Outgoing chairman CFMG/CFSB on Naga problems

If sitting here and not being able to prevent or take action, then I have a moral responsibility not to remain in the chair: George
Outgoing chairman of the Cease Fire Monitoring Group (with the NSCN-IM) and the Cease Fire Supervisory Board( with NSCN-K and GPRN/NSCN) and former Chief of Staff of the Dimapur-based 3 Corps Maj.Gen(Retd) N.George leaves Nagaland on March 28 after one year and four months in office.

Maj.Gen(Retd) N.George

Maj.Gen(Retd) N.George

On the eve of his departure from Nagaland, the outgoing chairman also held separate meetings with the CFMC of the NSCN(I-M) and CFSB with NSCN(K) and also GPRN/NSCN(Khole-Kitovi).

In an exclusive interview to Nagaland Post at the Police Complex Chumukedima Wednesday, the outgoing chairman disclosed that he decided that it was time for him to move on after election in Nagaland was announced in December 2012.

George indicated that with elections and another government and without any agreement to the political issue, he felt the same situation of clashes and other offences would continue which as chairman, he did not have any power to deal with.

“If sitting here and not being able to prevent or take action, then I have a moral responsibility not to remain in the chair”, he said. He expressed deep pain over factional firing incidents in Zunheboto where a young boy and another old man were killed in November last year.

On his role as chairman, George said the present role of the chairman was only to mediate between underground groups and security forces so as to maintain cease fire. He opined that there was also a need to have an Interlocutor in Nagaland to liaise with the society at large along similar lines with the Interlocutor in Delhi holding talks with the NSCN(I-M).

The outgoing chairman felt that such an Interlocutor in Nagaland could also help fill the communication gap between the Centre and the state government.

He said there were many areas that require action in Nagaland and that Delhi has to give the extra push and hardcore action to address the pressing issues. George felt that if such an Interlocutor in Nagaland was to be appointed, he should be given a hand to do a good job.

Asked about his view on the Naga political issue, George asserted that the biggest problem was that all were only talking from their own selfish interests. He said this itself was the biggest tragedy that has befallen the people’s yearning for peace.

George also shared the view that the elected government in the state has to be kept in the loop over the Naga political issue. He said Delhi cannot realistically arrive at any widely acceptable agreement without taking the state government on board.

He also reiterated that the Centre needed to get more involved with Nagaland and the people rather than with only the NSCN(I-M). George however clarified that he was not referring to the ongoing talks but about problems of extortion and other offences by various groups that continue to plague Naga society.

He cited the case of the Rs.1200 crore SARDP in Nagaland which has ground to a halt due to extortion demands by one underground group. He said reviving the project would also be very costly.
George asked “why are the people silent” (about abandonment of the road project) and “where is the money going to?”.

He opined that Nagaland was being held under a mafia-like vice grip and that this had to change. He lamented that people were naïve to think that “one signature in Delhi” would suddenly transformation into peace.

George described as irrelevant, the much-used phrase “solution” which political leaders and sections of society use as the politically correct lexicon.

He said talks were held only with one faction and that too in secrecy for a solution for all. He asked, can it ever become a solution?

He said it was far from true that Delhi can bring the “solution” as demanded. George pointed out that the change that people want has to come through a common responsibility of playing an active role instead of “taking a backseat”.

George said people in Nagaland need to realise, that unless they speak out, loud and clear against acts inimical to social peace and harmony, change will not happen.

He said in contrast, in Manipur, where the situation is graver, people have resorted to organising seminars to voice their anger openly against such acts.

The outgoing chairman also said the oft-used common concept of “conflict resolution” was sometimes misplaced as in reality, it was an engagement with only a miniscule section of society.

He said nobody knows what the demands are and whether the perceived solution was applicable only to one area or to Nagaland or beyond. He said this went beyond the basics of resolving conflict.

George opined that keeping people in the dark has the consequence of the void being filled by suspicion. In such a situation, he said acceptance of such agreement by a wide majority could become a problem.

According to the outgoing chairman, it would have been different if there was communication with the public on what the demands were in order not to create wide suspicions.

