Identity, insurgency and development: The Naga case

Identity, insurgency and development: The Naga case- 14 april 2008 npn

The Naga struggle for sovereignty has been the first and longest of the secessionist turned insurgency movements in South Asia which had posed the foremost challenge to the nascent Indian nation-state. At the core of the Nagas self assertion was the question of its identity. Nagas defined themselves as a separate nation as opposed to the Indian nation and demanded the right to self-determi-nation. When it was not granted to them, they appropriated the politics of secessionism to achieve the goal of Naga nation-state

What has been done: Early modes of negotiations

The early Indian leadership appreciated and empathized with the Naga identity crisis, their fear and apprehension of the tiny tribe amidst the multitude of other Indians. Nehru appreciated the Naga exclusivity as they were excluded from ‘the sensation of being in the Indian national movement’ by the British. In his letter to T. Sakhire on August 1, 1946 Nehru tried to allay the fear and apprehensions of the Nagas and envisioned a model which would perfectly suit them. In fact even before the Nagas themselves had visualized the quantum of autonomy, Nehru had promised it to them with a model which subsequently became paradigm of tribal development.

Nehru promised Nagas all the protection even before the Constituent Assembly had discussed the Indian Cons-titution. Mahatma Gandhi went a step further and said that “Nagas have every right to be independent.” On the question of being forced to join India, Gandhi said, He (Governor of Assam) cannot do that. I will come to the Naga Hills. I will ask them to shoot me first before one Naga is shot.” Gopinath Bordoloi painstakingly incorporated all the principles that Nehru enunciated in constructing that hugely important piece of legislation called the Sixth Schedule which provided protection not only to the Nagas but other tribal as well. Nehru went much ahead, overruled massive opposition and granted statehood to a population of seven lakh not under home ministry as was the law but foreign affair ministry. But with the disappearance of this band of leadership such resilience also disappeared which was responsible for non-resolu-tion of the problems which required different outlook.

Post nationalist phase: the disasters

In the second phase, we find a series of accords between the Nagas and governments of India. Accords failed because they aimed at pacification not addressing the real problem and whenever it failed it was back to the use of army.

The army operation has disfigured the social fabric of the Naga society and economy. The coercive measures that started in 1953 with the mass arrest of NNC leaders continue to this day. There were draconian laws like the promulgation of Naga Hills Disturbed Area Ordin-ance and Assam Main-tenance of Public Order Act of 1953. The Armed Forces Special Power Act 1958 was promulgated adding muscle to the power of the army. More brute power was added by the legislation of Nagaland Security Regulation Act of 1962 and North East Armed Forces Special Power Act was amended in 1972 to make it more brutal. The result was disastrous. Villages were uprooted and rearranged in the name of ‘grouping’, youths arrested or tortured forcing them to move under-ground, women targeted, economy destroyed, social life transformed. Prolonged army operation for an astonishingly long period from 1953 till this day is capable of destroying any social fabric which it did. The depression and the conseq-uent alcoholism and drug addiction by generations of Naga youth is a major result of this non-existent socio-cultural life.

What has not been done?

In fact the core issue of identity had never been addressed neither at an academic level or political level. The Indian intellectual in general showed total disdain and apathy to understand and win over the Naga. It has to be premised that Naga identity as was constructed in the 1940’s was based on its primordial principles. In the context of modernity it needed to be modernized. The way despite the existence 370-A, a modern school, college, university, clinic, hospital, electricity, housing, food habit, TV, radio, telephone, mobile and such inventions of modern science and technology were accept-able to the Naga without interfering their tradition and custom, being a constituent of a multi-nationality Indian union was not antithetical to the Naga identity. This idea was not communicated to the Nagas.

Nagaland is in a pathetic state of development. The communication, level of poverty, employment, agri-culture, infra structure in Naga Hills is non-existent to say the least. There is no sign of a modern state in Nagaland. Peace and submission to the will Indian state was made a prerequisite to development. It appeared that Nagaland have been punished for demanding autonomy by depriving its development. It is a mystery why peace negotiations and develop-ment could not be coeval. How will Nagaland catch up with the sixty years that it lagged behind has to be thought about now?

What should be done?

It is ironical when the rest of India is reaping the benefit of globalization and liberation the lack of basic amenities is an issue in Nagaland. The argument that prerequisite of development is peace is untenable. Doling out cash money and abdicat-ing responsibility thereafter would be only a continuation of the old policies.

Nagaland has to be opened up to South East Asian countries like Myanmar. Chindwin River is not very far. Through it an opening to the Bay of Bengal is a possibility. The social capital of Nagaland has to be nurtured.

Nagaland had been granted an Institute of Mass Communication, Centre for Culture etc which are misplaced. What Nagaland needs a Medical College, and Engineering College, regional offices of Sports authority of India and centres of Infor-mation Technology. Medical Colleges would improve the abysmal health facilities in the region by training their own manpower. The Engineering College similarly can produce graduates who would have the skill to exploit the huge mineral wealth of the hills. It has been granted a Central University but it has been negligent in appointing its Vice Chancellors. Nagas have produced world class footballers like T. AO and Basant Kabui who led Indian football team in the Olympics. Even now individual Naga players are paid players in Bengal Football League. But neither fields nor coaching facilities are available to the Naga youth.

