By Khekiye K. Sema, IAS.
(Though the NSCN (IM) had disqualified me as a nonentity to address the above captioned subject, the Centre for North East Studies and Policy Research, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, did not seem to have shared their views. Therefore the talk was had as scheduled on 5th September 2014. The interaction and discussion with the academicians and journalists present was superbly lively. Since time given to me was not sufficient, (as always) the issues from this written text were condensed, and presented. Take a peek at the full text and judge for yourself)……..
Let me begin by saying that I am not here with the intention of demeaning the Government of India (GoI) nor am I here to glorify the Naga National Movement (NNM). My effort is to paint a fair canvas based on undistorted historical facts on the subject at issue and present it as faithfully as I understand it. Truth often tends to hurt untruth but truth be told.
The Nagas have been struggling to restore their birthright of self determination for the past 67 years. However, the majority living in the mainland India has unfortunately had very less opportunity of exposure to the realities of this desperate struggle where thousands have lost their lives on both sides of the fence on a whim. Over the years, the print media has only helped to hype the violent aspect of the events that had transpired. The salient issues that had caused this violent confrontation have rarely been addressed in depth despite the fact that this is one of the most tragic unsung historical disasters of our time. Thus an over extenuated picture of Nagaland being depicted as a dangerous place continues…doing more harm than good.
It all begins on a misconceived notion that Nagas are rebelling to secede from the Indian Union. I leave it to your conscience to weigh the truth in this assumption with the historical facts in focus. The Nagas were never a part of India from the beginning of time. Nowhere in the recorded history of India would you find even a referential mention of the Nagas of the North East, leave aside being conquered by India. From the Indian context therefore, Nagas did not even exist… in as much as India did not exist, from the stand point of the Nagas. The Nagas enjoyed the truest carefree form of natural freedom from the beginning of time. Each village was a self-contained city state having its own traditional boundaries, its own traditional ways of existence, its distinctive customs and traditions. Each village consisted of a people identified with common customs, traditions and dialect as a homogeneous cluster and each cluster into a Tribe and each Tribe, an independent entity by extension. The internal village administration was governed through their intricate customary laws and fluently practiced barter system of economy.
Then came the British. They had absolutely no colonial design in the hilly Homeland of the Nagas. There was practically nothing of value in these Hills that could remuneratively enhance their Colonial wealth. Their adventure into these hills was solely dictated by the need to protect their serious commercial interests… the tea industry in Assam, which was frequently disrupted by the raids of neighbouring Naga head-hunters. Intermittent skirmishes took place between the Nagas and the British from 1832-1879, which failed to thwart the Nagas from their traditional headhunting sprees into the plains of Assam. Pitched battles were also fought with the Nagas at various sectors, notable amongst which was the battle of Khonoma in 1837 where the British had suffered heavy casualties despite their superior weaponry, while clinching their victory. By 1880, the British were finally able to establish their administrative foothold within the Naga inhabited territories with mutual consent. The British did not have to fight a war with the Nagas for their establishment at: Kohima, Wokha, Mokokchung, Wakching (in the present Mon District) all strategically located to protect the adjoining plains of Assam. Their clear objective was to check the tribal misadventures into the plains. What stands out significantly is the historical fact that not a single annexation treaty had been signed between the Nagas and the British…ever. Aitchinson, a British official of that era, recorded that: “No written treaties or engagements have been made…with the Naga tribes”. (Treaties, Engagement and Sanads, Vol.XII pp 91.1931, relating to India and Neighbouring Countries). The British left the Nagas free without interfering into the routine political, cultural and customary affairs; with just one exception…they determinedly put down the headhunting tradition, perhaps not very much from the standpoint of moral sanctity alone but certainly for the protection of their economic interest in Assam.
