‘Demolition of NC building has been misinterpreted’

The NSF office which was located at Naga Club Building, Kohima was demolished by ‘unknown miscreants’ in the wee hours of May 27. (Morung File Photo)

The NSF office which was located at Naga Club Building, Kohima was demolished by ‘unknown miscreants’ in the wee hours of May 27. (Morung File Photo)

Naga Club refutes NSF statement 

Kohima, June 5 (MExN): The Naga Club has issues a rejoinder to Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) regarding the institution of Naga Club (NC) and its legacy. NC stated that the club formed on January 7, 1918 laid the foundation of the Naga peoples’ rights to self-determination. Citing Simon Commission, it stated “The Naga Club made it possible for every Naga to have a mandate in their right to self determination. The Naga Club did not demand the mandate of the people for its formation and existence. Rather, it gave the mandate to the Nagas to exist as free people, free from dominion, to be left alone to determine for themselves as in ancient times”. NC asserted that the political consciousness expressed in the Simon Commission shaped the political course of the Nagas. 

On formation of NC, it clarified that NC was formed under the Chairmanship of Rheichalie Pienyü, peshkar, and his team served the NC from 1918 to 1942. From 1942 to 1948, Krusiehou Belho became the Chairman and Ziekro-o Theünuo Angami was made the Secretary. From 1948 to 1956 Thepfurüya Haralu was the Caretaker, 1956 to 1960 Lungshim Shaiza was Caretaker, 1960 to 1964 Riga Thong was Caretaker, and from 1965 to 1969 Satuo Kuotsu was President and Khymo Lotha, former MP was made Secretary cum Caretaker. “For a brief period from 1969 to 1981-82, the NC remained hiatus as the atmosphere was not congenial to hold various activities due to hostile military operations by the Indian security forces against the Naga National Movement (NNM),” it stated. 

Naga Elders’ Conference under the Chairmanship of Peselie Suokhrie took the responsibilities of NC. There was a lapse of about 12 years from 1969-1982. NC stated that on January 7, 1982 at Kohima Village Panchayat, under the Naga Elders’ Conference, a large general public meeting was convened consisting of almost all the tribal Hoho representatives, NC members and descendants of Simon Commission signatories, then NC was revived with Azüto Rengma as the Chairman, Vilavor Liegise as the General Secretary and Kewezü Mero as Joint Secretary Mero held his post as Joint Secretary cum Caretaker till 17.08.2017, it claimed. 

On 17.08.2017, again a general public meeting was convened at Red Cross Building Kohima with the representatives of almost all the tribes including NC members and descendants of Simon Commission signatories at the initiative and the ideology given by public leaders like Khymo Lotha, Dr Satuo Sekhose, Krurovi Peseyie, Niketu Iralu, Rev L Sorhie, Lhuvitsü Kesiezie, Dr Dietho etc. “And the new team of NC took charge of Office headed by Krurovi Peseyie as President and K.N. Mhonthung Lotha as Gen. Secy, who were revered for their ‘unpurchaseable integrity’. The elderly former Office Bearers such as Ex-MP Khymo Lotha and Kewezü Mero are part of the present Office of NC as Advisors till today,” it stated. Mero has kept the flame burning and the spirit of Naga Club alive since January 7, 1982 and handed over the mantle to the new team in 2017, it added. “He was part of the NC office team that allowed the NSF to occupy the NC building on a rental basis. The present incumbent office bearers are duly elected and are a part of the succession of the Office Lineage of the NC to protect and preserve the legacy of the NC and to proactively work for the period of time they have been elected to hold Office. Therefore, it is absurd, ignorant and misplaced to assume that the Naga Club was formed only in 2017/18 as had been alleged by NSF,” it stated. 

Regarding the NC building and occupation by NSF as tenants, NC stated that prior to the World War II, the NC building was situated below the Mission Compound and which was used as a Morung as well as free Guest House with cooking facilities for travelers coming from remote villages. However, during the war, the building was completely destroyed and the present NC building in its current location was constructed in 1946 on the land provided through the benevolent goodwill of Kohima Village. “It is for a Pan-Naga community without discrimination,” it asserted. 

