There are no two varied opinions in the minds of every breathing Naga worth his/her salt to emphatically want to end this 70 years old suffocating and torturous journey chained to a chaotic political limbo that is desperately retarding Nagas from attaining their full potentials in every field. Given a peaceful environment, Nagas are as good as any human beings on earth proudly able to stand their ground like any others in advanced Nations, if only we were not hell-bent on destroying ourselves. Nagaland has been bathed in the blood of thousands of martyrs whose deepest unselfish desire to protect their inherent freedom was honest and honourable. Over the years, this uncontaminated “picture perfect” has repeatedly been tarnished and defiled by a monstrous industry called Factions. Each faction has lustfully hoisted a gigantic invisible flag called “money” on a very high mast at the centre of their HQs and continues to unsparingly exact their pound of flesh called “tax” from everything that moves in the name of “sovereignty” that they routinely spit upon by their despicable actions. Each faction carries a highly unyielding shiny ego to boot. To add woes to the common man, the opaque “Framework Agreement” has thrown up yet another unsavoury contentious subject in the form of “trust deficit”. NSCN (IM) can only sees Nagaland as a fertile soil for their ruthless taxation that is throttling the livelihood of every family and the enthusiasm of current generation of young entrepreneurs but at the same time consider the people they tax unworthy of real consultation…and I mean REAL consultation that would involve a healthy intellectual debate. If this assessment describes the true perspective and intent of NSCN (IM) then Nagas of Nagaland must equally be prepared to exercise their right to declare themselves as unwilling candidates for taxation in response. Why pay tax to someone who shows no trust in us? This is a very legitimate question that NSCN (IM) will have to answer one time or another. The situation is slowly beginning to necessitate the re-enactment of the historic “Boston Tea Party of 1773” that declared “no taxation without representation” against the infringement of American rights under British Colonial regime. Nagas of Nagaland are unfairly being pushed to the wall and will ultimately run out of patience and declare “no taxation without truthful consultation”. Fair minded Nagas do not recognise the so-called “mandate” given to NSCN (IM) by our self-seeking elected representatives (MLAs) and the compromised NGOs like the Naga Haha. Conducting the present day series of “yes men” consultation is unacceptable to a civilised society. In this time and age, NSCN (IM) ought to have understood by now that they cannot continue to arbitrarily dictate their ill conceived notions over the people just because they wield AK 47. Granted that there are some educated Tangkhuls calling all the shots from the upper echelon of NSCN (IM) but to arrogantly write off the entire Naga population as an ignorant entity unlikely to understand the complexity of the “framework” contents is an unpalatable mother of all insults. If they can understand it… so can we! This outrageous superiority complex attitude needs to be set right once for all through a public debate on the non-transparent “Framework Agreement” with the best of NSCN (IM)’s ‘super intellectuals’ that they seem to assume of themselves if they have the guts to face the ‘ignoramuses’ of Nagaland. Their present ongoing public awareness campaign giving one sided ambiguous lectures of self-perpetuation on the impending future of the Nagas amongst the less receptive rural population is yet another example of poor judgement in their approach to consultation. Nagas have been living under perpetual apprehension and fear in general and are therefore unlikely to disagree that ‘an orange is an apple’ or ‘a cat is a dog’ if NSCN (IM) insists…but the times they are a changing. Take the challenge! Try the same lecture with a more resilient intellectual crowd in the urban centres which is advisably a wiser step to take to get to know our shortcomings! We guarantee…the Naga intellectuals will at least have that much in them to distinguish the difference between an orange and an apple or a cat from a dog and confirm it so to their pompous faces!
Having said this, it is a momentous time for every Naga, be they overground or underground, to look beyond their petty tribalistic ego problems with true Christian humility and think as one people with a common goal. The official acknowledgment of the ‘unique history’ of the Nagas by GoI is an exceptional milestone achieved through the relentless perseverance and persistence of NSCN (IM). Honest credit must be given where it is due. The Naga National issue is however, not an exclusive preserve of the factions in the frontline. Equal measure of brutal burden has been shouldered by the general population every step of the way thus far. One without the other would not have taken the struggle this far. Now that the “Framework Agreement” has presumably set a general direction for a negotiated settlement it is in the interest of the Nagas above all else to adopt an inclusive representation of all factions as equal partners on a common neutral platform and in fact also induct the best of brains amongst the Nagas to participate in the negotiation proceedings as well. This will automatically reduce the element of hyper suspicion currently running amuck. Given an inclusive participation scenario, any solution will stand the test of time even if it were to fall slightly short of our original objectives. It is imperative for all Nagas to accordingly embrace this subject as the highest calling of National duty to stand together and work towards inducing the GoI to truly understand the Nagas and actually make them define this “unique history” in real terms. It necessarily means that we must clear the cobwebs within our own kitchen first and then come out with a united unambiguous message of what we want without further complicating the already complex agenda.