It is an established fact that Nagas are naturally endowed with special skill in sports like Table Tennis and Badminton but the political climate or the physical amenities are absent to nurture these talents. Pro-motion of sports culture and amenities is absolutely essential as a part of develop-ment package.

Nagaland is naturally endowed with geographical features which would allow trekking, rock climbing, river rafting and such adventure sports. Nagaland has the unique monument of War Cemetery where the remains of the European soldiers of the Second World War are preserved. This pilgrimage to this war cemetery should not be confined to only relative of the war victims but general European tourists. Like the Khonoma village more and more model villages should be developed. It would encourage ethnotourism through which foreign tourist could get a glimpse of traditional Nagas’ life and tradition.

Naga handicrafts, ethnic garments and artifacts symbolizing Naga identity can reach world market through the tourists. Army can clear their tarnished name to some extent by adopting village and see their growth and transition to 21

st century. Dr Sajal Nag, professor of History, Assam Central University, Silchar.

CM’s non-resident Nagas’ summit 2008-09?

CM’s non-resident Nagas’ summit 2008-09?  14 april 2008 npn


Let me begin by quoting the famous Chinese proverb that ‘A thousand miles journey begins with a single step’. In this open and cosmopolitan world, things that were once considered impossible and not important have changed and they will continue to do so. If we Nagas want a slice and share of the economic, cultural, political and technological breakthroughs which are taking at a rapid pace; then we have no choice but to get every Naga family at home and abroad involved in the building of our God-given land and people.

It is encouraging to know that the newly elected government under the honorable and far-sighted chief minister, Neiphiu Rio and the fatherly governor-ship of S.N Narayaranan has declared 2008 as the year of ”Capacity Building”. This is a great and challenging slogan for us to pull up our socks and get into action. Not only that, but it is also good to hear our elected leaders using the term ‘One united Naga family’.

I believe my fellow Naga Diaspora who are now spread around the world and those of you who at home and are far sighted, will understand my heart about the political, socio-economics and spiritual environment and the urgency of time that we are in.

I would with all humility but without hiding my love and concern for our God-given land and people whose destiny He has pre-ordained for His glory put across to our honorable Chief Minister Rio to carefully and seriously consider the following proposals, and also would encourage, challenge and invite various broad-based people’s organizations and groups.

Just to name a few: Naga Hoho (NH) Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), Naga Mothers Associations (NMA), Eastern Naga peoples Organization (ENPO), Eastern Naga Students Federation (ENSF), Eastern Naga Women’s organization (ENWO) together with other non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and self-help groups so we Nagas as one ‘united Naga family’ will arise together and rebuild the broken walls in our family, tribe, village, town, church, education sector, healthcare and so forth so we will no longer live in shame and without respect as Nehemiah did for Jerusalem and for his people.

Why the chief minister’s non resident Nagas Summit necessary and important?

1. Like it or not, the chief minister is in the driver’s seat to take our people to their destiny for the next five years, and is also the most neutral person to call the ‘historic summit’ which need to, and should cut across party and tribal lines. The chief minister can host the summit by getting the state planning board as a main organizer.

2. Other states in India are also holding summits for the non resident Indians, just to name a few:- Bihar, Punjab, Gujarat, and West Bengal. Closer to home, some of our immediate neighbors are doing the same because they know the benefit of tapping on their people’s expertise and talents which were mainly initiated by their Chief Ministers.

Even countries in south and south East Asia whose people left for the Western nations as ‘boat people’ and refugees are now being invited back to contribute to their land of origin in different sectors of health, education, science, technology and tourism etc. These were people who left their lands only in the mid- seventies to the mid-eighties. This should awaken and encourage us that we too have our people who have gone overseas much earlier than the above mentioned and who would definitely have something positive to offer to our land and people if given the opportunity.

3. The non resident Nagas or the ‘overseas Nagas’ as some call it must and need to be included in the big and positive picture of the so called ‘one united Naga family’. They must be part of the process and progress of our homeland, never before was there such a need and awareness of one Naga family than today.

No time should be wasted to attempt on accommodating any strategies that could bring our people to work out our own destiny and determination together. When you look at history and even today, whether in the arena of politics, education, business and in different nations and peoples group in the world, one will always find their overseas people playing a vital role in their nations and peoples’ building; this is long overdue in the case of our Naga people.

4. At present there is not a body or an organization that brings or connects the non resident Nagas with one another and with their beloved Nagaland, apart from the Naga American Foundation [NAF] which is confined to the Nagas in the United States of America and some fellowships in some few countries. We are behind our neighbors as far as this important connection is concerned, the Assamese, Kukis, Meiteis, Mizos have strong based and connection within themselves and with their homelands. This has helped their people back home to have more exposure and success in different fields. How long are we going to go on with this life of apathy, and mindset of self-centeredness?

I believe once the non resident Nagas come or are brought together, it will create a new chapter and horizon of hope and positive advancement for our God given land and people.

