Nation-building is a collective affair and not a one-sided project — VS Atem
Dimapur, Sep. 21 (EMN): The Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, Delhi organised the 18th Morung Dialogue on September 19, on the topic ‘To Freedom: A human story.’
VS Atem, Gen. (Retd.), former Longvibu, of the Naga Army and now member, Collective Leadership, NSCN/GPRN narrated his story of serving in the Naga movement, leading up to his views on the current negotiations, an update stated on Monday.
Atem began by sharing about his childhood and life in the Naga movement.
He narrated an incident from his college days in Shillong where he had been pursuing his B.Sc. Hons (Chemistry).
‘’The Naga student leaders were put behind bars for protesting against the screening of the movie ‘Yeh Gulistan Hamara’, because of its racist and demeaning portrayal of the Nagas. While the protest started as a peaceful procession, a fight broke out between the Naga students and the police. The police were easily overpowered by the Naga boys, but later the student leaders including him were arrested. The then education minister of Nagaland had to be sent to Shillong to release the student leaders from jail.
The incident was the turning point for Atem. He realised Indians do not believe in sensible arguments but only in force. He destroyed his degree certificates, left everything, and went straight to the jungles to join the Naga National Movement in May of 1973,’’ it read.
Atem also expressed disappointment with the long-drawn peace process with the Government of India (GOI). He had thought that the peace talks would find resolution within 4 to 5 years, it read.
The reason for this delay, he said, was that the ‘GOI under UPA was not for solution and they were just trying to manage the conflict. R.S Pandey, the interlocutor of the Naga peace talk during the UPA wanted to push forward the process to its logical conclusion but was apparently discouraged from doing so and was asked to instead manage the situation and so Pandey eventually resigned. The NDA government under the leadership of Vajpayee was not a stable one as he was leading a minority government. Therefore, the talks could not progress well.’
According to Atem, the current NDA government has ‘everything to conclude the long-drawn negotiation, but after 5 long years since signing of the Framework Agreement (FA), the Nagas have been patiently holding on.’
In response to a question, Atem expressed his opinion that ‘no one is a fence sitter and no one is a front runner for the Naga cause. It is a team effort like football where there is no difference between the scorer and goalkeeper. Every Naga is equally playing for the team.’ He said, “whatever can be done at present should be done,” read the statement.
“There are no two issues of the Naga cause but only one, and therefore there can be only one solution,” he stated.
Neiketu Iralu, who called the dialogue an honest conversation, commented that the Naga people have become a ‘people and a nation’ and we should be thankful to God for what we have achieved so far. According to him we cannot keep on ‘blaming each other for not achieving what we have not achieved yet’. He further commented that the Nagas believe and try to act on what is right and good, but according to him, the problem with the Nagas is we have all along ‘done things our way and not God’s way’. Neiketu suggested that the ‘advanced’ Naga tribes should take the first step and ask the other tribes to identify where they had done wrong to the Naga people and ‘say that they’re sorry.’ Thereafter, the other tribes can be given the same opportunity. This, to him, is the way forward to peace, it read.
Atem expressed hope that the different Naga political groups will ‘one day unite even though this unity has been elusive so far.’ He also informed that they have been continuously sending people on this very mission. The Covenant of Naga Reconciliation that was signed in June 2009 stated that the Naga reconciliation will be based on the historical and political rights of the Nagas. The collective leadership, according to him, hopes that the covenant will be respected by all. He also appealed to the civil society organisations to stand united for the Naga cause and also to recognise the need to understand each other.
Nation-building is a collective affair and not a one-sided project, he asserted.
According to him, the present generation should not be scared of suffering and hardship and that we must accept every challenge that comes our way and be guided by wisdom from God.