|Tuisem A. Shishak: A confession|
They say, “Confession is good for the soul.” I am not so sure. Individuals, peoples, and nations the world over have confessed with no tangible results. Hypocrisy and pretensions make confessions a mockery. St. Augustine’s Confessions reveals the inner condition of the author’s heart in such a way that it has inspired and challenged Christians and non-Christians alike for the last sixteen hundred years. The Christian scriptures (the Bible) demand that human beings everywhere confess and repent for their sins committed in mind, heart and body prior to receiving forgiveness from God. We know forgiveness does no good to the one whose confession is hypocritical.
With all the bombardment against Tangkhul NSCN (I-M) members and the Tangkhul tribe as a whole in recent times, I have been thinking and praying whether a response of some kind would be appropriate, or would such a response from me turn out to be just another Tangkhul talking out loud? I also wonder how many fellow Tangkhuls will share my concern. Then I remembered the Human Rights group’s poster: “Speak up before your silence is misunderstood.” I point no finger at any non-Tangkhul (person or tribe).
I am only concerned about removing the negative attitude other Nagas have toward the Tangkhuls.
By now I have heard enough from Tangkhuls and non-Tangkhuls, read enough in local papers, and seen enough with my own eyes about the behavior and lifestyle of the Tangkhuls in general and Tangkhul I-Ms in particular. I have had ample time to honestly think and analyze all the materials that have reached my hand and my mind, and I am convinced that many of the things spoken against the Tangkhuls in general, and Tangkhul I-Ms in particular, are valid and true.
Let me start with “An Appeal”, an article written by several responsible non-Tangkhul ladies and gentlemen, which appeared in the Nagaland Post of 12 February 2007. In so many words they said the “Quit Notice” to the Tangkhuls was not in the interest of the Nagas as a whole, hence the necessity for revoking or withdrawing it. I agree. But they also said: “Excesses committed by certain Tangkhuls in the NSCN (I-M) have for long angered other Nagas, not just the Khaplang group.” To this also I agree. Reduction, if not elimination, of any violent activity results in immediate lessening of tension in society.
Many non-Tangkhuls have the misconception that the Tangkhul I-Ms are loved and supported by all the Tangkhuls. Apart from my direct contact with Tangkhul villagers, many individuals have reported to me the harassment, extortion, and torture committed by Tangkhul I-Ms against innocent fellow Tangkhuls. Tangkhul I-Ms have killed innocent fellow Tangkhuls; one of the victims was a relative of my mother. Prior to the formation of NSCN in 1980, innocent Tangkhuls also suffered in the hands of the old NNC cadres. Like other Nagas and non-Nagas, many living Tangkhuls still carry deep, painful wounds and scars in their minds and hearts; they are still looking for truth and reconciliation. God said to Cain (and to killers/murderers today): “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground” (The Bible). We forget but God remembers. Hence, pay day, some day! The Tangkhul I-Ms have also been accused of meddling with the normal functioning of village, church, and Tangkhul Long affairs. In general, I believe these reports to be true.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me make this very clear. I believe the majority, if not all, of the Tangkhuls support the current negotiation between the Government of India (GOI) and the NSCN (I-M); they support the Naga freedom struggle; they are for Naga integration. What they cannot accept is the behavior, action, and lifestyle of many within the I-M group. They want I-M people to repent for their past crimes against innocent fellow Tangkhuls and others, and ask God to enable them to treat the civil population humanely.
But what about the Tangkhuls in general, including Tuisem? Are they liked by other Nagas? Not quite. The Tangkhuls in Manipur were, perhaps, the first among the tribals in Manipur to become Christians, and the first to receive education. But today our testimony in Manipur is very poor. Most of our so-called Christian politicians and government bureaucrats are morally bankrupt; Meitei Hindus and other non-Christians make fun of them and their faith. Fellow tribal Christians in Manipur used to look up to the Tangkhuls for guidance and inspiration, but not anymore. Corruption has caught up with the NSCN (I-M) too. There was a time when overground politicians and civil servants were condemned by underground cadres for being corrupt, and rightly so. Not anymore; today both are equally guilty. I see several Tangkhul I-Ms living in houses which can’t be built or purchased with honest earnings in such a short time. I am told that underground soldiers and lower-rank workers work hard but are poorly paid and looked after. I would not be surprised if much of the extortion has been and is being carried out by those poorly-paid underground personnel.
So far I have not said anything good about the Tangkhuls. But I am here only to point out what has gone wrong with the Tangkhuls. There is another characteristic of my tribe: arrogance. Many Tangkhuls have false pride; humility is not a normal trait of my people. You can be sure, Tangkhuls are not united. Many Tangkhuls living and working in Nagaland State must have provoked the resentment of fellow Nagas against themselves. This I understand too. I keep urging fellow Tangkhuls in Nagaland to make friends, not enemies; I hope they are listening.
