Views & Reviews
The Curious Case of Naga Solution
“Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice? That is heaven’s part.” These famous lines were taken from the poem ‘Easter 1916’ by WB Yeats. The poem was written after a failed attempt by Irish revolutionaries to liberate Ireland from British occupation. An event that happened on April 1916, where the revolutionaries were captured and executed by a firing squad. Three years later, the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre happened, where British troops fired upon and killed 379 people, injuring thousands of Indians.
Yeats was referring to the revolutionaries whose hearts have hardened because of their prolonged suffering, fighting a superior force. Their struggles have made their hearts like stone so much so that they have become indifferent to the other realities of life. That is why the poet was asking “o when may it suffice?’ implying how long will it take, when will it be enough, these killings, warfare and bloodshed. But then he quickly adds “that is heaven’s part’ meaning only heaven knows. The same can also be said about the Naga cause for self-determination. No one knows how and when it will end.
If we date the emergence of Naga nationalism to the formation of the Naga Club in 1918, its been oven a century now. A century of conflicts and bloodshed with intermittent periods of peace. Many Nagas, who were born in that generation had a sense of nationalism, so strong, that they risked giving their life with the hope that their sacrifices would bear fruit one day. The curious case of Naga solution however, remain elusive till today. With parties to the negotiation, including the government of India (GoI), the NSCN (IM) and the other Naga Political Groups (NNPGs) giving contrasting statements on the purported points of agreement, it is difficult to ascertain whether any agreement is forthcoming at all.
The opening statement of the failed Naga-Hydari Accord of June 1947 reads “That the right of the Nagas to develop themselves according to their freely expressed wishes is recognised”. This implies that India recognises the inherent rights of the Naga people to determine what is best for them, even before new India came into being on August 15, 1947. However, the accord explicitly acknowledged the role of the governor, implying that Naga hills are to remain within the Indian Union, at least for a period of 10 years. The mistrust between India and Nagas started here, as both have different interpretations on point number 9 of the agreement. This leads to abrogation of the accord even before it takes root. Differences in opinion among NNC leaders also emerged due to differences in ideology and their approach for solution.
The confusion still lingers on. There are a group of Naga nationalist who believe in the absolute sovereignty of the Nagas, while others have taken the middle path- to find solution within the practical realities of contemporary politics. Eventually, those who have taken the middle path has been branded anti-Naga, and many lives have been lost because they dreamt in the possibility of progressing alongside India. The idea to live within the Indian union may be unacceptable to the Naga people and the NNC during the initial stage of the Naga uprising. But so much has changed in the past few decades that facts are pointing towards the opposite direction. It is true that Nagas can never forget the atrocities inflicted upon the Naga people by India and her army over the course of the conflict, but that does not mean that we should not forgive and move on.
Even in the 1940s and 50s, ours was a very primitive economy. Our literacy rate in 1951 was only 10.5 percent. There was no functional trade and commerce. The use of currency was less. People mostly traded goods for goods. Whatever we needed, we produced. But the needs of our forefathers, then, were very minimal. They lived in thatched houses, built their own homes, weaved their own cloths, made their own tools and equipments. Other than salt and iron, we literally managed everything on our own. It was a subsistence economy but truly an independent one. Therefore, it makes sense to claim for our sovereign rights at that point of time. Because for centuries we have lived and survived on our own.
But things have undergone a fundamental change after statehood. We still lack behind other in many areas, but the level of progress that we have witnessed socially, economically and politically in the past 7 decades or so is phenomenal. However, whether by accident or by design, the socio-economic progress came along with the dependence on India. We have become dependent on every front that almost everything that we consume are imported from outside the state. Therefore, like a pond without a perennial source of water, we will be like a fish, gasping for air as and when the pipeline is cut off. That does not however, mean that Nagas can no longer stand on our own. But the relevant question today is not about ability but more about the possibilities. Its not just about how much we can achieve on our own- but more importantly how fast can we accelerate progress.
If we look back, we could say that Nagas lived in a village republic and were confined towards the interest of our own village. Today, we have evolved from the village mentality and are maturing towards the tribe or community. But barring few individuals, majority do not yet have a generalised Naga outlook or mindset. Even the elected leaders remain mostly confined to the welfare of their constituency or tribe. The tribal tensions and warfare were one of the reasons why colonial administrator like CR Pawsey did not favour sovereignty of the Nagas when the Britishers left India. Even today, the Naga society remains divided, both over ground and underground. Hence, unless we evolve from our tribal mentality towards the greater cause of the Nagas as one family and nation, we cannot expect a progressive and harmonious Naga society.
Naga flag and Yezabo seem to be the reasons for the deadlock to the current negotiations. Other than these two issues, Naga public are unaware of the contents of the negotiations, hence it is difficult to pass a judgment on the merit of the negotiations. However, with sovereignty and integration being ruled out of the negotiations, as per media sources, things have become clear that settlement, if forthcoming, are to take place within the ambit of the Indian union. To this effect, we need not create unnecessary confusion but leave what is unattainable at present to the future.
Around the month of June 2010, the hon’ble Ato Kilonser Th. Muivah visited Wokha as a part of his statewide tour. I was also invited by the Lotha Students Union along with other senior members to interact with him and the collective leadership. After listening to his detailed speech, we were permitted to raise questions. I asked, “In a negotiation, both sides have to make some concession in order to arrive to a mutually agreed solution. In that case what are the areas that Nagas are willing to compromise?” To which he gave a lengthy response. Among them, I recollect him saying that Nagas are willing to use the Indian currency, India’s external defence, etc., provided India agrees to our flag, separate passport, UN representation and so on. The response was a surprise to us, because at that point of time the NSCN had not made any such statement publicly, softening its stance on the demand for sovereignty. But then, we felt that those were reasonable concessions.
Since we are not privy to the negotiations, we do not know which side defaulted on their side of the bargain, leading to this deadlock. But the important thing for both India and the Nagas is to look at the progress that has been made over the years of negotiations and take bold measures to hammer out a solution. Nagas need peaceful environment for an accelerated development and effective governance. Similarly, a peaceful Nagaland and Northeast is essential for maintaining stability in the region and to devote India’s resources towards productive activities. Peace in the region could also usher pathways of opportunities towards the ASEAN countries and consolidate India’s image globally. A breakdown will however, undo years of efforts and energy expended by large segments of the society and could take us back to the age of hostilities and uncertainties. Delay in solution is a denial of opportunities for people of the region to live in peace and security.
Dr. N Janbemo Humtsoe