Forum for Naga Reconciliation
Formation of FNR
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) was formed in principle on February 24, 2008 as one of the outcomes of the Naga Peace Convention organized by the Naga Shisha Hoho in Dimapur. It was christened on March 25, 2008 at Kohima with the support of 39 Naga frontal organizations, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), and the Council of Naga Baptist Churches (CNBC). In 2008, the forum comprised of 14 members. In 2017 it has expanded to 34 members.
FNR was formed at a time when Naga society was torn apart with intense “interfactional” violence, suspicion, distrust and divisive political rhetoric.
After a painstaking and difficult process the FNR’s Journey of Common Hope with the support and goodwill of the people made decisive and incisive strides towards Naga Reconciliation.
Eventually, the “interfactional” violence decreased, and some form of relative peace established. Due gratitude goes to the Naga National Groups for upholding their commitment to refrain from all forms of violence against each other. However, outstanding political differences remain to be resolved.
Hence, despite the positive path to end blood-shed, the Nagas are still confronted with a polarizing situation of power politics, self-preservation and exclusiveness. These threaten to demoralize the Naga spirit and obstruct Naga reconciliation.
The Naga people are once again vulnerable to further division and separation and are deeply overwhelmed by the overall fragmenting status. The fluidity and uncertainty of the present situation and the manner in which they are being expressed raises serious worry, particularly for the common man and woman.
The Naga people are therefore anxious of this degenerating context. If the present situation is allowed to prevail, it will only jeopardize the shared Naga future.
The FNR refuses to give in to the principalities of division, distrust, suspicion and fear which are paralysing Naga people in all walks of their lives. FNR believes that with people’s active support and prudent intervention this spiralling situation can be arrested and reversed.
With this in mind the Forum for Naga Reconciliation makes this Public Statement. Through this Public Statement, FNR briefly outlines its formation, principles, activities and calls for the renewing of our determination, our commitment and our call for reconciliation.
The Position of FNR
- FNR puts on public record that it does not belong to any Naga National Group. It is not affiliated with nor does it represent or support any one particular group.
- FNR pursues Naga reconciliation on the basis of the historical and political rights of the Naga people.
- FNR pledges to work for reconciliation of all in the spirit of forgiveness, openness and mutual acceptance of one another through acknowledgement of wrongs done by all of us. This will contribute towards an inclusive and shared Naga future.
- FNR works irrespective of geographical demarcations in an impartial and fair manner – without taking sides and without discrimination of any Naga National Groups – keeping in mind the people’s common interests and aspirations at the center of its activities.
- FNR asserts the necessity of reconciliation of the Naga National Groups as well as civil society organizations and the public as an essential ingredient for healing and restoring people’s dignity towards a holistic Naga destiny.
FNR’s activities from 2008 to 2014
Due to the contextual situation in which FNR was formed, its initial work was concentrated on the Naga National Groups. FNR’s primary objective in the first phase was to end the “interfactional” violence and to enable the groups to reconcile on the basis of the historical and political rights of the Nagas through the spirit of genuine forgiveness.
Here is a list of FNR meetings and some Reconciliation activities from 2008-2014:
- FNR held an overall total of 267 meetings with the Naga National Groups.
- FNR visited GPRN/NSCN Designated Camp 59 times.
- FNR visited NSCN (IM) Designated Camp 57 times.
- FNR met with NNC/FGN 37 times.
- FNR visited Eastern Nagaland (Burma) 7 times.
- FNR met 21 times outside the country.
- FNR had 12 meetings with Naga tribe organizations.
- FNR had 36 meetings with the Joint Working Group (JWG) of the Naga National Groups both within Nagaland and outside.
- FNR had 16 meetings with Naga individuals – educators, social workers, writers, activists, lawyers.
- FNR and the JWG undertook 7 tours to different parts of Naga-Land.
- FNR with JWG and a choir formed by soldiers from different Groups visited churches in Dimapur, painted the Flyover Bridge and the Clock-Tower in Dimapur.
- FNR, JWG, civil society organizations and the churches played “Reconciliation Football” in Kohima and Dimapur.
- On May 11, 2010, food and essentials was distributed by the JWG to the displaced Naga villagers at Kisama.
