(A Reflection on Naga Freedom Movement)
Z K Pahrii
Mission Colony, Pfutsero
As a way of introduction: Once again, Nagas need to hear the exodus story of the Israelites. Living under Egyptian bondage for centuries, they were in danger of losing all God-given aged-old heritages. And, therefore, God sent Moses to Pharoah with a message, “Let My People Go.” They needed to be liberated sooner than later to be a people, a distinct nation. Their liberation was not just about political liberation but it concerns with social, culture, economy and most importantly their faith (religion). God told Moses that they will be completely separated from Egypt by rescuing them from the hands of the Egyptians (social security); bring them up out of that land (political freedom); take them into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey (self-sustaining economy); to worship God (religious freedom)and hold a feast unto God in the wilderness (cultural heritage) (Exodus 3: 7-9; 5:1). Their liberation was for everyone: young and old, sons and daughters, women and children including flocks and herds (Exodus 10:9, 10). The exodus event is inclusive into ways. The first is that it includes everyone. No one was left behind. The second is that it includes politics, social, culture, economy and religion. Keeping this in mind, let’s see why do we need liberation and how it should be.
1. To worship the living God: We are surrounded by sea of people following different faiths such as Hinduism (India & Nepal), Buddhism (Myanmar &Sri Lanka), Islam(Pakistan), and Taoism, etc (China). Our faith is in danger. We are increasingly losing the space of freedom of worship. Hindutva force with its agenda of one culture, one nation and one religion is continuously expanding its space in our land. Freedom of religion as enshrined in the Constitution is at stake. Christians are persecuted. Churches are either desecrated or burnt down. Christian sponsored institutions are targeted. Some Hindu priests are freely preaching that Christians are enemy of the country and asked them to go to America. Observation of International Day of Yoga on every 21st June and the introduction of yoga in educational institutions is going to confuse our faith and mislead many youngsters. All the central and state’s competitive exams are conducted on Sundays. 25th December (Christmas) has been declared as Good Governance Day by PM Narendra Modi in 2014. When Chandrayaan-3 landed on the Moon, it was spiritualised by not only showing some Hindu priests on national screens but also the location of the moon where Chandrayaan-3 landed is named SHIV SHAKTI POINT. The tribal primal/traditional religion is being slowly swallowing up by Hinduism. Many Naga big shots are visiting Hindu temples and also joining in their religious ceremonies/festivals openly. If the present trend of Hindutva ideology continues unrestrain, the security of religious minority groups will perish. When Hindu extremists are openly speaking against secularism, it is folly on our part to assume that we and our future generation are safe. Remember, God liberated the people of Israel from Egypt, first and foremost, for the purpose of maintaining their faith and relationship with God.
2. To Protect Egalitarian Society: Despite certain drawbacks from the presence of patriarchy, from time immemorial, Naga society have been indeed guided by the spirit of egalitarianism. Class system existed but not as cruel as the one that was practiced under feudalism. The weak, the poor and the powerless were all respected and taken care of and everyone valued each other with respect and dignity bearing the heart of obligation. In sharp contrast to Naga’s communitarian lifestyle, Indian society is highly hierarchical in its nature mediated and imposed by caste system. Since Hinduism and caste system are closely intertwined, there is no hope of envisioning egalitarian society in India. The effect of caste system will be felt with much more intensity as India pursue to establish a strong Hindu nation. If we do not prepare now, our basic social structure will gradually collapse and vanish.
