Institute of Naga Studies, Dimapur
Many Nagas have become disillusioned and disoriented and often feel agitated when one talks about Naga politics. However, giving up the movement at this juncture is not an option because the problem is far from resolved. The Naga issue has become even more important with the onrush of market capitalism and Hindutva exploits in the region. These economic institutions and the religio-cultural forces have the capacity to obliterate politico-social identities of indigenous community like the Nagas. Although, one proudly claims as a Naga, there are unsettled questions of how one safeguards her custom, culture and identity without acquiring political rights?The great insights to the common anxiety of the Naga people let the founding fathers of the Naga political movement gave the bases of Nagas’ right to self-determination.
The Naga leaders demanded the British to free the Nagas when they leave Indian sub-continent, by submitting Memorandum of Uti Possidetis to the Simon Commission in 1929, followed by the Naga Plebiscite held in 1951. These two events became the cornerstone and landmark of the Naga struggle as a nation. Naga Leaders from different tribes and backgrounds have run the race with the baton thus far and have passed it on to the present generation. In the process, the notion of sovereignty, self-determination, and freedom, have been interpreted and reinterpreted with the changing of times and leaders. However, the fact remains that the Nagas’ history, culture and practices are different from that of India. Nagas are not Indians except by the colonial laws of India, and that the Nagas have every right to decide their future as a nation.
Looking at the protracted Naga struggle hitherto, one cannot deny the fact that armed struggle is not a feasible option in the present context. Even the Government of India (GoI) realised the futile prospect of military solution to the Naga issue and felt the need to explore alternative viable option. The National Socialist Council of Nagalim led by Ato Kilonser Thuingaleng Muivah has been in negotiation with the Government of India (GoI) to work out on the Framework Agreement, which was signed on 3rdAugust 2015. Now, the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) has joined the bandwagon of negotiation with the government of India. This situation has opened the avenue for the Nagas to come together, keeping aside the differences, unite and work as one people irrespective of region or tribe. In order to capitalise on the ongoing negotiation, the suspicious attitude and the blame game among the Nagas have to stop altogether if they want to lay the foundation of systematic political structure from the Framework Agreement.
Reading of history has taught us that mistake often happened in the process of nation building. Nagas are not exception to it, however, knowing the fact that the march of Naga history does not end here, it is not impossible to extent forgiveness to one another for the greater cause.This is the time to forgive and learn from the past mistake, and work towards the restoration of faith in the leadership. Restoration and building trust in the present leadership on all levels, be it civil society or the political movement are the primary necessity. It is also important for the leadership to take cognizance of the democratisation process that shall ensure participation of every Naga in the decision making for their future.Looking at the changing dynamics of the Naga movement, one observes that the very notion of sovereignty and right to self-determination of the state have been translated to people’s sovereignty and people’s right to self-determination thereby making the decision of the people crucial to decide what they want as Nagas. Therefore, the collective voice of every section of the Naga society is inevitably essential at this juncture.
The state systems imposed on the Nagas by India and Myanmar have not only disallowed the Nagas to unite but structured to fragment in every possible way. The Nagas have to delve deeper into the old age indigenous knowledge and system for a transcendental unity, a requisite for a concerted movement. The Nagas have time-tested indigenous knowledge of governance which is hardly explored or yet to be explored by the present generation. The indigenous system of governance can be further politicalised to bring all the Naga inhabited areas under one administration. One has to realise that the system of governance that India adopted is incongruent with the Nagas’ way of life, since it privatised a communitarian society like the Nagas. Privatisation of ownership is well known to be the beginning of conflict in the humans’ history, and the Nagas are not just yet in the moment to face this conflict until they have their own system of adjudication. However, to realise the Nagas’ way of life, there arise a need to, firstly, support the movement and press upon the Government of India to take up the negotiation with seriousness and sincerity, which Government of India clearly lacks at the moment.And secondly, deliberate on ideas and movement, and explore the best possible way for self-governing. The present negotiation on Framework Agreement is an opportunity to settle the protracted issue, and this moment may not happen again in this generation.
The Nagas have been divided by various divisive forces both internally and externally, especially since the signing of the Shillong Accord in 1975. All these have hindered the unity of the Naga national movement in one way or the other, and many Nagas have lost their faith in the Naga national movement. Taking advantage of the situation, the Government of India, in the name of development poured enormous amount of money in the state and made certain section of people comfortable and unwilling to move out of their comfort zone, and the rest of the majority population is left in despair. Many Nagas have become complacent and slowly losing their sense of dignity and pride that the Naga ancestors had held very dearly in the past. It is time for the Nagas to rethink this precarious situation and revisit the principle and vision that the Naga forefathers had laid in the past, before the future is pushed irreversibly.
The leaders of this generation may not fulfil everything that the founding fathers of the movement envisioned but one needs to realise that this is a continuing struggle, and that the following generation shall also have a role to play for that ultimate goal. The role that the present generation plays in making this dream a reality will determine the future of the Nagas.