1. Falling Too Short: During World War I, some Nagas were recruited by the Allied Forces in the early 1900s to work as laborers in France. As they became aware of the birth of many independent nations around this time, they began to think about protecting their common interest as a people. Upon their return to Nagaland in 1918, they formed a Naga Club with a view to initiate a movement of self-determination of some sort. However, this Naga Club was still just a mere political club, probably with lot of talks and permission-seeking. What they should have done was to go straight ahead with mobilizing all the Naga tribes to come together to function like a sovereign state. This would have provided evidences to the world that the Nagas were on their way to becoming a nation. Although the British had established their presence in certain parts of Nagaland since 1832, they doubtless came as temporary occupants for military purposes. Or even if the few British were to fight against the Nagas, they could hardly have been successful (see Point #2 below). And prior to 1947, India would have only supported the Nagas’ fight for independence as both Subhas Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi clearly showed such sympathetic understanding of the Nagas’ aspiration. And our flight to independence could have taking off the ground. But unfortunately, we missed our flight.
To be able to take the right path in our journey forward, it is also important to find out where we have gone wrong in the past. So this is what this article is about –examining our missed chances to collective greatness:
2. Choosing the Wrong Side: A.Z. Phizo was one who wanted the Nagas to take the side of the Japanese in his initial efforts for Naga independence. If the Nagas were to have followed in his footsteps, possibly the Allied Forces would find it hard to occupy the hilly areas of the Nagas. For instance, Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu launched revolutionary movements against the British for interfering into their tribal affairs in the early 1900s. Even Khonoma Village fiercely resisted the invading British Forces for 47 intermittent years (1832-1879). Similarly, every Naga village could have done the same just as many had proven themselves later in their resistance against the Indian Army. If the Nagas were to have supported the Japanese who had already swept through Malaysia, capturing Singapore, and advancing through Burma into India, the war scenario in the entire North East region could have been a very different story altogether. Possibly the Allied Forces would suffer defeat in the Naga hills and the Japanese could have gotten at least up to Assam and gained a stronghold there. In that case, even the political landscape of India might be very different, that is, North East India might have never become a part of India. But when the British came as an occupying force, the Nagas gladly took them in. Though they did divide our land to rule over us, we gladly extended our help in the forms of carrying their loads, gathering intelligence, providing guides, bringing wounded British soldiers under heavy fire, and capturing the Japanese…doing all these without pay. And what did they give us in return on their way out? Nothing. Instead, they handed us over to India much like a gift. And as everyone would expect, greedy India came up and claimed it. What a tragic turn of events!
3. Taking Out the Right Man: After the Naga case became entangled with India, T. Sakhrie emerged as a key figure in the new political scenario. He advocated for cooperation and non-violence in dealing with Independent India. He saw reason for some development prior to taking up arms. He was undoubtedly a statesman who was certainly up to the job. But his unsurpassed wisdom among peers was not grasped; his moderate view in the context of the new ground realities was not tolerated. Eventually they only cost his life. But in losing him, we lost too. Otherwise, the story of the Nagas could have been very different: We could have gotten an honorable settlement with India and avoided much bloodshed. So this was another missed chance to collective greatness.