Meanwhile, a more refined political awakening beyond the sectoral Tribal independence, based on a broader platform of collective Nagas identity, began to evolve through the formation of the Naga Club in October 1918 that brought many of the major Tribal elders together. It culminated into a full-blooded United Naga declaration by the time the British Statutory Commission headed by Sir John Simon visited Kohima on 10th January 1929. Though the memorandum, submitted to the Simon Commission, was scripted by academic nonentities, they were hardened graduates by life’s experience, in their own rights. They expressed their feelings in simple terms that described the salient philosophy of their times. Due to paucity of time and space let me only share an excerpt of the core content: (Quote) “Our language is quite different from those of the plains and we have no social affinities with the Hindus or Mussalmans. We are looked down upon by the one for “beef” and the other for our “pork” and by both for our want in education, is not due to any fault of ours. Our country is poor and it does not pay for its administration. Therefore, if it is continued to be under the Reformed Scheme, we are afraid that new and heavy taxes will have to be imposed on us, and when we cannot pay, then all lands will have to be sold and in the long run we shall have no share in the land of our birth and life will not be worth living then.
Though our land at present is within the British territory, Government have always recognised our private rights in it, but if we are forced to enter the council the majority of whose number is sure to belong to the other districts, we also have much fear the introduction of foreign laws and customs to supersede our own customary laws which we now enjoy. For the above reasons, we pray that the British Government will continue to safeguard our right against all encroachment from other people who are more advanced than us by withdrawing our country that we should not be thrust to the mercy of other people who could never be subjected, but to leave us alone to determine ourselves as in ancient times.” (Unquote). [Clarification: ‘who could never be subjected’ was perhaps intended to mean…’who could never subjugate us’]. In essence, that was the Naga sentiment then and is the broader Nagas sentiment now. The British Government acknowledged the ground reality as expressed by the Nagas and decreed that the Naga country be placed outside the British India as “Naga Hills Excluded Area” under the British India Act 1935. Absorb this historical fact…an ACT…a defined Law. The British Government further appointed the Governor of Assam to look after the affairs of the Naga Hills Excluded Area purely as a ‘care-taker’ in 1937.
Through this Act, the ‘Chin Hills Regulation and Bengal Frontier Regulation Act 1873’ was made applicable to the “Naga Hills Excluded Area” as well wherein foreigners including Indian nationals were restricted to enter into the Naga country without a valid Inner-Line permit (ILP). With a minor modification during the post independent era in 1950, this Act was sustained and is still in force. While the British primarily enforced this Act for a monopolistic supremacy in their tea and elephant trade within these regions (and not with the intent of protecting the Tribals from exploitation as is often expounded), the Government of India adopted and continued this restriction for an entirely different objective. Indian Nationals still need ILP to enter Nagaland. We shall revisit this subject as we go along.
With the eminent departure of the colonial British from the Indian Sub-Continent in the horizon, the Nagas became apprehensive of their future destiny. Thus, circumstances compelled them to form their own National Political Organisation called the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946. Despite the fact that the Imperial British Government had sufficiently been sensitised on the stand of the Nagas wanting to be left free to govern themselves in the event of their departure, no definitive response was received. Sir Clement Attlee, who was also a member of the Simon Commission, had now become the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It was during his stewardship that power was transferred to India in 1947. The overwhelmingly subject of the partition of India would have naturally been weighing heavily in his mind. It was understandable therefore, that the problems of the little Nagas would not have measured up to the catastrophic partition pressures at that crucial hour in history. He ignored the Nagas issue. A delegation headed by Mr. A. Z. Phizo, member of the Central Executive, NNC met Mahatma Gandhi at Bhangti Colony, Delhi on 19th July 1947.
