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Op-Ed

Realities and Tragedies Confronting Naga Nationalism.

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By EMN Updated: Aug 26, 2017 10:05 pm
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After careful observation, I am compelled to conclude that we have so far failed to see the realities and tragedies confronting our ideal for Nationalism. Firstly, Nagas ought to study the root causes of such maladies afflicting Naga Nationalism in order to push for reformation or reorganize the present ineffective and unsuitable system. In addition, we are also uncertain of our future political settlements and we are still lacking behind other communities in regards to other important matters of economy and law, but these questions shall be dealt later.

Now on the question of Realities and Tragedies affecting Naga Nationalism: From its advent, the Nagas, under Zapu Phizo’s leadership, decided to fight for separate Naga Nation. Naga Nationalism had and has been a driving force in developing and shaping Naga history till today. However, Nagas had failed to think and live up to the standards laid down under the principles of Nationalism due to the absence of its binding and Supreme Naga Constitution given by the Nagas to the Nagas to govern the Nagas. Even in the existence of constitution, we cannot deny that the old habits, customs, and spirit of the different Naga tribes will easily surpass the constitution.  Here for better understanding, a comparative study on the impact of Constitution on Indian Nationalism after India’s independence is necessary. Indian Nationalism would not have survived all the internal and external crises since the establishment of an Independent India in the absence of its Supreme Indian Constitution governing, guiding, and protecting its citizens. I present the example of Indian Constitution because in Indian National Politics, no Indian citizen, irrespective of his community status, had tried to put himself above the constitution. Whereas, in Naga politics, any Naga can violate any existing constitution and push forward his or his tribal agendas. This is one of the reasons why small Naga populaces have so many parallel governments creating more chaos. I compare Naga Nationalism with Indian Nationalism since Naga Nation as an independent country had been in existence since 14th August 1947, and yet have failed to present a Supreme Naga Constitution to govern the Nagas in the lines of Indian Constitution governing the Indians and progressing as a Nation. India is India because of the supremacy of the Constitution of India. And I like to remind that Indian Nation have only one Government, i.e. the Union Government of India, because of the supremacy of the Constitutional Law of India alone and not because of the supremacy of the Indian citizen nor the supremacy of any Indian community/tribes. Furthermore, Indians have agreed to be governed by the constitution of India alone. And no Indian political party can destroy the basic structure of Indian constitution. Whereas in Naga nation, it is exactly the opposite; here, the supremacy lies in the hands of a single man and his tribe. He can violate any, except his own tribe’s, constitution or law; he can create his own party/faction and govern his country like a dictator. In the mean time, the mass, governed by Nagaland State government under the Indian Constitution, jabber about democracy as if we were solely responsible for developing democratic values and principles and how we love following democratic form of government including the democratic electoral system, the multi-party system, the freedom of speech and expression, etc. At the end, the legitimacy of the Nagaland State politics is questionable, with unstable government administering the state due to politicians lacking any leadership aptitudes and concern for the citizens they claim to represent. No wonder, Nagaland the poorest state in India.

Generally speaking, Nagas hate criticism and favour only praises, but if the world’s top Anthropologist, Sociologist, Psychologist, and Political Scientists make a survey on finding the rate of stupidity of world communities, the winner will be the Naga Community (World Stupidest Community). We have come to face present critical situation due to our limited knowledge in the discipline of law, politics, economics, and diplomacy coupled with our unwillingness to change policies even when they are not suitable and practical in reality. After all, in this highly advanced and technologically globalized world, village and tribal thoughts alone cannot guarantee good governance. But this is not the end yet and Nagas can do better.

