By: Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd), Forest Colony; Kohima
18 May. 2013
History gets distorted and is rendered meaningless the moment it is analyzed through a narrow prism of blind family loyalty and tribalistic patriotism. It was deeply disappointing to read the article “Some hard facts about the Shillong Accord of 1975 and its aftermath” (14th May 2013 Morung Express and Nagaland Post) seeing the very deliberate attempt to misrepresent and misinterpret facts. At this age, trying to mislead others is a pointless waste of time when any information is freely available for those who seek it. At the outset let me plainly state for record that I for one, maintain a very honest and healthy respect for a great man called Phizo no matter what his failings. We owe him. Nothing will change that. However we have to admit that he too was a mortal, and accept the fact that he made a mistake(s) like anyone else. The important thing is to call spade a spade, find it in our hearts to forgive the commission(s)/omission(s) and move on.
No amount of twisting and turning will ever alter the reality that Shillong Accord of 1975 brought down the house that the Nagas had built. The irony in this scenario is that the otherwise great man who spent his whole life erecting that United Naga House brought it down himself because he could not find the courage to undo the National damage that his own brother had caused along with others members of NNC/FGN. He just could not bring himself to compromise his family’s honour for a National cause. Period. The more we try to defend his mistake(s) we extenuate the issue and demean him that much more. No matter how extensively and repeatedly this subject is addressed therefore, a fair-minded Nagas will be hard-pressed to understand or see Shillong Accord of 1975 in the light as is deviously presented by the author. In substantiation to this contention, let us now take a step at a time to eliminate the contradictions and separate the sheaf from the seed, strewn all over the article in question.
There is no denying that the Nagas went through a terrifying and dangerously tense times prior to the signing of the Shillong Accord. The National Emergency in India, President’s Rule being imposed in Nagaland with an intensified military operation all led to a pressure cooker environment that caused untold suffering of the Naga population enmass. Both the Federal Organization and the Naga Army were in critical disarray at that stage unable even to fluently communicate with one another. Amidst such trying times the members of the Nagaland Peace Council did risk their lives to “contact the last remnants of NNC, FGN and the Naga Army personnel” and thereafter “arranged a meeting at Shillong”. No doubt these are all true. But ask yourself, could such an important meeting be coordinated unless there was a tacit agreement for participation by NNC/FGN? Would the Governor and senior bureaucrats waste their time sitting with street boys to solve the kind of problem they had in their plate? It is a pointless exercise trying to discredit the underground representative (NNC/FGN) who signed this Accord. All said and done, Naga would understand the exceptional circumstance where not only the FGN and the Naga Army but the whole Naga population was under duress with very little option or no option at all but to toe the line of the GOI in order to survive.
The credibility of our views starts getting questioned when we first say that the ‘Underground Representatives’ were non-entities, had no connection with or had no mandate of NNC/FGN (as was claimed by the author in his earlier writings on the subject) and then in the same breath say: “in the light of all these horrible suffering and situation, the signing of Shillong Accord was neither a traitorous act on the part of Federal Government of Nagaland or the Nagaland Peace Council”. If I understand English correctly, is this not an unequivocal endorsement of FGN being a direct willing participant of the accord whose action is being condoned? The amusing picture of intolerance in the author’s patriotic sense of justice is his condonation of the action of NNC/FGN vis- a- vis Shillong Accord as ‘not traitorous’, and his venomous condemnation of the 16 Point Agreement enacted by our over ground leaders for the very same reasons of ‘horrible suffering and situation’ , adjudged as an act of treason. Wonderful! The comedy continues.
According to the author the Shillong Accord ‘was neither a traitorous or betrayal document’ because Clause 3 ‘counter nullifies the first clause’. Just so that readers are facilitated with facts to either qualify or disqualify the above assumption of the author let us take a look at the verbatim contents of Clause(1) (Quote) “The representatives of the underground organizations conveyed their decision, of their own volition, to accept, the Constitution of India;” (Unquote) and Clause(III): (Quote) “It was agreed that the representatives of the underground organizations should have reasonable time to formulate other issues for discussion for final settlement”. (Unquote) By no stretch of imagination can anyone see an overriding empowerment of Clause (III) over Clause (I). However much we all may desire it otherwise, Clause (I) is the main plank of the Shillong accord. Clause (III) is simply a continuation clause based on clause(I) pertaining only to ‘other’ subsidiary issues that would need consideration before the “final settlement,” which for all practical purpose and intent obviously refers to a foregone conclusion of settlement within the Constitution of India as per Clause (I). It is a futile exercise to try and interpret it any other way. Even a child would understand it so.
