It is with great sense of joy to learn that the Covenant of Reconciliation (CoR) initiated by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) has attained 10 years since its signing on June 13, 2008. It is also with a sense of sadness that I am writing this article as I recollect those past years where killings and bloodshed were everyday affairs and people lived in constant fear with their ears perked for any sound that resembled a gunshot. Those were uncertain days indeed. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was a young reporter based in Dimapur attached with The Morung Express and I was often tasked with covering almost all the factional killings happening those days. I had a lot of experiences, and to be very honest, there is nothing pleasant about covering news about a dead body or clicking pictures of wailing wives and children, of a quiet solitary but distraught father peering into the lifeless bullet-riddled body of his son in a coffin ready to be lowered into a mass grave and so on. But as it was my job to report on what is happening in the society, I had to do report it objectively. And that’s that.
I don’t want to dwell much into the past for I have not experienced as much as my seniors especially with regard to the Naga political issue. Ten years back, I was just a young man just wanting to enjoy a little bit of adventure and do what I like doing best, that is writing. But looking back now, during the years 2007-2008, I never imagined that our Naga society could be a cessation of bloodshed and enjoy at least this kind of relative peace.
Before I go further, I must admit here that I am no peace activist and I do not have much expertise in the field of peacemaking or the like. Whatever I am sharing here is just a personal narration emanating from a depressed heart that was scarred after seeing nearly a hundred bodies with bullet wounds on different occasions. The highest number of bodies that I saw was of thirteen cadres in Chümoukedima area one early morning in the year 2008. The bodies were being loaded into a police mini truck like carcasses with the blood dripping down and forming a pool of blood on the ground. It was a horrible sight. The stench of human blood – believe me, human blood has this peculiar smell unlike other animal’s blood – and it is quite nauseating.
Anyway, the situation in our society has changed significantly and we are enjoying a certain level of peace and tranquility. Of course, I do not mean that we are enjoying total peace, because that would be impossible to attain and our Naga society, even today, has our own share of conflict and sorrows. But, ten years on since the signing of the Covenant of Reconciliation (CoR), we are enjoying a relative peace, and the sensible theme of the FNR ‘A journey of common hope’ is instilling a certain amount of hope in our hearts. For that, the Naga people should congratulate the Forum for Naga Reconciliation for working tirelessly despite all odds for bringing about reconciliation among the different factions and the Naga people should also appreciate the different Naga political groups for understanding the yearning of the people for peace in the society and resolution to the protracted Naga political issue.
As a Naga, I can’t help but wonder about the obstacles that the FNR members had to undergo in order to achieve their huge task of brining reconciliation among the different Naga political groups. The FNR convener, Rev Dr Wati Aier has lucidly narrated about the initial days of the forum and the taunting tasks and the uncertainties they had to undergo in his article “Imagining Change – The Journey of Common Hope” which was published in the local dailies a few days ago. I cannot help but appreciate the sacrifices that the FNR members had to make for the sake of the Naga people; moreover, I also cannot help but appreciate Naga people – the different tribal organizations and the churches – for rendering their support to the FNR in their taunting task of bringing the warring factions to a same table. Above all, I do believe that the power of God was with the FNR and the Naga people from the very start. As a prelude to the formation of the FNR, I remember that there was a mega prayer or healing programme (though I can’t recollect the exact name of the programme) at DDSC stadium which was organized by the Naga Shisha Hoho. During that programme, the turnout of the people was quite dismal; there were many empty chairs in the stadium. Though the reason for the low turnout could be due to many factors, and chief among them could be the prevailing volatile situation at that time, yet the programme was held successfully. Maybe, just maybe, it was because of such a programme and the ardent prayers of the Naga people that the Forum of Naga Reconciliation could come thus far. And it is most appropriate for the churches to ring the church bell for sixty seconds on June 16 at 12 noon to remind us of God’s faithfulness.
All said and done, I do hope that the Naga people would continue supporting the FNR in their efforts to bring reconciliation among the different Naga political groups; that the different NNPGs would understand the yearning of the Naga people for peace and a lasting solution of the Naga political issue; and that the Naga people, especially the younger generation, deserves to live in a peaceful society where they can develop their personalities, achieve greater heights and contribute positively to the global society.
Towards this end, I feel that the present younger generation should also actively get involved in the reconciliation process. It does not mean that one have to become a member of the NNPGs or the FNR, but any act, however small, perhaps just a small prayer or a word of encouragement to those involved, would go a long way in achieving our common goal.
I feel our Naga society is one of the most versatile societies and the Naga people one of the most wonderful people in the world. We have had our own share of troubles and bloodshed. But despite all, Naga people also have found courage to stand up again. Our elders have done their part and we need to acknowledge them for all their works. But it is time now for the youth to take responsibility. It is time for us to overcome the narrow confines of tribalism, to overlook our differences and rather look at our similarities. After all, whether we like it or not, our future – the different tribes and communities – are intertwined by destiny. The Naga family is one and that emotional attachment cannot simply be wished away overnight because it has been forged in blood and tears in good and bad times. Therefore, the Naga youngsters need to look beyond the horizon and determine what kind of a future we want and what kind of a society we want to create for our children. The catchword that ‘the future belongs to the youth’ has become nothing but just a cliché. We are the future. It is time to move out of our homes and work collectively for a peaceful and prosperous society. As a young man, who deeply thinks about our society, I often remember the words, ‘Slumber not in the tents of your forefather – Mazzini’ which were written on the wall of the college auditorium. I do not mean to say that the Naga youths are slumbering, but if those words of the Italian revolutionary have any meaning for the Naga people, then it surely means to say that we need to wake up from our reverie and start working towards a prosperous future. And to envision such a future, we would need to bring reconciliation in our society, for which the first step has been initiated by the FNR. Thereafter, as the dialogue among the different groups’ progresses, a seeming and just society would surely emerge. May God bless Nagaland. Kuknalim.