I hope I have said enough to convince fellow Tangkhuls that we have had our share in creating the current turmoil which has forced other Nagas to even hate the Tangkhuls. This is enough reason to say “sorry” to the Nagas of Nagaland State. But what about other underground factions? other Naga tribes? Are they not also participants in today’s Naga mess? I am not the one to answer these questions. All I know is that somewhere we have to stop blaming each other, and start confessing our sins to each other if we ever hope to see peace in our land. The Bible says: “But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.” “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
I am a Tangkhul; by implication I am a partaker of the sins my people have committed against fellow Nagas, against non-Nagas. Therefore, in behalf of all the Tangkhuls who long for healing within Naga society, I, Tuisem A. Shishak, say “sorry” to all those whose families have been hurt through harassment, extortion, torture, destruction, and murder. My confession goes to members of the NSCN (K), NNC, FGN, all the Naga tribes in Nagaland State, Manipur, Arunachal, Assam, and Eastern Nagaland (Myanmar), non-Tangkhul IMs, and even non-Nagas (Kukis, Meiteis, Mayangs, etc.). Will you forgive my people for the sins they have committed against you? And to Christians (Nagas and non-Nagas) everywhere: Will you forgive me and my people in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ? Will those Tangkhul families that have been hurt by I-M, K, NNC, FGN, and non-Naga groups also forgive them in Christ’s name?
“Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” (St. Augustine). May the current restless hearts of the Nagas (underground and overground) soon find their rest in God. Time is running out for the Naga political peace process. “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved” (The Bible). Could it be disunity among the Nagas that is responsible for the current talks impasse? Could it be disobedience to God and his Word that is hindering any progress? Or could it be both?
It will be almost impossible for any underground faction to eliminate another faction, partly because every faction has a support base both within and outside Naga territory. All the factions must know by now that there are people within Nagaland/Nagalim who would like to see factional fightings continue so they can continue amassing wealth for themselves.
All the factions should also be aware that there are forces within and outside Nagaland/Nagalim trying to bring about further splits within the existing factions, and even within the great Naga family as a whole. By now all the factions ought to realize that unless they come together and deal with the Government of India (GOI) unitedly, separate and piecemeal negotiation will simply give GOI ample time to prepare sophisticated strategies to ensure the Naga political struggle will end up in smoke. By now all the factions ought to realize that Assam (Asom), Manipur, and Arunachal will continue to oppose integration of all contiguous Naga areas in their states. Everybody seems to be against us; that’s understandable though it is irrational. But what is appalling and even diabolical is that the Nagas are at war with fellow Nagas. What for? Why is each faction fighting to set up its own kingdom within India? No faction seems to be fighting for a united kingdom for the Naga nation.
Let us be very clear about this: the GOI will get serious only when the Nagas are united; until such time they will continue to play politics indefinitely. Time is the essence. The Bible teaches that sin separates man from God, and sin separates man from man. Simply fasting and praying will not do; simply shouting “Nagaland for Christ” will not do. We Naga Christians are very good in all this. What Jesus Christ really is telling us is: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” and remember that “To obey is better than sacrifice” (The Bible).
Sometimes with heartache I wonder if we Nagas understand the predicament we are in. When the British and foreign missionaries came to our land over a century ago, we were a bunch of villagers; the concept of tribe was very weak. Education and the Christian faith slowly spread; then came the First and Second World Wars, and the concept of tribe began to enlarge and consolidate. If we hope to achieve nationhood for the Nagas, we must move beyond our tribes. Our underground brothers and sisters call themselves national workers, and rightly so. But their behavior, their actions, and their lifestyle only prove that the Nagas are still bound by tribal mentality and attitude. Nagas will not become a nation until we make our tribes subordinate to the Naga nation. Until the animal called “tribalism” is arrested and controlled sufficiently, the road to Naga nationhood will remain rough and elusive for a long time to come.
I believe the mandate of the Naga people to the NSCN (I-M), NSCN (K), NNC, and FGN includes, among others, the following:
1) Stop indulging in violence: kidnapping, extortion, killing/murder, etc. of fellow Nagas and the innocent public;
2) Let all the “national workers” be reconciled and united;
3) Behave and act as if you are working for the Naga nation, not for a tribe; 4) It’s time you listen to and carry out the will of the Naga people;
5) Make political talks between any faction and the GOI transparent; keep the Naga public informed;
6) It’s time the Nagas practice what they preach: “Nagaland for Christ.”
As for me, I have never been a party to any of the Naga underground factions. I remain committed to Naga unity, and in this position I am ready to dialogue with any faction leader.
I am first and foremost a believer in Jesus Christ, but I am a Naga before I am a Tangkhul. What about you, beloved Nagas?