The first primary obstacle that we need to cross is the “ego bridge”. Forgive my candid expression and correct me if I am wrong but it is more than apparent even to a politically inexperienced amateur that Mr. Th. Muivah stubbornly wants to go down in history as the father of whatever gets born through the negotiated relationship with the GoI and therefore does not want to dilute his present undisputed fatherhood status by agreeing to a common neutral platform with other fathers from other factions. Hiding behind ‘National principle’ as a cited reason for disunity is not sufficiently convincing anymore. However, appreciating the laudable landmark practically achieved thus far, we owe it to NSCN (IM) to at least acknowledge the leadership of Mr. Muivah as the Chief Negotiator, even in the event where all factions unite on a neutral common platform and put his mind at peace on the issue of leadership. NSCN (IM) ought to know that the GoI is least bothered about the internal ‘National principle’ bickering amongst ourselves but will certainly pay serious attention to real “Naga unity” all the more which surpasses everything else at this crucial stage. It is a common knowledge that every Faction, including NSCN (IM), has blatantly committed multiple heinous omissions and commissions before God and before man and therefore this holier than thou charade must effectively be cast aside for good in the truest spirit of Christian reconciliation. Here again, the ‘principle of forgiveness’ as enunciated by NSCN (IM) is without an element of honour. If they are sincere in saying “please forgive us…because we forgive you too” then their uncharitable rider…”so now come and join us”…ought not to have been appended. Such forgiveness is hollow, shallow, insincere and far removed from Christian principle of forgiveness…provided we are all actually reading the same Bible. Real forgiveness should necessarily facilitate an honourable “neutral common ground” for all to unreservedly come together as brothers and as equals without loss of face.
When ground reality is analysed very carefully it simply boils down to the fate of an entire Nagas race hanging in a balance in the hands of one stubborn wilful human being called Mr. Th. Muivah, who is the sole undisputed dictator of NSCN (IM) and also dictating the terms of the negotiating. Therefore, all it would take is for him to agree on a common neutral platform with other faction leaders on board and take the negotiation forward. No one doubts that this would excruciatingly be the toughest decision of his life hoisting a neutral flag after serving a lifetime under another. There are other equally hardcore groups who too vehemently believe that NNC must be the final flag under which the end must come. It is as much a difficult decision for other Factions as well to casually give up their present respective identities. This suggestion is therefore, not being proffered lightly. When compromises are to be made for a greater cause of common good, it is paramount for all parties concerned to bravely tackle difficult choices to meet halfway in accommodation to one another. The bottom-line is: what earth shaking difference does it make if the final solution that all Nagas want across the board is actually brought home under a “neutral united flag” as long as Nagas finally find that settlement together? After all, History is bound to faithfully recount and confirm the invaluable contributions and sacrifices made by each sector in course of our long journey to the final settlement and nationally honour their individual identities and contributions. This is a moment in history far greater than anyone’s personal ego. This is a moment in history where the long desperate suffering of a people can be put to rest for all times and open a new chapter of hope as a land of opportunity. This is a moment in history to usher in an everlasting period of peace and progress where the generations to come can dream and look forward to a fulfilled life of achieving their fullest potentialities and be counted. We must decide to give our children’s generation a chance to grow! Destroying this awesome opportunity because of a self-cantered whim of a few selfish human beings at the helms will surely bring forth a curse for another 70 more years of suffering for the entire Naga race. At a trying time like this we need to remind ourselves of a sobering thought that at God’s appointed day we will all depart empty handed as we had come. All that will remain is the goodwill we leave behind. Let us do this!
Let us truly acknowledge the supreme sacrifice that has irrevocably been made unselfishly by the generation of brave hearts who have gone before us. Let it all not be in vain. It is our moment in history to make our own sacrifices and make this final call for unity and rid ourselves from this political limbo. It will be worth the sacrifice. God Bless. Amen.
Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd.)
Upper Forest Colony, Kohima;