By Rev Dr VK Nuh
The Naga National question was not born on the eve of Indian Independence in 1947. As the first chapter on Sovereignty and Independence of the Nagas show, the Naga sense of nationhood and solidarity was a fact that had existed ever since the Nagas have been in existence in recorded history as far back as the 12th century. When the Ahom Kings from Thailand crossed the Naga territories in the 12th century, they encountered fierce attacks from the Nagas. The same spirit of solidarity was shown when the British at the turn of the 18th century entered their territory. As also pointed out in the introductory chapter on the Anglo-Indian war and the Anglo-Naga war the Naga defence of their ancestral lands against the British invasion in 1832 preceded the Indian Independence uprising of 1857 by at least 25 years.
While it has never been suggested that in Ancient times or before the British rule, the Naga Hills were ever an integral part of India, it has been suggested that there were periods in between revolt, when Naga Chiefs owed allegiance or perhaps paid Tribute to the Ahom Kings of Assam before British conquest, Assam itself then, not being part of India. – Major-General Sir James Johnstone, K.C.S.I
My experience in Manipur and Naga Hills 1896
There was no established United Government of Nagaland or a Naga kingdom as such prior to the departure of the British form the Indian subcontinent. But the same case is also true to India, which prior to 1947 was mainly a subcontinent of 500 Princely states.
It would also be very wrong to project the Naga political consciousness as something that originated with Phizo and a few ‘gangster” as some Indian writers have referred to the Naga freedom fighters. Even as clearly as 1929 when the Simon Commission visited Kohima, the Naga Club had clearly stated that Nagas would not join the Indian Union because they were not Indians. That Phizo played a significant role in shaping the political destiny of the Nagas and that he was largely responsible for giving shape and form to that destiny is an undeniable fact. That, however, does not mean that prior to Phizo there was no form or consciousness of that national destiny. It must also be remembered many others who helped shape that destiny with equal zeal and commitment. In fact, what some Naga political leaders have often asserted that there were many Phizo’s among the Nagas is true.
The story of the Naga National Council and the Nagas Nationalist movement for recognition of their inalienable rights to sovereignty and independence therefore began from 1929 in written form though it has it roots as A.D 150 with the Nagas inhabiting their homeland from that period on. To make this fact very clear I quote from the memorandum that was submitted by the Naga club to the Simon Commission in1929.
“If the British Government, however, wants to throw us away, we pray that we should not be thrust to the mercy of the (Indian) people who could never have conquered us themselves, and to whom we are never subjected but leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times!”.