2014: Looking ahead

By: Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd), Forest Colony, Kohima

2014 is here to stay. Everyone without exception will be wondering subconsciously what the future holds for each one of us this Year. I would presume nothing dramatic is about to happen with our indifferent mindset that we have for so long lived under and not prepared to make a stand for a change. The politicians will do exactly what they have set out to do…enjoy their power and loot the public exchequer while in office even as they continue exhorting the public towards the honest ways of living with a straight face. Many a Church Leader will proclaim the supremacy of Christ in broad daylight but expectantly wait upon the favoured droppings of the powerful when darkness fall, always prioritising self up-gradation of their personal status in the public eye while limiting God to the pulpit on the Sundays of the year. The NPGs will relentlessly continue raising their taxes against public will in the name of sovereignty that they have long abandoned and refuse to unite for a cause that has taken us more than 60 long years…and still see no end in sight. The NGOs, more specifically the Naga Hoho and to an extent the Tribal Hohos, have long lost their sense of leadership and have forgotten the relevant issues that needs to be addressed boldly for the greater good of the community. They choose instead to make compromises in the hope of salvaging supply and contract favours and side with one faction or the other for self protection as they scavenge the earth. As for the common citizens, we will continue to live in abject fear and quietly spend our waking hours cursing all the unfair happenings around us from within our kitchen walls and do nothing else to make the difference. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

In an environment such as this 2014 could just be the same as all the other years that have floated by. The question is, are we content to continue in this vein or do we want a change, however minuscule it may seem? As the saying goes, a drop of water can form the mighty ocean. There has to be a beginning somewhere, sometime, some place. What frustrates most is that Nagaland is not devoid of intellectual minds capable of directing the public perception towards a more upright endeavour, but have failed to come out of their shells for fear of reappraisals. Our silence has therefore emboldened the corruptive forces to reign supreme, be it in the over ground set up or the underground. It is about time that each one of us make an honest effort to bring about a change by standing up for the right when wrong is being committed right in front of our eyes. The honour of our ancestors demands it. The fact of our Christianity demands it. Why become a race of cowards? Why should we have to die so many times like cowards do before our actual death when we know full well that God has divined our existence and our demise and it will come when it will come?

Questions that have plagued our hearts and minds for so many years lie dormant, unspoken, unquestioned. Problems that have undermined our very existence have been suffered in silence…and the Nagas have never been able to live a wholesome life as yet even after a lapse of 50 years of Statehood. At the top of the agenda is the issue of sovereignty that has wreaked havoc in our lives. Thus far the citizens of Nagaland have not clearly measured its implications. Yes, Mr. A. Z. Phizo sowed the seed of freedom. Thousands of our fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters have laid down their lives espousing for this ultimate prize. Their sacrifices have however been relegated to the pages of forgotten history because we do not seem serious enough to want to achieve our goal. Everyone seems to think that it is the prerogative of our NPGs to solve this problem. Everyone is aware that we are waging a battle against a superior force and yet the desperate fragmentation within our ranks doesn’t seem to bother anyone. The FNR’s plea for reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears of the factions. But why should they unite when the going is so comfortably convenient for all the factions to thrive independently on their entrenched system of taxation that they have perpetuated against their own people? Why give up their comfort zone? In all of this drama where is the question of that real elusive Naga sovereignty? The public are more than clearly aware that the fight of NPGs has practically boiled down to their Factional “tax turf” independence for which they are prepared to slaughter each other like the Mafias do. Yet we the citizens still remain unmoved as if to say “it’s their problem, not ours”. Taking the ownership responsibility is furthest from everyone’s minds. The only active faction carrying out a semblance of a negotiated settlement with the GoI is the NSCN (IM). Here too the whole process is shrouded in secrecy. The painful question that everybody bears in mind unasked is that if they are truly seeking for a final settlement on our behalf and in our interest, why are we, the immediate stakeholders, not privy to the content of this charter of demands? The GoI has made it amply clear in the public domain that the issue of sovereignty and integration is beyond negotiation. If so, what are we negotiating about? In contrast Mr. Scato Swu, former President, FGN, categorically stated in his book titled “Hails and Blames” (Page 82) that Late Kughato Sukhai, Prime Minister, FGN had six rounds of political talk with his counterpart Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister, India. The talk ran into a deadlock when (Quote): {Mrs. Indira Gandhi said, “Mr. Suhkai, you take everything but not sovereignty”.

