Speech of Neiphiu Rio, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) on the occasion of Consultative Meeting on 25th August 2015 at Niathu Resort, Chumukedima, Dimapur, Nagaland
Chairperson Mr Keviletuo, respected General Secretary Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah, Honourable Member of Parliament Mr. Khekiho Zhimomi, and honourable MLAs from the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland, respected leaders of Naga nationalists organisations, leaders of civil societies, representatives of mass based organisations and NGOs, church representatives, tribal leaders and representatives of political parties, delegates who have come from far and near and my dear fellow Naga brothers and sisters.
1. I praise God Almighty for this significant occasion and for bringing the Naga people thus far. I thank the NSCN (GPRN) and the organising committee of the 8th Naga People’s Consultative Meeting on Indo-Naga Political talks and for the opportunity given to me to speak on this occasion. I am privileged to stand before you today as your Member of Parliament to address you as a facilitator to the Naga peace process, a role our party has been shouldering when I was Chief Minister of the state and now as Member of Parliament in Delhi. I once again take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to our dynamic leaders Chairman Mr. Isak Chishi Swu and General Secretary Thuingaleng Muivah and all ranks and file of the NSCN IM for signing the historic Naga Peace Accord with the Government of India on 3rd August, 2015 at New Delhi. However, I am sad that our Chairman could not be with us today because of ill health. I wish him speedy recovery. Our congratulations and appreciation is extended to the Honourable Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi ji, who has exhibited exemplary and decisive leadership in addressing the decades old Indo-Naga political conflict.
2. The Prime Minister while addressing the gathering on 3rd August 2015 after signing the historic agreement at New Delhi between Government of India and NSCN IM stated, and I quote: “Today, we mark not merely the end of a problem, but the beginning of a new future. We will not only try to heal wounds and resolve problems, but also be your partner as you restore your pride and prestige.” Unquote. Moreover, during his public address in the United Arab Emirates, he made special mention about the Naga imbroglio and the signing of the Naga peace accord, which has further internationalized the Naga political issue. All these instances go to prove that the Government of India is committed to solve the issue. Interlocutor to Naga Peace talks Mr. R. N. Ravi during his visit to Nagaland and on several occasions had stated that the Centre would reach out to every section of the Naga society to solve the Naga issue. I have also appealed to the Northeast MPs to cooperate and support our cause.
3. We must remember that it was former Prime Minister late Narashimha Rao who first acknowledged that the Naga problem is a political problem while it was during the time of Prime Minister Deve Gowda and Prime Minister I.K. Gujral when the ceasefire was formulated and declared. And then on 28thOctober, 2003, the then Prime Minister Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji on his three day visit to Nagaland stated, and I quote: “…of all the states in India, Nagaland has a unique history. We are sensitive to this historical fact.” Unquote.
4. I extend my sincere appreciation to the leadership of the NSCN (GPRN) under the guidance of Mr. Isak Chishi Swu and Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah who have led the peace process and the negotiations with utmost concern for the Naga people. The fact that the present negotiations have extended for a period of 18 years explains the difficulties which the collective leadership have endured in pursuance for the rights and identity of the Nagas. Their contributions and sacrifices will be remembered by the Naga people for all times to come. At this juncture the NSCN (GPRN) should exercise maximum magnanimity with all groups and different sections of society to foster a spirit of brotherhood and unity amongst our people. We are grateful to the civil societies, NGOs, tribal hohos, church and the FNR for what they have done over the years to keep the Naga family together and helped bring the different Naga national groups to meet, discuss and join in a process of finding a common ground that will enable the Nagas to arrive at a realistic position that is honourable and acceptable to the Nagas. The tireless effort of the FNR to strengthen the Naga reconciliation process led to the signing of Covenant of Reconciliation in 2009, Naga Concordant in 2011 and Lenten Agreement in 2014 besides many consultative meetings within India and abroad.
5. During this crucial period, we remember the contribution of our earlier leaders who have sown the seeds of Naga aspirations and carried the flame of Naga honour while protecting our unique history and culture, despite the greatest challenges from the mightiest of forces. The Naga people owe our present status and our future aspirations to all the visionary leaders before us, beginning from the members of the Naga Club who submitted our first memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929, to the bold, decisive and inspirational leadership of late A.Z. Phizo, and all the great sons and martyrs of our land. We salute and pay tribute to them and we rededicate ourselves towards the ideals with which they have led our people.
6. We are all aware that the 9 Points Agreement was signed in 1947 with the undivided undergrounds under the banner of NNC. However the agreement was not honoured by the Government of India. Realising the shortfalls when the 16 Points Agreement was signed in 1960, all the points contained in the 9 Points Agreement were incorporated meaning that the 1960 agreement was founded on the wisdom of the underground leaders. However, the 16 Points Agreement was signed without taking the undivided Naga undergrounds into confidence and therefore final resolution could not be achieved. In 1964 the ceasefire and six rounds of political talks resulted in deadlock and the ceasefire was abrogated. Subsequent fall out of the revolutionary government and the Shillong Accord led to the formation of NSCN and today after 35 long years of struggle and hardship we are in the midst of the present peace process which is in pursuant of another settlement.