Now let us examine some of the primary factors inhibiting Naga Nationalism and find effective ways to alleviate them:

  1. Naga national movement soon turned into a Multi-Factional Movement, thanks to habits, custom and spirit of the Naga Tribes, within two decades after it commencement. This, in turn, blocked the Nagas from drafting supreme Naga Constitution to control and guide the movement. Even the peoples’ intellectual capacity and situations at that time did now allow Nagas to establish such supreme and binding Constitution. However, the flip side of it was that it inevitable put the Naga nationalism behind individual tribe’s interests (i.e. Tribalism) and with it the era of darkness begun. The irony is that even the present Nagas do not care much on supremacy of constitution preferring promote individual tribe’s interests.
  2. To prevent further damage to Naga Nation, Supreme Naga Constitution must be established; thus making a clear cut line between a federal and unitary structure. Observing the past and present political system and the damages incurred to Nagas, I prefer pushing for strong centralized Pro- Naga Government that by-pass the tribal system altogether. The present federal political system, with no centralized authority over all the tribes, only promotes more animosity where bigger federal units or tribes dictate and harass smaller unit in any subject matter. Of course, this is not to forget that even within a single tribe, the bigger villages have been harassing smaller villages. Keeping all these in mind, it is of little wonder that Naga Nation has ceased to exist in spirit and in letter. Reminding again that, Nagas are not politically, educationally, and economically advance enough to benefit by following federal system in its conventional sense and multi-party system of other western countries. If we are serious about Naga Nation, we must study, both from the past and present, the root causes of all our internal conflicts, and seek to reform our destructive system and concentrate on economic advancements. All the present infighting among the Nagas is the failure on our part to make a good use out of federal structure. When we do not really know how to follow a system and progress by following such a system, we need to rethink and question its viability with regards to our society.
  3. Supreme Naga Constitution must define the unambiguous meaning of Naga Nationality and its highest goals. By now we ought to realize the difference between nationality, ethnicity, and tribes/sub-tribes. Naga individuals called themselves ‘a Nationalist,’ but they fail to see its true meaning. How can one consider oneself as a nationalist, yet live, think, act, and identify primarily as a member of his tribe, not as Naga? We can no longer continue to flirts between a Naga Nationalist and individual Naga tribe. It is not wrong to say that Naga Individuals consider their tribe as an entity above a Nation since every tribal body functions as a Nation, governing the actions and behaviors of its tribesmen where its decisions are final and binding. Such unfortunate practices illustrate the presence of numerous tiny nations within an already tiny and fragmented Naga Nation. The longer period Nagas refuse to reforms this backward practice and promote Naga citizenship, Naga Nation will continue to remain a theory, not reality. Again, we consider ourselves first as citizens of our tribe. In other words, our first and absolute loyalty belongs to our tribe, thereby relegating Naga Nation as secondary. Yet, we dream and naively talk of Naga Nation without seeing the reality and fail to reforms our political and social system. Another sad reality is that, Naga tribes are suspicious of each other. The wrong mixtures of nationality, ethnicity, tribe, and clan have jeopardized the Naga cause.

Under the Supreme Naga Constitution, any Naga tribe can preserve its tribe’s identity even in the absence of classification and recognition on the basis of majority or minority. The Supreme Naga Constitution solely focuses on the development and protection of its citizens based on the concept of Naga Citizenship alone and not on the basis of tribes. Without such Constitution, tribalism will sink deep in the psyche of the Nagas that will ultimately destroy Naga Nation. Since any Naga tribe never hesitates to withdraw its membership, support, or cooperation from any apex bodies when its Tribe’s interests are not met, it only exacerbates the fragmentation of the Nagas as a community with its own “unique history.” If such practices go unchecked, Naga Nation will soon become a myth. Moreover, presenting a question, has any state thus far attempted to secede from the Union of India? Such attempts will attract serious offence of Sedition covered by IPC Section 124 A.

  1. It’s now or never for us to put Naga Nationality above our individual tribe identity and work together as a Naga, and not as this or that tribes. We cannot afford to play regional politics with Nagas. Rest of India do play regional politics, but India can survive because of the supremacy of the Indian Constitution, which is aided by its powerful institutions, such as an Independent Judiciary, population, patriotic citizens, education, media, industries, religion, and, most importantly, a strong standing Army. Whereas, we have no constitution; this allows tribes to do anything as they wish. If Nagas cannot compromise on our tribe’s identity or interest, we cannot expect anything positive results.
  2. In order to acquire practical knowledge on governance and its economic policy, we must diligently study Japanese model, Singaporean Model and political system of other multi-ethnic countries to advance and develop Naga’s interests. For instance, Japan has numerous Japanese clans, but they do not classify nor recognize such clans/tribe identities. This safeguards and promotes Japanese National interests. What is Naga National interest? In this matter, individual tribe’s interests cannot be regarded as Naga National interests; ironically, individual tribe/clan interests have surpassed Naga National interest again and again.