He said even if an agreement was the best available, in the end, making people accept it would be a challenge.

He also maintained that there was no such thing as perfect document or agreement. George said only when it was acceptable to all sections of people, it would be an ideal document.

Memoirs of a Student Leader

Dr. P.S. Lorin, Principal

“We should stick and stand up for each other but we should not overdo it, such that we alienate ourselves from students of other communities. For those living in the metros or even in towns like Dimapur and Kohima, you have to grow up quicker and be street smart to survive and succeed. You are not studying with only another Naga or tribal, you are actually studying with some of the brightest, strongest and self-driven people in the world.”
– Musings from a former
student leader

I shudder at times when I recall how I finally landed up in Delhi in the 70’s. I was young, had only `500 in my pocket and did not know a soul in Delhi. My train arrived early and I went straight to the University to take admission, without a clue about where I would be staying in Delhi. I would have been in big trouble, if I had not met a fellow Naga student named Luingam Luithui, who took me in and helped me get set on my feet. I am forever grateful to him for that act of kindness

I believe this is an example of how we Nagas took care of each other in the early days. Nagas who came to Delhi were always welcomed and treated as family by other Nagas. During this period (1974-78), the political situation in Nagaland was still stormy and Naga patriotism was also vibrant and clearly visible. It was also a time when it was easy to meet Naga politicians, top bureaucrats and businessmen who came to the capital for work. This served a boon to the Naga Students Union Delhi, as the Union played a crucial role those days. In retrospect, this leverage probably influenced a lot of decisions and even helped to formulate them.

One year after arriving in Delhi, I was chosen as the consensus candidate to be the President of Naga Students Union Delhi in 1975. We had a good team and worked hard. While there were certainly shortcomings on our part, I would like to think that we also had many accomplishments. Of these accomplishments, we were able to achieve them only because of the unity, cooperation and discipline of the hardworking members.

Undoubtedly, globalisation has made the world a smaller place today, changing outlooks and mindsets. However, I will also not be surprised if some of you feel a sense of familiarity even today with my observations on the scenario during those days. Naga students in Delhi and some other parts of India were commonly mistaken to be foreigners because of our mongoloid features. The Nagas also had a social and cultural life quite different from the mainland Indians and therefore, we perceived each other differently, even as we lived on different levels of conservatism and broadmindedness all in the same breath. It was very rare to find an Indian who had heard of Nagaland, let alone know where it was located. As we struggled to establish our identity in a city of millions, we were regularly bombarded with disturbing news from Nagaland. News of clashes between the Indian army and members of the Naga Political Movement and sometimes atrocities against civilians were a regular occurrence. These incidents always elicited anger and deep frustration against the Indian Government. Filled with Naga patriotism, many of the students boycotted UPSC civil service competitive exams, idealistically opting to wait and sit for the future Naga National Public Service (NNPS) competitive examinations once Nagaland supposedly attained its independence.

Against this backdrop of political turmoil and our search for a Naga identity the NSUD helped form the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR). The NPMHR worked to specifically tackle Armed Forces Special powers Act of 1958 and other draconian laws prevailing in Naga Areas.

It was an uphill task to organize ourselves in the absence of mobile phones, and landlines which sometimes failed to work. Just like any organization, there were differences of opinion and minute feelings of tribalism rearing its ugly head. Today, looking back at where we are now, I cannot say we were successful in everything we did. But I do know we were able to highlight a lot of our problems to many mainland student leaders. Some of them were Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, student leaders during our time who are now members of the Communist Party of India.

I hope to see our Naga student bodies continue to promote and celebrate our success as a people in the many dynamic cities and locations they are located. In my opinion, one very important role for a lot of the student bodies in the cities and the towns is to build ties and create friendship with non-Nagas, particularly with mainland Indians. Many of the student leaders in the capital or the colleges you are studying in may be the future leaders of the country and building these bridges now would surely pay dividends in the future. We should stick and stand up for each other but we should not overdo it, such that we alienate ourselves from students of other communities. As a student body you function with constraints. You should remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that any organisation is accountable to the people it represents. I wish to see every one of you to hold impeccable integrity so that you earn respect, trust and the confidence of others.

