC) and Gol which envisioned, among other important issues, the transfer of all the ancestral traditional land back to Nagaland, but was unilaterally abrogated by the Gol. Be that as it may, the legitimacy of the subject remains relevant and the Nagas will continue to claim their traditional ancestral land now or later. It is incumbent upon India to honourably right this wrong which was arbitrarily committed against the Nagas without being consulted. Some clauses in the 16 Point Agreement were also partially abrogated unilaterally (as in the case of Clause 2) by transferring Nagaland from the Foreign Affairs Ministry to Home Affairs and (Clause 11) the discontinuation of Consolidated funding patter. On the other hand the issue of integration of contiguous Naga inhabited areas being brought under the same administrative umbrella (Clause 13) still remains unfulfilled. Agreements are drawn between contending parties with a conscious determination of fulfilling the terms of agreement and not be breached dishonourably and unilaterally. The magnitude of insincerity and the utter disrespect for the Nagas as equals is significantly evidenced in all the past actions of India. This consistency of unilaterally trampling upon the rights of the Nagas has greatly eroded the trust factor in India as an honourable Nation. It is however never too late to correct this insensitive lapses through sincere renewed beginnings if respectful relationship is to be harnessed. It follows that if Gol truthfully acknowledges the “Unique History of the Nagas”, the litmus test for India is to translate this unique status in real terms which, from the Naga’s standpoint, can only mean acknowledging the sovereign status of Nagaland. Constructively focusing more on a friendly bilateral relationship between two sovereign neighbours would then bear more positive dividends for both people. This makes a great deal of fair sense as the right neighbourly thing to do based on honourable historical facts, no matter how jagged the challenge. It takes great courage to do the right thing and we have no reason to doubt that you Sir have it in abundance.
3. Uniform Civil Code (UCC): No matter how contentious Article 371 (A) of the Indian Constitution may be within the walls of our own Naga kitchen, it is nevertheless considered the only reliable guarantee that grudgingly spawns a modicum of confidence for Nagaland to moderate its troubled link with India under the present indefinite circumstance. Any reforms that remotely lead to destabilising this fragile moral foundry would spell a monumental disaster for all concerned. Disadvantageous as it may get to be for the Nagas, the flames of “Simon Commission” memorandum, 10th January 1929, could get reignited. Further, throughout the ages, Nagas have ably governed themselves with their nature nurtured experiences in traditional and customary practices. It comprehensively encompasses most conceivable aspects of criminal or social jurisprudence which have comfortably withstood the test of time without much controversy. The need for its replacement is therefore uncalled for at this stage. There have been times when even Supreme Court and the High Courts have found it expedient to return complicated land disputes/ civil suits directly filed in their Courts, back to our traditional courts for final settlement. That in itself is a significant testimony for our traditional courts by the Apex Court. The legal world would perhaps write off the traditional practice of “swearing oath” over land disputes under the customary law as a typical tribal mumbo jumbo, out of tune with the civilised sensibility and so on. Yet such an oath, traditionally administered, puts a terminal end to further disputes because the people of today still strongly adhere to its traditional sanctity with psychological conviction in its supernatural potency. The most unique and relevant factor that additionally deserves special mention is that the litigants get to redress their grievances without being burdened much with litigation fees which is generally free. This unique quality will certainly not figure as a: attribute in the proposed ‘Civil Code’ no matter how ‘Unified’ it may be conceived and structured. if UCC become a uniform enforceable reality through an Act of Parliament in exercise of Article 368, the consequential negative impact on the essence of Article 371 (A) will not only get fatally crippled but would seriously impede our timeless traditional judicial system that is still affordable even by a common man. Such a system is unheard of in our present so-called modern civilised Courts where the astronomical litigation fee is depriving justice to lesser beings and where money is also being used to purchase truth or even silencing it. Our universally inoffensive customary Law is reasonably equipped to deal with smaller hiccups in any criminal or social sectors without the interference of an alien unified civil code which is more likely to vitiate our simple and serene traditional justice delivery setting. Its introduction is considered ill advised and therefore unacceptable in our Naga society on both counts of: (a) possible conversion of Article 371 (A) to redundancy and (b) the potential relevance of free judicial service through our traditional customary Courts being compromised. We therefore firmly prefer to be left beyond the purview of UCC.
4. Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA): A lingering feeling persists that the Gol has still not reached that point of making serious effort to really understand the core value system that make the Nagas tick . Gol with its superior Armed Forces had committed cold-blooded atrocities against the total Naga population for several decades on a misconstrued notion that the Nagas were fighting a ‘Secessionist War’ against India. History bears witness that the Indians did not know the existence of a race called the Nagas as much as Nagas did not know of India’s existence before the advent of the British. The Nagas were honour bound to therefore bravely stand against all odds and face the might of Indian aggression to defend their inherent freedom with their precious lives … which they did. This is the core attribute of a true Naga spirit that still exists below the surface should push come to shove. Sufficed to say that the excruciatingly inhuman tragedies and indignities heaped upon the Nagas by India was unjustifiable even by animal standards. The raw details of the diabolical atrocities committed would shame even the lowest form of human specimen without conscience. The unpalatable aspect is that much of the same commissions of the past are still being re-enacted now and again even in the present times by the Indian Army. It has taken more than half a century with thousands of martyrs on both sides of the fence for India to finally awaken to a costly realization that Nagas have a “Unique Historv”. Yet from a distant mainland the Gol continues to deliberately unleash a monstrous Act that inflicts untold injustice against its fellow human beings by empowering its Armed Forces with a draconian Law called Amed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). It should normally be in the fitness of things to conclude that the Nagas are no longer a threat to India’s National Security by virtue of their “Unique History” that India has acknowledged. It is for Gol to explain to itself the real meaning of “Unique History of the Nagas” because AFSPA does not quite fit into the groove of that reality as Nagas understand it to be. The Nagas also fail to comprehend the unsound logic or appreciate the sincerity of India in wanting to continue this inhuman law in Nagaland despite the changed circumstance. The core question that require a candid answer is: Would the Army Generals, and all other powers that be agree to enforce such a law in their own backyard where their wives, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends are routinely exposed to butchery, torture, rape or murder by their own uniformed personals on mere suspicion without any concrete evidence of misconduct and also be legally incapacitated to seek for justice against the perpetrators…because this is the core feature of AFSPA? There is no need for second guessing that the answer will definitely be a reverberating “NO”! If such a Law is not personally acceptable to them in their own surroundings, with what human conscience do they impose the same Law on other fellow beings? With what human conscience do they sleep at night knowing very well that the lives of innocent people• are being jeopardised with unjust law that they have wilfully perpetuated? Have their conscience fled the country? Apart from the official acknowledgement of the “Unique History of the Nagas” there is a “Cease Fire .Agreement” in place with all the Factions but one. India should not be punishing Nagaland for this one Faction which is practically based in Myanmar. If at all, India should instead be focusing its attention on counter-part Myanmar to ease their threat perception. Above all, there is also a serious ongoing negotiation at the National level in progress for a final settlement. If these are all sincere, committed endeavours with an honest intent of ironing out the protracted differences on the part of Gol then this abhorrent AFSPA, which is the height of all offensive aberration against human rights and human dignity in its entirety, must be withdrawn forthwith. Upholding such a Law is a disgraceful insult to Indian democracy. The very definition of uniqueness propels Nagaland to an entirely different plane of assessment and should therefore not be equated with the rest of the Northeast States with insurgency problems. It will be far more rewarding for India to cultivate the gcodwill of the Naga people rather than encourage hatred which AFSP is generating with absolute certainty. Nagas have unjustly been exposed to extreme suffering for over 60 years and it is criminal on the part of India to indifferently prolong this prosecution. That India commands a superior fire power over the Nagas should not destabilise the mental health of the good Indian people in authority to take an ethical and moral judgement on this for the sake of humanity and withdraw AFSPA from Nagaland. We do not appreciate bullying as an acceptable attitude.
5. December 25th: Good Governance Day: Government of India will first have to declare that India is no longer a Secular Nation. The Nagas are not against “Good Governance Day” in itself. However the Christian of Nagaland and Christian community everywhere else finds this decision extremely that Gol should insensitively select 25th December, the most important day in a Christian calendar, out of 365 days in a year to declare ”Good Governance Day”. This is a very deliberate insult to Christians throughout the country and we therefore demand that it be immediately withdrawn.
Dr. S. Imkong Tushi Ao, President, NSCA;
Mr. S. Ghunakha Swu, Gen. Secretary, NSCA