Interview by S Baruah with Adinho Phizo

NNC is the Body Politic of the Naga People
1. What is your party’s stand on the ongoing peace process between the Government of India and the NSCN (I-M)?

The Naga National Council (NNC) is the supreme representative body of all the Naga communities. In the affairs of State, the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) is responsible for internal system and national security, whereas under Naga Constitution, the president of the NNC is entrusted with the exclusive executive independence on external affairs. Furthermore, NNC has been immutably entrusted with the historic national mandate in 1951 which is vested in the president of NNC, to uphold Naga sovereignty and also power to delegate or authorize a person or persons to initiate international relations. Nevertheless, only the endorsement of the president of the NNC, international agreement becomes valid.

The ‘ongoing peace process’ will have no relevance to the conflict between Naga-land and India. It simply exposes India’s indifference to its unremitting militarized tyranny in Nagaland. Following an abortive coup d’etat in the late 1970s, the so-called National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-IM) earned its notoriety for killing and terrorizing Nagas. Any attempt to install the self-proclaimed Marxist leaders of the so-called NSCN (IM) with no popular support, no history and no mandate, in Nagaland will be seen by the Nagas as a brazen interference in Nagaland’s internal affairs. It is a futile exercise which is not the first time the Indian Government attempted to subvert the Naga National Council and the Federal Government of Nagaland.

2. Do you think the Government of India’s approach is sincere?

The longest international conflict in modern time, pursued by India against Nagaland is totally inconsistent with Indian post-independence international image. Historically, the two countries had nothing in common, and throughout the entire period of the British rule over South Asia, the Nagas alone had no written treaty or agreement with Great Britian. And prior to the British colonial rulers granted independence to British India in 1947, the Naga leader AZ Phizo led numerous Naga delegation to meet with emerging independent Indian leaders for bilateral talks with the aim of establishing mutual understanding and respect between the two peoples. In none of the many talks with the Indian leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, C Rajagopalachari, Ali Jinah, Gopinath Bordoloi etc. there was any suggestion of Indian political ambition to deny Nagaland independence.

The shift in Indian policy become perceptible after Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhai Patel began to consolidate modern India nation State. At first various veiled threats were used to intimidate the Nagas to join the new Indian Union. It was followed by blatant provocation and hostility directed at the Nagas by neighboring Assam Chief Minister Bishnuram Medhi. Then came the invasion of Nagaland in 1954 by the Indian army.

The Naga leader AZ Phizo gave the Naga political vision to thwart Indian attempt to annex Nagaland and with great determination and sacrifice, the Nagas brought about the international cease-fire agreement between the Federal Government of Nagaland and the Government of India in 1964. Upon the unilateral abrogation of the cease-fire agreement by India in 1972, the ongoing international conflict resumed.

Relations between the two countries reached its nadir in 1975 following the Indian Emergency Rule; officials falsely announced to the world that India had reached ‘accord’ with the Nagas. The fact is the Government of India proscribed the NNC and FGN as ‘illegal’ organizations on 31st August, 1972. Then with the first taste of victory by modern Indian army over the helpless Pakistani army in the then East Pakistan, the Indian army unleashed a reign of terror in Nagaland. This led the Nagaland Peace Council brokered a peace dialogue between Naga representatives and the Indian Martial law officials to alleviate the interminable sufferings by Naga civilians. In India itself, the rule of law was suspended under ‘Emergency Regulations’ in June 1975. When the two sides met at Shillong, India in November 1975, the Indian officials proposed to ‘delink’ politics from military activities. The Shillong talk set aside the international relations for the Prime Minister of India and the President of the NNC to decide at a later date. Intriguingly, it was India’s own undoing that the basis for an accord did not exist. Rightly, the alleged ‘accord’ was never ratified by the respective Governments. Meanwhile the Nagas always look forward to the day the Indians will quit Nagaland.

3. Has the Indian Government ever tried to contact your party for talks?

There has been no direct communication recently between the NNC office and the Government of India while India brazenly exploits Naga internal affairs. Admittedly, both sides know from their various levels of contacts, the position of the other side, perhaps the Nagas are better informed. As for the prospect of resumption of contact in the near future, the bodies of opinions suggest that the Indian politicians have yet to come to term with their own history before able to look beyond. On the part of Nagaland, the Naga National Council and the Federal Government of Naga-land stand ready for definitive talk at any time India is willing to explore meaningful dialogue.

4. What kind of support does the NNC enjoy amongst Nagas now?

Unlike a political party, the Naga National Council is the body politic of the Naga people. Every Naga is a member of the NNC. In fact, the Naga people viscerally agree they belong together as a people and as a nation. Therefore, if one were to apply the word ‘support’, in the case of the Nagas, it also has a subjective meaning. Naga democratic tradition encourages people who have mouth to speak out in public meetings. So in common with any free society, there is bound to be more then one political opinion in Naga society. But irrespective of their political views, the vast majority of the Nagas express their loyalty to the NNC. Over the past five decades, India found Naga society impenetrable on account of the extraordinary unity in support of the NNC and having a unity of purpose.

5. How can you/do you control the movement from London?

Where the NNC office is located is not so much importance because the role of the office is one of entrusts and not ‘control’. As an organization the NNC literally has no tangible structure to house its operation. The chain of command at every level is linked with the people and those serving the nation can read the invisible structure. The answer to the above question lies in good line or communication and information thus able to maintain a dynamic consensus by informed choice.

6. What is your stand on the issue of integrating territories by Nagas from Myanmar, Manipur, Assam?

In ancient time, the Nagas were known by their distinct independent names, for instance, Angami, Ao, Khiamnungan, Konyak, Lotha, Rengma, Yimchunger and so on. Each independent Naga region had different neighbors, Ahoms, Burmese, Kacharis, Kachins, and Meiteis and yet according to both Naga and their neighbor’s traditions, they had clearly delineated borders.

Soon after the British obtained suzerainty over the Assam Valley by the Treaty of Yandaboo, on 24 February, 1826, the British intruded into the independent Angami territory in January 1832. The Nagas fiercely resisted the intrusion and it led to a protracted intermittent battles fought almost every year for nearly 48 years, from January 1832 to November 1879. When the British representatives made peace with the Nagas on 27 March, 1880, the Naga noblemen refused to enter into a treaty or agreement on the perfectly reasonable ground that they could not read what was written. The significance of the verbal understanding was that Naga sovereignty was not surrendered to a foreign ruler. On the other hand, the British arbitrarily altered some part of Naga territories ostensibly for ‘administrative convenience’.

Historically, the Naga people and neighboring people in Assam, Manipur and Myanmar live side by side independent of one another. There is no evidence that suggest contentious territorial dispute between the Nagas and the neighboring people of Assam and Manipur in India and Myanmar. Should there be a need for international territorial adjustments in the future, it will be done with full consultations between interested parties so as to reach mutual agreement.

*** This interview was made available by the FGN(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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