What needs to clearly be understood is that Shillong Accord 1975 was without doubt signed by the official representatives of NNC and FGN (with or without the specific mention of NNC/FGN in the document to that effect).This is not the work of other non-existent underground representatives. People like Keviyallay (brother of Phizo), Ramyo and Temjen to name a few signatories, were not non-entities on the street. The resolution adopted by the Naga Federal Emergency Meeting held at Urra-Dihoma on 2nd December 1975 confirms this fact. The relevant segment reads thus: “The Naga Federal Emergency Meeting, having received the report from the Federal and NNC Representatives on the Shillong Accord, and having made a serious study of the matter, urged that the Accord be forwarded to Mr.A.Z.Phizo President of NNC and Representative of the FGN Abroad, for his consent…etc” It is obvious that this document was officially delivered by the Federal and NNC Representatives on the Accord. Now Consider, why should the Federal Government pay any attention or study the document seriously if the same was a nondescript paper signed by any Tom, Dick or Harry? The fact that this document was forwarded to Mr. Phizo for his consent explains the importance of the content and the legitimate status of this document. It is also a fact that Mr. Zashei Huire as the President of FGN felt incompetent as per the Yezabo to finalize the issues at his level on Clause (I) and (III) and therefore the matter was officially forwarded to Mr. A.Z.Phizo. Whether this Accord was ratified by GOI and NNC/FGN to make it binding, follow up action on Clause (II) was taken remember? However, this is not the controversy. The general awareness and perception was that an Accord now existed between GOI and NNC/FGN, ratified or not. That was the important prevalent impression, potential enough to trigger major differences at high places within the organization. The onus of the final definitive stand of the Nagas in relation to Shillong Accord rested squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Phizo and Mr. Phizo alone. This is where the core controversy emerges. The childish excuse that Mr.Phizo wrote in London Times on 25th November 1975 disclaiming his participation in the Accord does not in the slightest exonerate him from his National responsibility. His people in Nagaland needed to officially know his stand, not London Times. Even when the four men official team consisting of Mr. Keviyallay, Gen. Pukrove Nakro, Mr. Z. Ramyo and Mr. Kenneth Kerhuo had been dispatched sometime in January 1977 to London, to appraise Mr. Phizo about the Shillong Accord, HE KEPT QUIET and thereby allowed confusion and infighting to escalate. Mr.Phizo may have written “personal letter to Gen. Mowu, Gen. Thinuoselie and others exposing the total absurdity of the Shillong Accord” but what purpose did it serve? At best it only amounted to a private condemnation within the confines of his secluded kitchen. It was of urgent and utmost importance that the Federal Government needed to have his official direction. Remember that the matter was officially forwarded to Mr. Phizo by the Federal Government for a decision one way or the other. Therefore, an official response was warranted and not be “brushed aside as an invalid document signed by some Indian Bureaucrats and some Underground Representatives.” It was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a National leader, devoid of sensitivity to have perpetually slept over the matter especially with telling cracks beginning to appear within his Organization at home. Mr.Phizo failed to convey any official declaration, rejection or direction to his Organization in Nagaland concerning the unacceptability of the Shillong Accord.
Now let us take a peek at the ‘summary reiteration’ segment of this article. It indeed makes a hilarious reading.
It is a statement of the obvious that “the Shillong Accord was not a final settlement between the GOI and FGN” since it was not ratified by the parties concerned. Not that it mattered but the Nagas in general neither recognized nor accepted it as well. Even the GOI has thrown it into their waste paper basket for the simple fact that it is conducting a negotiation with NSCN (IM) inspite of the Shillong Accord. However, the contention that since Shillong Accord was not a final settlement therefore “not an act of treason” would be an inaccurate deduction. In general ‘treason’ is not defined by the success or failure of the act. The attempt made qualifies it equally.