Today, we live in a different era. There are more options for employment than just the government, access to information and communication that has been unprecedented and widespread education to help surpass anything that the earlier Nagas had achieved. My message is for each and every student. You have many more advantages than your fathers ever did. For those living in the metros or even in towns like Dimapur and Kohima, you have to grow up quicker and be street smart to survive and succeed. You are not studying with only another Naga or tribal, you are actually studying with some of the brightest, strongest and self-driven people in the world. Do not let us, your parents and yourself down. MExN

Yet another lifeless, aimless narrative (Book Review of Harish Chandola’s The Naga Story)

[A Book Review of Harish Chandola‘s The Naga Story: First Armed Struggle in India (trs.) Raji Narasimhan and Harish Chandola (New Delhi & New York: Chicken Neck, 2013). 428 pp. Rs. 850 (Hp). ISBN 9788192072265.]

Nearly eleven years ago I met Harish Chandola for the first time, by an accident that is sheer coincidence: in the lift of a suburban Bangkok hotel he was putting up at. “Oh! Are you an Indian!” —I said, with only a Thai liftboy in tow—and, instinctually, his reply, soft and gentle, was: “Are you a Naga?”

As perfect strangers, we could have excused each other without bothering to even bat an eyelid! Chandola had made a stopover at Bangkok. He was enroute to meet the then Singaporean President, Mr. Sellapan R. Nathan, and running late with his appointment. Ten minutes later, we were sitting together in his hotel lobby; busy with a message he wanted me to e-mail Nathan, requesting for a rescheduling of the personal appointment. Two hours later, the President’s personal assistant Cheng Cheong wrote me back with regrets for the tight schedule and impossibility to reschedule the appointment. By then—Mr. Chandola, too, was no longer around, to receive any message!

First thing first—the warmness of the person should not be confused with the book. Harish Chandola’s The Naga Story is rather too late by appointment. It makes too many unnecessary stopovers to enthrall any serious audience! It conveys no consequential message of events or significance, except the sogginess of journalistic anecdotes wanting to be a charitable narrative! Clearly it is a book hurriedly written, much beyond its stipulated luxuries. It is purely a work of individuated experience and indispensability, and apologetics for failures, which would have been best for further debates, had it seen the light earlier.

Most gross in The Naga Story is the massacre of semantics and proper nouns—not only an assault but also a treacherous ambush of familiarity and proximity. It appears like a phonetic book of syllables, clearly valued on its dictated version, converting all historicized Naga places into Swiftian yahoo-land. With almost every page dirtily littered with wrongful spellings of names and places, the average Naga reader will find this irritatingly distressful, although an apology was also served as a warning.
How does one like to open a book that attempts to convince an indulgent caesarean for a neat normal: Chedema = Chidema, Kiphire = Kifrey, Phesama = Faisama, Chazouba = Cajuba, Khuzhama = Khujama, Wokha = Okha, Chumukedima = Chemokedima; or, Sashimeren Aier = Aiyer, Gen. Thinoselie = Thinusilei/Thinuselie, Vamuzo = Vanmuzo, Khriesaneisa = Krisanisa, Zashei Huire = Jassei Hurrey, etc. and many more. Interestingly, Sema names were significantly spared! Surgically, such impoliteness to proper nouns are no longer errors but straightway mistakes—especially for the ones one had visited spatially or personally met with—but, sadly, minted as phonetic memories, perhaps, in the loneliness of a much needed edit-companion, the first and only proof-reading rule for any writing before any publication.

Harish Chandola is no stranger to the Nagas—starting with his career as Times of India’s northeast correspondent (1957-62) and, later on, as “an” (not “the”) unofficial mediator between Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Nagas, in the 1970s ceasefire and peace talks. For an originally high class Brahmin, there are every ethos of an already embedded tribal simplicity and bluntness, perhaps topographically groomed from the slopes of Uttarakhand where he now grows “apples and apples.” The Chandola’s migratory root is said to have originated from the Punjab and Gujarat.

