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Views & Reviews

Response to the “Naga Senior Citizens Appeal to Prime Minister”

By EMN Updated: Dec 27, 2016 8:27 pm

In a memorandum addressed to the prime minister (PM) of India dated December 21, 2016 and appearing in at least two Nagaland papers shortly thereafter, the Nagaland Senior Citizens Association (NSCA) gave its opinions on a number of major issues, adding that, “our opinion is purely limited to what we sincerely believe to be in the fair interest of India and our people.”

The lengthy article is divided up by numbered topics, and I will address what I consider the relevant ones. Paragraph number 1: “Framework Agreement.” The NSCA was rightly upset by the, “non-transparent nature of this agreement ….” It goes on to insist that any final agreement (the details of which the Nagas have been waiting since August 3, 2015, the date of the Framework Agreement) “must first be reviewed for majority consensus by those whose lives are directly being put on the line.”

Referring to what must be the NSCN (IM), the NSCA says, “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….[T]here 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.” This seems to imply that any detailed agreement that is revealed by the NSCN (IM) will be rejected by the NSCA and other Nagas if all other groups are not included in the ongoing negotiations, this despite the fact that the results might be what the NSCA would be agreeable to.

I suggest here that the reason the NSCA is taking this position is that it knows very well that the details, when revealed, will NOT be what it wants (and, by extension, what the “down-to-earth majority” want). I have taken position in previous articles in The Morung Express and other Nagaland papers that the government of India (GoI) will never give the Naga people a sovereign Naga nation, nor will it agree to a greater Naga nation, that is, Nagalim. I am also certain that the NSCN (IM) is reluctant to reveal the details of the Framework Agreement, long overdue, because the GoI has in fact not agreed to these two demands by all Naga nationalists. Paragraph number two is the key to this puzzle.

Paragraph number 2. is titled, “Issues on ‘Transfer of Traditional Ancestral Land’ and ‘Integration’.” It basically states that the GoI has betrayed the Nagas in relation to the greater Naga community and insists that “the transfer of all ancestral traditional land back to Nagaland” is the only right thing for the GoI to do: “…the Nagas will continue to claim their traditional ancestral land now and later.” And this includes not only the lands in the surrounding states (see the consequences of such claims in recent actions by all sides in Manipur), but also in Myanmar.

And to make its position clear about the main issue, a sovereign Naga nation, the NSCA states, “…if GoI 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 neighbors would then bear more positive dividends for both people.”

Actually, the immediately above sentence is misleading in the extreme: it would certainly not “bear more positive dividends for both people,” but for the Nagas only. On what is called the mainland of India, among the over one billion people, the dividends would definitely not be “positive,” which is the reason that the GoI will never grant a sovereign Naga nation to the Naga people.

Paragraph number 4. is title, “Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSA).” The NSCA describes it as “draconian,” which it certainly is. It goes on to say, “…the GoI continues to deliberately unleash…[this] monstrous Act…” on the Naga people, despite the fact 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 important to understand what this last sentence means to the NSCA. Because it has decided that the GoI has acknowledged that the Nagas have a “Unique History,” this must lead, in its eyes, to the GoI agreeing to a sovereign Naga nation. And this conclusion, by the GoI, in turn must lead the GoI to believe that the “the Nagas are no longer a threat to India’s National Security.”

But what the NSCA fails to understand is that, even if the GoI has acknowledged the “Unique History” of the Naga people, this fact in itself changes nothing. The GoI will under no cercumstances grant the Naga people a sovereign Naga nation. And that concerns reasons related to facts on the ground throughout India, reasons that the Naga nationalists have failed to acknowledge, and in some cases, even after acknowledging such reasons, have responded by saying, “That’s India’s problem, not ours.”

It is this Naga arrogance and continued demand for a sovereign Naga nation that remains “a threat to India’s National Security.” And as long as the Naga nationalists continue that demand, the AFSPA will never be lifted in Nagaland. If the Naga nationalists, and the Naga people generally, want the AFSPA rescinded in Nagaland, they must unambiguously, and sincerely, renounce any claim to a sovereign Naga nation and accept their status as a state in the nation of India. Until that happens, the act will continue in force.

It should be clear, after reading the whole article by the NSCA, and even my summary here (as I’ve tried to be fair in my choice of quotes from its article) that there is one word missing from the whole article, that is, the word COMPROMISE. The NSCA, and every other Naga nationalist writing in the Nagaland papers have never agreed to any compromise on the issue of Naga sovereignty or the issue of a greater Naga community, that is, Nagalim. The arrogance of such an attitude is obvious to any non-Naga like myself. The Nagas have criticized me and others like me for not viewing these issues through the eyes of a Naga, in order to understand the enormous power of these dreams for the Naga people,dreams based on history, martyrdom, and religion. That is a valid point and all those who are not Nagas have a responsibility to try to view these issues through Naga eyes.

But it is even a greater failure on the part of all Nagas, and especially on the part of Naga nationalists who actively lead their people in editorials of papers, in books, in speeches, and in other ways, not to view the Naga demands, always stated as non-negotiable, through the eyes of the GoI and hundreds of millions of Indians on the mainland of India. The arrogance and self-righteousness of the Naga leaders will ultimately lead to the destruction of the Naga people.

Robert A. Silverstein

By EMN Updated: Dec 27, 2016 8:27:18 pm