7. Taking this opportunity, I feel it is appropriate to recollect some of the initiatives and decisions which we have taken over the past years, in our role as facilitators of the peace process. In September 2002, I stepped down from my position as the Home Minister because I did not subscribe to the policy of the leadership and also publication of the ‘Bedrock of Naga Society’.
8. With support of likeminded Nagas, we formed the Nagaland People’s Front (NPF), by rechristening the cock symbol party and went to the people in the general elections of 2003 with the commitment to uphold the principles and policies of the cock symbol party, that we would play the role of active facilitator to the peace process with a firm commitment that we would pave way for any alternative arrangement that may come about from the ongoing political negotiations. On 6th March 2003, a new NPF led government under my leadership was sworn in. Our stand of playing the role of active facilitator to the peace process was a paradigm shift away from the stand of the previous government and the scenario cleared all hurdles on the home front for the peace process and the political negotiations to work towards an honourable settlement that would bring lasting peace. During this term, despite the challenges of coalition politics, downsizing of ministry and constant defections, we overcame difficult hurdles and formed the Consultative Committee for Peace (CCP), to enhance our role as active facilitators.
9. On 3rd January, 2008 just two months before conduct of the general elections, the Government of India imposed President’s Rule upon the Naga people by creating instability and defections. In our election manifesto of 2008, the NPF under my leadership committed and I quote, “The party thus stands committed to preserve the unique history, honour and identity of the Nagas. The party will also continue to play a mediatory role for any peace talk with the Centre and to pave way for an alternative arrangement in case of an honourable and acceptable settlement of the Naga political issue is found. To strive for unity and integrity of all contiguous Naga inhabited areas…” unquote.
10.Despite imposition of President’s Rule, armed with our manifesto and political commitment, we returned with a bigger and stronger mandate in 2008 and formed the second consecutive NPF led DAN government under my leadership. At this juncture we formed the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), which met all sections of the undergrounds, national workers and civil societies as we continued to support the peace process in whatever way possible within our given limitations. In continuance of our role of facilitators, we organised the first ever Naga Consultative Meet from 5th to 7th March, 2009 at Hotel Japfu, Kohima. This meet was attended by overseas Nagas and all Naga Nationalist groups, civil societies, tribal hohos, political parties and NGOs, except Congress party. The meet passed six resolutions and extended six recommendations. The DAN government followed the policy of equi-closeness in an attempt to reach out to all underground groups and bring them to the negotiating table. The need to be united in our quest for a lasting solution motivated us to change the state logo to the Mithun, identifying with Naga culture, and incorporated with the word Unity, reflecting our core conviction.
11.To further expedite the peace process, we formed the Joint Legislators Forum (JLF), which comprised of all 60 members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly. The formation of the JLF was significant considering the fact that all members, irrespective of political affiliation and ideologies came together under one common banner for the first time, to support the peace process under the chairmanship of the Honourable Speaker. The JLF met with all the underground groups, civil societies, hohos, former legislators and parliamentarians. We also marched to Delhi and met with the Prime Minister, Home Minister, Leader of Opposition and leaders of various national political parties. On the eve of the general elections in Nagaland in 2013, we made the clarion call that there should be no election in Nagaland till solution is achieved. All sections welcomed this move but since Congress party opposed this stand, the state was compelled to face election again in 2013.
12.We also rechristened the Nagaland People’s Front to Naga People’s Front and extended the political participation of our party to neighbouring states to participate in the democratic process. We were faced with stiff opposition as enormous hurdles and roadblocks were created to prevent us from expanding the party. But with the support of the people and a deep sense of responsibility towards bringing the Naga family closer, we marched ahead and expanded the party to the contiguous Naga inhabited areas. We firmly believed that we were strengthening the foundations of political, social and emotional integration of the Nagas.
13. Our election manifesto of 2013 is crystal clear and I quote, “In 2003 and 2008, when we went to the people, we gave a sacred and sincere commitment to every citizen of the state. We promised to play the role of facilitator to the peace process. We also committed that we would step down and pave way for any alternative arrangement that may come about through a negotiated settlement which is honourable and acceptable to the people. Till today, that commitment still stands. This commitment will be fulfilled on any day, be it one day, one week, one month or one year…”. Unquote.
14.We won the 2013 elections with the highest ever margin of 38 MLA’s in the State elections history in a democratic manner under an atmosphere of the most peaceful, free and fair election in Nagaland. Subsequently, I resigned as Chief Minister after my election as MP to the Lok Sabha. One of the predominant reasons of my going to Delhi was to work and contribute towards realisation of a negotiated political settlement to the decades old Indo-Naga political problem. In the past year and a half, I have been pursuing that goal relentlessly at every given opportunity. I had spoken in the Parliament on the ongoing peace process and had urged upon the Government of India to expedite the negotiations and bring about early settlement that would be honourable and acceptable to the Naga people.
