Equality & freedom are unquestionable values

Eno Senka Ao
President, Naga National Council 

My dear Naga brothers and sisters,

I greet you all in the name of our Almighty God. It gives me immense pleasure and pride to address you all on this historic day of the Nagas. It was on this day in 1951 that the Nagas under the aegis of the Naga National Council boldly stated, openly expressed and exhibited to the world the desire and aspiration of the Naga people to live as a free and  sovereign nation; made a solemn and irrevocable pledge of the desire and the right to  determine our own future, popularly known as the PLEBISCITE of May 16, 1951. A remarkable feature of the PLEBISCITE was the overwhelming 99.9% in favour of Naga Independence which today stands as a testimony of the unity of the Nagas and the Nagas’ affirmation of the Memorandum to the Simon Commission of 1929 as well as the declaration of Naga Independence on 14th August, 1947. It conveys a strong twin-message: the spirit and aspirations of the Naga people and the resentment against the forceful occupation by India and the territorial division of the Naga inhabited areas without the knowledge and consent of our people. We celebrate this historic day to contemplate as to why we have a sense of pride and think ourselves fortunate to be Nagas and also to rededicate ourselves to pursue the Naga National Cause with renewed vigour and vitality.

Nagas from the very beginning have always been fierce lovers of equality and freedom.  Our ancestors believed that equality and freedom are unquestionable values and principles by which people should live by and live for. Each village was a sovereign republic and enjoyed unquestionable freedom and no matter how powerful a village was, it did not have the intention or desire to conquer other villages, threaten other villages into submission or to rule or dominate over other villages. We lack even the colonial-imperial vocabularies like “submission” or “surrender”. It is no doubt true that powerful or mother villages were recognised in terms of certain nominal tax or tribute, however, the practice was more of recognition either of their political leadership or for customary roles rather than surrender of their autonomy. The autonomy and freedom of any Naga village was non-negotiable and inalienable.

The NNC was democratically formed by the Naga representatives on 2nd February 1946, based on clear identity of God’s creation of the Naga race, history, tradition and culture; as a Political Institution on the Principle of Non-Violence and has always sought to resolve all issues through democratic and constitutional means. The Plebiscite was conducted under the leadership of the fourth President of NNC, A. Z. Phizo, the Father of the Naga Nation. In his Plebiscite Speech the policy of non-violence is explicitly outlined by the Father of the Nation, when he says: “Most of the histories of human freedom were recorded in human blood. Most of the foundations of free nations were built on human bones and crushed skulls. But we want our national independence to be holy and pure.  We do not want to mix our freedom, and our independence with human blood. We are determined to extricate ourselves clear with understanding, by goodwill and through reason, so that we may continue to live in freedom and enjoy national independence.”

The Naga Plebiscite of 1951 expresses the Naga aspiration in the clearest term, it was a political statement and declaration of our aspiration and that the Naga National Movement is a peoples’ movement for liberation. The Plebiscite was more than a declaration, it was an oath. Some gave their thump impression with blood. This was to show their utmost seriousness, that it is a matter of life and death. It may be recalled that oath is the final judgment in our traditional context. The Plebiscite was necessitated in the first place due to the nature and failure of Nagas’ relationship with India. Our ancestors were honorable people and their word was their law. The British recognized this custom and treated the Nagas as honorable people. Despite several conflicts and agreements between the two, no written document was necessitated. But when the Indian leaders made the first agreement with the Nagas, they neither honored our customs nor their promises. We had to make a written agreement - the 9-point agreement (Hydari agreement). Even after getting written assurance from the representatives of the Government of India, a letter signed by Bordoloi and Hydari themselves, the agreement never saw the light of day. Moreover, successive Indian leaders failed to uphold even the promises made to the Nagas by their most venerated leaders like Gandhi and Rajagopalachari. These were extremely valuable lessons for the Nagas. It made us to wonder what we are up against, a people whose honor is questionable.  In short, the Naga experiences of betrayal and treachery by the Indian leaders was educative; the NNC had to recourse to extreme measures, we had to mobilize ourselves for a political action, to empower ourselves; this realization necessitated the plebiscite.

The commemoration of the Plebiscite Day gives us an opportunity to ponder on foundational and fundamental beliefs and principles, the legitimate right of the Nagas to choose our own destiny and also bring to the attention of the world that the Nagas still continue to suffer against her will in the imperialistic hands of occupational forces, viz., India and Myanmar. Modern civilization with its values, including democratic values have unfortunately till date failed to truly educate these occupational forces that no people group, big or small, can be forced to live under the domination of another against his/her desire. In spite of our unfulfilled dream and aspiration to live as a free nation, we still remain proud and continue to live with dignity because on this day, more than Seven Decades ago, the Naga people boldly stood up to express our resentment against the dehumanizing practice of imperialism.

May the Almighty God who guided our people in the past and gave us courage to so boldly declare to the world continue to guide our path and instil the same desire in each  one of us today as we celebrate and commemorate the Naga Plebiscite Day.