Is the Present Naga Socio-Political Condition Ripe for Integration and/Or Federal System?

Tezenlo Thong

Anyone, cautiously analyzing the worrisome status quo and concerned with the deteriorating events ominously unfolding among Nagas, will be careful to conclude that integration of various Naga inhabited areas and/or attainment of a federal system will miraculously pull the Nagas out of the seemingly endless quagmire. Put it differently, the prevalent Naga intertribal and interfactional existential realities, characterized by an extremely tense and highly charged social and political atmosphere, do not warrant pursuing integration and/or a federal system at this juncture. At this point in history, not even an absolute political freedom or sovereignty will do any good for the Nagas. Certain vital issues need to be confronted with and resolved before we can even venture to talk about the above mentioned goals. One such urgent and imperative issue pertains to unity among warring factions, in particular, and the Nagas, in general. The contemporary Naga society is fiercely fragmented and permeated with passionate hatred and violence that we should be pulling together and expending all our energy and efforts to bring about communal healing and unity. In other words, the present socio-political condition is not ripe or conducive for us to pursue anything other than communal harmony amongst the people. This is, however, not to claim that neither integration nor federal system is possible if the Nagas are not united. The crucial question is what consequences might ensue or be in store for us if integration and a federated relationship with India are achieved amidst the violent, vengeful and bitterly divisive circumstance. Let us hypothetically create a scenario, say:

Scenario I: and ask, What if one or more factional groups resented the idea of a federated system and/or integration and started to violently oppose it? (This foreseeable situation or scenario can, in fact, no longer be treated as an unlikely supposition, because there is a clear hand-writing on the wall for all to see. As a matter of fact, the future is already a present reality in this matter.) In the absence of a nation-wide consensus and unity among the Nagas on what we want to pursue/achieve or what our priorities are, it is not surprising that a barrage of scorns and insults are being exchanged with regard to the issue of integration and federal system, especially among the feuding factional groups. If the past is any indication, striking a deal with India and delivering to the Nagas any sort of solution without having the consensus and blessing of all concerned is likely to exacerbate the ongoing imbroglio and will probably sound the ultimate death knell for the cause of the Nagas. In the past, for instance, signatories of the Sixteenth-Point Agreement and Shillong Accord might have erroneously thought that their arbitrary actions would bring an end to our elusive pursuit and yield a permanent peace. Hindsight tells us, however, that their mistakes lie in their failure to seek consensus among the Nagas on what they thought was in the best interest of all, which only served to escalate carnage among the Nagas. Such consequential historical events stand as a testament to the fact that any group that professes to work for the people, but does not work with the people cannot be a harbinger of hope or good news for the masses.

Therefore, we need to be rightly advised that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Judging from the heated exchange of insults and contempt going the rounds already, one feels that there is a weird sense of dejavu looming in the horizon. Scenario II: Again, let us ask, What if one or more tribes declared their intention of not joining the newly achieved federated or integrated entity and wanted to be separated from it? Factional feuds and endless cycle of senseless fratricide among the Nagas have dreadfully accentuated the ugliness of tribalism among the Nagas, and the so-called freedom movement has now come to don forms of tribal rivalry and antagonism, with each factional group headed and dominated by one or two tribes. Because the idea of integration and federal system is perceived as the brainchild of a single factional group, tribes and factional groups that remain antagonistic to the patron of this idea will, in most likelihood, refuse to join or may even demand and vie for separation.  Until the factional feuds and irrational fratricide emerged among the Nagas, the question of who is a Naga and who is not was a nonsensical one. Today, however, there are fierce and passionate claims and counter-claims on this preposterous and delusive matter, which simply is one of the symptoms of senseless killing and hatred among us. As a result, unless we work on and achieve communal healing and harmony among the Naga tribes that are dangerously at odds against each other, the much sought after and desired integration of the Nagas will boomerang on us. 

Scenario III: Finally, what if there was a civil war or ceaseless and deathly chaos among the Nagas subsequent to attaining integration and/or federal system and India or one of the neighboring countries decided to intervene in the form of military occupation in order to restore peace or on the pretext of humanitarian grounds? India has in the past successfully intervened in similar situations, for instance, in East Pakistan’s (Bangladesh) crisis, in Sikkim’s uprising for freedom and in Sri Lanka’s internal war, and it is not certain that India will not repeat it, because some learn from history while others like to repeat it  again and again. If, in the aftermath of the third scenario, it was persuasively conveyed to the world that Nagas are incapable of living together in peace unless reined in by a brutal outside force, we will not only lose our case eternally, but also our sympathizers, and regaining our freedom will go down the drain forever. Any of these scenarios could become a more painful reality if we pursue anything without having reached first communal harmony or unity amongst the Nagas. At this crucial juncture, attainment of any goals by a single party is likely to further exacerbate the already tense and highly charged atmosphere and push the Naga society to finally fall apart at the seams. 

Therefore, all Nagas, especially those representing NGOs/civil and religious organizations, should strive for healing and unity rather than ostensibly endorsing or supporting a single group. Extension of such imprudent support will only drive a wedge between the already divided sections of our society and result in losing credibility and confidence on the very entities that we look up for resolving conflicts and fostering communal harmony. The efforts of all organizations must be to encourage and foster unity among the Nagas, not to unwisely accentuate the chasm further. The term permanent solution has been the catch word since the inception of our freedom movement. At this crucial moment of our history, however, one feels the need to ask, Do we continue to truly desire for a permanent solution? If our goal is finding a permanent solution, will ignoring communal harmony or circumventing unity and striking a permanent peace with India yield permanent peace for or among the Nagas? A permanent peace between the government of India and the Nagas cannot be equated with a permanent peace among the Nagas. They are two completely different things, and any solution between India and the Nagas that does not produce the same effectual or intended result among the conflict-ridden Nagas is simply a farce and undesirable. A solution that further escalates the carnage among the Nagas cannot qualify to be called a solution or achievement. After all, what good is a just and permanent peace with India that would worsen the already deplorable state of our society? Nobody wants such a solution with India, although desirable as it is, that would provide the Nagas with the opportunity and ammunitions to destroy ourselves. Thus, any solution that is not based on national consensus and communal harmony is no permanent solution for the Nagas. Unity among the Nagas must precede any other pursuits.  

What we are pursuing is a colossal task, and it is not wise to let such a mammoth undertaking be placed in the hands of one or two groups or a band of leaders, to decide and determine for all. A united effort and consensus among the Nagas in such a gigantic task cannot be over emphasized. Traditionally, most Nagas societies went beyond the process of democratic decision making. We Nagas always sought and practiced consensus, which was one of our core communal values. The Naga Plebiscite of 1951 is a classic example of this invaluable practice, an event we have always emphasized and underscored as the main basis for the desire of all Nagas to be free from the clutch of India. Any future decision making or action, therefore, should take cognizance of this very important claim. Otherwise, there is an impending potential that the history or past mistakes could be repeated, which might finally become the coup de grace of our pursuit for our inalienable right, for which we have sacrificed countless precious lives and suffered for ages.