- The Forum for Naga Reconciliation met on September 25, 2008 at the Sumi Baptist Church Dimapur and with the support of 47 Naga organizations and the NBCC pushed the Naga Reconciliation: A Journey of Common Hope forward.
- This was followed up with a Public Meeting on February 21-22, 2009 at Kohima in which 45 Naga organizations and the Church extended their support to FNR.
- FNR met on August 26, 2009 at Hotel Saramati, Dimapur with 46 Naga organizations and the Church and called for the immediate meeting of top leaders of the Naga Political Groups for reconciliation on the basis of the historical and political rights of the Nagas at the earliest.
- As a result, The Historic Highest Level Meeting took place on September 18, 2010, Dimapur attended by Th. Muivah, Kitovi Zhimomi, Brig (Retired) S. Singnya and Zhopra Vero, followed by 11 other meetings.
- FNR met with 40 Naga organizations and the Church on November 18, 2010 and called for the Highest Level Meeting “within a stipulated period of 45 days.”
- On February 29, 2012 the Naga Reconciliation Meeting was held at the Agri-Expo, Dimapur. It was a public meeting where Nagas from all Naga-Land attended, and for the first time top leaders from the Naga National Groups spoke to the Naga public from one common platform.
It was only after FNR held a series of meetings with the Naga National Groups that confidence building measures could be taken to address “interfactional” violence. This eventually resulted in drastically reducing the levels of violence and killing and this spirit of goodwill continues to prevail even now. This has greatly enhanced economic activities in Nagaland and also broadened the space for various social movements to grow.
The Journey of Common Hope revealed the human side of the Naga National Groups and offered an opportunity to forgive each other and to experience civil and family life. Simultaneously intimidation decreased and the fear and suspicion among people reduced. This enhanced the freedom of movement and the freedom of speech and expression and contributed towards improving relationships between the Naga National Groups and the public.
Overall, the Naga Reconciliation process created a healthy environment. However, during this period of goodwill, it also enabled various stakeholders to take advantage of the situation. They have exploited the “vacuum” that was created when “interfactional” violence declined.
Reconciliation Agreements between Naga National Groups
Between 2008 and 2014 a number of agreements were signed between the Naga National Groups. While most agreements were related to improving ground situations, fostering conducive atmosphere and confidence building measures, there were some with political and historical implications.
Here is the highlight of the significant agreements:
- Covenant of Reconciliation: Signed on June 13, 2009 by Isak Chishi Swu, SS Khaplang and Brig (Retd) S Singnya. The signatories committed before God to offer themselves to Naga Reconciliation and Forgiveness based on the Historical and Political Rights of the Nagas. They resolved to work together in the spirit of love, nonviolence, peace and respect to resolve outstanding issues among themselves. The Covenant of Reconciliation was instrumental in the cessation of armed confrontation and bloodshed among the Naga Political Groups.
- A Public Affirmation: Signed on December 8, 2009 by Vikiye Awomi, Zhopra Vero and C Singson. The Affirmation was made to honor “A Joint Declaration” signed on September 28, 2009 to “jointly reject any form of conditional package offered to the Nagas by the Government of India.”
- Joint Appeal: Signed on March 10, 2010 by C Singson, Zhopra Vero, Q Tuccu and witnessed by Rev. Dr. Wati Aier. Among others, the Appeal reaffirmed “to cease all offensive activities in toto; and all Naga army commanders in the Naga areas are hereby requested to uphold and abide by this principle.”
- Statement: Signed on August 22, 2011 by Isak Swu, Th Muivah, Gen (Retd) Kholi Konyak, Kitovi Zhimomi, Brig (Retd) S Singnya and Zhopra Vero. The signatories stated, “… In the spirit of love, respect and understanding, have agreed to strengthen and broaden the peace process based on the “Uniqueness of Naga History.”
- August 24 and 25, 2011 Meetings of Naga Leaders: Signed by Isak Swu, Th Muivah, Gen (Retd) Kholi Konyak, Kitovi Zhimomi, Brig (Retd) S Singnya and Zhopra Vero. The signatories stated that they have arrived “to work towards a shared Naga future on the foundation of our Historical and Political rights.” In this statement they accorded on the following six points, which reads as: “RECONCILED on the basis of the historical and political rights of the Nagas; ACKNOWLEDGED that we have hurt one another and that in the spirit of love we have forgiven each other, and are prepared to understand each other towards a shared future; REAFFIRM the resolve not to harbor any non-Naga organizations adverse to the Naga political cause …. Furthermore, serious note is taken on the harboring of non-Naga organizations opposed to the Naga political cause and hence, strongly denounce such acts; DISENGAGE in and from all forms of actions and associations detrimental to the Historical and Political cause of the Nagas; AFFIRM to work for the territorial integrity of all Nagas; and ANY INTERIM arrangement of the political rights of the Nagas shall be outside the purview of the Indian Constitution per se.”
