Fifty three years ago on the 6th of September 1964 the first cease fire between the Government of India and the Naga undergrounds particularly the Naga National Council and its governmental wing the Federal Government of Nagaland was declared. The event was the culmination of the efforts of the Nagaland Baptist Churches Council that first proposed for a Peace Mission during its convention at Wokha from January 31 to February 2 of 1964. The ceasefire agreement of 1964, the various events during the ceasefire period and after, are still relevant and will enrich the people; the leaders; and also the church at present if only one is ready to learn some lessons from it.
The declaration of the ceasefire marked a major shift in the policy of India towards the Naga issue, which undoubtedly accepted that the issue is political. A similar view was eloquently articulated by peace activist Niketu Iralu during the commemoration programme of the ceasefire agreement at Chedema Peace Camp on September 6 2017. Looking back, it can now be safely concluded that the ceasefire of 1964 opened the doors for the Naga movement for many years to come till present times. It should be a reminder for all the Naga people at present, especially the cynics and those wearing the mask of the cynics at present.
Thereafter, the happenings after the declaration of ceasefire are well documented by many authors, some of whom were also part of the negotiations. It might even be one of the best of chronicles about the Naga issue because the interactions were across the table with both parties present. It was unlike the various releases by both parties with propaganda being one of the intentions, though there were varying versions of truths.
Unfortunately after 8 years, the ceasefire was discontinued and the one major incident before the discontinuation was the ambush on the convoy of then Chief Minister Hokishe Sema on August 8, 1972. By October 1972 the Governor announced that his government will no longer continue the monthly extension of the suspension of operations and that any group with the aim to secede Nagaland from India will be declared as an unlawful association. There will be many reasons of why and how it failed that will go down in history but one thing that was certain was that there was an increase in the entities within the Nagas that also worked against each other.
Notwithstanding, the commemoration of the historic day of ceasefire is held every year in Nagaland and as abrogation was unilateral it is accepted that the NNC/FGN still abides by the terms of ceasefire of 1964. Thereafter, there is yet another ceasefire signed in 1997 by the Government of India with another Naga political group, the NSCN (IM) which was perceived as most influential then and is probably now too. However, when it comes to commemoration of ceasefires the one of September 6, 1964 still eclipses that of August 1, 1997 and that is one of the many ironies related to the Naga issue. The NBCC will have a better answer to it but it is yet to state the reason why, though common sense indicates that a Church should celebrate any initiative for peace although not necessarily initiated by it.
On the other hand, the Chairman of the Nagaland Peace Centre, N Theyo at the thanksgiving service in commemoration of the ceasefire agreement that was held in Kohima on September 6, 2017 called upon the NNC led by Adinno and the NSCN (K) to join the peace process. The NNC led by Adinno and the NSCN (K) are the two groups that are indifferent to the current peace process between the NSCN (IM) and the Government of India.
However the most important inference that can be made from the ceasefire agreement of 1964 is that the Government of India indirectly accepted that it had overlooked certain details or may have committed some mistakes in the past. Either Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was proven wrong or his advisors starting from the bureaucracy to the intelligence branches were wrong. The so called peace that was initially anticipated was not achieved after the signing of the treaty of 1960, the inauguration of the state in 1963 and the formation of the elected government in 1964. There was more bloodshed and many innocents lost their lives somehow prompting India to agree to sign the ceasefire agreement in 1964. The Naga issue with its unique nuances was overlooked by those at ground level.
Times have changed but the circumstances remains similar. The Nagas especially the elders and the leaders should learn from the past and not cling to it. It is time to look forward and not to commit the same mistakes; else the day is not far when they will be judged by the posterity.