Wednesday, December 08, 2021

The forgotten heroes of Nagaland’s Statehood

By EMN Updated: Nov 24, 2013 9:29 pm

Imlisanen Phom

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]lessed be the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. Come 1st December and Nagaland will be celebrating its 50th year of statehood. Although Nagaland State is in a pathetic state, nevertheless it calls for a celebration. We all know that there are many things to talk about our State. Many excellent writings on topics like terrible roads, corruption, taxation etc have been published in our daily local papers. All these topics are no doubt serious matters. However, while we are wrestling with these problems in Nagaland are we are not forgetting something very important—like a “Historic Event” in the History of Nagaland?
I would like to mention the almost forgotten, or truly forgotten heroes, of Nagaland State also known as ex-IBMs (ex-Interim Body Members) of 1961-1963. The brave and humble souls, the heroes of Nagaland who gave their blood, sweat and tears for the foundation of Nagaland State.Some of the IBMs are still alive and kicking today. They are the “living fossils” of Nagaland. Sadly, many have passed away. I had the rarest or all rare privileges to meet a few of the living Interim Body Members. I also had a wonderful opportunity to listen to their testimonies of hard and testing time they had to order to bring statehood to fruition.
Accordingly, I would like to share what they shared with me about it all. I believe it will be a precious insight for all the Nagas specially the younger generation to know a little about the Interim Body Members. I hope it will raise love, respect and concern for them, these “forgotten heroes of Nagaland”. What could be more fitting than to talk about the heroes who ushered in statehood as we are just few days away from celebrating its Golden Jubilee.
In the third and last Naga Peoples Convention which was held at Mokokchung in 1959, the drafting committee formulated the 16 Point Agreement, which they submitted to the Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. Through this an Interim Body was formed on February 18, 1961. The State of Nagaland Act 1962 provided for the formation of a separate State. On 1st December 1963 Nagaland officially became the 16th State of India.
It was no doubt, a great moment in history for Nagas. However, only the Interim Body Members knew the risks they took upon themselves for achieving that goal. They knew very well that they were putting their lives, the lives of near and dear ones at risk in accepting Statehood. Nevertheless, the brave souls took up the yoke of suffering and pain and accepted statehood.
After Nagaland became a State almost all of the Interim Body Members spent many sleepless nights due to fear of being shot by the undergrounds. Most of them slept at army camps. During day time, they would go around about their duties but at night they became prisoners confined within the walls of army camps. Many of these Members escaped life attempts on them. They include T.Kikon, Dr. S.C. Jamir, Dr.Imkongliba Ao,and M. Hepong Phom.Some Interim body members were not fortunate like Buding Phom who was assassinated on August 29, 1962 and Dr. Imkongliba Ao on August 24, 1961 by our own Naga btrthren. Some young people also lost their lives as they were accidentally shot while accompanying the Interim Body Members. Who remembers those precious lives lost?
It is because of their sacrifice that today, Naga Ministers and MLAs can sleep peacefully at night without the fear of being shot by someone. The only sleepless nights they may be having could be because of any wrong they might have committed against the public, and therefore their conscience may be haunting them depriving them of that precious sleep. Today, Naga politicians can move freely at any time of the day and night without the fear of being shot. The freedom enjoyed by our Naga politicians today was bought with a heavy price; some had to pay it with their precious lives. Naga Politicians, how would you like to thank them for the freedom you enjoy today?
The Members walked from one village to the other and even district to district on foot. Some were fortunate to travel on horses. The sacrifice they made has brought Nagaland to a position where Politicians in Nagaland no longer walk on foot but on the latest cars available in the market. Naga Politicians how would you like to thank them for replacing “on foot and horses” tours by the “SUV’ or the “latest vehicle” and air-conditioned Tours?
During their term as Interim Body Members, they did not use the Government money for free hand outs to the public neither did they stock up cash for themselves. They used it for the specific purpose. After using the required amount for State development all the reaming money sanctioned for State Development were returned untouched back to the Government.