Content wise, personal and old hurts are reasonably flashed, without giving a ‘why’ perspective in many cases. Clearly, The Naga Story cultivates serious disdain for and focuses on Jamir, a former-Chief Minister of Nagaland, and an intrinsic moral disgust for the Naga middle and ruling classes, who are seen as undeservingly becoming rich through corruption. In expressing it so, it appropriately traces the origin of a compulsive egoism within Naga society, beginning from an earlier generation, which runs the risk of foreboding a predicative history to the elites in Kevichusa’s clan; a cautious publicity, easily linking his name to the in-laws. If today’s news is truly tomorrow’s history—journalism’s old habits of such emboldened task—definitely is seeking presence for the legitimacy of history writing, with the everyday politics of gossips and anecdotes, of yesteryears.

The Naga Story richly accounts naivety, reinforcing the stereotyping about Nagas’ sincerity and simplicity—especially in recounting the rounds of talks held with Indira Gandhi. It makes no pretension of a prejudiced Indian bureaucracy—particularly even the author’s own resentment for retired ambassador and then gubernatorial Braj Kumar Nehru—and their jealous interferences and myopic inferences into the Naga political process—a trend that is still continued, with the current Naga talks. Apart from that, what is new to what is not heard in the repetitive history of a boring Naga history?

Journalistic voyeurism or activist’s pamphlet-like fifteen pages, double-spaced, of Chapter 10, “Who are the Nagas?”—often falls into the thin line of assumptive generalizations, capsule and informative, rather than academic and problematizing, over a topic that is pursued to attract an interest for the media with the anthropological! The Naga Story is riddled with a historically incorrect digression, in appropriating the 1936 “Pangsha” as the “Last British Military Campaign”—(which is in sharp contrast to Naga nationalist discourse of constructing 1879 as the last Naga-British war)—because, well beyond British declaration of independent India, colonial military campaigns were still conducted. The 09 July-04 December, 1947 diaries (Journey to Nagaland) of Milfred Archer, wife of W.G. Archer, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Mokokchung, perhaps may be accounted as a description of what may be termed as the last British colonial intrusion into un-administered Naga areas. It is also imperative to note that in colonial times the notion of punitive or tour campaigns are both same—for it always involves the military.

On “head-hunting”—Chandola reaffirms the colonial-ethnographic gaze: “Nagas believe that within skulls lie psychic powers of women, men and children they belonged to. By cutting off heads these powers are preserved and can be utilized for the good of homes and fields, to increase yield and make villages prosperous” (p. 259-60). Couple of other statements compounds such pernicious stereotyping: “Kampani [former Joint Secretary, MHA] had been saying that Nagas were heavy drinkers” (p. 365), without any reference to rum politics in Naga history; or, again, a rudimentary but slapping attestation on changing sociolinguistic scenes: the “tradition of oral knowledge was lost. Today English-speaking Nagas make fun of it” (p. 174).
As a witness to some of the most tumultuous political moments in South-Asian history, one expects a brief non-partisan and non-condescending approach to highlight Indian military cruelties and abuse of human rights! Maybe even featuring some black and white collection of re-grouped Naga settlements and tortures too—by grace of being the only Indian held camera eye that was given access then! Another time, another book, perhaps!

Otherwise, The Naga Story lacks any serious overtones of political discourse—nor suggests, however willy-nilly, any direction to a protracted conflict. The priorities are somewhere else—like the reportage on his friend, who framed his historical “boots” that kicked the ass out of Nagaland’s first Chief Minister P. Shilu, for flirtatiously eying Assam’s Chief Secretary’s daughter during a state banquet or, undeservingly mentioned, about what became of Shilu’s tragic end.

Of the nineteen chapters—“Second World War” and “Azad Hind Fauj” merit no special attention as separate chapters; given the relevance the descriptive seems to have diverted. The concluding chapter: “With India: How and in What Form?” again, is a delineation to some lifeless narratives, without any suggestion, or arrest. By and large, The Naga Story is an over elaborated gratification of an aimless narrative—akin to news—merely to complement the central theme of the story: a personal litany of how Chandola, to paraphrase his own admittance, was made a “scapegoat” in past Naga political and historical process, despite his connectedness with the then most powerful person in India, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Unfortunately, the central point of his story—the epistolary proof of Mrs. Gandhi’s five letters to the author (pp. 328, 331-34)—are shabbily scanned, copied in original form, almost unreadable, apparently ignorant of any available computer software’s touch-ups.

