In a classical music orchestra you will see the performance consists of distinct sounds from varied instruments. However, the unique combination produces harmonious melody. This harmony depends on two vital elements. First, the score informs each musician which note to play. Second, the conductor directs them when they are to play. It would be a disaster if the orchestra is without a conductor, they would not know when to and what speed to play at. It would be even worse if they tear up the score.
I feel it apt to apply the analogy of orchestra to the Naga Freedom Struggle, which has been close to 1oo years now. Thousands of people have played their role with their best talent in the orchestra called “Naga Freedom Struggle.” There were ups and downs, many unforgettable events happened, lives and property were destroyed and broken into pieces. There are, still, many untold heart breaking stories.
Prior to the British rule, history testifies to the fact that the Nagas were never ruled by alien foreign power, and were not part of either India or Burma. As per C. V. Atchison, British Foreign Secretary Record, Calcutta, Government of India, Vol. XII, 1831, Page 91: “There are no written Treaty or engagement with any of the Naga tribe under British territory and we do not want to extend the redline” However, at last, some part of Naga tribe fell under British rule after Khonoma war in 1880. The Nagas were under British domain for only 7o years, the shortest British rule in entire Asia.
When the time approached for British to give up her empire, the Statuary Commission was set up in 1929, popularly known as “Simon Commission.” The intent of this panel was to understand the opinion and desire of the Naga people. The team came to Kohima, and Naga Club submitted a memorandum, clearly stating that the day British leaves Naga Hills, the country should be left alone so that the people can decide their own future. Therefore, when the British flag was down in India on 15thof August 1947, the Nagas hoisted their own flag, and sent cable to the UN saying that “Naga Hills is an Independent Country,” and further requested to put on record the Naga declaration of Independent. However, India forcibly integrated Naga territory into India. Therefore, the Plebiscite was conducted and 99.9% of the Nagas gave thumb Impression in support of Independence led by A.Z.Phizo, NNC President on 6th May 1951. He said, “Lastly Let me state, that is continue Stand for Independent, that continue the existence of Nagaland as a Sovereignty State is not a political challenge of India. We Naga stand our own Right as a Nation. Naga are not against India, are never wanted enemy we only hope that India shall not become our Hope.”
The Naga people persisted with their fight for freedom, believing it to be the purpose of God. Those who were in a broad they said “The Naga Love peace, but they cannot afford to let their land be occupied by sheer military Forces of the aggression.
And as long as the invading forces would be there, that long the Naga are bound to fight by the Leader of Allee Command in East Pakistan 1964 February.” The Government of India slowly came to realize the determination of the Naga People and decided to appease them and proposed a “Statehood.” The Naga People Convention (NPC) accepted the proposal, however, then NNC warned NPC that it would be hard to the kick on the prick. Nevertheless, the 16 points agreement was signed. S.C. Jamir, who, among the last surviving leader of the signatories, acknowledges that “Nagaland has been purchased by the blood and tears and life of people and it is very dear to our heart and mind” (Nagaland Post 1/12/2013).
Naga struggle has been a long and painful journey. After 12 years of fighting, the first cease-fire came into being, in 1964. Unfortunately after 6 rounds of talk, and without any commitment to solution, the talk came to a grinding halt. Mr. Isaac Swu, the then Foreign Secretary emphatically said in 1966, “It would be very unfortunate if that were to be Indian stand. We would be forced to adopt other method and seek unknown Destiny.” As such, the National Tatar Hoho decided not to continue the talk less one vote.
The Government of India used force to destroy Naga Peoples’ aspiration. In 1972, the eight years cease-fire was abrogated. The situation went from bad to worse. The NNC Federal Government and all activities were banned. Many top leaders were arrested and imprisoned. The rest were scattered through out the State, and those who are survived at home worked at high risk. To save the situation, Nagaland Peace Council members approached Government of India. The then Governor of Nagaland, L. P. Singh (retired civil British servant) entrusted his two advisors, Mr. R. Rammuny and Mr. Zopienga to talk to us. As the talk began R. Rammuny opened the chart and showed us, saying, “Do not waste your time, we have located all the camps, how many people are there and we are going to finish them up within two week of time.” And as we talked with the Governor, he listened to us carefully and further said “ I will give safe conduct for 15 days to them who wants to talk.” And we approached Federal Government and six of them came to peace camp Chedema with safe conduct. After series of consultation with liaison committee members, they decided to talk with Government of India at Shillong, because L.P Singh was Governor in charged of Nagaland and Meghalaya. As the talk began they found out that they were not able to sign under the representation of NNC and Federal Government, for the Government of India had previously banned the NNC and its government. So the signatories signed representing the generic underground. This development alarmed the general public as well as the underground leaders. However, this agreement saved the situation by securing the release of all political prisoners and cessation of military operation. Soon after, the NNC and Federal called a meeting at Dihoma because they were not competent to talk unless handover to NNC. We all thought that such decision was wrong, but the purpose of God was to make Naga People realise their weakness. God had alternative purpose for Naga People.
Those Naga patriots who were in foreign lands were strengthened, for it empowered the movement to internationalize Naga struggle. The Naga issue spread to USA, China, Japan, Thailand, UNPO and Europe. Mr. Thuileng Muivah stood up and said “ We are not lost people, we have no bigger and smaller Nagaland. Nagaland belongs to Naga People”. Another cease-fire was brought in 1977 by NSCN/IM and talk begin. But General public realize that unless Naga United another disaster will come to Naga People. Therefore National Reconciliation was launched by Civil Society And FNR thereby all factions came together. We have learn from the past History in the Bible. The more Egyptian suppress to Israelites, the more united they become. Mr. S. S. Khaplang Chiarman of NSCN(K) said, “Are we prepare to seek a common future for the sake of our children or continue to hunt each other with vengeful heart? The responsibility for tragic episode in Naga history must be equally shared by all leaders. No one is blameless, God alone is the judge. Shall we learn from unrewarding internal conflict?” (S.S. Khaplang Speech, 29th Raising day of NSCN GPRN, 2”d February 2009). In the same way, the more we suffer the more united we become. As we see the situation, Naga Unity and determination for freedom was consolidated. Because from all walks of life such as civil society, state government and churches came together for Naga unity. Now, the problem is not with Nagas but the problem is with India. The more the Naga people are ignored or oppressed India will suffer.
In the case of Israel, the purpose of God was not accomplished overnight. They suffered for 400 years. Suffered in the mighty hands of the Egyptians. However, God molded and shaped the Israelites through suffering and then gifted them a nation. They had to live 40 years in the wilderness, which means, the nation was in trial. In the same way, Naga People had suffered for almost a century. There were many misfortunes that had befallen the Naga People. There are heart wrenching stories within for the last 1oo years. The arrow had entered the heart of the Nagas but it also opened their eyes and learned valuable lessons.
Had Mahatma Ghandhi lived a few months longer, Nagas would have been free. Had Akbar Hyder Ali and Prime Minister Bordeloi lived a few months longer Nagas would have been free. Had 1964 Peace talk continued, Nagas would have been free. In spite of the many peace efforts our situation is still at an impasse. However, I believe, Naga tragedy happen because God has an alternative purpose. I believe God in his own time the Naga will be Free. I continue to believe that the Naga freedom struggle orchestra will culminate in resounding and harmonious thump!
Rev. Dr. V K Nuh