Should India acknowledge the atrocities it caused on Nagas?
Kohima, April 29 (EMN): ‘Should India acknowledge and apologise for the atrocities inflicted upon the Nagas? Yes, because Nagas were treated as if they were, and are, secessionists. Only secessionists can be treated in the way India treated the Nagas’. This was a statement made by peace activist and member of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), Niketu Iralu.
He was responding to a query raised by a Kohima based journalist, Vibi Yhokha during a recent public interaction initiated by the FNR in Kohima as part of the forum’s ‘Walking the Naga Day’ series, on whether the FNR in its quest for reconciliation could to get India to acknowledge the atrocities that have happened over the years. Part of the day’s discussion explored the potentials for a true reconciliation, not just within the Naga family, but beyond, in the concept of overall healing and opening a path for walking together and to fully embrace the future.
The journalist pointed out that Indo-Naga peace talks that have been going on were all about ‘Naga independence and recognising the unique identity of the Nagas’ but never about acknowledging the atrocities that were committed upon the Naga people by the Indian armed forces.
Iralu explained that Nagas are not secessionists because they have made it very clear in their declaration to the Simon Commission in 1929 that the Nagas, as a people, would decide their own future. This was reaffirmed on 14 August 1947, a day before India gained independence. However, he pointed out, India came in and treated the Nagas as though they had agreed to be part of India and then tried to secede from that agreement.
“The younger generation must understand this…The people of India must know this: Nagas are not against India. Nagas are not anti-India…Indians were not around when the British came. Nobody was here, thus, we have decided to become a nation. So, to treat us as if we are secessionists like other groups in India…. I think that is why we say India should apologise to us. If we can get India to apologise on that issue, our political status will become very clear and the people of India will understand more and more why the Nagas have put up such a furious fight,” Iralu stated.
Amplifying the point that India needs to acknowledge and apologise to the Nagas, academician and FNR member Visier Sanyu said this was a historical process which imperial powers are made to understand the wrongs they have done. Recalling instances in the history of other nations and communities across the world including the Australian national apology to the Aborigines in 2008 (after 200 years) for overall healing, he said the government of India at the moment was not likely to acknowledge it but the Nagas have the right to an apology. He held that it was very important that the educated Nagas have to keep fighting until India apologises and some restitution is given for the lives and the villages they have burned down.
FNR convener Rev. Dr. Wati Aier, in a practical note, said Nagaland statehood came about after many years of struggle and the people behind the statehood had not been prepared for the outcome. He recalled that every agreement had resulted in an outburst of violence and militarism was unleashed in the state. Although many people did not like or accept the coming of the statehood, but the paradox is, he pointed out, many are enjoying the benefits of statehood.
Now, at a point when another agreement is in the offing, the FNR leader appealed to the people not to make the same mistakes that were made before. “Whether we like it or not, changes will come. So many of us may not like what is in the future, but in the process, we will become part of the system,” he said.
Towards this end, he said the FNR’s stand was that, whatever may come, Nagas must become one. “The most important thing is, we need to emotionally integrate ourselves,” he asserted.
Mention may be made here that the ravages of statehood and militarism have left the Naga people in a bitter and dim backdrop, traces of which, can still be found in heaps in many areas. Even in the state capital Kohima, the way of life is still typical of those trouble-torn days, with shops in the main town rushing to close by five o’clock in the evening till today.