Overrated and generously over-priced, the outlandishly titled The Naga Story: First Armed Struggle is definitely not meant for a Naga readership; it was a translation from an earlier vernacular version. Perhaps, because of misplaced trust and expectations—because of such books and what they say or do—we still continue to frustratingly call the best or worst of Indian writers sometimes as bl**dy nitwits! It softly reminds us: if Harish Chandola cannot write a book deservingly, which Indian will? After all, it is his story and not the Naga story! Stringent, the review appears—but necessary, for the scholars of tomorrow may be charting a historiography, footnoting such fluid books, as the Naga history. Eastern Mirror Nagaland

Nagaland For Christ

March 25, 2013

Niketu Iralu

Last month it was “Elections and Nagas”. This month it is “Nagaland for Christ”. Some earlier themes were Corruption and Dreams. Through its OPINION “The Morung Express” is getting us to examine ourselves, our society and the key issues in our crisis.

Given its painful history of abused usage, a discussion of “Nagaland for Christ” inevitably becomes an examination and assessment of
1. Human aspirations, the struggles and the slogans for them,
2. The consequences of the methods and means we adopt in the struggles to achieve our aspirations.

And what becomes clear is that God allows all human aspirations, dreams and ambitions. But there is a catch; the problem or the beauty, depending on how we see life on earth. He requires our methods and means to achieve our aspirations should be right and selfless so that in our pursuit of what we long for we are already deeply satisfied and happy, as we are contributing to the building of His kingdom on earth. Revolutionaries and reformers call it “the just, sustainable society”. We are discussing the purpose and meaning of life on earth, the existential issues which if we ignore produce the beginnings of hell for ourselves and others. But to decide to face them and to simply become committed “to be the change you want to see in the world” as God will guide you, is to discover your calling and the fulfillment of your life meant for you. We may rebel against this requirement as suffocating or tyrannical. Or we may accept it as His infinite wisdom realizing that what we mistake for His oppressive shadow over us is actually “shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly” guiding us to achieve the highest good for the human race in which everyone’s part is important! “There is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. If we care enough and share enough, everyone will have enough”. This exquisite delicate balance makes it clear everyone is decisively important.

The coming of Christianity to the Nagas was part of the impact on us by changes from outside. The intense crisis of the struggle understandably made our people to turn to their new religion for solace and affirmation. The result was the prayer, and war cry, “Nagaland for Christ!” which became an additional slogan of the struggle. It revealed an instinctive search to strengthen the struggle by spiritually widening and deepening its meaning. “Nagaland for Christ” should be understood in the context in which it was born and declared by desperate men and women as they bore the terrible brunt of the consequences of what they had launched. They had not counted the cost of the stand they had taken because their perception of their history up to their time and their honour as a people gave them no other choice but to act as they did.
The Naga struggle marks the beginning of the written modern history of our people. Our pioneer leaders concluded from the facts of our history, as understood by them, that Nagas were fully entitled to be a people and a nation, if they wanted to. This perception and conclusion produced the political struggle that has gone on actively for almost three-quarters of a century. Without doubt the majority of our people supported this struggle and sacrificed greatly for it.

