Thursday, December 02, 2021

Why Nagaland? Why not Naga Pradesh or Naga Province?

By EMN Updated: Nov 30, 2013 11:36 pm

Good Morning Nagaland!
(I am just a year older than you but I must sound like one today. Summing up all the remarkable achievement and recognition you have earned for us in 50 years time, I praise the Almighty God you rightfully deserve on this very auspicious day of your birth the highest salutation from your offspring. Like many others I was too young to comprehend how it all started from the beginning but when it actually started on 1st December 1963, you and I grew up together from toddling to maturing although the pace you picked up was incomparably much ahead of us and our God given time. For all I know unlike the extra-cared human child born like me your unusual birth was smeared with sneer and not smile, rejection not reception, condemnation not celebration because your origin was challenged as illegitimate not legitimate, bastard and not even foster child. Then people had miserably died and people had mercilessly killed beside unaccountable agony caused. Even the name given to you was not only objected but derided even by persons of high responsibility in august gathering. Yet by virtue of the celebration of your 50th Birth Anniversary today, I take this opportunity to introduce your name especially to those who may be wondering or unaware of how ‘NAGALAND’ actually came into being (not into use).
Why Nagaland? Why not Naga Pradesh or Naga State or Naga Province? This was the immediate reaction of several opposition MPs when Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India announced the imminent statehood of Nagaland to the august house of Lok Sabha on August 1, 1960 as the heated debate begun by 13:42 hrs-
Dr. Ram Subhag Singh, MP: “… I do not clearly understand the meaning of the word ‘Nagaland’. I, therefore, request the Prime Minister and the Government to carefully name that area. It may be named Naga State or Naga Pradesh; Nagaland is something bigger.”
Nehru replied: “It is true, but that word was accepted because of the strong desire of the Naga leaders to have it.”
Still the other members continued to object-
C.K. Battacharya, MP: “Do they want to have an outlandish name? Nagaland is outlandish.”
Raghunath Singh, MP: “It should be something like Naga State or Naga Province.”
Two years twenty seven days later on August 28, 1962 when the debate resumed at 4500 hrs the same objection remained-
In reply to Dahyabhai Patel MP, Nehru stated: “Frankly I would have preferred- not that I have any objection to Nagaland- Naga Pradesh. We did suggest that but they have strong sentimental attachment to Nagaland. They have been calling it this way for some years past and sometimes, as hon. Members will realise, sentiment is a strong thing and we did not think that we should by-pass or come in the way of that sentiment…”
At another time in a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, Pandit Pant, someone objected to the name ‘Nagaland’ as it “did not sound very Indian”. Nehru instantly shot back: “Damn it! They want it, don’t they? If the Thais can have a “Thailand’, why should the Nagas not have a ‘Nagaland’. They want it. Let them have it.” In similar manner there are many non-Nagas who feel that the name sounds too foreign or foreign instigated. Even Nehru initially suggested a purely Naga name but since the Naga delegation insisted on ‘Nagaland’ he willingly accepted it.
NAGALAND, as we are now integrally attached and identified with, was officially recognized in the approved document of the 16 Point Memorandum of the Naga People’s Convention concluded at Mokokchung on October 26, 1959. When the 16 Point ended in Agreement on July 28, 1960 and thereafter adoption of Article 371(A) with Special Provisions, Nagaland became a dream come true in the given situation. It was as Nehru said: “Our discussions for four days have led to a happy conclusion.” Someone covetously commented; “Here was autonomy within autonomy, further privileges over and above the special privileges.” Nagaland thereupon became a reality envied by many, an identity of its own and a status above others. Rightly commented by an opposition, “Nagaland is something bigger”.
However, it would be unhistorical and unrealistic if we do not go back to the original source and give the due recognition to the ones whose ingenuity and wisdom had (perhaps for the first time although unofficially) christened ‘NAGALAND’ for the anticipated status being initiated then. On February 1, 1956 some Naga public leaders- some say liberals, some say alternate leadership- led by Jasokie and Sillie Haralu met at Kohima and decided to submit a memorandum to Nehru, the PM wherein the name ‘Nagaland’ was categorically mentioned in their memorandum. I quote the bottom lines of the Memorandum: “In short, we want a Nagaland within the Indian Union free to develop according to our own heritage and way of life and administered by men who will treat us as equals with friendship and trust and who believe that in the end it is only Naga Indians who can build an Indian Nagaland.” Certainly at that point of time when political movement was at the zenith we would have strongly felt uncomfortable with this kind of proposition but now in the 50 years of reality we cannot but only value the farsighted vision of those departed leaders who saw our today. Why, only 10 years ago almost everyone dumped The Bedrock of Naga Society with indescribable contempt but today almost every one of those is celebrating the 50 years of Statehood within the Indian Union as the biggest ever held ‘state mela’ in the history of the Nagas. Not that we shouldn’t celebrate; we must. But we also must appreciate and accept what we celebrate for. No less, we must unpretentiously acknowledge and recognize all those leaders/members that made this life time celebration possible, whether they are alive or death. Someone had explained it so well somewhere there is no need to do it again. I can only mimic the immortal words of the British War Heroes- “When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today” – for the unspoken of and rather forgotten State Heroes.