- Naga Concordant: Signed on August 26, 2011 by Isak Swu, Th Muivah, Gen (Retd) Kholi Konyak, Kitovi Zhimomi, Brig (Retd) S Singnya and Zhopra Vero. The signatories stated: “Having Reconciled on the basis of the Historical and Political Rights, the top Naga leaders have agreed that Nagas are ONE. Therefore, in pursuance of this agreement, the following signatories have resolved in principle to work towards the formation of one Naga National Government. To expedite this process of eventually forming the Naga National Government, a High Level Commission was formed with the Forum for Naga Reconciliation as facilitators.”
- Lenten Agreement: Signed on March 28, 2014, by Isak Swu, Th Muivah, Gen (Retd) Kholi Konyak, Kitovi Zhimomi, Brig (Retd) S Singnya and Zhopra Vero. In the Agreement, the signatories stated: “We request the FNR to work out the modalities to expedite the process. While this task is being carried out, we call for the maintenance of status quo, by vigilantly refraining from any unwarranted activities by the Nagas. Furthermore, in the spirit of Naga unity, through reconciliation and peace, we remain open to other Naga groups who are committed to Naga reconciliation and agree, to abide and uphold its aim and purposes.”
Limitations of the FNR Process
While the Agreements relating to “ceasing all offensive activities in toto” continue to be implemented in spirit, the agreements relating to political matters such as the “Naga Concordant” and the “Lenten Agreement” have not been implemented. The inability to uphold and implement these two significant agreements which were crucial to the realization of Naga Reconciliation brought the Reconciliation Journey of Common Hope to a sudden and premature halt.
By large the present crisis is a result of the non-implementation of the “Naga Concordant” and the “Lenten Agreement.” Since 2014 the lull in the process has created further division in Naga society. The degree of trust and accountability which was cultivated during the Reconciliation process broke down. This led to trust deficit and the different Naga National Groups continued to pursue their own political agenda.
Since then, the Naga national movement seems to be spiralling downwards and has become damaging to Naga society.
Currently Naga institutions are collapsing even as more fragmentations are occurring and there is a growing economic inequality even as the common person is burdened by taxation. Furthermore, there is alarming increase of social ills and the nexus between Naga National Groups and vested individuals and parties are strengthening the culture of impunity.
All these have added to a situation of confusion and anxiety among the Naga public, as well as the Naga National Groups. There is now a lack of clarity and purpose on the direction Nagas are heading towards. The loss of accountability, transparency, trust and respect for each other has made the process murky.
Nagas can no longer weaken each other by blaming and demonizing one another for this situation. Nagas need to turn these weaknesses into common strength by learning from our own mistakes. Almighty God alone can grant us this miracle of grace. If we will only inspire each other by our openness and truthfulness, God will do His part without fail.
Public Apology of FNR
Since 2008 FNR has given its very best to achieve the objective of Naga Reconciliation. However, even with the best of our intentions, we were unable to clearly respond when the process faced new challenges along with our inability to keep the public in confidence about this fragile situation. While still hoping for the Naga National Groups to respond and implement the agreements they entered into, our silence has been misunderstood.
FNR acknowledges that in the course of the process we were unable to communicate, engage and keep the public informed in a consistent, transparent and accountable manner. Furthermore, we recognize our failure to insist upon the Naga National Groups to sincerely implement the “Naga Concordant” and “Lenten Agreement.” In due course FNR was caught up in a complex situation as its role became less compelling and unclear in the midst of groups engaged in power politics.
FNR takes this opportunity to publicly apologize and say Sorry to the Naga people and in particular to the Naga National Groups for all these failures and short comings.
