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By Dr. Asangba Tzüdir
At a recent consultative body meeting of Nagaland tribe Hohos convened by JCC and NTAC, the “apex Hohos unanimously resolves in principle for forming a Nagas of Nagaland platform though it was not clear whether it would replace the existing Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) and the apex Hohos of the respective tribes were given the responsibility to work out the modalities for forming the body. This paper has also done a poll on this issue and 48% of the respondents are in support of the decision, while 37% do not support the decision and 15% gave others reasons.
At the backdrop, what is surprising is that, rather than charting a way forward process for the larger contentious issues associated with ULB elections, a principle agreement to form a Nagas of Nagaland platform was made. The timing and the manner in which such things happen is conspicuous like the coming of JCC and then the NTAC when actually there is Naga Hoho and also the Nagaland Tribes Council to address the Naga issues. There are limitations as was clearly seen and perhaps, such limitations played a constraining role from taking the ‘Naga causes’ forward.
Often the general tendency in addressing paramount Naga issues is overshadowed by ‘politics’ and thereby ends in quick fixes. This also tells a lot about the ‘power structure’ in Nagaland, that power structure finds itself defined by competing interests without having any common ground for unity.
What if the ‘apex’ tribe Hohos finally decides to form the Nagas of Nagaland platform; and so far there is ‘no objection’ to this principally resolved proposal from any quarter. These are pressing concerns that demands serious thinking because divisions among the various Naga tribes on various lines is an ongoing spectacle even as any talk about Naga unity is becoming more challenging by the day. The more we create unions, the more it seems to bring divisions. What the Nagas need to realize is that we fail to see the larger picture embedded in the past, present and future that can either derail or unify the Naga efforts be it social, cultural, religious or political issues. In every issue, we need to go beyond the independent jigsaw pieces by bringing them all together to see the larger picture in context.
Bringing in Article 371A as a case in point, which comes under point No. 7 of the 16 point Agreement of the 26th July 1960 between the Government of India and the Naga People’s Convention, has finally got some attention. But the larger concern is that the provisions needs to be addressed in totality. Nagaland State initially placed under external ministry is now under home affairs; Article 371A was embraced as a ‘right of the Nagas’ especially in the wake of the ULB elections wherein a part of the Article attests that no legal force can be adopted by the Union Parliament pertaining to Naga Customary Laws and Procedure, but then a certain Village Council has been challenged by some members of the same village in Court for handling certain issues of ‘Rights’ undemocratically and thereby undermining the ethos of the traditional Naga political institution. Further, point 13 of the 16 Point Agreement relates to Consolidation of Contiguous Naga Areas where the delegation that signed the 16 points Agreement wished the following to be placed on record: “The Naga leaders expressed the view that other Nagas inhabiting contiguous areas should be enabled to join the new state. It was pointed out to them on behalf of the Government of India that Article 3 and 4 of the Constitution provided for increasing the area of any state, but it was possible for the Government of India to make any commitment in this regard at any stage.” Integration of the contiguous Naga Inhabited Areas has been a core issue of the ongoing Naga political process and what the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi said during the election rally in Manipur needs to be read both politically and historically. His remark on the issue of integration comes directly in the way of point 13 of the 16 point Agreement. Conversely, the current move to form a Nagas of Nagaland platform also needs to be addressed in the light of point 13 besides other considerations though at the present juncture another umbrella term may not serve the larger need of the Nagas if it does not chart a clear purpose. The various modalities needs to be first put through a merited process of deliberation and dialogue.
If Nagas want to come together as a whole unit in any ‘socio-political’, religious and cultural domain, then the boundaries created by the divisive issues needs to be freed off. That, Nagas need to come together with a clear unbounded purpose. As for now, the so many discontentment and divisions have happened because Nagas are not only divided but also the efforts towards the call for Naga Unity does not provide a clear purpose and objective. To come together, Nagas need to call for unity with purpose.
(Dr. Asangba Tzüdir contributes a weekly guest editorial to the Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)