15.The decision of all the 60 members of the current Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) to form an opposition less government, in order to pursue the Naga political issue for an early settlement, is appreciated. I welcome and congratulate the efforts of the present government led by Shri. T.R. Zeliang in reviving the JLF and forming the Nagaland Legislators Forum comprising of all 60 legislators in pursuing the Naga political issue with the Honourable Prime Minister, Home Minister, National Security Advisor (NSA) and the interlocutor of the Naga peace talks in July 2015. To impress upon the central leadership to bring about an early solution of the Naga issue, the Naga Hoho and other organisations submitted a memorandum dated 12th June, 2015, to the Honourable Prime Minister and also met the Home Minister, NSA and the interlocutor in Delhi. The present hour is most crucial and we are undergoing a significant period in our history. The cry of the Naga people for permanent and real peace is now dawning upon us. This is indeed the greatest opportunity and we must all collectively make every possible effort to grab the prospect and make sure that this accord works in a successful manner. We have missed several opportunities in the past and if we allow this chance to slip, we may never get such an opportunity again. On such an occasion I wish to place on record my appreciation of the sacrifice and contributions of all other Nationalist groups towards our cause. Regardless of their participation in the ceasefire with the Government of India, I appeal to them to join this Naga Peace Accord in order to bring about the best possible settlement for our people. I trust that they will listen to the voice of the people’s desire for peace which is the prerequisite for any progress and development. It is time to act and not only talk.
16.Upholding the policy and the principles of the cock symbol party, we committed in our manifesto and as declared to the people to pave way for solution, let me assure the Naga people that we MPs are ready to step down and pave way without any hesitation in favour of an honourable solution. Even in 1964, 12 Democratic Party MLAs resigned after ceasefire was signed to pave the way for settlement. We are confident that the solution will open the opportunity for more Naga representation in legislatures and even in Parliament and therefore we will resign as MPs and we will go together to the people in democratic elections at the appropriate time.
17.The cock party, now NPF, is deeply rooted in the Naga political movement and was formed by the founders to facilitate for realisation of political solution through peaceful means and by participating in the democratic process. This is the reason why our motto is “fide non armies” meaning by faith, not by arms. The party has remained steadfast in its principles and ideology till today. Our objective has been to contribute towards a final political settlement of the Naga imbroglio and we are confident that the present peace process and the accord will make that purpose a reality. Therefore an honourable and acceptable peace accord will also mean successful achievement of the main political objective of the NPF on which the party was founded.
18.We had ventured beyond Nagaland state to nurture the growth of the wider Naga family. It is high time for Nagas to shed our differences and work together under one transformative vision of “One Dream, One Voice, One Future”. Everybody should set aside their differences and pride and make sacrifices for our younger generation and their future. For this cause, many had faced untold hardships and several had sacrificed their precious lives. We are aware that for administrative convenience, the rulers divided us into four states of India, while a sizeable Naga population continue to live in Myanmar; it is our duty to seek and have goodwill of one another.
19.Nagas have to show more responsibility and maturity in anticipation of the political settlement in order to enable our society to realise its full potentials. Our society has to overcome the challenges of divisions and we must all contribute towards inculcation of a positive and responsible attitude across all sections and collectively work with far sighted vision that is in the greater interest of the present and future generations.
20.Our youth have the capability and the potential to reach the highest standards in all spheres of activity, but generations have failed to realise their ambitions due to the challenges of political conflict, insurgency, social turmoil, poor infrastructure, etc. It is the responsibility of the leaders of the present day to remove these hurdles and create an atmosphere where our children and youth also get the same opportunities and facilities like their counterparts elsewhere in the country and beyond. We must derive encouragement and motivation from the fact that despite so many challenges and difficulties, our youth have achieved excellence and success at the highest levels. If indeed we provide them with the required environment to enable them to strive for their ambitions by removing the hurdles and challenges, I am confident that they will surprise us with unimaginable achievements and success.
21.How much longer will Nagas be held back while the rest of the world is marching ahead. The time is more than ripe for all sections to come together and strengthen this peace process and create the atmosphere for our people to strive and establish our rightful place in the environments of the global village, where the parameters for recognition are success, powered by excellence. India has recognised our unique history and is willing to restore our honour and dignity. It is time for the Naga family to move forward and join the national and global community by making positive contributions for peace and progress armed with our rich culture and heritage and the vast potentials of our people and of our land.
22.Even as we move ahead, we must keep in mind that we are on the verge of moving towards an era of peace, progress and prosperity. The leaders of the day must deliver good governance with the highest integrity and combat the forces of tribal polarizations, overcome the cancer of corruption and deliver the goods that will make Nagas realise our aspiration and allow us to reach our potentials through excellence and success.
Long live Nagas – – Kuknalim