First you invaded and illegally occupied Nagas’ land, then declared it a disturbed area so that you could enforce draconian laws, sanctioned with ready-made licence to break into anybody’s house like thieves, arrest or shoot to kill anyone on mere suspicion! Who disturbed whom in the first place? Is it wrong then for Nagas to defend their ancestral domain and legitimate rights?
This was the nucleus of the emergence of Naga political movement against the government(s) of India and Myanmar post British decolonisation. Nagas did not take up arms to disturb or create law and order issues within India and Myanmar nations but to defend their Independence Declaration of 14th August, 1947 which was again reaffirmed and strengthened by Naga Plebiscite of 16th May, 1951, within the Naga nation.
Realising the issue is political in nature, came the Indo-Naga ceasefire agreement. However, in the garb of peace talks, the Government of India (GoI) and its armed forces, vested with draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), Disturbed Area Act (DAA) and Counter Insurgency Operations in the North Eastern region (especially Naga-inhabited areas) have been simultaneously raiding and killing Naga national workers in cold blood as if they are terrorists.
Naga people have never witnessed or experienced real time peace and tranquility in their lands since the forced occupation of Naga nation for seventy odd years ago, despite several ceasefire agreements in the past and the ongoing peace talks for the last 23 years. Whilst the political negotiations going on with the Govt. at the prime ministerial level, its armed forces and mercenaries have been terrorizing the Naga women, children and the general public in the hunt for Naga national workers in Nagas’ land!
Peace negotiations, holding olive leaf on one hand and the gun on the other has been the stratagem of GoI in an effort to uproot the Naga political movement and to bring the Naga political groups into submission. These double standard policies of GoI are sufficient evidence that GoI never was and is sincere or committed to resolving the Naga political conflict in the spirit of mutual respect and just peace.
“In the course of this play-act peace process, we have seen thousands of Naga national workers being arrested, tortured and put behind bars and /or murdered in cold blood, which were/are in fact serious violations of Universal Ceasefire Regulations, International Law and Human Rights!”
All these continue unabated even at a time when the world is struggling to come to terms with Covid-19 pandemic and global economic crises. The UN Secretary General has appealed time and again to “halt all the active armed conflicts in the world and enact a universal ceasefire binding on all the Parties in conflict-zones”. But the GoI in collusion with the GoM are least bothered about the International Rule of Law and bent on making the most of the lockdown situation to their advantage.
Today, in what could be a prelude to dangerous events unfolding, we are witnessing a repeat of the past, as the Indian armed forces are let loose to unleash bloodshed by not just provoking but actually killing Naga national workers! There is a palpable increase in counter insurgency operations, in blatant violation and utter defiance of existing Ceasefire Ground Rules between GoI and Naga political groups.
The recent incidents: on the 11th of July 2020, we saw the cold blooded murder of 6 NSCN (IM) cadres in Arunachal Pradesh by Assam Rifles in a fake encounter. On 10th September, 2020, another Naga freedom fighter (NSCN K) was gunned down, in Nagas’ soil, right in front of our eyes and in broad daylight. And yet again on 11th September, 2020 another incident at Namrei village, Ukhrul where AR personnel conducted operations against Naga army and harassing the womenfolk and innocent villagers!
All these happenings in a span of less than a month when the Indo-Naga political talks are said to be at the final stage, indicate the GoI wants Naga political groups to submit to an imposed solution and not for a negotiated solution!
History has taught us that imposed or forced solution to any conflict can never sustain anywhere in the world but a just peace or honorable resolution of the conflict with mutual respect can endure all harsh weather. Therefore, the GoI and the Naga political groups must work out a mutually-negotiated agreement (as a team) keeping in mind the primary goal for a lasting peace, without engaging in foul play.
To bring to an end to the protracted Indo-Naga political conflict, coming together of the GoI and the Naga political groups in vision and action is a prerequisite to ushering an era of lasting peace. And the only way forward to making it happen would be to create a conducive atmosphere for all the parties to sit across one table and hammer out the differences while recognizing and honouring each other’s rights. Otherwise, talking of inclusive or one solution on one hand and playing divisive politics on the other hand is counterproductive in the search for permanent resolution to any socio-political dispute.
“Any right thinking Naga should know that no faction or section of people can singlehandedly ever bring about honourable, acceptable or permanent solution to the protracted Indo-Naga political conflicts, because it involves all the Nagas, be it Nagas in the East, West, North, South or Central. Hence, Nagas must unite for one cause and one political solution with the Government of India.”
Time has arrived for all the Nagas especially civil society organisations, churches, village headmen, politicians, Bureaucrats, scholars and all the key leaders of Naga civil society, irrespective of factional, party or political affiliation, must come together in one voice. It begins with each of us committing to forgive and forget the past misadventures that we have gone through, reconciling unconditionally and amalgamating our hearts, minds, strengths and resources to form a synergised force and power to overcome all the hurdles so as to make a breakthrough to our prolonged struggle for just peace. Once the Naga general public come together in unison different Naga political factions will instinctually fall in line.
In other words, the current exigency befits that Nagas irrespective of group, region and tribe forge a united front for the common Naga cause and put in concerted efforts to realize our long cherished Naga dream, for which supreme sacrifices have been made by all through the generations.
Let’s all for once set aside our differences and grudges in the spirit of mutual trust, respect, love and our common hope as a family in Christ; rise to the occasion as a people with a vision and resolution for a shared future and seize this auspicious moment as a struggling people for a new journey ahead. Kuknalim!
Views are personal. Markson Naga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org