After their service as Interim Body Members, they were paid Rs 200 per month as their pension. Even back in 1960’s Rs 300 was not enough. Many people came for help to them even after their time as Interim Body Member was over. To get a rough picture of that time, imagine how many people you see when you go to visit a minister or a VIP at his office today and multiply it by 10. Having a heart of compassion for the public even after their term as Interim Body Members they continued to help the public in anyway they could financially and morally. Most of them had to borrow money from relatives and neighbors and even sell their lands to help those who came to them for help.
This ultimately put them in a position where they had to get food to feed the family on credit from the Grocery shops. Today after 50 years of Statehood only very few surviving Interim Body Members are getting Rs.25,000/- It has been only few years since their pension was raised to Rs 25,000/. Their salary were increased from Rs 300 to Rs 25,000 in about 50 years. I am sure not many would have imagined that they would live so long. It is truly the blessing of God that they are still alive today.
Almost all of the ex-IBMs did not have a vehicle and even most of them even today do not own a vehicle. Even today, they travel by auto rickshaw and taxi packed with passengers and night super buses. After they reach their destinations, they usually take bed rest for a day or two to regain their strength from the journey. They say when they see Ministers and MLA’s zooming by in their nice cars they just watch them.
They did not tell me but I could sense that they wished they had a nice vehicle too. I mean a person with some amount of sense would like to have one of those SUV’s our politicians ride. The truth is if I was a living former IBM and was in good health, and had sacrificed like them I would knock every available Government department doors to get me one of those nice black SUV. However, I am not an ex-IBM so I will have to live without one. I am not saying that they need to be given private jets and choppers service. Think Nagas, what do they deserve for their honesty?
Even sadder is that most of them even today travel on borrowed money to get to Kohima or distant places. Most of their children are graduates and post-graduates without any jobs like Government service or even no cash to start a business.
Therefore, their children still today depend on them for financial support. In simple language, our living founding members of “Nagaland State” are financially “broke” and are living from “hand to mouth.” After all the sacrifice for Nagaland what have we given them in return? What has the Government of Nagaland given these heroes? Does our Government even know that few of our heroes are still alive?
Chief Minister Nephio Rio, who is also the president of Olympic Association and the Nagaland Archery Association, announced cash award of Rs.25 Lakh and promised Rs. 1 Crore to a Naga Olympian, Chekrovolü Swuro, if she won any medal. Although she did not win any medal she was awarded a cash incentive of Rs 25 lakh as promised by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio. Well it seems our Chief Minister is a man who keeps his promise “occasionally”. She was also promised double-promotion from Sub-Inspector (SI) to Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in acknowledgement of her achievements as the State’s only woman Olympian. I thought double promotion only happened in schools—how ignorant of me!
Well, the point is that the Interim Body Members of 1961-1963, some of them who are still alive today won more than “gold medal” because they won the “State of Nagaland” for the entire Nagas and they put Nagaland on the map of the world. Tell me how much of cash price these IBMs should be given in acknowledgement of their achievements for winning a “State” for the “people of Nagaland”—say Rs 25 lakhs or 1crore or 1 million or even 10 million each? How much of cash have they been awarded? Have they been ever acknowledged for their achievements and sacrifice? How many of their sons or daughters have been awarded double promotion at jobs or were even offered a job? When will the people of Nagaland honor them? Am I right when I say it is all right to honour a “Naga Olympian”, and that it is also all right in God’s sight to honor our former Interim Body Members or say our “Naga Interim Olympians”
Just recently, Minister Kuzholuzo (Azo) Nienu found out that 13 members out of the 34 members of cultural troupe that performed before Queen Elizabeth II during the Prime Ministership of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, were still alive. Azo Nienu himself personally honoured the cultural troupe at his residence. Now that’s a real gentleman! They did not ask for it, without being asked, Azo Nienu honoured them. Now it is clear some of the IBMs are still alive. The question is will they be honored like the living 13 members of cultural troupe were honoured—any Naga politician gentlemen out there? If so, honour these living IBMs before they ask for it, because if you honour them after they ask, then it will not be seen as an honour but as a favor. Forgive me but I see no honour in that.