During the early period of NNM, the building also served as a meeting place for the functionaries of NNC instead of GH due to the political turbulence but was used for all the Naga people without discrimination. “Taking advantage of the political turmoil following the departure of the British from the Naga Hills, the Indian Army forcibly and illegally occupied the building till the formation of Nagaland Statehood,” it alleged.

It went on to state that in 1963, the Directorate of Forest Department occupied the building till the early part of 1983. On learning that the Forest Department were to vacate the NC building by the end of March 1983 and that the Government is contemplating to hand over the building to the Directorate of Education, “a prominent concerned Naga citizen” alerted Peselie Suokhrie, Chairman, Naga Elders’ Conference and Azüto Rengma, Chairman, NC of the impending taking over by another Government Department. The two leaders on affirming the facts immediately met NSF leaders and directed them to lock up the NC building, thereby preventing another Department of the Government from reoccupying the building. “As per the statement of the person who alerted the aforementioned elders, a sum of Rs 600 was also given to the NSF which facilitated in the mobilization of youths and to purchase an oversized lock to lock the building. After the NC building gate was locked, the DC’s Police came and found the youths around the NC building and saw an unconscionably disproportionately large lock barring the entrance to the NC building. Then they left saying “Oh, it is locked”. 

On vacating of the building by Forest Department, NSF vide letter dt 4th April 1983 wrote a letter addressed to the General Secretary, NC with the subject “Application for renting the Building of Naga Club”. Accordingly, NC through an Order Dt 07/04/1983 allotted some rooms of the Bldg to NSF under the condition which states “with the good consent of mutual understanding under rental basis with effect from the date of issue of this order”. “Thus, it is evident that while the inherent and intrinsic nature of relation between NSF and NC is ‘familial father-son relationship’, the relation between the two entities with regard to the occupation of the NC building by the NSF is that of a ‘transactional Landlord-tenant relationship’,” it said. 

It reiterated tht the NU and its building "belongs to the Naga people without borders and will continue to belong to the Naga people as a whole irrespective of tribes, communities, domiciles, organizations, religions, genders, age groups, political affiliations including all the diasporas, overseas Naga citizens and communities.”

Giving its clarification of house rent, the rejoinder stated that the objective of NC is solely to reconstruct the NC building. ‘For the sake of posterity, it must be stated for the record that the NC received a sum of Rs 500 from NSF as house rent payment only for the month of April 1983, and on demand of monthly rent during the tenure of Vilavor Liegise, the then General Secretary NC, a mere Rs 50 or Rs 100 was paid citing that they do not have money which is a mockery to their elders. However, the Forest Department paid a sum of Rs 1,66,603 by cheque on 28.03.1988 towards house rent, for a period of over 19 years wef 1963 to 1983, records of which testify,’ it stated. However, because the NSF is a students’ organization on one hand, where the financial stringency stated in the rental application is duly noted and therefore, the non-payment of house rent was never made an issue, nor has it been made an issue even today despite the NC having the legitimacy to do so, it put into record. “NC as the paternal and parental body desires to hand over a well-constructed NC Monumental building befitting the present Naga society for the younger generation to inherit,” it said. 

On the need for reconstruction of NC building and demolition of the old dilapidated building, it stated that “Prior to the demolition, several request letters and pleadings including notices to vacate have been communicated to the NSF whereby, sufficient time was given in each case but was never responded and there was absolute silence by the NSF.” It clarified that the demolition of NC building has been “misinterpreted and sensationalized with emotional rhetoric for vested interest by the Tenant/NSF officials who were collecting monthly rentals by un-authorized renting of the whole building.” “The demolition of the old and dilapidated NC building can never be called an act of vandalism because, primarily vandalism involves the destruction of public or private property without intent to restore or rebuild. Secondly, in the instant case, it is demolished at the behest of the Officials of the NC. Thirdly, due notice has been served and time has been given to all tenants to vacate the premise and which many did,” it asserted. “There is no controversy with regard to the timing of demolition in the morning hours which is chosen to avoid traffic congestion and public inconvenience,” it reiterated.