The Nagas continue to remember the poignant statement of the Mahatma at that meeting: “Nagas have every right to be Independent. We did not want to live under the domination of the British and they are now leaving us. I want you to feel that India is yours. I feel that the Naga Hills are mine just as much as they are yours. But if you say that they are not mine, the matter must stop there. I believe in the brotherhood of man, but I do not believe in force or forced unions. If you do not wish to join the Union of India, nobody will force you to do that”. It is of interest to analyse the honest views of the other key India leaders of that generation at the very inception, before their minds could be tempered by other political considerations. On August 19, 1946, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru defined the status of the Nagas in connection to the proposed British Colony of Couplan Plan in these words: “The tribal Areas are defined as being that long frontier of India which are neither part of India nor Burma, nor of Indian States nor of any foreign power”. During his visit to Shillong on 28th November 1949, H.E. Rajagopalachari, Governor General of India had this to say: “The Nagas have every right to be independent outside the Indian Union” when he met the Naga Delegate. Unfortunately all their statements were left at the feet of ‘personal opinion’ not translated into a National policy. At the earlier stages, the NNC entered into a formal agreement with the Government of India, which came to be known as the Nine Point Agreement, duly signed by Akbar Hydary, the Governor of Assam on behalf of India in June 1947. Apart from all the other clauses therein, the ninth clause had this to say (Quote)
“The Governor of Assam as the agent of the Government of India will have a special responsibility for a period of ten years to ensure due observance of this agreement; at the end of this period the Naga National Council will be asked whether they require the above agreement to be extended for a further period, or a new agreement regarding the future of the Naga people arrived at” (Unquote). Had the Government of India (GoI) not dishonour this agreement, the political scenario would have been entirely different. The other significant fact was that Nagaland was initially placed under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for seven years after attaining Statehood in 1963 to be funded through the Consolidated Fund of India. It was unceremoniously brought under the Internal Affairs Ministry without due process, in the early seventies. It would not be wrong to conclude that the expressed sentiment of the leaders, the 9 points agreement (though dishonoured) and the placement of Nagaland under Foreign Affairs, all amply define the uncontaminated honest understanding and appreciation of the Nagas’ rightful political status before the colonial disease corrupted the Indian political thoughts.
There is no official document certifying that the British specifically handed over the Naga Territories to India. However, their silence on this subject provided India with a fertile assumptive status of an owner over all the British colonial territories after their departure. The logical stand of the Nagas was that there was no real necessity for the British to redefine the status of the Nagas which was already sufficiently defined through their British India Act 1935… NAGA HILLS EXCLUDED AREA. India went one step further by incorporating the Eastern Naga inhabited area bordering Myanmar as well, which was UN-ADMINISTERED FREE NAGA AREA even during the British Raj. Prime Minister Nehru displayed a total lack of respect for the Nagas as human beings. He arbitrarily dissected the Naga territories with Myanmar on a watershed principle without ascertaining the geographical ground reality. Longwa, a border Konyak Naga Village bears the brunt of this heartless dispensation. The Indo-Myanmar international boundary runs right through the middle of the Angh’s (Chief) house. This Chief therefore, crosses the International boundary every other minute without a passport. Now consider this: If the Prime Minister of India was earnestly claiming his own, it shows poor sense of ownership to have abandoned and disowned many more Nagas villages lying beyond this arbitrary international boundary. In effect he disdainfully dealt with this issue on a ‘no-man’s land’ theory where Nagas as a people did not merit a consultation.
The lack of depth and disrespect for the Nagas in the Indian thinking process continued further with no serious homework being undertaken during the post Independent era. They blindly and arbitrarily adopt the British policy of fragmenting and segmenting portions of the Naga inhabited areas into Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar. Apart from the self determination issue, the Nagas have therefore, been claiming that all the Naga inhabited areas must be brought under the same administrative umbrella, which also finds a legitimate mention at Clause 13 in the 16 Points Agreement at the time when Nagaland was made the 16th State in the Indian Union in 1963. While the Naga Political Groups (NPGs) continue to condemn this 16 Point Agreement as a betrayal, to this day, the insincerity on the part of the GoI to enact an agreement and then dishonour it even before the ink is dry, has only helped to accentuate the unreliable, dishonourable character of a Nation. It has lead to a counterproductive loss of faith and trust in the Indian system.
Anyway, with the final departure of the British from India, the Nagas hoisted their National flag on the 14th of August 1947, a day before the India Independence. The political tide was fast evolving into a tsunami. History was thrown out of the window. The Government of India was guided by a serious misconception that the rustic uneducated Nagas were incapable of comprehending the meaning of a complete Independence. They surmised that the Naga National Movement was being instigated and misled by some foreign Missionaries along with a handful of educated Nagas. They confidently believed that this movement could be crushed within a few months. It was a costly miscalculation as events have proven. It prompted the NNC to conduct a free and fair plebiscite to disprove the Indian misconception. This was by no means a secret exercise. India too was openly invited to send their observers. However, the level of looking down upon the Naga academic intellect was so glaringly low from the start within the policy making hierarchy of the Government of India that they literarily failed to perceive the robust inborn intelligence and patriotic sentiment of the Nagas, weaned through the ages. Thus the significance of this exercise was completely lost within the confines of indifference and belief that the outcome would be nothing more than negative. 16th May 1951 stands out as a historic landmark in the annals of the Naga Political Movement.
