‘So long as this historical fact is ignored, there will be no break-through in any political talk’

My beloved Nagas, 

As we commemorate the historic day of Plebiscite, I bring to you all, my warmest greetings in the name of Almighty God. I salute the living legends who had participated in the voluntary national plebiscite and also remember those participants who are not with us anymore.

Seventy-three years ago today, the Naga National Council had called for a voluntary national plebiscite to be conducted on May 16, 1951. The national plebiscite was necessitated as the government of India, particularly the Assam administration had not only doubted the independence of Naga people but also challenged the veracity of the independence of Nagaland as declared on August 14, 1947. The challenge was in the Naga Hills district administered area. Naturally, plebiscite was conducted in the areas where the challenge was thrown. In other un-administered areas, there was no such challenge. The question of conducting plebiscite in Free Nagaland, called un-administered areas did not arise as the independent status of the Nagas in that region had no dispute whatsoever.

The object of conducting the voluntary plebiscite was to let the world know of our independent status since ancient times and also to ratify our unique position as established by the independence declaration. It was to show India and the world of our aspiration that there was an effective unity of the Naga people. The plebiscite was not to decide on whether or not Nagaland should become a part of India. The purpose was to make our position perfectly clear by the people’s mandate in print and to put on record the result achieved through the democratic process. 

On the appointed day, the Naga electorates came out of their homes and put their thumb impressions on the plebiscite paper, enthusiastically and religiously. Our great leader AZ Phizo, the NNC President kicked off the process by addressing a large gathering at Kohima. He highlighted the circumstances of the issue thus far and outlined a vision statement for future. His address to the Naga people on plebiscite day could be rightly termed the Naga independence history in miniature. I advise the young Nagas to read the inaugural speech to educate themselves on Naga independence history. It will help all Nagas to speak of our sovereign right in one voice.

The eligible voters were explained to put their thumb impression on one of the two options; ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ on ‘Naga Independence’. Thumb impression was used to disprove by science all allegations of fraud at any point of time. The Naga national plebiscite fulfilled all the elements universally prescribed and ascribed for conducting a plebiscite. The NNC tabulated the result of the plebiscite and formally announced the result in March 1952. The result was a resounding 99.9% ‘YES’ mandate for independence. Plebiscite 1951 has since remained a time-tested Naga oath. Whether or not, India recognized the plebiscite was not an issue.

In strict sense, the Naga plebiscite was not a referendum. In a referendum, prior sanction from the authority is normally required. In a voluntary plebiscite, prior sanction from any other authority or sovereignty is not an absolute necessity. Our tall leader opted for a plebiscite to uphold our unique position. The voluntary Naga plebiscite was conducted outside the sovereignty of India.

In recent years, some people, ignorant of our own position have mooted the idea of another plebiscite or a referendum. Nagas do not need another plebiscite. A referendum is not applicable in our case as the sovereignty of Nagaland has nothing to do with the internal affairs of other sovereignties. Another plebiscite may be necessary in cases of dispute in the mandate. The mandate of the Naga plebiscite was beyond dispute. A referendum may be necessary for secession. Naga case was not secession case. The plebiscite 1951 mandate had decisively concluded Nagaland’s position as an independent nation. The mandate reflected the aspiration of the entire Nagas of all regions. It was inclusive and not exclusive. However, self-exclusion was also a choice because plebiscite exercise itself was voluntary.

None can deny that plebiscite and NNC were like the two sides of a coin, inseparable. NNC was the sole author of the plebiscite. Naturally, NNC had the peoples mandate. Any political organization claiming the mandate of plebiscite will need to prove that there was smooth transition of power from NNC to that organization by due democratic process as governed by general international convention.

The mandate of the plebiscite gave the solid basis for all future political talks with the neighbour countries occupying the Naga country. It had closed all doors for any discussion within the constitutional framework of any other sovereignty. Out of ignorance or confusion, some people are continuously harping on finding a solution to self-created problems within the constitution of India. Occupation situation is the political problem. It has to end first for serious and meaningful dialogue to begin. Plebiscite mandate is a path-finder towards that direction. So long as this historical fact is ignored, there will be no break-through in any political talk.

Our people, led by pioneer leaders did not leave our future to fate. They sealed our future decisively, by putting their thumb impressions in blood. Let us cherish them for taking the right step at the right time. It is upon us to realize their dream and secure our future by non-violence democratic means.

May God Bless Nagaland. 
Urra Uvie

Message to the Nation by Adinno Phizo, NNC President on  Plebiscite Day, May 16, 2024