Prime Minister Sukhai retorted, “Mrs. Gandhi, I shall not take everything but Sovereignty”. Those two parallel statements contradicted each other and brought about the deadlock. The two Prime Ministers never met again. This in itself was self evident that Prime Minister Sukhai made no political commitment and kept the Naga sovereignty intact. Prime Minister Kughato Sukhai submitted a single sentence letter to Federal Authorities: “Peace or War, no alternative”.} (Unquote). The point being made here is that such a high level negotiation was carried out in absolute transparency because we were then a united house. Having failed, the Prime Minister, FGN presented the final desperate picture to his people to go to war or to look for peace. Succeed or fail, I greatly admire the honourable forthrightness in our first generation Leaders in their honest commitment to the cause. We feel the sincerity in it all. That his agenda was high jacked to an entirely different course in history is another story in itself. However, this ‘one house’ scenario could have been replicated in the present times as well had NSCN (IM) been the sole representative of the Nagas in the likeness of the FGN then. But our reality has altered beyond recognition with so many Factions floating around, anxiously waiting on the sideline for an opportunity to condemn and point out one shortfall or the other in the negotiation efforts with the GoI while they themselves doing nothing at all. Perhaps therefore NSCN (IM) is apprehensively unable to open up its door to let the people know about its charter of demands. Be that as it may, it is mandatory that we the people must be given the opportunity to know what is in store for us rather than be expected to follow them blindfolded and show blind faith in their endeavour. This importantly brings to the fore the absolute imperative need to have ONE UNITED NNM whereby they are able to collectively analyse each issue being raised for settlement and come to a common conclusion to confront their adversary with a united strength and in one determined voice, reinforced with a consolidated moral support of the people as a whole. The people of Nagaland can then hope to know the truth of what is happening with our sovereignty bid only after this unity amongst the Factions is salvaged. This is the ideal scenario that GoI would not want us to achieve. They have deployed every possible means to keep us apart and weak. At present there are numerous serious speculations afloat that NSCN (IM) is prioritising negotiation for a Union Territory/separate Autonomous Council status for the Southern Nagas, free from Manipur domination. There are others who speculate that NSCN (IM) is compromising and slowing down the solution for the Nagas of Nagaland in the effort to ensure that important personalities from the South do not become a displaced individual after the final settlement is reached minus sovereignty and integration. What Mr. T. Solo had earlier surmised has relevance in this context… that if “Integration” is not a part of the final solution, Southern brothers would find no rational space within the State of Nagaland as Nagas from another geographical political entity, no matter what the sacrifices made by them may be. These are all wild speculations…but can NSCN (IM) stop all these unsubstantiated wild deductions and speculations without letting the people know the ground reality of the terms of negotiation? I’m afraid not. Their present comfort zone lies in the Nagas still not insisting on wanting to know what the negotiation is all about sans sovereignty and integration. That time for openness is however drawing precariously near when the ‘right to know’ will be demanded vociferously by the masses by whatever means. Why wait for such a testing time to overtake us? The sensible and logical course available to the NPGs is to ‘unite and be open’ and garner the support of the people full heartedly.

The most critical development on the anvil is the issue of ‘unabated taxation’ raised by the ACAUT. It has touched the sensitive nerve of all the citizens across the board suffering under a bludgeoning burden of unfair taxation. The rampant indiscipline and the arrogant indecency of the cadres as they go tax collecting has been irking the people and pushing them closer towards the boarder of intolerance. The escalated situation could unleash a mega earthquake, a magnitude that Nagaland has never seen before. It ought to be clear to all the NPGs that this subject has the potential of creating unpleasant and unnecessary confrontation between them and the general populace if the writings on the wall is not read with a matured foresight. No amount of artful explanation can wipe out the irrationality of multiple factions in existence for the same and only one cause…sovereignty. The people can see through the transparent picture of egocentric driven attributes of each faction. No one want to serve under another. The people can see through the unforgiving nature deep within the Factional Leaders. All want the limelight of a ‘Father of the Nation’. All want to independently live in luxury at the cost of the people’s sufferings. National priority has been compromised by selfish intent amongst the Factional Leaders. Sovereignty has been degraded to a status of mockery. When we are still under a heavy dark cloud of doubt as to whether we are ever going to achieve our goal of one sovereignty, we are sure that we will never get 8 different kinds of sovereignty as seems to be the promise of all the eight factions without doing anything other than to extend the ceasefire dateline with the GoI to enable them to amass wealth for themselves through a determined madness of taxation. The continued recklessness of the NPGs is driving the people towards raising uncomfortable questions of accountability as to where all our taxes are going. The movable and immovable assets being owned by each cadre leader and their henchmen are known to the people in every townships. It has not been compiled to show the overall comprehensive picture but if push comes to a shove the time will come when this information will hit the public domain which will clearly nullify any explanation that the cadre may try and give about sovereignty. The fastest ‘rags to riches’ fairy tales abound within each cadre. The loss of credibility will be irreparable. The Factions know without doubt the kind of accesses being committed within their respective folds but are unable to control this tide because it would trigger an implosion capable of obliterating the organization itself. The grapevine has it that a certain Faction had made their internal survey on this issue of property holdings of their cadres some years back but had found it practically impossible to initiate any action against the defaulters. They were all big fish in the ocean. It would have resulted in a critical fragmentation of their organization. We would then have had more Factions then just the 8 that we know of today…and that many more sovereignties to be acquired. With this background knowledge lurking in the vicinity and that the people will at one time or the other react to the injustice that is being tolerated thus far, the Factions should consider a softer option of uniting while the time is still made available to them. Given the popular slogan of “one tax for one National Government” by ACAUT picking up steam, the hands of the NPGs will be forced to consider the unity option or face a natural death of the organization without financial resources. It may sound like an impossible dream but dreams do get fulfilled when a determined masses have set their minds to it. Remember the impossible dream of Martin Luther King during 1963 and the fulfilment of it in Barak Obama as the 44th Black President of the USA on 4th November 2008. `With guns in hand the NPGs may feel confident that such a situation will never arise… but so did the likes of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Sadam Hussain of Iraq and Gadaffi of Libya. Mark my words: undermining the true wrath of the Nagas would be a fatal mistake on the part of the NPGs should it ever come to that. When pushed to extremities, similar public reaction will emerge and once it starts, it is unlikely end pleasantly. There is a slow but steady surge of public wrath beginning to ominously appear in the horizon against all the atrocities being committed by the NPGs. Public reaction in Mokokchung in 1994, Zunheboto public reaction against 21st Dec. 2013 should be a serious eye opener for all the NPGs. Rather than stupidly test the waters it would be a much more preferred alternative for all the Factions to seriously consider reconciliation amongst the Factions as facilitated by FNR in an honourable manner where no one loses face. Trying time are ahead and the Faction Leaders must make their choices wisely. Recognize and acknowledge the truth that time is running out fast as the countdown begins. The Nagas want one Naga National Government. Period!…SO UNITE!