This was the day that the Nagas endorsed their mandate on sovereignty with thumping 99.9% votes, anointing the NNC to steadfastly move forward on this moral platform, come what may. The first resultant impact was the outright rejection of the Indian Election of 1952. The GoI was left to count the empty ballot boxes. The overwhelming plebiscite mandate and the boycott of the election finally woke up the Government of India and stirred up a chain of events that proved costly both for India and the Nagas. The Para-military forces were steadily replaced by a full-fledged Army deployment and storm was ultimately unleashed against the Nagas. “Scorch Earth” policy became the flagship of military operation. Almost all the Villages and granaries (the only wealth of the Nagas) in Nagaland were torched and razed to the ground in their effort to cut off the supply line to the National Workers. Nagaland became the killing field…as all hell broke loose. Despicable inhuman atrocities were committed by the Indian Army without a stitch of remorse. Naga women were raped at will by the Indian Army; able bodied Nagas were butchered without any legitimate reason… applying the same philosophy of the American Wild West that “the only Good Indian is a dead Indian(native Red Indians)”; Bullet riddled corpses of the Naga National Workers (NNW) were openly displayed in public places to warn other Nagas; sadistic acts of hanging the captured NNGs upside down, rub in salt and chilli in the deliberately sliced wound on the body, torturing them for hours to finally bayonet them to death;
The family people were often times not even allowed to retrieve their dead and the corpses were left for stray dogs to ravish; Brutal and sadistic interrogation methods were deployed by placing live wires on the genitals; Churches were desecrated, with rapes and murders being committed within its confines and torched. Concentration camps called “Grouping” sprouted all over Nagaland, herding 5-6 villages together… men, women and children… into enclosures without any sanitation or proper shelter…unfit even for animal habitation; It was akin to the Nazi treatment of the Jews, only with a minor difference. It was mercifully minus the gas chamber but the diseases and mall nourishment did an equal job of it. (In my youth, I too happen to have been a living witness to one of this concentration camp at Lokobomi Village in Zunheboto District). Every conceivable and inconceivable cruelty was perpetrated against the Nagas without remorse or pity that even animals did not deserve. Each act of cruelty meant to dampen the free spirit of the Nagas however generated an immensely reverse reaction instead. It ignited the fire of liberty further and the Nagas fought back with a more ferocious commitment and vengeance. Many a father replaced their martyred son with another without a second thought, those brutal days. Such was the intensity, the pride and sacrifice of the masses for the National cause. The Indian Army got away with all these inhuman atrocities on two counts: because of the Armed Forces Special Power Acts 1953 (AFSPA), 1959, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 and ILP.
Take a glimpse of the AFSPA. The Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) had this to say: “For instance section 4 of the Act provides the armed forces down to the rank of a non-commissioned officer, the power to shoot to kill; to enter and search and arrest without warrant, any person against reasonable suspicion that exists that he has committed or is about to commit a cognisable offence. The Act requires prior sanction of the Central Government for instituting legal proceedings against any persons in respect of anything done in exercise of the powers (section 6). There is no provision to see whether a particular act is lawful under the disturbed area situation. The condition provided in this section makes it almost impossible for anyone to seek redressal of grievances or legal protection against violation of their fundamental rights. These provisions under section 4 and 6 provide the security personnel, legal immunity to commit any crime against the people”. My question is this: No matter what the provocation, how can a modern democratic country like India perpetuate insane, inhuman Laws such as this on a people at this time and age? Have the Indian masses been deprived of moral conscience to remain silent as they watch the commission of these crimes against humanity? Do the masses consider such stories as a distant fairy tale unrelated to them? What has the Nation got to say about this? Nagaland was a forbidden zone for both the National and the International press. The Army’s inhuman atrocities in Nagaland were never allowed to be broadcast in the National or International dallies….thanks to the Inner Line Regulation. Like the British, this Inner Line Regulation was never intended to be a regulation for protecting the Nagas from exploitation even by the GoI.