Just Recently, in Nagaland Post, there was an announcement of cash prize award of million for the winner at the upcoming Hornbill International Rock contest of 2013. One million is a lot of money. I thought it was a misprint but I guess it is true. I wish the present living IBMs had a rock band. At least they could give it a shot at the Hornbill festival. If they win, they can split the prize among themselves. It is amazing how the organizers come up with such huge cash prizes like one million Rupees. I strongly believe the organizers are serious people with great concern for the rock concert. We need such organizers who are true leaders who take matter seriously and make things happen. I wonder if the organizers of the present Hornbill International Rock Concert were in charge of organizing the forthcoming Golden Jubilees celebration. Would they have come up with one million rupees for each ex Interim Body Members?
I am very curious and I wonder if our Governor, Chief Minister and his colleagues have come out with any plans to honor these living Interim Body Members during this 50th Statehood celebration? Or, is it going to be the regular thank you for coming and some cultural troupe dance, songs and a long boring speech, vote of thanks with a good bye? Have our Governor, Chief Minister and his colleagues and other politicians of Nagaland even considered how blessed they are to be in their present positions at this time? How they use this opportunity to honour the ex-Interim Body Members will clearly show how capable they are in governing our State.
The whole world will be watching as Nagaland celebrates its 50th Year of Statehood. I pray that the Lord will give wisdom to the leaders even as they prepare for the upcoming Historic event in Nagaland History. We should all bear in mind that we are feasting on the fruits of the labour and sacrifices made by our ex -IBMs. There would have been no Nagaland State without their sacrifices and certainly no privileges or designations accordingly.
Let us think for a second if you and I were in their place. If we had put our lives and those of loved ones at risk not knowing any moment could be our last moment, slept sleepless night, get shot at, walked for miles in the burning sun and extreme cold, were warned every day to quit our jobs and other one hundred such threats. How would have we handled the situation? Would we have given up to save our lives and those of our near and dear ones or would we have carried on?
Will this 50th year of Statehood celebration be such an event that it will become the “Event of the year” talked by everyone even in days to come? Will it be such an event that Nagas all over the world will be proud of and would use it as an illustration to show how Nagas honour their heroes? Or, would it be one of those events that goes terribly wrong and that we would not want to talk about it in future? Will this be an event that will make the leaders of Nagaland say with regret “Oh if only we could have done that for our heroes it would have been so much better?
Well, there is still time. So, this is a chance to show them that we really love them and appreciate their sacrifice for the enrire Nagas. Also, to equally remember those heroes who are no more with us. We have to let them know that Nagas have not forgotten them. We have to honour them in such a away that they will say that it was worth the sacrifice, the pain, the tears, losing one’s life.
This is one golden chance for the Nagaland Government and the people of Nagaland to say thank you to them all. Leaders of various organizations, unions, NGOS, federations and civil societies, schools, colleges should take this opportunity to thank them for their sacrifice. I hope the leaders of our Nagaland Government and our Naga society will seek wisdom from the Lord above to make this 50th year of Statehood celebration a Historic one.
I would like to say thank you to our heroes the founders of Nagaland also known as the Interim Body Members both alive and dead. I salute you all for your sacrifice. As for those who are alive today, may you outlive your lives, and to those who are no more, you are more than alive today.
Bless God for the parents who brought you into this world. Please allow me to be the first one to wish you heroes in advance happy and a blessed 50th year of Statehood to you heroes first, and also to all the Nagas in Nagaland and all around the world. May Nagaland grow from strength to greater strength May Nagaland be ever for Lord Jesus Christ. God bless our Nagaland.

By EMN Updated: Nov 24, 2013 9:29:51 pm