Meanwhile, our 66 years of association within the Indian Union has not altered the core perception of the Mainland towards Nagas. Other than display our ancestral nakedness in the National platform such as the Republic Day, year after year, we have had nothing better to show the world. In fact India seem to mostly recognize the corruptive nature of our characters, ever willing to make compromises for personal benefits as they themselves do. They believe they have taught the Nagas well and now the Nagas have attained a status of a super master in the trade of corruption ready to teach our earlier masters a trick or two in this trade. The outside world can only perceive the primitive image that we proudly showcase in every forum without assessing the overall resultant negative impact. The only Nationally recognizable platform where our Naga presence could be acknowledged and be respected is the Indian Parliament. We have thus far sent MP representatives who seem overawed and cowed down by Indian civilisation and their luminaries. Silence has mostly been their trademark. Considering that we only have two MPs representing the Nagas in the Parliament, we ought to have taken special care to ensure that a more acceptable calibre of intellectual personalities are selected/elected who could make the Nagas proud. Sending inarticulate, less intelligent deadwoods purely for awkward political adjustments at home has done us no good.

When the GoI had touched our raw nerves in misinterpreting Article 371 (A) in the P &NG issue for instance, our MPs did not seem to have been awake in the Parliament. Sending representatives who are afraid to debate in the Parliament or unable to uphold the rights of the Nagas or articulate the sentiment of the Nagas where it critically matters only demeans our status to the lowest ebb. Imagine the Indian Parliament which had earlier endorsed the right of the Govt. of Nagaland concerning P &NG on the floor of the House, then shamelessly withdrawing such an endorsement without a second thought clearly shows their contempt for us as a human being unworthy of respect and disdain for our rights despite Constitutional guarantee. We just do not seem to measure up even to their lowest standard. In the unfolding of such a critical event, our Parliamentarians have obviously maintained a pin drop silence. While it is to do with P &NG issue this time round what will be the fate of the Nagas should a debate on Article 371 (A) is had on a more comprehensive scale? Our very identity as enshrined in this article could get butchered and yet again be interpreted differently to suit their ends. The Naga political movement has never received appropriate attention in the Indian media even once all these years and the mainland masses are mostly unaware of the Naga issue. All they know, if at all they do, is that Nagaland is an insurgent prone dangerous area.

The presence of our MPs in New Delhi have not had an iota of impact in this sector. It is no wonder that even at this crucial juncture of an uncertain political future, India has the shown scant respect for us as a people. Like a cat playing with a mouse before the kill the GoI has been toying with the Nagas for the past 60 years and we as a people have made no effort to let them treat us differently. The Indians seem to believe that once Mr. Isac Swu and Mr. Muivah departs for good, Nagas can be wrapped up in a toilet paper and wipe their backside with it. Unfortunately they may not be too far from wrong the way we show our indifference to all the critical issues. It is a wishful thinking I know, but in as far as the two insignificant Parliamentary seats are concerned, Nagas should not be looking at the proposition on Party lines. The Political Parties should rise above petty party consideration for a greater purpose of Naga’s rightful place within the Union and select consensus candidates of worth, intellectually capable of protecting the honour and dignity of the Nagas under the sun. Building a new image makeover of the Nagas that draws an honourable respect is an effort worth pondering over and acting upon. The negotiated settlement could perhaps receive a more respectful attention and response thereafter. May 2014 usher in a productive year of active change within us all and for us all.