It was used as a handy tool by the GoI to blackout the news and thereby avert condemnation of the International community and keeping its own people blinded in the Mainland. This one sided game is still being played without a change of rules. Judge the fairness in it all even if it is to strangers.
With the continuous atrocities and intimidation inflicted against the civilian population by the Indian security forces, the NNC, a non-violent organization, was left with no further option but to form a National Government called the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) on 22nd March 1956. The FGN began the exercise of raising its own army in earnest. It created the Safe Guard in 1956, which subsequently evolved into Naga Home Guard and finally the Naga Army for the defence of the Naga country. Nagaland was converted into a full scale undeclared war zone. Though Nagaland had become a full fledged State by 1963, violence continued unabated. It prompted the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) to broker cease fire which became effective on 6th September 1964. During this period of relative lull, continuous talks were undertaken between the GoI and FGN culminating in a six rounds of Prime Ministerial level talk which however broke down in a stalemate. In his recently published book “Hails and Blames” Page 146, Mr. Scato Swu, the then President of the FGN, recounts the last and final round of talk on 7th October 1967: (Quote) Prime Minister Indira Gandhi offered “Mr. Sukhai, take everything but not sovereignty”. Prime Minister Sukhai’s response to the offer was “I shall not take everything but sovereignty” (Unquote).
In 1972 the GoI unilaterally abrogated the cease fire and Nagaland was once more plunged into a dangerously volatile chaos. During this very trying time the Naga National Movement suffered its greatest setback. The infamous Shillong Accord of 1975 was signed on 11th November between the GoI and the representatives of the NNC. From this point onwards the NNM plunged into an abyss, mired in confusion and controversies every step of the way. Critical mistakes were made without exception but no one had the courage to own up to it. Defending the indefensible became the inherent pastime, with NNC in the lead. The root cause was the Clause No.1 of the damning Shillong Accord of 1975. It stated that (Quote): “The representative of the underground organization conveyed their decision, of their own volition, to accept, without condition, the Constitution of India.” (Unquote). This one little sentence was the straw that broke the back of the Naga National Movement (NNM). The event that that followed was a heartbreaking spectacle.
The NFG officially reviewed this ‘capitulation’ agreement for several days, agreed to implement Clause No.2 (concerning arms surrender) with Clause No.1 and 3 officially being forwarded to Mr. Phizo, the President of the NNC (who was by now settled in London) for his final verdict on the subjects. He did not respond to the NFG. Repeated plea to Mr. Phizo to denounce and condemn the Accord by Mr. Isak Swu and Mr.Th. Muivah also drew blank. Mr. Phizo kept absolutely silent….the costliest silence of all times, which triggered an internal volcanic eruption that irrevocably changed the Nagas political landscape. In 1980, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was born, led by Mr. Isak, Mr. Th. Muivah and Mr. SS Khaplang in order to keep the flame of NNM alive. While the spirit of wanting to keep the National aspiration alive is not in question, the question that continues to trouble the fairer Naga mind is: Did Mr. Isak and Mr. Muivah try hard enough to keep the existing United House intact by exhausting every other hard options like impeachment of Mr. Phizo, or invoking the power of the Naga National Parliament to condemn Shillong Accord rather than take the path of least resistance and launch the NSCN? After all, Mr. Phizo was not above the Naga National Parliament. Those efforts of having done all that were possible and yet fail would have placed NSCN on a more comfortable moral platform that people would gladly identify with. In the road that was taken, the Nagas did to themselves what the GoI failed to achieve for decades…divide the house and self destruct the momentum of the NNM.
The complex political intrigues and suspicion further led NSCN to fragment into NSCN (IM)[Isak/Muivah] and NSCN(K) [Khaplang]. With the Family Planning philosophy becoming redundant, the floodgate was blown wide open for Factional population explosion. The egocentric creation of Factions was the fashion now in style. We have the following Factions in the fray: (1). NNC (Accordist); (2). NNC (Non-Accordist); (3). NSCN (IM); (4). NSCN (K); (5). NSCN (Unification); and (6). NSCN (Kitovi/Shingya), all professing their commitment as warriors of sovereignty. Are the Nagas fighting for 6 different types of sovereignty or is it just for one? If it is for that one and only one sovereignty then how will the Factions explain their multiple existences? The Factions must understand that the people of Nagaland have matured sufficiently to see through their ‘sovereignty’ smokescreen which in practice simply means “Tax turf sovereignty”. No matter what their explanation, the one thing that stands out unambiguously is the fact that the once honourable and united house has lost its sheen and the Factional population explosion has vitiated the political atmosphere beyond recognition. Each Faction takes a higher moral ground while keeping their feet solidly planted in the gutter and slaughtering one another to protect this precious tax turf sovereignty that is bleeding the people dry.