It is not by surprise that Rev. Dr Wati Aier recently spoke about the importance and the necessity of us Nagas coming together when speaking at the All Naga Students’ Association of Manipur (ANSAM) con-ference. I believe his words are very prophetic when he said ‘Naga togetherness and oneness is our strength’. This is the way our Almighty God who is the God of all mankind including the 370 millions indigenous people in which we Nagas are part of it will stir and speak through His faithful, humble and daring servants… but are we listening?

5. The best and the right people to promote our land, cultural heritage and also to seek the welfare and the best for our land is not some one who is outside from our race and culture but our very own people. Why do I say this? We are Nagas and we know our land, geographically, ecologically, socially etc .

The overseas Nagas may be insignificant and untapped today, but in the long run they will be become the ‘windows’ for others to peep into our land, contact and invest and also the door for our people to enter into the global fields of opportunity. More of our younger generations are going abroad and they are the educated and well informed ones. Therefore, it is always good to start our connections early in order make them feel acceptable and to have a sense attachment and at the same time to make contribution in different ways to the land and the people.

6. The Naga diasporas who are now spreading around the world e.g. – USA, UK, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Korean, Japan etc., are not like the early days when most of our people went mainly to the U.K and USA for further study in theology and to get involved in Church based works.

Although we might not be still on par with others, we proudly tell and introduce our people who have established themselves in different fields of professionalism and are now based in different parts of the world. Given the opportunity and the facility we are second to none, I have seen this in my interaction with some of our people overseas.

7. We can tap on the expertise of our non resident Nagas to contribute to our land and people back home in the area of Cultural and Eco-tourism, Education, Health, cottage industry and so forth. This will also open the opportunity for both the non resident Nagas and our people back home to release and reach their potential to grow and succeed.

We have many of our young entrepreneurs, musicians, athletes, social and civil activists, clergies, media persons, IT professionals, medical specialists and even young Turks in politics like Neiba Kronu, the deputy chairman of the state planning board. He has the lion heart and ambition for our land and wants to develop our land and people to compete with others even globally For example, Neiba Kronu’s passion to find a niche for the Naga king chilli in the global market, his heart cry and passion speak and represent the younger generation of Nagas who I call refer to as the post state baby boomers of 1963.

They refuse to be labeled with the ‘Frog in the pond mentality’ that there is a wide world of opportunity for them to explore and conquer. It is about time that the so called seniors, veterans, fathers and leaders of our people in different fields begin to realize and have faith in our younger generation.

8. There is a possibility and need to set up a ‘Naga family contact centre (NFCC) in different parts of the world where Nagas and others who are interested in us and our land can reach us. This can be done by appointing some of our people who have settled permanently in the country or region to be the honorary representative. This will help and even bring the non resident Nagas (NRN) closer and quicker to meet and brainstorm to come up with a group to network together. It should be the responsibility of every true indigenous and patriotic Naga to love their land and people by becoming the bridge between the local Nagas and the global community.

The following are examples where (NFCC) can be set up: South East Asia: Thailand, Singapore, Philippines.

North East Asia: Korea, Japan. South Pacific: Australia, New Zealand.

North America: USA, Canada. Europe: UK. It might sound mammoth and insignificant now but the doors of opportunity and benefit our people are going to get and receive can only be seen by the far sighted and ‘proton’ person (ice breakers, pioneers, foundation layers etc.)

9. There is no place like home sweet home. Let the summit be held at Kohima for at least three days and it will give the opportunity for Nagas to meet and build their networking.

The first day can be with the chief minister at home, where they can interact and at the same time hear his heart for the Nagas.

The second day can involve different panels of discussion and hear from the delegates, and the last day can be set aside for the delegates to interact with the different organizations NGO’S and different head of government departments to work out the future strategies and opportunities.

10. When every Naga leader and organization is talking about our integration, unification, reconciliation , reformation , restoration from the church pulpit to the common platform, the world and environment we are in is pragmatic and it needs action to be taken now, and not tomorrow because it is a competitive generation. At this point in time, overseas Nagas are outside the fence of our nation’s process and progress, but this will, and has to change. Even well to do nations in the Asia-pacific regions are openly inviting their people who have left for other nations to come back by creating contact centers around the world to get in touch with their former nations. The whole purpose is to get them back to contribute and get involved with their motherland.

Some useful sug-gestions for the summit: Promote by getting the media groups eg- Nagaland Post/Morung Express/ and get it registered through them. Get some of our local travel agencies for the visas and other travel/accommo-dation arrange-ments etc. Last but not the least, once this kicks off, just like the beginning of the Hornbill festival in 2000, it will get bigger and better with more connectivity and pro-ductivity with one another as one united Naga family and with the global family. This will eventually lead us to find our rightful place in the global community where we can hold our heads up confidently. May I therefore encourage our honorable chief minister not to hesitate to take another bold step in this area for the brighter and better future of the Nagas, by quoting the book of Esther, Chapter 4, verse 12 – 14: ‘Do not think that because you are in the King’s house you alone of all the

Jews (Nagas) will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews (Nagas) will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? Always for one Nagaland.

Rev. Luoliehu

Marlemba Yimsung

Global Indigenous Prayer Network, Australia.Queensland, Australia