Remembering the Naga PLEBISCITE of 1951

Zhopra Vero
Kedallo, NNC/FGN & Co-Convenor, WC, NNPGs

Greetings to all the honorable men and women gathered here today to remember and celebrate the Naga Plebiscite of 1951. At the outset, I on my own behalf and on behalf of the NNC/FGN and Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) express my utmost admiration and thanks to Rev. Dr. Wati Aier and the members of FNR for organizing this event.
Above all, I thank our Almighty God for unceasing mercies upon our people and for blessing us with this auspicious day.

Until the Naga Plebiscite of 1951, probably, no act of the Nagas can be legitimately claimed as having a real national character. It expressed in no uncertain term the deep and genuine desire of the Nagas to become citizens of a Naga nation. It was the Exodus Experience of the Nagas: the Nagas en masse crossed the ancestral village walls with hope to enter the Promised Land. It was a Kairos moment for the Nagas, God’s appointed time for us, a decisive moment that was destined to change the history of the Naga people forever. It gave us a collective dream and purpose to aspire to become more than what we were then and what our ancestors before us were in their fragmented worlds. It was the direct voice of the Naga people telling the world that we want to live a life of freedom as one people and one nation.

The historic Naga Plebiscite of 1951 reaffirmed and endorsed the earlier representative will of the Naga people expressed through the Memorandum submitted to the Simon Commission in 1929 and the Declaration of Naga Independence of 14th August, 1947. With 99.9% voting in favor of the Naga independence, no known plebiscites for self-determination in the world, before or after, has surpassed our record. This is truly remarkable, a historic event that cannot be repeated and one that did not happen by fluke of history. The Nagas under the banner of the Naga National Council and the visionary leadership of A.Z.  Phizo made it happen.

A choice like the Naga plebiscite of 1951 demands sacrifice and true enough, much sweat and blood have been shed because of it. It was a costly choice we made but not a mistake nor in vain. From our struggle, we gained our collective identity as a people; our place in history as courageous people who stood up for what is right and just.

I am convinced that the fruits of our struggle have benefitted our neighbours as well. The stories of the North East Indian people in general would  have remained in the periphery, in the margin without the dignity and honor we  have today had it not been for the series of events triggered by the Naga struggle  for self-determination.

At one master stroke, it exposed the lies of the Indian state and nullified the false perceptions of the world regarding the Naga people. There has been Indian rhetoric time and again that only a section of misguided Nagas were fighting for freedom; that it was the handiwork of the Western Christian Missionaries. Contrary to this, the plebiscite had clearly shown that the Naga people, irrespective of their tribes and religions, were fully aware of their own modes of existence and more importantly, what kind of life they would choose.

They chose freedom. Our ancestors were people with honor, values and norms. They believed and valued freedom and honor of everyone. And so, the plebiscite of 1951 was essentially a timely demonstration of what we cherish on the one hand and on the other, our capacity of making rational choices regarding our destiny. In today’s political jargon, it was a political statement and declaration of our aspiration. It was truly a peoples’ movement for liberation.

Seventy three years down the line, even as we recall and thank God for the Plebiscite of 1951, it is also a time for us to examine where we stand today and where we are headed to. At one time, our adversaries made us stronger and helped us to bring down the dividing walls among us. But today, I doubt if we are a stronger people because of our adversaries, both from within and without.  Pondering upon the multitudes of walls that divide us today, I wonder if all these contemporary challenges are a necessary indication that the time has changed and so are the political realities that come with it. I pray that we, as a people, would draw inspiration from the miracle that happened in 1951 – the Naga Plebiscite – and take corrective and pragmatic measures that will bring us together to forge our collective identity and destiny.

God help us!

Amen and Kuknalim!