The Nagas are indebted to the author for his free of cost enlightenment course imparted to us that the Indian Governor of a State is an inconsequential nobody on a paid holiday. He has no authority to represent the Government of India in any matter, least of all sign agreement document on behalf the GOI, because he is “not a Cabinet Minister of Indian Government or even a Member of Parliament”. Thank you sir. We shall remember this lesson till the end of days.
That Mr. Phizo “was not silent but brushed it aside as an invalid document signed by some Indian Bureaucrats and some Underground Representatives”: Being the ignoramus that I am, I find it extremely difficult to make out the difference between “was not silent” and “brushed it aside” in this context. He must have brushed it aside very noisily since he was not silent. The only problem with this was that the Federal Government of Nagaland also got brushed aside with it, turning it into a eunuch. Mr. Phizo effectively sealed the fate of the Nagas by exercising his ‘brushed it aside’ political wisdom at such a volatile confused juncture of Naga history when his decision of acceptance or rejection of the Shillong Accord required unequivocal pronouncement. It enhanced the cause of India by effectively dividing the Naga House which they could otherwise not achieve before.
Some of the ‘supplementary facts and developments’ referred to by the author are a consequence of what should have been that did not happen. That the word “Naga” or “Nagaland” not being mentioned in the Shillong Accord, does not in any way diminish the status of this document. The signatories representing the NNC/FGN do, whether their designation was appended or not. What one can’t stomach is the hypocrisy of spitting on the Shillong Accord as a non-issue on the one hand and on the other hand so emphatically endorse its outcome: the release of the political prisoners, the deposit (and not surrender) of 145 arms belonging to FGN into the custody of NPC as per Clause (II)of this accord, the establishment of Transit Camp in the Mission Compound, Kohima, and other Peace Camps, patriotically accepting the financial assistance of Rs.20,000/- per month for the maintenance of these Peace Camps from the GOI and so on. All these add up to a highly confusing picture as to whether the author is in favour of Shillong Accord or against it. It’s no wonder that the people have failed to understand his repeated writing on the subject.
Whether “Mr.Zashei Huire the then President of FGN wrote four official letters” or a hundred, to Th. Muivah and Isak explaining the background of the Shillong Accord and seeking for advice, it could not have made much difference because he (Zashei) was in no position to alter the course of the approaching storm. Perhaps Isak and Muivah had seen no valid reason to communicate with Zashi Huire who too was a helpless spectator like themselves, pending direction from Phizo. Only Mr. Phizo held the key to clear the mist and check the tide. I have personally heard from the horses’ mouth that Isak and Muivah had made serious efforts to try and persuade Mr.Phizo to publically denounce the Shillong Accord. They failed. Mr.Phizo had instead adopted the most unfortunate political wisdom of hammering the last nail in the Naga coffin with his “not silent but brushed it aside” philosophy and allowed the tsunami to hit the Nagas with all its destructive force.
To say that “The Transit peace camp has nothing to do with the Government of India. To stay or leave is entirely the choice of the campers as they are in our own land” is simply bullshit! The Transit Peace Camp in the Mission Compound in Kohima may be in our own land, yes! BUT it is an outcome of the Shillong Accord and therefore, is a living testament of the acceptance of this Accord. It has nothing to do with land ownership. Who are we trying to fool?!
Above all, the glaring questions that continue to plague and baffle an average Nagas’ mind are: (1) If Mr. Phizo condemned Shillong Accord, why then is his daughter Madam Adino heading “Accordist” Faction of the NNC at the cost destroying the historical sanctity of NNC? (2) Did Mr. Phizo privately accept Shillong Accord which obligates his daughter to continue heading the Accordist faction? (3) Does it not defy all logic to condemn the Shillong Accord and yet lead this faction anyway? Mr. Blind Loyalty has massacred Mr. Reason beyond recognition. This desperate effort to prove that an apple is an orange does not cut ice. Our posterity deserves the gift of history uncontaminated.