Naga People’s Aspiration and ‘Law and Order’: NPMHR’s 15th Morung Dialogue series

The Delhi sector of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, (NPMHR) organized its 15thMorung Dialogue through a webinar on ‘Naga Peoples’ Aspiration and Law and Order’ in the light of the Governor’s letter to the Chief Minister of Nagaland.

The current Morung Dialogue was organized on 8thJuly 2020. The panel comprised Advocate Timikha Koza, President Tenyimia Peoples’ Organization; Prof. Rosemary Dzuvichü, Dept. of English, Nagaland University, also advisor to Naga Mothers’ Association; and Keviletuo Kiewhuo, Former President, Naga Hoho.

Dr. Yaruingam, Delhi University, invoked God’s blessing for the Dialogue.

Advocate Timikha Koza said, “Nagas are one and we have one aspiration. Nagas believe in freedom and love freedom. Nagas have not compromised our birthright at any point of time. The aspiration of the Nagas cannot be suppressed.” He stated that the Nagas have always cherished and valued freedom and peace. He narrated how Naga consciousness for independence has been displayed time and again across history, through submission of the memorandum to the Simon Commission, declaration of Independence on 14thAugust 1947 and boycott of Indian elections in 1951. The same desire is in all the Nagas today.

Mr. Koza also recounted how in the mid-1950s, the Govt. of India (GOI) with its military might tried to suppress the desires of the Nagas through torture, rape, burning of houses, turning churches and schools into detention centres. The GoI imposed the AFSPA with three ‘all’s – “Kill all, burn all, loot all”, Local Activities Prevention Act and today, the Disturbed Areas Act. But the aspiration of the Nagas were never once deterred.

According to him, the honorable Governor’s letter to the Chief Minister has thus created much fear amongst the Naga people in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Nagas have suffered enough under military rule in the name of law and order and do not wish to experience another such phase. The Governor’s quote on “total collapse of law and order” needs to be revisited. Mr. Koza cited the recent incident in Uttar Pradesh where a gangster killed 8 police personnel. The gangster was still at large despite the entire police force and state machinery being set after him. He asked if this did not qualify as an example of “total collapse of law and order”. In due course of time, justice will prevail, he added. The Nagas are today enjoying a time of peace. The killings amongst the Nagas have stopped and GoI is negotiating with the political groups. It is therefore not right to say that law and order has collapsed. Nagaland is in fact comparatively more peaceful in relation to its past or to other states.

Advocate Koza opined that the special powers given to the Governor under article 371 A (1) (b), is to be exercised judiciously and discreetly. The Governor who is also the interlocutor of the Naga peace process should prioritize the peaceful settlement of the political negotiation.He hopes, R.N. Ravi in his wisdom will focus on bringing the Nagas together through a proper political settlement acceptable to the Nagas. With all the NNPGs in talks with the GoI, this is an opportune time to bring about a lasting peace.

Prof. Rosemary Dzuvichü spoke on the after-effects of the Governor’s letter, the experience of Naga women and the way forward. According to her, the Governor has brought a much bigger ‘pandemic’ to the Nagas in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The people today live in anxiety and tension with a series of arrests of members of NNPGs occurring with no respect for ceasefire ground rules, she said.

Prof. Dzuvichü stated that the Governor being the constitutional head of the state should take responsibility for the inabilities cited by him in the letter. The Nagaland government is not Rio’s government alone but equally of the Governor himself.

Prof. Dzuvichü expressed worry about how the Governor, who is also the interlocutor of the Naga political negotiation, would regain the trust of the negotiating partners after branding them “armed gangs”. The trust built over years of talks with different Naga political groups and through the signing of the framework agreement with the main negotiating partner NSCN (IM) and the preamble with the 7 NNPGs, has been thrown to waste due to the letter. She was apprehensive as to how the negotiation would continue with mistrust between negotiating partners. The letter was followed by the overnight extension of the Disturbed Areas Act over Nagaland when the people are still reeling under the draconian AFSPA imposed in 1958. The way ahead is a major concern. The Naga Mothers’ Association working as a peace-maker all these years has never considered the Naga political groups as armed gangs. It is now important for the governor to look back and define the “armed gangs” mentioned in the letter. According to her, the conflicts, crimes and killings have lessened since the signing of the ceasefire.

She stated that the Naga issue and Naga aspirations are not a law and order issue and cannot be treated as such. It is much more complex. The extortions or taxation, the Governor listed in his letter has a lot to do with the corruption in the governance system. It is pertinent for the Governor to ask how many effective checks have been put in place within the governance system to address the issue. It is therefore not right to blame the NNPGs for whatever is happening in the state. She also mentioned that the chairman of the ceasefire monitoring board lives in the capital of Nagaland. If what the Governor stated in his letter is to be considered accurate, she questioned what exactly the ceasefire monitoring committee was doing in regard to these allegations.