The NC also clarified on the vacation notice to the tenants. Since the NSF had refused to have any meetings with the NC inspite of repeated requests, it became imperative to serve notice to vacate the building. “Two notices were served on 12-7-22 and 6-03-23. Sufficient time has been given in both cases.” It stated that any stay beyond the period granted for vacation is unwarranted and illegal. Other tenants who vacated one third of the NC building were demolished peacefully in the preceding weeks. But when the demolition came closer to the NSF/tenant office, they kept on obstructing the work without any communication to NC. 

Responding to the statement of NSF that ‘the building then was being claimed by another group of individuals, in the name of another Naga Club, and the dispute was in the court of the Kohima Deputy Commissioner, for hearing’, NC maintained “this incident dates back to 1979 in the period when the NC laid hiatus. ‘The Naga Football Association (NFA) on September 8, 1979 led by a group of few individuals had allegedly claimed to have formed a NC to stake claim as the legitimate owner of NC. “This so-called Naga Club was actually a Naga Football Club and has no relation to the socio-political Naga Club formed in 1918 and well known for the Memorandum to the Simon Commission,” NC stated.  On revival of the NC on January 7, 1982 at Kohima Village Panchayat under the auspices of the Naga Elders’ Conference who took the responsibilities of NC when it laid hiatus, there ensued a claim of legitimacy of the NC by the so-called NC formed by the NFA and a case was filed in the Court of DC, Kohima. Subsequently at the initiative of Angami Public Organization, the two contending parties met on August 20, 1983 and resolved the dispute. “The NSF has been trying to delegitimize the rightful Office of Naga Club so as to stake claim of the NC building and the plot on which it stood,” it alleged. 

On NC Centenary Monolith, it stated that the club in the early part of 2018 conveyed to the NSF of its plan to erect a monolith to commemorate 100 years of NC and had even requested the NSF to come forward as partners of NC to which their response was very positive. “However, after the Federal Assembly of NSF held at Senapati Dist, Manipur in the month of Sept 2018, the NSF took a ‘U-turn’ and refused to meet the NC, stating that their meeting with the NC would legitimize the NC, a stand which they have adamantly taken to this day, and refused to even respond to the Club’s various letters of requests for meetings or eviction notices.” Furthermore, NSF refused to allow the NC to erect its 100 years centenary monolith at the rightful site of the NC building. It alleged that NSF “mobilized innocent students to be used as human shield anticipating violent conflicts with the NC.” The NC in order to prevent further escalation of physical confrontation into violent conflicts, decided to erect the monolith at Jotsoma near the tomb of Zasibeito Nagi, the first Naga Martyr for Naga Political cause.  Refuting on the NSF/tenant attempts to obliterate the existence of NC, the club said while allegedly claiming to be the custodian of NC, its legacy and its property, ‘the activities of NSF/tenant indicates that it is on a mission to delegitimize the NC so as to usurp its building and the plot of land and then to obliterate the NC.’ 

On reconstruction of the building, the club stated that it is concerned with the historical significance of the club and the historical relevance to the Nagas, and the NC building that projects the image of the Nagas. The land patta, construction permit, construction committee, finance committee etc are all set in place and ready for the benevolent mission. Once the reconstruction of NC building near the Old Secretariat Complex, Kohima is completed, it is envisioned to house a museum and a library, it stated. The building will also house an office as a Morung, a conference hall and make provisions to house the people coming from the remote Naga inhabited areas, it revealed. “It is, therefore, hoped that wisdom will prevail over youthful brashness in the greater interest of the Nagas,” it added. 

The NC statement was appended by Kuolachalie Seyie, President; KN Mhonthung Lotha, General Secretary; Kewezü Mero, Khymo Lotha, Pheluopfhelie Kesiezie, Dr Vinito L Chishi and Ariyi Nienu – Advisors; Prasielie Pienyü, Convenor, Descendants of Simon Commission Signatories; Adv Khriedi Theünuo, Convenor, WC NC; Dr Viketoulie Pienyü, Secretary, WC NC; Seyiekuolie Kesiezie Finance Secretary; and Robert N Solo; Chairman, Programme Committee.