Hukavi T Yeputhomi
Chairman,United Naga Tribes Association on Border Areas
The recent inconclusive conclave of the Chief Ministers of the north-east States initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Delhi to discuss on the ‘Act East Policy’ reminds the Naga people in particular how peculiarly fragile the Indo-Naga situation is. ‘Look East Policy’ to ‘Act East Policy’ of the Government of India is nothing more than a mere political gimmick to not only hoodwink the powers that be at Delhi corridors but to further confuse the Naga people and the North-easterner at large of the fragile Indian federalism. Starting from the Interim Government of pre-independent India under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister to Modi as Prime Minister under fundamentalist Hindu Rashtriya party, it has been consistent policy of the Government of India to toward Naga people, to maintain its continuous string of attachments dragging the perplexed Naga leaders who only think for aggrandizement in amassing their ill-gotten money on the excuses of prevailing situations.
For India, the vast Naga inhabited lands stretching from Brahmaputra valley in the eastern most part of Indian sub-continent to Chindiwin valley in Myanmar in the western most part of South-East Asian sub continent is for economic consideration and as a buffer-zone for its security in the geo-political equations of the present world order.
From the meeting of Nehru and Premier U Nu of Burma(Myanmar) in 1953 at Kohima till today, India have utterly failed to take Naga people on board as equal in the Union of the Republic of India. It has miserably failed to subdue Naga people by force and it has failed to amalgamate not only in its economic transformation of the country at par with other States in the country but in all its professed Indian federalism with the State of Nagaland.
It is not surprising. India cannot do much to transform or bring about Naga people at par with other community in the country even if it goes on changing its policies in regard to Naga people unless it muster the political will and courage to face the Naga issue in its right perspective. But to do that India must finally accept the fact of history of the distinct identity of the Naga people as different nationality living in the Union of India forcefully subjugated and for unilaterally usurping all the traditional and ancestral Naga lands from its eastern border of Indian sub-continent at Brahmaputra valley onward.
Today all the sensible Naga people are all engrossed in talking about the pre-eminent ‘settlement’ on the ongoing Indo-Naga political talk even though there is no unanimity in the presumptuous outcome of the settlement. Almost all the professed Naga leaders of different stratus are seriously engrossed in all their personal interactions or are discussing in all available public platforms on the most important and precarious issue of ‘Naga situation’ that is affecting every single Naga people wherever they are or whoever they may be and most notably all the political party leaders in the State are making haywire statements on the issue on daily basis without any substance.
Along with other prominent Naga Civil organizations, the FNR (Forum for Naga Reconciliation), from its inception in 2008 till date had been painstakingly exploring every possible initiatives to bring together all the Naga National political groups through reconciliation. However, it’s professed initiative ‘peace, post settlement’ based on ‘Frame Work Agreement of August 3, 2015’ and ‘November 17, 2017 Agreement’ is far from reality. Such initiative may boomerang. The true and real reconciliation amongst the Naga people should be based only on universal principle of Nationhood of the Naga people and its history if at all there is a nation for Naga people. It is therefore paramount importance for all the Naga National political groups and especially the negotiating political entities today to reconcile on this single principle of Naga nationhood well before the arrival of ‘settlement’ so that the Naga people can live peacefully after the political settlement if it really comes about.
Every issue has its origin and its solution. Naga issue is being shrouded under the veil of history deliberately by our own people, deliberately because our leaders of past and present of different hues have consistently failed to pursue the factual history of our people for their selfish interests. It is therefore necessary to unveil this truth by going back to the past and understand the foundation of our present day predicaments. A thinker and a great historian Theodore Zeldin has said, “if any person wants to plan for the future – one first must go back to the past and understand the present, so as to plan for the future’. Another British Philosopher had said, ‘if we don’t visit history now, history will surely visit us later’ which means history will go on repeating itself.
In the entire history of the Naga people, no power on earth had conquered or subjugated neither the Naga people nor its lands until the advent of British East India Company in early 19th century. In its pursuit for lucrative businesses, the British Imperial Government systematically declared the vast fertile Naga lands as Reserve Forests areas in the entire Naga areas with the sole purpose to exploit for their economic benefit from Barak river in southern Assam stretching to present Arunachal Pradesh bordering Assam and Nagaland in Mon District so as to restrict Naga people from free access in their own lands. The British Imperial Government then started the establishment of Tea Industries, Coal Mining Industries, Oil Fields and then introduced Railways in these areas by bringing hundreds of thousands of labor corps from Indian sub continent, the subsequent progenitors of the so called ‘Tea Tribes’. Subsequently, the administrations of all these areas were systematically transferred to British administration in the then Assam province. To reclaim the overall rights of these territories and to amalgamate all the contiguous Naga people into single sovereign Naga nation was the beginning and ultimate object of the Naga people’s national aspiration from the formation of Naga Club in 1918 to the present day Indo-Naga political negotiation.