Prof. Dzuvichü is fearful that the extension of the Disturbed Areas Act with AFSPA in force will ultimately lead to violation of Human Rights. There are still many pending cases in the Indian courts where Justice has not yet been served to the Nagas in regard to excesses of the military forces. The recent cold-blooded gunning down of an alleged extortionist in Kohima has exhumed such memories. With no sign of AFSPA being lifted she is saddened that we are living in such worrying times.

The governor, according to her, should gracefully step down if he is unable to function as the interlocutor. She also questioned the seriousness of the Govt. of India in bringing a peaceful settlement to the decades old Naga political issue. She did not wish that the negotiation take another generation to be brought to fruition. She also appealed to all parties for accountability within their organizations, thatexcesses are not committed, and the ceasefire ground rules are properly followed.

Keviletuo Kiewhuo started with the aspiration of the Nagas to live as ‘one nation and one people’. According to him the Governors’ letter deals with the politics, law and order, development and corruption in the state with a lot of ambiguity and much more clarity is needed. Concerning development in Nagaland, he said that the state is fully dependent on Delhi for its budgetary provision. The little development that is done in the state is through the budgetary provision of about Rs. 2500 crores which is equivalent to the budget of the statue of Sardar Patel. He questioned what kind of ‘development’ is being referred to and asked if the state of Nagaland is equivalent to the value of one statue. The state also cannot rely on revenue through collection of taxes. Any govt. raising or imposing taxes will lead to an uprising. Therefore, development cannot happen without increasing the budgetary provisions and blaming the political group for underdevelopment is absurd.

Mr. Kiewhuo agreed with the governor that there is corruption in Nagaland, stating “Corruption has crept into every aspect of the Naga people. The political class and the notorious bureaucracy are all involved” He went a step ahead questioning what measures were taken by the governor to correct this.

For Mr. Kiewhuo, the Naga aspiration has to be looked into with its history in mind. The infamous Shillong accord was signed in 1975 when there was the Emergency in India and President’s rule in Nagaland. He questioned whether the GoI was going to use the same yardstick to impose President’s rule in Nagaland and coerce an agreement under duress. He reminded the discussants that the NSCN (IM) and the GOI had come to a ceasefire agreement in 1997 based on three principles viz. to be held at the highest level, with no preconditions and in a third country. The Chief Negotiator, Th. Muivah came to India on the invitation of India believing the Govt. of India’s seriousness about settlement of the Naga issue, violating the third clause. The willingness of the Nagas to bring about a peaceful settlement is evident. The GoI has also recognized the unique history of the Nagas. But today the interlocutor is trying to interpret the unique history of the Nagas as an issue to be dealt with as a law and order problem. Kiewhuo opined, ‘no negotiation can be successful if law and order is brought first into the negotiation. Through the Framework Agreement, an understanding was reached on 31stOctober 2019 but the Nagas have not seen any tangible result coming out from the talk. While the last meeting was held on 30thJan 2020, nothing has moved forward since then. Besides the need to address ‘how’ the problem was being viewed, Mr. Kiewhuo also brought up the seriousness of the interlocutor in tackling the problem. With no talks happening for the last 6 months, he was unable to comprehend the motivation behind the urgency with which the NSCN (IM) and NNPGs had previously been given a deadline of 31stOctober 2019.

Mr. Kiewhuo also questioned what the definition of “collapse of law and order” meant when everyone in the state is living in peace. He highlighted that there is a ceasefire mechanism in place led by a chairman of the ceasefire monitoring group and ceasefire supervisory board with laid down ground rules. As per this, there are hundreds of card holders amongst the NNPGs who are authorized to carry arms and ammunition. The designated camps are not prisons and the cadres have the freedom to move around accompanied by bodyguards with arms. They cannot be labeled “armed gangs”. He pondered whether there was a breach of understanding between the chairman of the ceasefire monitoring group and the governor.

He also delved into the constitutional ambiguity of the role of an interlocutor who is also a Governor. While the interlocutor reports directly to the Prime Minister of the country, the governor reports to the President.

A question and answer session ensued post the address by the speakers. The Morung Dialogue concluded with a vote of thanks from the Chair, Akhum Longkumer.

The Morung Dialogue is a series of discussions organized by NPHMR, Delhi Sector since 2014 with the objective of strengthening the power of conversation and sharpening our understanding through sharing ideas and views on issues that affect our lives.

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