Uncertain Political Settlement:

I write on this uncertain political settlement not to hurt sentiments of any Naga political groups, but to appeal to all Nagas that it is high time to seek a new beginning and move out of this stagnant era by accepting the realities that confronts us. We must always keep in mind that other Northeastern states with its varied ethnic groups are keenly waiting and observing Naga political issues. Naga political leaders cannot be swept away by regional politics, egoism, and tribe centric politics at these critical times. One wrong decision will haunt the Naga population for ages to come.

Coming back to the question on uncertain political settlement: Will the Union Government give Nagas total Independence, to live as an Independent nation, or offer two country one-system formula, free from interference in Domestic but not on foreign policy, or grant the status of an autonomous state, where funding, foreign affairs remain under the control of the Union Government. Now, Nagas has to be contended with any definition of sovereignty to save the remnants of what remains of Naga Nation. We already know this, but still failed to admit that the terms of settlement lie in the generosity of the Union Government of India. Though the word generosity may sound politically incorrect, Nagas are not in a condition, then and now, to attain whatever we demand; rather it is whatever GOI is willing to concede. Though we may believe the respective parties entered into the negotiation as equal, we are not equal in the first place, neither now nor will be in the next thousand years. So we must take whatever is put on the table.

Failing now will not guarantee that we will win tomorrow, for we may not remain tomorrow thanks to our political blindness aided by the ingredients of narrow mindedness, in spite of College Degrees, family environment, unwillingness to change our destructive tribal attitudes, individualism, and partiality leading to tribalism and inter-tribe conflicts. It is not important whether the readers agree or not with what has been said, but what’s important is that, this is a factual reality.

Lack of Economic policy and Just Laws:

Since the advent of Naga National movement, Nagas never had solid economic policy nor did the prevailing societal conditions allow for it. NPGs had no sustainable economic policy of their own even after the signing of ceasefire agreement, forcing them to resorts to unabated taxation which in turns forced the youths to lose faith on theory and practicalities of Naga Nation, including the Naga Political groups. The then poor economic conditions of the Nagas led almost all the schooled and college educated youths to quickly jump in to Indian government service for survival. In this matter, Nagas can also learned from Indian Nationalist leader Subash Chandra Bose, who after clearing highly sought Indian Civil Service Exam did not join the prestigious Indian Civil Service on the ground that he is Indian and chose to fight British occupation of India. He stood his ground as he was a man of principle at the same time from a rich family background. In Naga ethics then and now, youths want to be an IAS officer, so the blaring question that faces us is that where is our Nation now? Even those Nagas who joined Indian civil service speaks on Naga National movement and on being a Naga, but the fact is, he forfeits his right to comment on Naga Nationalism once he joins the Indian civil service. These sad development accompanied with its own ironies were the result of the absence of economic policy of the Naga Nation and its movement. Almost all the shortcomings in Naga National Movement were due to absence of Common Law system to regulate the behavior of the whole Nagas. Even now it is apparent that Nagas do not bother to seek and follow the advice of “Economists” and “Experts in Law” in order to seek a new beginning with novel ideas. No Nation can survive without Just Laws and effective Economic Policies.

Having partly accomplished the task of pointing out the shortcomings in our past and contemporary history, I conclude by stating that, in the face of realities and tragedies confronting Naga Nationalism, the old cherished idea of a Naga Nation has so far managed to survive, but for how long?

Pakinrichapbo (Advocate)
Dimapur, Nagaland

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By EMN Updated: Aug 26, 2017 10:05:21 pm