3. To Maintain Culture: Culture gives unique identity to a person, tribe or nation. Nagas are people with unique, distinct and invaluable culture. But the present trend of homogenising the diverse cultures, histories and even religions by the dominant Hindu community is a great threat to the tribals, adivasis, and other religious minority groups. Hindutva agents in collaboration with BJP government are slowly capturing educational institutions including universities by not only reframing the syllabus but also appointing Hindu hardliners in the top posts. Soon there will be no other histories except Indian (Hindu) history and culture. Mahabharata and Ramayana will become compulsory subjects in schools and also telecast in tv and other social media to influence our children. Hindi will be made compulsory as the medium of instruction. Our language will not be able to survive for long. Uniform Civil Code will be enforced that both our rich traditional practices and Christian culture will be bullied and destroyed. Our food choices will be restricted. So are our dresses. Naga’s sense of showing hospitality to strangers, eco-friendly lifestyle, sharing of material wealth, extending free helping hand, etc. will be a forgotten culture one day.
4. To Protect Economy: It cannot be an exaggeration to say that Naga’s homeland is endowed with rich natural/mineral resources. Our traditional property-owning system and wealth distribution prevented beggary or dying of hunger. Today, we are in danger of losing our land, forests and waters. India, in her mad race, to become a world super power is adopting different techniques and all available means to exploit and natural resources for economic growth beyond limit. Crony capitalism is on the rise. In the name of development and modernisation, Indian capitalists/billionaires/millionaires are attempting to come and control our resources. Remember, they will give us job, feed us, and provide all our daily basic needs. Gradually, they will completely paralyse us and then force us to fully depend on them economically. We will then become slaves and wage labourers in our own land. The recently passed Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill 2023, that gives power to central/state to control over 100 km international border areas and use for military establishment, wildlife sanctuary and tourism development without consulting the inhabitants is indeed a scary dream. In the name of development and national security, our land, forests and rivers will be completely controlled by super-rich Indians and the state government. We should protect our land its resources that God has given to us.
5. To Maintain Political Freedom: Nagas should not be complacent with certain special provision granted to them under the Constitution of India. For instance, Article 371-A (Nagaland), or Article-C (Manipur), despite their special status under Indian constitution, cannot give guarantee and provide security to the Nagas forever. Rather it could boomerang on them. A time may come when all Indian citizens are covered by Uniform Civil Code (UCC) except in Nagaland because of Art. 371-A. In this scenario, citizens from other states cannot freely enter, settle and work in Nagaland including Indian big companies. In this situation, other states may also impose the same restriction to the citizens of Nagaland making the Nagas difficult to go outside to work and earn their livelihood. OR if Nagaland state refuses to implement any of the Centre’s policies in the name of Art. 371-A, then Centre govt. may withhold fund for development. This Article could then become problematic and that Nagas themselves might demand for revocation one day. Today, India’s democracy is no more a democracy of justice and rights. It is a democracy of the majority community and every provision in the Constitution depends on interpretation to majoritarian convenience. This makes us difficult to trust and depend on India’s democracy and Constitution. Any tangible Indo-Naga solution, therefore, ought to be outside of or in parallel with Indian Constitution.
Conclusion: India is moving fast towards the ideology of “ONE”- One nation, one religion, one culture, one law, one election, one language, etc. The Nagas, with a small population of around 4 million, will be completely drowned under 1.4. billion Indians after 10 or 20 years. In pursuit of becoming world super power, India will bulldoze all internal issues (like Naga’s cause). Any Naga, thinking to march together with or under Indian Union, will find themselves nowhere in the near future. We should not fall into the deceptive trap of India by accepting state-based, region-based and tribal-based solution/package. We should be careful of piecemeal deal. We need inclusive solution that will protect and promote political, economic, culture, social and religious interest of the whole Nagas. Wherever the Nagas are, we must stay united and defend our rights collectively. However strong Indian armed forces might be, they cannot defeat us if we collectively fight back like the Vietnamese farmers who defended actively from the invasion of mighty USA army. However strong Nagas might be, if we are not united, we will be easily crushed by enemy force like the once-most-dreaded and powerful militant group -LTTE, by Sri Lankan army. Our disunity today is going to cost the peoplehood/nationhood of tomorrow’s generation. Let’s unite and let God, who liberated the Israelites, say, “Let My People Go,” to our oppressor and lead us into freedom.