People lay wreaths in front of the casket carrying the mortal remains of Late Gen (Retd) Kholi Konyak, Vice-President of the NSCN (IM) during the public condolence service held at Agri Expo, 4th mile, Dimapur on December 14. (Photo by Soreishim Mahong)
Thousands pay homage to the ‘man of unity’
Morung Express News
Dimapur | December 14
Tributes poured in from across the Naga social milieu at the public reception to honour the late Gen. (Rtd) Kholi Chetkoh Konyak, vice president of the NSCN-IM, whose mortal remains reached Naga soil today. Kholi was 90 when he breathed his last at a hospital in New Delhi on December 12.
The veteran Naga leader’s remains was received at the Dimapur airport and escorted to the Agri Expo site at 4th Mile, where a public reception was organised before being taken to the NSCN (IM) Council Headquarters – Hebron, some 30 km from here. A ‘State Funeral’ will be held there at 7:00 am on December 15.
The reception, organised jointly by the Naga Hoho and the Naga Council Dimapur, was a sombre yet warm affair as personalities and organisations, that included former comrades and also ULFA (Pro Talk) leader Arabindo Rajkhowa, took the opportunity to condole at the same time nostalgically recollect the trail blazed by Kholi in the six decades he fought for the Naga identity, unity and self determination.
Speaking on behalf of the late leader’s family, Tongmeth Wangnao, member of the NSCN (IM) Collective Leadership, briefly recounted how Kholi rose from the ranks to become commander-in-chief of the Naga Army in 1981 after he joined as a regular soldier in 1956 when the Naga national movement was one entity.
A contemporary of SS Khaplang, Isaak Chishi Swu and Th. Muivah, Kholi became president of the NSCN (IM) following his move from the GPRN-NSCN in 2016.
In eulogies that poured, an underlying message was clear that of Nagas becoming one as wished for and upheld by Kholi to bring an amicable end to the protracted Naga political struggle.
“Naga people must be united then only solution will come,” was how the Naga Hoho put it across while reminding of Kholi’s sacrifice. Describing him as a “freedom fighter in his own right,” the Naga Hoho said that the late leader’s sacrifice will continue to inspire to achieve the Nagas’ long cherished goal.
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation described him as a “Naga legend,” who was consistent in his belief. “His consistency was all along the line of transcending differences. We must transcend our differences if we are to fulfil the wishes of the General,” said the FNR.
According to the Naga Mothers’ Association, he was a humble man with deep clarity on the Naga issue, a legendary figure, who was entirely committed to a cause he believed in.
The United Naga Council said the “vacuum left will remain forever yet his legacy will remain.”
The Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights said it is heartbreaking for a humble, upright and committed Naga leader to pass away at such a crucial time.
A comrade of Kholi, NNC president Gen. (Rtd) Thinoselie said that in the 52 years of friendship and comradeship, he saw Kholi as a man clear in his vision and committed to the cause. “We were hardly educated but we were clear in our thinking.” Stating that the Nagas know what is wrong, he said, Nagas can unite if we are prepared to rise together.”
“An equal among the greats of the world,” was how the Eastern Naga Peoples’ Organisation described Kholi. Together with the “stalwarts” of the Naga movement, he took to greater heights the torch of Naga nationalism, the ENPO said.
The Nagaland Tribes Council said Kholi will be remembered as a patriot in the annals of the Naga freedom movement.
The Naga Students’ Federation said it was a sad moment, at the same time, an opportunity to recall and celebrate the life of the great Naga leader, who unfailingly pledged for unity, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Arunachal Naga Students’ Federation said that Kholi accomplished his duties and now “it is our duty” to carry on. “I believe we’ll all walk together on the path on which our tall leader has walked.”
Rengma Naga People’s Council spoke on behalf of Nagas of Assam, while the Wanchu Council (Arunachal Pradesh) described Kholi as a God-fearing leader, whose passing will be a great loss to the Nagas.
Konyak Union Dimapur and people of Tobu and Mokha, Mon paid rich tributes to the late leader. Wangshu, Kholi’s native village falls under Tobu and Mokha sub-division.
Arabinda Rajkhowa, while recalling his more than 30 years of association with leaders of the Naga movement, described Kholi as “one of the most illustrious sons of the Naga nation” and the region. “We ate together, fought together. I still remember how we welcomed the New Year’s day (1984) on empty stomachs in a remote village in eastern Nagaland.” He said the bond of fraternity will be cherished, while adding that late Gen. Kholi’s spirit “will forever be among us.”
Leader of Opposition in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly and former Chief Minister TR Zeliang, state Minister for Agriculture and Cooperation G. Kaito Aye and Advisor IPR, SCERT & VG, Toshi Wungtung also spoke at the condolence service. Wungtung spoke on behalf of the Eastern Nagaland Legislators’ Union and Aye on behalf of the Nagaland state government.