A Brief Discourse on Naga’s Struggle for Self-Respect and Freedom

naga war memorial 

Mr. T. Sakhrie, one of the first Naga intellectuals, a philosopher and a great Naga-nationalist leader of his era who sacrificed his life for the freedom and rights of Nagas stood true till his last breath to his ideologies and convictions which reflect in his quote that further produced verbatim. He said,

            “Truly we are a peculiar people. We are equals. Men and women have equal social status. We have no caste distinction; no high or lower class people.. We believe in the form of government which permits the rule, not of the majority, but of the people as a whole. We govern ourselves by government that does not govern at all. In the life of the village the family is a permanent living institution, a conscious unit polity. Every family is proud of its own and no family has ever been left by their fellow men to the mercy of circumstances. Possessing his own house, built on his own land, …no family ever pays any tax. Forest and woodlands, rivers belongs to the people…We cultivate as much land as we need or desire and there is no one to question our rights. We have no beggars. Every family live in its village in its own rights. It has no landlord to harass it, and no revenue collectors to knock on its door; for the family is master of its own affairs. And, wonder of wonders we have no jails. We do not ‘arrest’, nor ever ‘imprison’ anyone. Our civil authority is God in the matter of life and death. And the murder is very rare. We fear nobody, individually or collectively. We are a healthy people and fear corrupts the health of man. Our granaries are kept outside the village and no guard is ever needed, for there is no one to steal from them. We travel we like and it cost nothing. Wherever we go it’s our home. If by ill fortunate, a man fall sick or dies, he is brought home to his family, without counting the cost. We talk freely, live freely, and often fight freely too. We have no inhibition of any kind. WILD? YES. BUT FREE!! There is order in Chaos; law in this freedom. If I were to choose a country, it would be Nagaland, my fair Nagaland, again and again.” The words of Mr. T.Sakhrie introduce us to the exact historical reality whereupon the Nagas claimed their right for freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, self-respect and justice. The wisdom reflected in aforementioned words became the ‘ideology’ behind the Asia’s protracted Armed struggle.

Indo-Naga Conflict has earned a significant place in the Military history of the world. It is not just an Armed Battle between two political enemies within the geo-political boundaries of India, but also an all-out war between two distinct ‘nations’. It is not simply a ‘problem’ of law and ‘disorder’ of order in some distant part of India, but a suffering of unfortunate souls who are victimised by the history. The impact of Indo-Naga conflict has not been confined to the political boundaries of India but also affected the politics of entire East Asia. The story of Nagaland does not start with the Political Freedom of India, it does not even start with the formation of the State of Nagaland in 1963, but it started thousands of years back when the ancestors of the Nagas finally settled in today’s Naga Inhabited Region including present state of Nagaland which was then absolutely unknown, untouched, ungoverned, virgin hilly region. The story of Nagas is full of adventure, music, art, wars and peace. During early period of Naga settlement until the entry of British Adventurers; Nagas were mostly unknown to the rest of Indian sub-continent. They had bitter-sweet relationship with neighbouring Assamese people and Meitei people from Manipur which was then a princely state. History teaches us that Nagas were always independent and politically sovereign, free people. They were never been subjugated by alien forces. No king or the Emperor from Indian-subcontinent or outside ever established rule in Naga Region. Even the Britishers failed to control the entire Naga Inhabited Region when at the same time they were controlling almost the entire land and the oceans of Earth. British Raj was the last foreign rule over India. When India achieved its Independence, Naga Hills which then was the part of Assam Province as a ‘District’ was also given to India against the wish of its inhabitants. British Raj gave something to India that it never truly owned. What followed in Naga Hills after the departure of Britishers from India was a greatest political irony of those days. Mahatma Gandhi supported the cause of Nagas  as he advocated a need to give to Nagas what is theirs- The Land, however, after his untimely death, the tone and political attitude of ‘central command’ changed. The then Prime Minister of India Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru started speaking the language of ‘bloodshed’, consequently he pushed Army in the Naga Hills and in no time the entire Naga inhabited region including Tuensang was brought under the ‘Rule of Gun’. Army Jawans were the first Indians Nagas were introduced to. It was the time when Nagas were left with no other option but to take up Arms against the invading forces to defend their land. Naga Political Movement, which started in the 1950s, is known by Indians as a ‘Mother of Northeast Insurgency’.