Each Faction proclaims that the public mandate is on their side and reinforces their argument with tax being paid to them by the public as an evidence of this support. What the Factions knowingly ‘fail’ to perceive is that the public are no longer paying tax to them but to AK 47. The impression of “Mafia” is more the picture that the people see being painted large on the canvas. Those times when the masses looked up and hero worshipped the National Workers, willingly giving their all, is an honourable chapter of Naga history which has silently been closed with a tear. In its place is the palpable fear for the Factions instead, in the hearts of every breathing Naga. The rampant multiple taxation being taken against the same goods, at the State entry gates, the godowns and finally the retail outlets; the despicable syndicate system on every conceivable commodity in the market controlled by handful of their blue eyed henchmen, has all contributed to throttle the economy of the people. The brains of the Factions are still on an overdrive searching for every possible excuse to tax the citizens, causing serious ripple effect in its wake. It has critically impacted on every family across the board and is being suffered in silence. Thus far, no one had had guts to call spade a spade for fear of having an AK 47 nightmare. Things had come to a head with the stench of this irrational, out of control ‘sovereignty greed’ overflowing into the marketplace. The Dimapur Chambers of Commerce (DCC) could no longer keep this market crippling burden under wraps. On 27 May 2013 some of its members brought the issue to the Dimapur Naga Council (DNC). A meeting of all the business communities, all other NGOs, including Student bodies and the Naga Women’s Hoho was convened by DNC to review the issue.
The outcome of their deliberation was the formation of an Action Committee Against Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) in an unanimous acknowledgement of the fact that this foul system was ruining everyone’s lives. The members of ACAUT mainly consisted of young entrepreneurial enthusiast, all actively leading their respective trade organizations. When their formation and objectives hit the news stand it created a sigh of relief in almost all corners of Nagaland not because of any action they had already taken but because the long pent up emotions of oppression being suffered by all was at last being highlighted in the open. ACAUT declared that all market mal practices of the Naga Political Groups (NPGs) would be brought under scrutiny to transparently be shared in the public domain, that from this point on, they would only pay one tax to all the factions. While applauding their stand in general, this one tax for all factions was out of tune with ground reality. The core issue was the existence of so many independent factions raising their greed tax that the Nagas could least afford, was more the focus. The public would be encouraging factionalism rather than have them unite. I decided to address this subject in the local media arguing that one tax to all factions does not reduce the tax burden neither does it optimise the peace process with that many factions in the fray. The need of the hour is to have one united NNM to deal with a stronger adversary. The only way to achieve this possibility was to pay one tax to one Naga National Government. The Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) has made the same clarion call to all the NPGs to unite through Christian principles of forgiveness and reconciliation which, without doubt is the best approach.
However, with all the financial resources at their respective command, money is all the Factions see, not forgiveness or reconciliation. Since money is the only commodity that keeps the factions operational, it was opined that the real source must be addressed…stop paying tax to all Factions until they unite. On 31st October 2013, ACAUT adopted “one Government, one tax” as their resolution in this rally. They also adopted two other resolutions requesting the State Government to set up a High Powered Committee to tackle the issue of corruption perpetuated by the NPGs. It including the State Government machinery, considered to be the less visible 7th Faction, armed with pens in their case, but equally corrupt if not more; and the final resolution to generate mass pressure to wake up the Government of India to speed up the peace process. The endorsement of the masses who attended the rally (over 35-40 thousand strong) was loud and clear. Mass rallies have since been conducted in all the District HQs with an equivalently enthusiastic response to the slogan of “One Govt. One tax”. What needs to be clarified here is the misinterpretation by the GoI that the people of Nagaland have now abandoned the NPGs and the sovereignty issue. This is furthest from the truth. All that the people want is for the NPGs to unite.
