When we listen to the stories of our struggle, sometimes it is difficult not to think like we all live our life to become martyrs at the altar of Naga nationalism. A magnificent creation by our Almighty God that has made us a proud nation and people, and also one that has sometimes drives us to the brink. We Nagas are proud of countless ordinary men, women and children who suffered and sacrificed for our aspiration for freedom and self- determination. Their blood, sweats and tears has sown the seeds of irreversible sense of nationalism and commitment to stand for Naga’s right to self-determination.
More importantly, Nagas have consistently asserted their separate identity with collective will to be identified as a ‘People‘. The Government of India (GoI) in fact through its Amsterdam Declaration dated 11.07.2002, officially recognized by declaring the history, and ‘situation’ of the Nagas as ‘Unique history’ in the sense that Naga nation has never signed any documents of accession with India during the process of the formation of the Indian Union, and thus, ‘unique situation’ signifies that ‘Naga issue’ is not a case of secessionist insurgency and these historical facts was given personal stamp of approval by the then Deputy Prime Minister of India, Mr. LK Advani. Thus, there is hardly any dispute with regard to the established status of the Nagas as a ‘People‘ and the same has also been recognized by other sovereign nations including International bodies such as Unrepresented Nations and People’s Organization (UNPO).
Significantly, the UNPO promotes the importance of self determination as fundamental human rights that are often misunderstood. The right to Self-determination is at the heart of true implementation of all other human rights. The inevitable conclusion is that the Nagas being a People under colonial and alien subjugation are undoubtedly entitled to the right to Self-determination. The history of armed suppression and immensity of war crimes and human rights violation committed by the Indian Armed Forces under the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 would unquestionably entitled the Nagas to assert their rights to fight back to safeguard their identity as people. In any case, if EAST TIMOR in the similar case of Indonesia occupation is entitled the right to Self- determination as held by the International court of justice, Naga people’s right cannot be treated under different yardstick.
Naga history with land and its resources with distinct culture is a source of legitimate pride for Nagas since time immemorial. Throughout history we have stoutly protected our lands and customs tooth and nails against all external forces and remain fiercely independent as a nation. Nagas have endured the worst military atrocities inflicted upon the people not seen anywhere in the world. Many lived long enough to witness how simple Nagas were craftily exploited by the mainland politicians. Nagas were at a loss how to counter them befittingly for lack of moral and spiritual commitment that could have acted against political tyranny.
On the 16th May 1951, Nagas young and old men and women exercised their sovereign power with an aspiration to determine and secure their own political destiny. The Naga Plebiscite, in which 99.9% of the people voted for an Independent Naga nation is an affirmation of the Naga declaration of Independence on the 14th August 1947 from all alien domination, subjugation and exploitation. This collective truth demonstrates the moral and political consensus of the Naga struggle for self-determination and reiterates the uniqueness of Naga history and situation. The spirit and aspirations of the Naga Plebiscite continues to guide the Naga political movement.
If we as a Naga people fail to defend and protect our dignity and humanity, then a time will come when we would be transformed into ‘Miniature tiny creatures’. Proclaiming our Independence itself is an act of self-determination. It is the choice of the people and it is a virtue of all people reflecting that the Nagas have their own culture, land, common heritage and history, which describe the Nagas as a People. It is not up to an alien country to decide whether the Nagas are a people’s or not, which is a part of the right to self-determination. Nagas are not just looking at making things better tomorrow but building for the next coming generations so that our grand children will inherit our freedom. The Naga public must shoulder the responsibility to take the call on Naga Independence deliberately and genuinely given the nature of inhuman treatment against the Nagas by the armed forces of India that show no respect for human rights.
The Nagas struggle for self-determination began with fighting against the Indian armies, forced occupation and aggressive violations of our rights. Since the beginning of our political struggle, the estimated number of Naga lives lost is above 300,000. How much longer should we allow the Indians to treat us as sub-human being? How long will India’s political leaders be allowed to shed crocodile tears? This is the time that the Nagas in particular and the North East in general should go deep into soul-searching to unearth what ails our society and people, and take corrective steps.