It is well recognized fact that the stroke of fate has made the Nagas as a part of modern India, therefore, the feeling of ‘WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’ has never ‘completely’ developed in the hearts of the Nagas (including the Nagas of modern generation). Nagas might be friendly and extremely hospitable, caring to the outsiders, but there is also a strong feeling of ‘being different’ than the ‘non-nagas’ and mainland Indians nourished in their hearts which is indeed a result of historical-political events, unhealed wounds and political betrayals, which, unfortunately common Indians evidently never understood.

In order to pacify the Nagas, the contemporary efforts made towards the tribal welfare have resulted to some extent in enhancing the well-being of the Naga people. However, mainly it has remained incapable of promoting their sovereignty and respecting their self-determination. Tribal advocacy can’t be considered as a unitary theory. For the advocacy of Nagas, many programs, plans, schemes and provisions have been developed. It may be noted that, such provisions and programs are often based on two different things. The first thing is that assimilation and integration of the Naga people and the second is to consider them as the ethnic states on the basis of “Naga particularism.” Both of these policies are considered as the categorical classification, which are based on the assumption that integration of Naga people with remaining population of the country will help them to overcome their backwardness. These assumptions about the tribal people has resulted in making their history and culture as insignificant and reduces the quality of their legal status and wrong interpretation by the state spokespersons, undermine the values of their identify and status. Combining the history of Naga people and considering their culture as their history has resulted in creating confusion about their status in the Indian society which could not accept them as the way they are. History and culture are two different things that make Naga people, however, combination of both of these factors has increased the complexities. Therefore, it may not be incorrect to say that the caste-conscious Indian society and judgmental Indians do not know the Nagas.

All this situation explains that there is a significant clash of the cultures and misinterpretation of the identity and status of Naga people that has emerged from the term “safeguard” from the Constitution of India has disrupted the condition and status of Naga people. David Maybury-Lewis (1992), who is also a Harvard anthropologist has explained this condition and informed that this situation arises from the founding of United Nations in 1945. United Nation had promoted its Universal Declaration of Human Rights under which UN specifically informed about the rights of individuals and rights of states, but failed to inform about the rights of people, who are not the part of the mainstream society. David Maybury-Lewis also informed that since the dawn of the human life, civilization and human history, people have been trying to always associate themselves with their groups of common identity. Therefore, tribalism is not a problem in the contemporary world, but the problem is to make unsuccessful efforts to suppress and deride such units, which are significant and vital for human existence on the Earth. The positive attitude of Government of India and Naga Nationalist groups have created some space for hope, however, only time will decide the future of Indo-Naga relations in the context of political dynamism, strategic interests and historical realities. However, it is pertinent to remind ourselves that in this vast expanse of the universe the value of man is insignificant; therefore, I am of the firm conviction that no man is capable to rule the other, even the Gods are defeated by the Warriors of ‘Truth’.

Aniruddha Vithal Babar, B.com, D.H.R.L., LLM (International Law and Human Rights), M.A. (Political Science with specialization in International Relations and Conflict Studies), Former Advocate; Bombay High Court and independent researcher with interdisciplinary temperament. He has respectable hold on political and Socio-legal philosophy and thought with research interests include International law, Tribal Jurisprudence (with special emphasis on the development of Naga Jurisprudence), Applied Politics, Idea of justice, Peace & Conflict Studies, Northeast Studies, Subaltern Studies and Human Rights. Presently he is pursuing his PhD in the interdisciplinary fields of Law, Governance and Conflict Management at SSLG, JAIPUR NATIONAL UNIVERSITY. He may be contacted at [email protected])


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