Views & Reviews
Where Honour is Due (Part II)
This was an article that was written on14-09-2014 to awaken the conscience of the Nagas to begin to look at ourselves with some sense of pride and honour that our forerunners envisaged that we now do not even recognise. It is being put on the public domain once more to refresh our minds and to reclaim our own in the truest spirit of the Nagas that we once were and to reshape our destiny in the same spirit of forthrightness sans fear.
When we have travelled the long road of life, it makes sense to take a pause for a while… and look back at all the bridges that we have crossed along the way. It is then that we realise the lost opportunities: of little things we ought to have done…but didn’t; of the little things we ought not to have done…but did; where a simple deed, a kind word of encouragement that costs us nothing, could have made all the difference to someone else’s life. That little time spent on honest reflection which leads us all to the dawn of new experience and knowledge. The Good Lord gave us all the same opportunity, all at different times, for each generation to see and do or be fated never to realise that an opportunity afforded to us, just passed us by… unseen. This sensitivity of perception makes the distinction of who we really are…the good, the bad and the ugly. While trying to understand the sequence of events in the Naga political history, something struck me as an oddity. What appeared to me so totally out of tune with the Naga character, no matter which Tribe we may belong, was the failure of a generation before us and the continued lapse of our own, to honour, respect and fondly remember the simple deeds of a gone by generation whose historic landmark contribution made all the difference to our present. We have had our share of worthy personalities whose contributions have gone by unnoticed without even a word of ‘thank you’. We have let them fade away silently into the sunset, incognito, without being given an honourable space under the sun in their own lifetime. You are probably wondering what I am getting at….so let us dig into the fact of history together. Thereafter, exercise your minds accordingly with your stamp of approval or rejection. There will be a thousand and one such deserving personalities who have quietly passed on unrecognized, I would presume. For those who know other such stories…it is still not too late to let the world know about them by unselfishly sharing it with others, as a gratitude in return for their selfless act(s), remembering too that each of them must have left behind their son(s) and daughter(s) still living with us today. At least they deserve to know that we care.
The Naga Memorandum to Simon Commission stands out positively as the very first ‘Magna Carta’ document of the Nagas that significantly laid a historical landmark way back on 10th January 1929. This is a very special document in a good number of ways. It defines the Naga identity at its honest best. It had caused a chain historical reaction. I am sure many a Naga soul would have heard of this memorandum by now. Many more would have read it over and over again. Nevertheless, humour me as I take this privilege to present this Memorandum verbatim to register its significance:
The British Statutory Commission;
Sub: Memorandum of the Naga Hills
Sir, We the undersigned Nagas of the Naga Club at Kohima, who are the only persons at present who can voice for our people have heard with great regret that our Naga Hills is included within the Reformed Scheme of India without our knowledge, but as administration of our Hill is continued to be in the hands of the British officers and we did not consider it necessary to raise any protest in the past. Now we learnt that you have come to India as representative of the British Government to enquire into the working of the system of Government and growth of education and we beg to submit below our views with the prayer that our Hill may be withdrawn from the Reformed Scheme and placed outside the Reforms but directly under the British Government. We never asked for any reforms and we do not wish for any reforms.
Before the British Government conquered our country in 1879-80, we were living in a state of intermittent warfare with the Assamese of Assam Valley to the North and West of our country and Manipuris to the South. They never conquered us, nor were we ever subjected to their rule. On the other hand, we were always a terror to these people. Our country within the administered area consists of more than eight regions quite different from one another, with quite different language which cannot be understood by each other and more regions outside the administered area which are not known at present. We have no unity among us and it is only the British Government that is holding us together now.
Our education is poor. The occupation of our country by the British Government being so recent as 1880, we have had no chance or opportunity to improve in education and though we can boast of two or three graduates of an Indian University in our country, we have not got one yet who is able to represent us in any council of a province. Moreover our population numbering 10200, is very small in comparison with the population of the plains districts in the Province, and any representation that may be allotted to us in the council will be negligible and will have no weight whatever. Our language is quite different from those of the plains and we have no social affinities with the Hindus or Mussalmans. We are looked down upon by the one for “Beef” and the other for our “pork” and by both for our want in education, is not due to any fault of ours.
Our country is poor and it does not pay for its administration. Therefore, if it is continued to be under the Reformed Scheme, we are afraid that new and heavy taxes will have to be imposed on us, and when we cannot pay, then all lands will have to be sold and in the long run we shall have no share in the land of our birth and life will not be worth living then. Though our land at present is within the British territory, Government have always recognised our private rights in it, but if we are forced to enter the council the majority of whose number is sure to belong to the other districts, we also have much fear the introduction of foreign laws and customs to supersede our own customary laws which we now enjoy.