We must know and appreciate why the State founding members insisted on a name resisted by others as outlandish, un-Indian, non-local, foreign etc. Naga tribal are very meticulous in giving befitting name to a person, place or situation with relevant meaning. For instance my name, if translated to English: “Nobody will deprive me of what is rightfully mine” was given in relevance to a certain situation. So is the capital city Kohima, which is related to the natives and the land of Kewhimia. On the contrary a tribal will certainly wonder why India is called India when it sounds full English than Hindi or Uttar Pradesh when the meaning of Uttar is not related to the inhabitant. For that matter South America when no one is American down there or not everyone is American either in North America. To the Naga tribal culture this is weird and irrelevant. For them everything, from the simplest to the most complex the name given is definitely correlated with certain identity or situation. Names are not picked up randomly or used carelessly.
One cannot deny the long association of the Nagas with the British so the possible attraction of names like England, Scotland or Ireland could have influenced the Naga leaders as well. However, the fact remains on record that the Nagas declared war against first the British, then India for a separate political identity because they did not want to be dominated by the Indians or assimilated into a giant Hindu dominated nation. Reason for this and the intense opposition and threat from within, the Naga leaders would not accept or opt for an Indian term like Pradesh or a British colonialist term like Province. Also in the Naga tribal culture the land is regarded equally important as the people and they are identified as one or together. This is the reason why most village names/places are appended with ‘ma’ or ‘mi’ (meaning people) like Kohima, Kisama, Chizami, Chishilimi etc. This way, whichever term is used- Pradesh/Desh in Hindi or Land in English it would carry the same meaning to the Nagas but at a very critical point of time when they were wriggling under the severe atrocities and excess committed by the Indian Armed Forces, the Nagas definitely would not welcome unfamiliar, unfriendly term for his/her land. Nehru was fully aware of this strong sentiment and attachment. The special protection given not only to the people but even to the land and its resources by Art 371(A) is due recognition given to the land-people relationship and its importance in Nagaland. Moreover, the leaders’ successful exertion upon Nehru for a special status for the new state was not an ordinary achievement and therefore, their firm decision to have a grand name ‘NAGALAND’ was considered most befitting to the reality and situation of the Naga people. Therefore, Nagaland came into being with its own history, sentiment, affiliation and relevance with the people and the land of the Nagas. Any alternative name will sever all these connections.
Rightly said in the present situation: “History repeats itself”. Even as we are celebrating the 50 years of statehood today history is once more repeating itself. We are celebrating the same statehood- Nagaland; same place- Kohima; same day- Sunday; almost same time-10 AM; same program; same President of India (in different person) as Chief Guest; same Chief Minister of Nagaland (in different person) to welcome the President of India; same cameras flashing and rolling; same enthusiastic crowd of people and horde of guest as it exactly happened 50 years ago on December 1, 1963. Only this time the speech of the President of India and that of the Chief Minister of Nagaland will be different. 50 years ago the prevalent situation was much different and much difficult too. The median speech of the President and also the speech of the 1st State Chief Minister on the 1st Statehood Day in 1963 were both focused on things to come in 50 years time or so. In reverse order today the President and also the Chief Minister will deliver their respective speech on things happened during the 50 years time. It will be of much interest to listen to their speeches because the people are watching with curiosity and hope. Definitely the response of the sensitized people of 50 years statehood in 2013 will not and cannot be the same with the expectation of the curious people when statehood was introduced in 1963.
Past 50 years appear too brief in our memory today but another 50 years appear too far away for many as they may not live that long to see the light of that day. So many people have not made it even today. It is a pity when the good escapes but the bad lingers, when the desirable melts but the undesirable accumulates. At time like this we cannot help feeling that when something is started the days ahead appears more important (as it did in 1963) but when something has started (during 50 years) the immediate present becomes more important than the distant future (another 50 years). Looking back is not a solution either. Sadly, Nagaland, as it is now, is weighed down with more problems than the actual problem for which statehood was created. Looking at the otherwise beautiful State but manifold problems within it, I am reminded of a Hindi film song: “Duniya, duniya very good, very good. Duniyawale, very bad, very bad”. Who will own the responsibility; GOI, GON, factions or collectively? How many more years are required to demand or to deprive or to deny even an acceptable solution? Can we at least try to learn from the meaningful teaching- “A stitch in time saves nine”. The cry of the common people remains unheeded. Else it will be the rarest of the rare opportunity if our distant voice is seriously listened at least on this auspicious today when the President, who holds the highest position in the country and the Chief Minister of Nagaland share the same dais on the soil of Nagaland to celebrate with the people the 50 years of statehood. Unfortunately, this time the President (we were told by the authority) has come only to grace the program and not to address the problem(s) from any group. In 1953 when Nehru came to Kohima the people did not meet him because the authority bungled the situation. It was a missed opportunity.
Final word- Indeed Statehood was a desire granted but NAGALAND, as it is called is our own call. Our calling therefore is to protect it and promote it. Together, hand in hand we can maintain it as beautiful as somebody compared- “Switzerland of the east”.
God bless you Nagaland.

Vaprmu Demo

By EMN Updated: Nov 30, 2013 11:36:35 pm