Therefore it is incumbent on us to understand the origin of the Naga issue before we discuss what we should plan for the future. Everyone understand that the Naga Political issue was first recorded in writing by the Naga leaders in the memorandum submitted to the Simon Commission in 1929, apart from the Ahom and British recorded history. This was followed by 9 Points Agreement in June 1947 at Kohima made between the representative of the Constituent Assembly of India, Governor Akbar Hydari Ali and Premier Gobinath Bordoloi of the then Assam Province and the only undivided Naga political party, the Naga National Council (NNC) representing the Naga people with the sole objective to reclaim its overall rights over lands and territories of the Naga people. The agreement, among others stipulates to transfer back of all the ‘Reserve Forests’ areas of the Naga people which were under the illegal occupation of Assam Province and to bring together all the contiguous Naga areas and people under single administrative umbrella. The Interim Government of pre Independent India was compelled to make this political agreement with the Naga people so as to incorporate the same in the Constitution of India through the Constituent Assembly just like the accession agreements it made with hundreds of Princely State of divided India, and Jammu and Kashmir State. Accordingly, all the necessary provisions of these agreements made with the Princely States of India and the State of Jammu and Kashmir, now infamous Article 370 in the case of Jammu and Kashmir, were duly incorporated in the new Constitution of independent Republic of India which was finally adopted in January 26, 1950.
However, to the utter dismay of the Naga people, the Government of India willfully and unilaterally sidelined the agreement made with the Naga people by failing to incorporate the same in the Constitution in spite of the successive assurances given to Naga leaders to this effect.
Dr. Hokishe Sema, Former Chief Minister of Nagaland and Governor of Himachal Pradesh, in his Book ‘The Emergence of Nagaland’ duly summed up in this line – ‘due to the failure of the Government of India to fulfill its commitments, insurgency emanates in Nagaland’.
In 1960, the Government of India under Nehru as Prime Minister made ‘16 Points Agreement’ with the Naga Peoples’ Convention (NPC) based on which State of Nagaland Act, 1962 was enacted in the Indian Parliament establishing Nagaland as a Sixteenth State in the Union of India on December 1, 1963. In this Act of Parliament, Sub Section 1 of Section 3, the total area of the new State of Nagaland was nothing but the erstwhile ‘Naga Hills – Tuensang Area’ (NHTA) Act passed in the Parliament in 1958. The actual area of the new State of ‘Nagaland’ or NHTA consist only small portion of Naga areas, starting from the Inner Line Regulation (ILP) line of 1925 of British Government which roughly covers only the hilly tracks of present Peren, small portion of Dimapur, Kohima Wokha, Mokokchung, Longleng and Mon Districts as Nagaland State in the south-west or small part of erstwhile Naga Hills District under British Administration and its eastern portion without demarcation. In the eastern part of Nagaland or the Tuensang Area of NHTA, the areas were not defined even in paper. The Tuensang Areas or part of NEFA (North East Frontier Area) was un-administrated areas inhabited by various Naga tribes where British Government never tried even to have administrative control. Therefore, even though the Naga people was given a State under Union of India, its boundaries were never ever defined, demarcated or surveyed to these days of which the Surveyor General of India has made deposition to this effect in the honorable Supreme Court of India in the now infamous ‘Civil Suit No 2 of 1988’.
It is therefore pertinent to reproduce here the provisions of Point No. 1, 12, and 13 of the 16 Points Agreement for all the right thinking Naga people so as to actually understand the political and Constitutional realities of the formation of Nagaland State without boundary.
Point No 1 states as follow: “The Name: The territories that were hitherto known as the Naga Hills-Tuensang Area under the Naga Hills-Tuensang Act, 1958, and any other Naga areas, which may hereafter come under it shall form a State within the India Union and be hereafter known as the Nagaland”;
“Re-transfer of Reserve Forests: All the Reserve Forests and other Naga areas that were transferred out of Naga area will be returned to Nagaland with a clearly defined boundary under the present settlement”; and
“Consolidation of Contiguous Naga Areas: The other Naga tribes inhabiting the areas contiguous to the present Nagaland be allowed to join Nagaland if they so desire”.
However, by State of Nagaland Act, 1962, Point No. 1 of 16 Points Agreement, 1960 was not considered and the total area of NHTA Act of 1958 was made Nagaland which was also yet to be defined, demarcate and surveyed.
Points No. 12 and 13 of 16 Points Agreement stipulates the following:
“12. The Naga delegation discussed the question of inclusion of Reserve Forests and of contiguous areas inhabited by the Nagas. They were referred to the provisions of Article 3 and 4 of the Constitution, prescribing the procedure for the transfer of areas from one State to another”; and
“13. The Naga leaders expressed the view that other Nagas inhabiting contiguous areas should be enable to join the new State. It was pointed out to them on behalf of the Government of India that Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution provided for increasing the area of any State, but it was not possible for the Government of India to make any commitment in this regard at this stage”.
Such are the fact of whimsical nature of the Indian leaders. However, the fact that the Naga delegates were referred to Article 3 and 4 of the Constitution of India for transfer of areas from one State to another, namely the reserve Forests and the contiguous areas inhabited by the Naga people, and that it was not possible for Government of India to make any commitment at that point of time immediately prior to the formation of the State of Nagaland, the Government of India remains obligated to the wishes of the Naga people to give effect to the relevant Points of Agreement No. 1, 12 and 13 of the 16 Points Agreement even today.
The above explanations of Naga lands, territories, the contiguous Naga areas, the State without any boundary are in a nutshell, the beginning of the Naga political history, started with the British Imperial Government of India and now with independent India with whom political negotiation are ongoing.
Therefore any political settlement or agreement that may be made with India by any Naga National political Government without bringing back the overall rights of the Naga people over its lands and territories as per the historical facts, such settlement can never be accepted as final political settlement between India and Naga people nor can it be honorable and acceptable to the Naga people.