Speech Delivered by Mr. Senka Ao, President, Naga National Council, NNC/FGN on the occasion of the 72nd Naga Plebiscite Day (May 16,2022)
My dear Naga brothers and sisters,
I greet you all in the name of our Almighty God on this momentous and historic day of the Naga people. It was on this day, in the year 1951, under the banner of the Naga National Council (NNC), the Naga people boldly stated and voluntarily exhibited to the world, the desire and aspiration to live as a free and sovereign nation, thereby exercising the right to determine our own future. A solemn and irrevocable vow was symbolically expressed by means of thumb impressions in a voluntary referendum which has become popularly known as the PLEBISCITE of May 16, 1951. A remarkable feature of the Plebiscite was the overwhelming 99.9% vote in favour of Naga Independence which stands as a testimony of the unity of the Nagas and at the same time serves as an affirmation of both the historic Memorandum to the Simon Commission of 1929 and the declaration of Naga Independence on 14th August, 1947.
The Plebiscite conveys a strong twin-message: the spirit and aspirations of the Naga people for self determination and the resentment against the forceful occupation by India and the arbitrary territorial division undertaken without the knowledge and consent of the Nagas.
The NNC was democratically formed by the Naga representatives on 2nd February 1946, the formation based on clear identity of God’s creation of the Naga race, history, tradition and culture. The NNC was established as a Political Institution on the Principle of Non-Violence and has always sought to resolve all issues through democratic and constitutional means. The NNC declared the Independence of Nagaland on 14 th August 1947. To augment this declaration, the Plebiscite was conducted under the leadership of A. Z. Phizo, the Father of the Naga Nation and the fourth President of NNC on 16th May 1951. In his Plebiscite Speech the policy of non-violence is explicitly outlined by the Father of the Nation, when he says:
“Most of the histories of human freedom were recorded in human blood. Most of the foundations of free nations were built on human bones and crushed skulls. But we want our national independence to be holy and pure. We do not want to mix our freedom, and our independence with human blood. We are determined to extricate ourselves clear with understanding, by goodwill and through reason, so that we may continue to live in freedom and enjoy national independence.” We do not have everything but we have all the basic needs in political matters for the country’s administration, community organization, economic set up (‘uki-ulie’ meaning ‘our house-our fields/land’); and these institutions we have in the way we need it. That Nagas are not Indians and Indians are not Nagas. The difference between Indians and Nagas are too varied- racially, politically, legally, socially, religiously, etc.; the feelings is too deep, the attitude is too wide and too malignant for the two nations ever to think to live together in peace and the only way for the two to live in peace is to live apart. We are a democratic people, and as such, we have been struggling for a Separate Sovereign State of Nagaland in a democratic way through constitutional means.
We celebrate this historic day with pride and think ourselves fortunate to be Nagas and also to rededicate ourselves to pursue the Naga National Cause with renewed vigor and vitality. Nagas have always been fierce lovers of equality and freedom. Our ancestors believed that equality and freedom are unquestionable values and principles by which people should live by and live for. Each village was a sovereign republic and enjoyed unquestionable freedom. No matter how powerful a village was, it had no intention or desire to conquer other villages, threaten other villages into submission or to rule or dominate over other villages. We lack even the colonial-imperial vocabularies like “submission” or “surrender”. It is no doubt true that powerful or mother villages were recognized in terms of certain nominal tax or tribute, however, the practice was more of recognition either of their political leadership or for customary roles rather than surrender of their autonomy. The autonomy and freedom of any Naga village was non-negotiable and inalienable. The commemoration of the Plebiscite Day gives an opportunity for our people to ponder on our foundational and fundamental belief and principle, the legitimate right of the Nagas to choose our own destiny and also bring to the attention of the world that the Nagas still continue to suffer against her will in th imperialistic hands of occupational forces, viz., India and Myanmar.
Modern civilization with its values, including democratic values have unfortunately till date failed to truly educate these occupational forces that no people group, big or small, can be forced to live under the domination of another against her desire. In spite of our unfulfilled dream and aspiration to live as a free nation, we still remain proud and continue to live with dignity because on this day, seventy one years ago, the Naga people boldly stood up as one to express our resentment against the dehumanising practice of imperialism.
May the historic occasion remind us that we are a group of people resolutely determined and committed to live as free people, free to be who we are and who we want to be. Let us all remember and cherish the fact that a great historical event took place on this day, when the citizens of Nagaland, from the mountain tops to the valleys, courageously registered themselves and in unison boldly expressed to the world, the desire and aspirations to live as a free and independent nation. The Naga Plebiscite is a pillar on which our rights and aspirations are embedded, a foundational pillar which cannot be undone and which will not perish so long as heaven and earth exist.
May the Almighty God who guided our people in the past and gave us courage to boldly declare to the world that we are a free and sovereign nation continue to guide our path and instill the same desire in each one of us today as we celebrate and commemorate the Naga Plebiscite Day.