Forum for Naga Reconciliation
“It is always wise to seek the truth
in our opponents’ error
and the error in our own truth”
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) was formed at a time when Naga-Land was plagued by factional violence, suspicion and divisive political rhetoric. Formed on February 24, 2008, as one of the outcomes of the Naga Peace Convention organized by the Naga Shisha Hoho in Dimapur, the FNR was christened on March 25, 2008 at Kohima with the support of 39 Naga frontal organizations and churches.
FNR was born at a time when concerned Naga organizations and individuals decided our society could no longer bear the ever-increasing and rising costs of divisions and distrust made worse by the hard-hearted logic of mutual blaming to which all of us have stooped.
The willingness to be short sighted, reactive and to use violence to defend and justify positions threaten our diminishing chances to survive and continue our unique and distinct journey as a people.
While the compelling reasons that produced the divisions are understood and recognized, the Naga people are now concerned about the health and capacity of our young nation to develop in the 21st century. This is the issue our leaders and our people are concerned about at the deepest level.
The changing world forces the Nagas to wrestle with unfamiliar challenges that will make us grow as we learn from both the strengths and failures in our response to the challenges. At this juncture Nagas need to strive for what challenges us by truthfully examining them in order to learn from past mistakes so that our inspiration becomes our common strength.
FNR remains firmly committed to Naga reconciliation and willing to do what needs to be done at this time in spite of obvious limitations.
The FNR imagines ‘Walking the Naga Day’ will create a robust Naga consciousness through the collectivity of women and men to find our oneness and offer everyone the opportunity to participate in affirming who we are as a people. ‘Walking the Naga Day’ nurtures our organic Nagahood even though politically barred by arbitrary and artificial borders. Nurturing Naga consciousness flourishes when belonging is lived in the hearts and minds of the Naga people.
As part of ‘Walking the Naga Day’ the FNR has initiated open public interactions under the theme “Reasoning Together.” The first series consisted of at least 9 public interactions in Dimapur, Kohima and Delhi (April-May 2018). FNR members also visited and spoke in at least 10 churches and fellowships in Delhi. During these public interactions, FNR dialogued with a wide cross-section of Nagas including young people, scholars, students, church workers, professionals, retired bureaucrats and administrators, teaching community, politicians and concerned individuals.
FNR believes that the open public interactions gave and will continue to give expression to what has become the common undertaking and desire of all Nagas . . . Many more interactions will be held in the coming months in different areas of Naga-Land.
This reflection highlights a summation of concerns and issues perceived from FNR which were raised during the open public interactions. These concerns reflect the deep yearning and wishes of the public to progress in our state of affairs, especially on the political front.
Some Key Concerns and Issues Raised by the Public
While the discussion focused on Naga Reconciliation, the public interactions gave voice to a diverse range of related issues confronting the Naga people that are summarized below:
• Naga Reconciliation: Although skepticism, fear and doubt exist in the protracted Naga political conflict, FNR’s approach has reduced fratricidal killings, opened some safe spaces and brought some hope. While appreciating the cessation of hostilities, commentators called for renewed efforts towards understanding, which they said is yet to fully materialize. They urged that the process to be taken forward towards genuine reconciliation and understanding.
Several commentators reminded FNR of the theological and spiritual dimension of reconciliation: God’s way of reconciliation; God as the ultimate source of reconciliation; the need for prayer and spirituality. They pointed out that Nagas have forgotten God in the process of reconciliation.
In the interactions people voiced that, “After a lull, FNR has come back to life. Nagas are watching.” FNR was urged to take this with great concern and was asked:
Why a bottom up process has not happened?
Where have we missed out on the organic process?
What does reconciliation mean when two groups are negotiating with GOI?
What things are still needed to be reconciled?
What change can FNR bring in the next 5 years?
What benefit can we expect from FNR process?
FNR was advised not to be carried away by domestic gossip and rumors. While having its own limitations, FNR, as a catalyst, needs to proceed with ‘critical openness,’ and engage with our youth and our neighbors. FNR was encouraged to reflect on its role in Naga society and to address its weaknesses in meaningful ways. It was suggested that FNR should reach out to the masses (public) and initiate a bottom-up approach to reconciliation. FNR was told to take reconciliation further to its “logical end” involving civil, religious, political parties and Naga political groups.
Eastern and Southern Nagas stated that the process of reconciliation and trust-building has to go beyond Nagaland State boundaries. FNR was also asked if it regards all ‘factions’ as equally important. The need to widen the base of trust-building was emphasized. FNR was reminded that the values and principles of justice were integral for the realization of Reconciliation to take place.