But there are vital truths we need to accept from what has happened to “Nagaland for Christ” and the heroic Naga struggle because of the way we have pursued them, and what they have done to our society consequently. No one needs to be told we are in a crisis that is truly baffling. But we should welcome it, as according to the wisdom of ancient China a crisis means a moment of great Danger and great Opportunity. We will discover that if we will decide to help one another to concentrate on the opportunities in our crisis we will go forward as God’s plan is for us. But we will drag one another down our jointly-created Black Hole because we are thoughtless and without imagination beyond what instantly gratifies. In Tenyidie it is ‘Ketheguo’. Angamis for sure are discovering what this unexamined thought from our past of severe deprivations is doing to us. We are beginning to question our disturbing compulsive tendency to go for a picnic at the slightest provocation.
Socrates’ wisdom “A life not examined is not worth living” is often quoted. We have found the struggle of a people for their aspirations also becomes impossible to pursue, even unworthy of respect, if truthful reality checks are not done frequently, whether the struggle is “over ground” or “underground”.
Looking back at our journey thus far, it will be correct to say the struggle launched by the Naga National Council consolidated and rallied the Naga tribes to take the first steps towards their common goal to become a nation. After a magnificent launching it went on to produce a series of uncontrollable mentally and spiritually disturbed children, so to speak, namely, the State of Nagaland, the Revolutionary Government of Nagaland, NSCN, NSCN (IM) and (K), NNC (Acc) and (non-Ac), Unification and so on. Deep down all of us are proud of our clean parental origin, but we all feel guilty for what we cannot deny we have all done to our old parent. It may not be wrong to go to the extent of saying that the overwhelming crisis produced other monstrosities, chief among them being chemical addiction, corruption and extortion. There is no room for anyone judging any one here because we have all contributed our shares to whatever we have today. We seem incapable of addressing the monsters because we find our experience and thinking are way below what is required for today’s issues. This view cannot be dismissed entirely. Therefore, we have to ask why we have come to what Roman historian Titus Livius said of his society in the first century AD: “We have reached the point where we cannot bear either our vices or their cure?”

Like all new travellers on the road of history tend to do, (often not knowing they’re doing it), we Nagas also too easily pull every new thing we find on our journey down to our level to suit ourselves instead of understanding them properly to discover what we are required to do with them, asking what our response to them should be. Our reckless manipulation of everything for instant solutions and enjoyment regardless of the consequences has made proper growth of our society impossible.

Consider our Christianity? The most obvious thing to say is that as far as God is concerned, Christianity has to be done not our human way, but His way, as His Son showed, living and carrying the Cross all the way from the beginning of His mission to Gethsemane and ending up on Calvary. Judging by what Jesus said in Gethsemane and then on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, even for Him the vibrant dawn of Easter He gave to mankind was a discovery He had not foreseen because He was so human. But He inaugurated Christianity by his costly obedience saying, “But your will be done, not mine”.

What has happened over the years to “Nagaland for Christ” shows what happens when we are more interested in the fruits of Christianity than in the health of the tree of Christianity, or we are more interested in the outcome than in the quality of the process that produces the outcome. We do this if we don’t understand or care for the importance of the “Doctrine of Ends and Means”, because what we want is more important to us than the methods and means we adopt to get it.

British historian, Arnold Toynbee said, “All of history can be written in two small words: Challenge and Response. … Each society progresses only to the extent it meets its challenges”. This is a fundamental principle for any people or individual aspiring to be something. We are never more than the quality of our response to the challenges that confront us in the changing situations of life. By our judging of others for the divisions and differences of our society from our subjective, restricted perceptions only we have produced together what we have today, factions condemning one another as puppets, traitors, sell-outers, and what have you. But if we can climb out of our tribal and factional trenches from where we have been firing murderous words and bullets at one another, we will discover that the different stands and paths different groups have taken are really different responses to the challenges of changes differently perceived by different people. In the places of those we have judged wouldn’t we too have responded as they did? A great thought of the American natives put in a song by David Mills says,

“Walk a mile in another man’s moccasins,
Walk a while in another man’s shoes,
Before you leave him condemned forever
Put on his boots there’s nothing to lose;
Live a day with another man’s family,
Live a day by another man’s side –
Years of hurt can end and a foe become a friend
As you find that he is just the same as you inside.”

We should realize that responding adequately to challenges of changing situations is a most difficult thing to do. We all make mistakes in our responses. Therefore our urgent need is compassionate understanding and forgiving of one another within the Naga family. None of us is completely happy with the way we have responded to the opportunities and dangers our crisis compelled us to face. If we can simply be transparent about the things that deep down we regret we did or failed to do, we will be surprised by the speedy restoration of trust and hope that will result from it. Nagaland for Christ will be starting to happen the way it should without us being so aggressive, panicky and violent to bring it about.