Nagas, Integration and Identities

The integration of the Naga homeland, divided at present by manmade boundaries, has been part and parcel of Naga political consciousness right from the time of the Naga National Council when the Naga movement took an organized form. And even when some educated Nagas signed the 16 point agreement to usher in Statehood, safeguards were included for integration of contiguous Naga inhabited areas. As we all know, the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has passed several resolutions affirming on this long held aspiration of the Naga people to live as one people under a common entity or umbrella. So it is not that integration is a burning issue only now. Definitely it can be said that the question of integration re-entered into limelight as a result of the ceasefire agreement and starting of political dialogue between the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim. The latter to its credit has made integration as a central theme of the Indo-Naga peace talks and has been pushing its case before New Delhi. And we believe that the Government of India having recognized the unique history of the Nagas, is understanding on this right of the people. However the stiff opposition from other States and peoples is making it very difficult for Delhi to take a favorable decision. So we are stuck in a kind of a logjam.       
The problem now is that even as we talk with the Government of India and proclaim to the rest of the world through different international fora about the right of the Nagas to live together as one people by way of integration of our contiguous Naga areas, the last five years in particular has seen contradicting new developments which is completely at variance with what we profess i.e. for us to come together. Instead today we are more and more seeing the fragmentation of our collective solidarity. The demand by the eastern Nagas for a separate Frontier Nagaland State is definitely not good news for our solidarity. Now even the Government of India will not take us seriously on our right to be integrated. Regarding the demand for a separate State by the eastern Nagas, it is another matter that the present government in Nagaland has more or less put the responsibility on Delhi ‘to take the right decision’ as ‘you know what is best for the Nagas’. This stand of the ruling NPF is somewhat surprising if not contradictory given that this party has been passionate about the Naga issue including on integration and in particular has taken some bold steps to launch its party in the Naga areas of other States.   
Let us be very clear that how we deal with our respective tribal identity or kin group will determine the prospect of Naga integration. We have pride in our individual tribal identity and we should preserve our rich tradition and culture. However for our tribes to forge ahead as a people, we need to find commonality. No one is suggesting that we uproot our identity to one’s tribe, village, group or region. As much as we love ourselves, are we prepared to put the larger identity of the Nagas before self? Today we have layers upon layers of different identities and loyalties. Besides our respective tribe, we are seeing the trend towards group solidarity based on some affiliation or geography. There is the ENPO, then the Tenyimi bloc and recently those tribes left out of this two grouping have come together to forge a common understanding through SARK. Some of us may be aware that in the early 1980’s the Zeliangrong people of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland had started a movement for creation of Zeliangrong homeland to be carved out of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland. They came close to getting this from the Government of India. Going by recent events in Naga society, this newspaper is concerned if this demand is revived and thereby making it all but clear that instead of integration we will see the balkanization of the Nagas into groupings and who knows eventually end up as separate States. This should be our greatest fear unless better sense prevails among the Nagas, the future looks ominous.