The people have no reservation to pay tax and to support one united NNM. All that they desperately want is to relieve themselves of this insane burden of multiple taxation in the name of sovereignty. Period. Even the NPGs have been misreading ACAUT as being anti-national. This too is a greed guided interpretation of a poor quality. ACAUT cannot be more Nationalistic than this when they want all the NPGs to unite for a greater cause beyond their own and for which the people would gladly pay tax. It is for the NPGs to review their money driven conscience and appreciate desire of the masses for them to unite. After all, their very existence would be meaningless without the masses. ACAUT has been steadily gaining momentum a mass movement. The pressure of more and more corruption issues surfacing caused ACAUT to rethink about its name and decided to rechristen it as Against Corruption And Unabated Taxation while retaining the original acronym. Remarkable retaliatory actions of the charged public against NPGs’ highhanded tax demand in their respective areas have been carried out without reservations as never before. Questions of accountably as to how their taxes are being utilised are slowly but surely upping the ante.
The public is well aware that the majority of the big fish amongst national workers, who were simple commoners when they joined the cadres, are now flagrantly displaying their self indulgent ways without any compunction, in the name of sovereignty. The comparative helplessness of the common man’s economic suffering on the other hand is slowly driving the simmering resentment to the surface. Now or later this undercurrent bottled up anger amongst the citizens will surely erupt unless the NPGs correct their arrogant misdemeanours and reconcile.
The reason for FNR and ACAUT sending out a clear strong signal to the NPGs to unite is obvious. The days for battling the Indian Army are over. The Government of India has sufficiently realised over the years that it would be a futile exercise to try and subdue the Nagas through Army intervention and have officially declared it as a political issue requiring a political solution. The GoI has also gone a step further by acknowledging the “unique history” of the Nagas. These are all very positive developments. It is for the NNW to appreciate the changed circumstances and deal with the subject collectively and intelligently in the like manner. The Government of India has made it amply clear that ‘sovereignty’ and ‘integration’ is not negotiable. If so, the immediate question directed towards the NSCN (IM), being the only Faction spearheading the negotiated settlement with the GoI as of now, is: what is NSCN (IM) negotiating about, minus the two major issues of ‘sovereignty’ and ‘integration’, then? As a serious stakeholder, the public are claiming their right to be enlightened about the context of the negotiation which is inextricably linked to their destiny.
The NSCN (IM) is unable to comply for fear of premature confrontation if the content of the negotiation agenda is made public. The most important factor here is for the NSCN (IM) to understand that with so many Factions afloat, it would be difficult for them to bring home a lasting solution on their own. Undermining all the other Factions will be a fatal miscalculation. Everyone is clearly aware that each Faction is continuously raising taxes, recruiting and increasing their cadre strength and purchasing arms and ammunition as they are. If the final settlement is anything less than ‘sovereignty’ and ‘integration’ other Factions would be certain to refuse to endorse the outcome, knowing full well that even they would not be able to achieve anything better than what NSCN(IM) has brought home. Keeping the subject of sovereignty alive would seemingly legitimise the continued existence of all other Factions beyond NSCN (IM)’s solution, if only to ensure that their ‘money river’ does not run dry. That would leave NSCN (IM) with very less option but to resolve these internal differences through the barrel of a gun yet again. It becomes a dreadful consequence if the Nagas are plunged into another civil war within our own kitchen. The saner option is therefore to exercise a collective wisdom of all the Factions by uniting as one and resolving the vexed issue as one. No matter what the outcome thereafter, there would be no residue of dissenting voice left behind and lasting solution would be final once for all.
That would truly be a happy conclusion that would be blessed by the masses. To achieve such a conclusion, NSCN (IM) would need to climb down from their lofty perch and acknowledge the existence of other Factions through forgiveness and reconciliation and show the bigness of heart to UNITE. “Christian principle” will surely find a rational acceptable way through “National principle” if there is a will. All we have to do is search for an honourable way with a clean, forgiving heart…remembering that all have sinned. It is here that the truest spirit of “Nagaland for Christ” becomes all the more meaningful rather than blasphemously use this phrase only for the collection of tax with life threats attached. Use it for UNITY!
MAY THE GOOD LORD GUIDE US SAFELY HOME.