For the above reasons, we pray that the British Government will continue to safeguard our right against all encroachment from other people who are more advanced than us by withdrawing our country that we should not be thrust to the mercy of other people who could never be subjected, but to leave us alone to determine ourselves as in ancient times. We claim not only the members of the “Naga Club” to represent all those regions to which we belong vis. Angami, Kacha Nagas, Kukis, Sema, Lothas and Rengmas, but also other regions of Nagaland. Signed by:
1. Nihu Angami,(Head Interpreter); 2. Hisale,(Peshkar); 3. Nisier Angami,(Master); 4. Khosa,(Doctor); 5. Gebo Kacha Naga, (Interpreter); 6. Vipunyu Angami, (Potdar); 7. Goyiepra Angami, (Treasurer); 8. Ruzhukhrie Angami, (Master); 9. Dikhrie Angami, (Interpreter); 10. Zapuzhulie Angami, (Interpreter); 11. Zepilie Angami, (Interpreter); 12. Katsuno Angami, (Interpreter); 13. Nuolhoukielie Angami, (Clerk); 14. Nizhevi Sema, (Interpreter);15. Apamo Lotha, (Interpreter); 16. Rusulo Rengma,( Interpreter); 17. Lengjang Kuki,(Interpreter); 18. Nikhriehu Angami, (Interpreter); 19. Miakrao Angami, (Chaprasi); 20. Levi Kacha Naga, (Clerk);
Take a careful look at the designations of all the Tribal representatives, [purposely bracketed], who were fated to endorse this historic memorandum. In today’s parlance, they were all academic nonentities. Many of them would not even have had formal education worth the mention. Their peers must have met them in the streets, but were perhaps ignored without a second glance. Yet consider the results of what they did! No classroom groomed graduates/post graduates of today will ever be comparable to their matchless thoughts crafted through life’s experience. Their expression of ground reality made all the difference to make the British also seriously think twice, which culminated in the British India Act 1935, excluding the Naga inhabited areas as “Naga Hills Excluded Area”. Think carefully about this! This was an Act…a LAW, and will remain as a legally cognizable and actionable historical evidence even in today’ National or International Courts. Robert Reid was thereafter also commissioned by the British Government through the endorsement of their Queen of England, to Map the Excluded Areas of the Nagas country incorporating the Eastern inhabited territory classified as UN-ADMINISTERED FREE NAGA AREA even during the British Raj that also included the Chin Hills to be known as “Queen’s Land Colony”. The Mapping output of Robert Reid was considered as a Plan also known as the “Couplan Plan”, which was a direct follow-up result of the British India Act of 1935. On August 19, 1946, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was known to have defined the status of the Nagas in connection to the proposed British Colony of Couplan Plan in these words: “The tribal Areas are defined as being that long frontier of India which are neither part of India nor Burma, nor of Indian States nor of any foreign power”. Through this British India Act 1935 (enacted because of the Naga Memorandum to the Simon Commission), the ‘Chin Hills Regulation and Bengal Frontier Regulation Act 1873’ was made applicable to the “Naga Hills Excluded Area” as well wherein foreigners including Indian nationals were restricted to enter into the Naga country without a valid Inner-Line permit (ILP)…A PASSPORT EQUAVALENT. It is only when you enter a foreign country that a passport become mandatory…well, the same principle applies to Indian Nationals entering Nagaland even to this day. These are some of the facts that distinguish “Naga History to be unique”! We Nagas do not even recognise the significance or the importance of ILP and the bureaucrats only see it as an opportunity to make a cheap pocket money. We have perhaps become a people without a vision or purpose. Nevertheless, the moot point is that this is a historical as much as it is present living evidence that defines the unique identity of our status. All this was made possible by those rustic Naga elders who signed that monumental memorandum in 1929. Mr. A.Z.Phizo was a shrewd thinker. He understood his people well. He too emphasized and focused on the foreign tax issue enshrined in the Simon Commission like no other NNC Presidents before him and made history with the Plebiscite of 1951. Have the Nagas, especially the NPGs, ever consider officially acknowledging or thanking the signatories of this famous memorandum? After all…it laid the foundry of the Naga National Movement. Who knows….perhaps they are waving the Naga National Flag from wherever they are, to attract our attention that we have a legal justification to our claims.
The Nagas and more so the NPGs, owe them all, a huge gratitude, albeit no act can fully compensate their mammoth contribution now. It saddens one’s heart that their generation let them all carry on without even an official ‘thank you’ in their lifetime. If we are unable to respect and honour our own can we expect others to respect the Nagas? I dedicate this little article to them in fond remembrance and with a hope that some responsible, capable, conscience bearing NGOs/NPGs out there are listening and get spurned into action to right what has been ignored for so long. It is never too late. We still have the opportunity and the privilege to remember and honour them befittingly where honour is due.
It also a reminder to who we really are and act wisely without fear in our hearts and say what we need to say: that the “Framework Agreement” signed by NSCN (IM) with the GoI is fine to the extent that some kind of an agreement has been reached but beyond that point the Nagas of Nagaland cannot possibly endorse this “Framework Agreement” before knowing its contents which could very well be detrimental to our nurtured fundamental dreams of freedom that our forefathers freely laid down their lives for. Nagas of Nagaland, wake up and start THINKING please!
Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd)
Upper Forest Colony, Kohima