The Way Forward
Recognizing and acknowledging its contributions and weaknesses, FNR has undergone an intensive process of constructive criticism and evaluation in 2017. FNR remains committed to the stand that only an inclusive and united approach can lead the Nagas to a direction of shared belongingness and Nagahood.
Looking at the present situation, the FNR is of the view that Reconciliation is fundamental at this juncture. The Naga Reconciliation should not be confined to the Naga National Groups, it needs to be broadened. FNR believes that Naga Reconciliation: A Journey of Common Hope can be given a new lease of life when the Naga Churches, Tribes, civil society organizations and the public recognize the necessity for reconciliation among themselves.
The healing, forgiveness and reconciliation within Naga civil society is equally important. In fact, reconciliation of the Naga people has become essential for bringing unity among the Naga National Groups. Only when Nagas reconcile as a people can we become a moral and political force that will restore health and authority of the Naga National Groups to evolve together and take the Nagas forward.
The FNR is aware that the Naga public are tired and weary of division, suspicion and violence taking place within the Naga national movement. They feel this division has given undue advantages to those who continue to suppress the Naga historical and political rights. This has only prolonged the suffering of the people. The divisions have only polarized and weakened the Naga movement which are preventing the Nagas from taking forward looking steps.
The Naga public demands that the Naga National Groups rise above ‘factional politics’ and work honestly and sincerely for the common good in the spirit of broader participation and needing the best of one another because the stakes are so high.
The FNR asserts that no group’s interest or personal interest should be over and above the common interest and shared destiny of the Nagas.
The FNR therefore appeals to the leaders of the Naga National Groups to demonstrate political wisdom and statesmanship by turning to the path of Naga Reconciliation in order to safeguard the Naga historical and political rights.
Let us take courage to admit our own mistakes which will make us all greater, not lesser, human beings. Let us heed to the call for a lasting end to divisive politics, violence and to be free of fear, intimidation and hate. Let us strengthen our commitment to reconciliation, nonviolence and the peaceful resolution of disputes. This is the only way for the Nagas to heal the past and to build a common Naga future founded upon principles of justice, mutual respect, acceptance, equality and nonviolence.
Transcending the given impasse will require collective wisdom, realism and humility to match the demands of the contemporary world and a gracious heart that welcomes one another.
Let us not breed seeds of division and suspicion that demonizes the other. We must not forget that the boat the Nagas are travelling on is fragile and the sea is perilously stormy. If the boat sinks all of us will lose equally. For once let all Nagas give “togetherness” a chance. It is in our “togetherness” that Nagas can prevail.
In the Naga journey towards reconciliation, many are exhausted and weary. Despite their best intentions some are misunderstood by their own country fellows. Other voices are unheard. While others are still too afraid to speak. And then there are many who have lost all hope and are therefore cynical. Yet this Journey of Common Hope demands that we must bear each other’s burden.
In conclusion, we take this opportunity to reach out to all Nagas – young and old, men and women, rich and poor to give Naga Reconciliation one decisive push no matter how tedious and exhausting the process may seem to be.
The time has come for Nagas of all ages and gender to take the responsibility of working for a peaceful and a just Naga society. For this, it is imperative that we courageously strengthen the path for Naga reconciliation. Our future needs it!
- Rev. Dr. Wati Aier, Convenor of FNR
- Abei-u Meru
- Aram Pamei
- Athong Makury
- Dr. Aküm Longchari
- Dr. B. Henshet Phom
- Dr. Chingmak Chang
- Dr. Lanusangla Tzudir
- Dr. N Venuh
- Dr. Pangernungba Kechu
- Dr. Phyobemo Ngully
- Dr. PS Lorin
- Dr. Rosemary Dzüvichü
- Dr. Visier Sanyü
- Dr. YL Minthing
- G. Vashum
- Grace Shatsang
- Vitono Gugu Haralu
- Kevidezo Peter Rutsa
- Kheseheli Chishi
- Kirang Zeme
- Mercy S Rengma
- Neingulo Krome
- Nepuni Piku
- Niketu Iralu
- Pastor Vezalhu
- Pastor Vezokho Vero
- Rev Dr. Zelhou Keyho
- Rev. Dr. Ellen Konyak Jamir
- Rev. Dr. Phughoto Aye
- Rev. Dr. VK Nuh
- Rev. Puduhu Khusoh
- Somipam Lungleng
- Sovenyi Nyekha