While recognizing that FNR is competent to contribute to the Naga response it was urged to play a positive role. FNR should accept mistakes and correct themselves where required. “Do not cheat or give false hope to the people,” and provide a “realistic and truthful assessment of the situation” and the way forward.
• Identity Politics: Questions of identity politics, language, borders, tribalism, factionalism and sectarianism were raised. Identity politics and conflicts of interests among Nagas are seen to be arising out of perceived and real differences which were formalized when Naga-Land was divided into different administrative states. These divisions have fragmented Naga consciousness and Naga identity into territorial identities.
The creation of Nagaland State was intended and designed to divide the Nagas. It was pointed out that Nagaland statehood was not accepted by everyone except by the political elite and few educated individuals. However, Nagas of Nagaland enjoy the paradox of statehood benefits. These imposed and boxed identities have generated suspicion, fear, mistrust that have caused further divisions, thereby leading to regional and sub-regional consciousness.
The need to rise above regionalism and sectarianism by building upon the Naga consciousness was emphasized. It was pointed out that the Government of India has so far opted for trying to ‘manage and control’ the Naga people rather than trying to genuinely resolve the Naga political issue.
Some suggestions were made for systematically introducing Naga history into high school curriculum to educate younger generation about their identity, their land and history. This should focus on creating Naga consciousness and help bridge inter-tribal differences and reduce the intergenerational communication gap which exists today.
• Inclusiveness: The concern and need for inclusiveness was consistently raised. Can we claim to have ownership of the process with inclusiveness? FNR was asked, how apparent (visible) and inclusive are the processes on the ground? Is everyone on board? It was suggested that pockets of Naga society are being alienated, while others already alienated feel more separated. Along with tribalism, the concern about religious and denominational divides and alienation were pointed out. A question was asked about whether, given the circumstances, a Naga National government was formed, would it insist on one common religion.
Speakers asserted to the need that no one should feel alienated from the society that we envision together. No one should be left behind. Concerns were raised for respectful inclusion of religious groups and all Naga territories into the process. Numerous speakers pointed out that treatment of Nagas outside of the present state of Nagaland by Nagaland Nagas must be one of inclusion, mutual respect and understanding. Justice should not only appear to be fair but it should be fair.
• Truth-Telling: Forgiveness and Healing: Many times the issues concerning truth-telling, apology, forgiveness and healing were pointed out as being at the heart of the reconciliation process. Several commentators expressed that reconciliation is a process where one must genuinely feel sorry for wrongs, confess and seek forgiveness. Those who hurt others need to admit their mistakes, they pointed out. Forgive, but remember, so that the wrongs are not repeated again. For this to be realized the process of truth-telling is a necessity. FNR along with churches were urged to create ‘safe spaces’ for people to speak the truth.
Commentators also pointed out that in the Naga context ‘no one has a monopoly over the truth.’ The truth is that everyone has been hurt and everyone has hurt someone somewhere. We are all victims as well as perpetrators. The challenge is to address the complexities of this dual identity. The crucial role of the churches in healing of wounds and rebuilding relationships was emphasized. FNR was told that God alone is the source of all peace and Nagas need mass repentance and Godly forgiveness. FNR was asked whether GOI needs to admit, acknowledge and apologize to Nagas for human rights violations and atrocities.
• Violence: The urgency is for Nagas to constructively and truthfully address questions of violence and injustice. They stem from within in the form of ‘factional’ threats and violence, as well as from without through State induced structural, economic, cultural, developmental and political violence. Collectively these have contributed to further divisions among Nagas and have created conditions for the prevailing unequal growth and development in Naga-Land. Naga civil society needs to start addressing acts of violence, human rights violations and injustice by Naga political groups.
The roots of the violence are in external aggression and political subjugation. The Naga struggle for the right to freely exercise their self-determination and chart their destiny in consonance with their historical and political rights is one of the longest active political conflicts in the world. It is imperative for all parties to the conflict to muster all political will, creativity, and courage to be discerning, draw on their inner wisdom and be far-sighted in peacefully addressing the issues of conflict so that it may have a positive impact at home, in Asia, the world and humanity at large.
• Naga Struggle Degenerating: The Naga struggle is currently admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In order not to make the situation worse, Nagas need to examine ourselves and our struggle since we all have contributed to its degenerated state. It was pointed out that the lower rung leaders and cadres have no clue of what they are fighting for. Leaders of the Naga political groups and civil society organizations need to reach out to the public and repair the broken relationships. Naga political groups need to be asked to publicly and clearly state their position on the Naga issue.