Time has come that we must show our resolute stand to be united right across in collective solidarity with all the victims of Oting massacre. It is time that we rise up to the occasion and show to the world that our God given identity is our strength and that strength is anchored on solid rock of unity. It is time we stop dehumanizing ourselves. Let us come to the point that what has happened to our brethren at Tiru/Oting village in the most barbaric manner is only waiting to happen to us any day any time soon. For the sake of what we
owes to posterity and most importantly to God our creator we have to take the stand to show the world that we have the courage to fight for our rights. Recalling the Indian History a prominent personality like Rabindranath Tagore, the first Indian to win a Nobel Prize for Literature for his slim collection of poems GITANJALI, lambasted the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre as a blot on Indian society. As a sign of a strong protest, Rabindranath Tagore returned the Nobel Prize. Can the Nagas be like Rabindranath Tagore to protest against Oting massacre? Would the Nagas who have received many awards and recognitions dare to return as a token of protest against the Government of India?
Subsequently, the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) has discovered that the Union Home Minister Mr. Amit Shah’s statement on Oting massacre in the Indian Parliament is a despicable lie. Mr. Amit Shah’s outrageous statement comes at a time when the whole Nagas are in a state of lamentation in solidarity with our Naga brethrens. In a situation like this, Mr. Amit Shah was expected to display a political maturity and true statesmanship to reflect his status as the Home Minister of a great democratic country like India. Unfortunately, he has shown himself his true color of immaturity, incapability and frivolous mentality towards the Naga people.
Therefore, the Naga People should urge the United Nations (UN) and the International community to respond to the call of the Naga People for justice and peaceful co-existence. We Nagas cannot deny the fact that there many Nagas who support and collaborate with the Indian agents against our own Naga brethrens. It would not be wrong to say that Naga collaborators’ hands are involved in executing the Oting mayhem. Today’s Naga youngsters had long forgotten or ignored 3-4 decades of inhuman treatments, tortures, rapes, killings and burning down of villages meted out to our Naga people (especially older generations) during the 60’s to 90’s. The younger Naga generation only got to read or heard the untold misery and agony faced by our older Naga generations in the hands of Indian Army (our oppressors) through stories. We never get to taste the bitterness of the brunt of the suffering because we are too forgiving and carried away by our false sense of commitment to our Christian faith. But ironically, the worst and the sad part is that we never learned a lesson from the past. And for vested interests, our Naga people tend to trust and love our oppressors more than our own Naga people.
The Indian Army spontaneously killed more Naga National workers during the ceasefire than the pre-ceasefire times. But we Nagas did not realize it or overlook them because of our hatred towards each other and towards our own Naga National workers. May the diabolical incidents of Oting be our eye opener before the possible ceasefire breakdown and awake the spirit of oneness and Naga nationalism. If we Nagas fail to realize and unite this time nothing can be more damaging for the Nagas. If Nagas cannot rise up to the occasion, India and the world will take Nagas for granted and the worst would come upon the Nagas. When will the Naga people rise up to the occasion?
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The Naga people should be humble and should be like our forefathers in upholding the historical and political rights of the Nagas and the land. Nagas at this juncture cannot afford another internal revolution. Media outlets constant public accusatory and divisive statements have empowered vested interest to counter and change the narrative with flawed and factual errors to the people. This is creating an alienating mindset which is extremely insular for the Naga people. Naga history has taught us that, when the spirit of common ground is exploited, compromised and taken from us, no one is really benefited. It consumes us all. At times turning Nagas against Nagas and its consequences have traumatized the Naga people as it has deeply wounded and fragmented our society.
Let us respect our legitimate rights and save our political movement. India should also know that despite the differences among the Nagas the unique history and the right to self- determination will remain intact. The Nagas of present generation should save the Naga nationhood. The ongoing Naga political solution is equally important and beneficial to both India and Nagas as two entities. If Indian sub-continent has to become an economic power, the Nagas holds the gateway towards this targeted economic growth. Therefore, the GoI should take high-priority in solving the Indo-Naga political issue at the earliest for a peaceful co-existence once and for all. The Nagas should learn from our past history and should not repeat the mistake of the past where the political process benefitted only a few people within the India created state of Nagaland. It is imperative for the Nagas to protect our common belonging and unite to break down the barriers by strengthening the bond and relationship among ourselves.
The NSCN called all the Nagas once again to reaffirm the pledge to uphold and respect the sanctity of the Naga Plebiscite; a covenant given by the people for the realization of Naga dignity and freedom. For the love of the Nagas’ future and to reassert our identity as people we Nagas must strengthens the spirit of Naga nationalism and self-determination and prove ourselves as a hard nut to crack when it comes to defending our God’s given rights. There will come no better time than this to give ourselves renewed vigor and direction as we show to the world the Naga people’s resolute stand to fight together for our legitimate rights.
M Daniel Lotha is a Kilo Kilonser, Government of the People’s Republic of Nagalim