• Weakened Naga position: Along with citing the degenerating trend of the Naga struggle speakers said that in the current peace processes it is the Government of India and other stakeholders who have benefited more from the ceasefire, while the Naga position and strength has been destabilized and weakened. It was also stated that Naga civil society was strongest around 1997, but more than 20 years later in 2018, it is at its lowest ebb, riddled by confusion and division. It was pointed out that Nagas are ill equipped in the art of negotiations. The high handed political language, lack of transparency, and communication difficulties in the existing process were highlighted with Naga groups and leaders talking to the people only through newspapers rather than meeting the people directly and listening to their opinions and suggestions.
• Addressing the Trust Deficit: Hurts not transformed are always transferred. The need to address the prevailing fear, mistrust, suspicion, confusion in Naga society was pointed out consistently. The FNR was encouraged to work in partnership with churches to create safe spaces for truth-telling and to address fear, mistrust and divisions. Nagas need to have a relational platform for interacting with the Government of India, Naga nationalists, the Naga public, our neighbors and other important stakeholders as a way of rebuilding trust and confidence. Inter-tribal and inter-regional dialogue (North, South, East, West and Central Nagas) was suggested as a process of much needed trust building.
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation acknowledges the honest constructive criticisms and welcomes the suggestion for self-reflection and conscious self-development. The process of making itself accountable and responsible in consonance with the needs of the situation will remain paramount. Some of FNR’s observations made following the series of interactions are:
• FNR is encouraged that the open public interactions in Dimapur, Kohima and Delhi have in different tones converged on the desire for the Naga political groups (NPGs) to reconcile. Along this line, young Nagas summed up that, “Reconciliation among all NPGs MUST happen.”
• In the 21st century Naga politics must be imaginative, courageous, creative, and realistic. Naga identity needs to transcend borders and should be permeable. Naga struggle must be examined in a changing world and times. It is clear that along the way things have gone wrong and can destroy us if we do not address it. Prejudice and divisiveness can destroy us. We need honest, courageous and positive ways to respond to our situation.
• Nagas need to use the positive memories of the past to inspire the present while not repeating its mistakes. We need to make a shift from the existing concept of ‘forgive and forget’ towards the idea of ‘forgive and remember.’
• The interactions demonstrated an increased sense of power, connection, and possibilities. In the overall proceedings, FNR sensed the people’s willingness to grapple with contradictions in both the minds of those experiencing it, and those young minds trying to understand the contradictions at various levels, personally and collectively from a distance. The need for FNR to remain creative, imaginative, transparent, accountable and committed is imperative.
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation was formed in 2008 at a time when Naga society was deeply burdened and torn apart by factional violence. FNR is independent and stands for Naga reconciliation among the Naga political groups on the basis of the Naga historical and political rights through forgiveness, mutual respect and nonviolence.
Reconciliation involves numerous facets of human life. It is both a ‘means’ as well as an ‘end.’ The journey towards Reconciliation is holistic and it is the sum of many different components.
FNR’s main objective then was to work for complete cessation of factional armed violence, killings and violent speech publicized in the media. FNR’s reconciliation efforts should be looked in that context.
Now with cessation of factional violence, FNR recognizes that the process needs to go beyond ending factional violence to forgiveness and healing. Recognizing that there can be no future without forgiveness and healing, FNR supports a collective response based on shared responsibility towards an inclusive and holistic Naga destiny.
Reconciliation, like love, peace, freedom, trust and justice, is indivisible and transcends territorial boundaries. It suggests a new way of life and calls for change in power relations. FNR works irrespective of geographical demarcations – “Nagas Without Borders” – keeping in mind the people’s common interests and aspirations at the center of its activities.
FNR as a forum remains independent and is not a ‘rallying point’ for a political option. It is not involved in the negotiating process between the Government of India and the Naga political groups that are in dialogue. FNR has and will continue the facilitator role seeking to build reconciliation among all the Naga political groups and all within the Naga family.
FNR’s overall mission is to work for a reconciled Naga society guided by moral and ethical principles, and values of democracy, freedom, truth, forgiveness, compassion, justice, nonviolence and peace. It stands for common basic human rights, dignity, and respect for all peoples.
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation takes this opportunity to make this earnest appeal:
1. For Nagas to take this as an opportune time to reflect and examine where we have gone wrong and how each one of us have contributed to where we are now.
2. For Naga nations (tribes) to initiate a process of forgiveness and healing within their respective community and with other Naga nations.
3. For Naga leaders and Naga political groups to engage in the reconciliation process as a way to reach out to each other and cultivate understanding and cooperation.
4. For Naga nationalist leaders to demonstrate qualities of statesmanship by putting aside their pride, ego and their “faction’s” interest for the common good of all Nagas.
5. For Naga political groups to sincerely renounce the path of violence by turning to democratic peaceful means to address all outstanding issues, including respecting and upholding the values and laws of human rights and dignity.