Weakness of NSCN's demands for Nagalim
- Part 1 -

Dr. Khomdon Singh Lisam *

The history of  Naga National movement is a long and tragic history . The Nagas have suffered to the extreme and have made  great sacrifice to achieve Independence.  However, in view of the changing world political scenario, it is now time  for them  to rethink  their strategy  and goals.  Vision and ambition is one  thing , practicality is another thing .. They should  think in terms of  tangible results. It is their great wisdom that the Nagas  have dropped  their earlier demand of  Independence from India. By  September 1975, the Naga underground leaders were agreeable  for the first time " not to insist on independence as a precondition". A six member underground delegation led by Kevi Yallya (Phizo's brother) met L.P. Singh, Governor of Assam on 10 November, 1975 at Raj Bhavan, Shillong, which led to the signing of the "Shillong Accord".

On November 11, 1975, the "Shillong  Accord" was signed between the  Government of India and the NNC.( Naga National Council) Under this agreement, the NNC had agreed (1) to accept the solution of the Naga problem within the framework of the Indian Constitution, (2) abjure violence, bring out the armed men (3) to surrender weapons and resolve the residual problems through discussions.

Now their demand is Greater Nagaland or Nagalim or Southern Nagaland. It is a great achievement for them to have raised from  "a village republic" to "Statehood".  The following are some of the historical facts and  the general views of the  common people of Manipur .

1. How many Naga tribes are there ? One early British military explorer  in 1879 suggested 18 . Seventeen years later,   a survey listed nine . In 1921, Hutton listed 14 as did Edwin  in 1961, in the 1970 Horam gave 30 and Yonuo  38.Both these include some groups living in Burma, and a number of groups who would probably not have counted themselves as Nagas fifty years ago, but who for various reasons find it appropriate or advantageous to do so today" (Julian Jacobs, The Nagas, Hill Peoples of North east India Thames and Hudson  Ltd, London–1998, page-20).

The different  Naga tribes speak as many as thirty different  dialects. There is no common language . The official language is English which is understood by few.. Many of these Naga tribes  have unrelenting histories of internecine conflict. (Gill, 2001).  There is  enmity between Angamis, Koyaks, Lhotas, Tangkuls as  evidenced  from recent violence and killings in Nagaland.

2. Many of the so called Nagas  so far identified recently belonged to Kukis  of  comparatively  small population groups and they have agreed to  be categorised as Nagas fearing  violence from the Naga underground elements. The Nagas  believed that  this  will increase Naga population and enlarge the Naga territory

3. The important factor in the development of Naga national consciousness and the only unifying force among the Nagas was Christianity–specifically that of the American Baptist Church. The Nagas called " Nagaland for Christ " with a view to win the Christian world on their side. The first American Baptist missionaries were invited into the Naga Hills by early British explorers such as Major Jenkins in the 1830s. 

4. The "unique history of the Nagas"  is that they do not have any written  history. Nagas did not have a Raja or a King. Nagas did not have  a  well defined  kingdom or  territory. Even the term Naga was given by outsiders. Every village of every tribe was an independent republic in its own right. No tribe had ever ruled over any other tribe or any village over any other village. Naga society was literally the village .(Charles Chasie, The Naga Imbroglio-A personal perspective, United Publishers, Guwahati, 1999.). Moreover, there are many tribes in the north eastern India having such similar history .

5. The  Nagas  sing the National Anthem, probably borrowed from America in English . On 22 March, 1956, the NNC. set up its government–"Naga Central Government"  replacing the earlier "Sovereign Republic of Nagaland " set up in September, 1954 and hoisted the republic's flag at Phesinyu, a Rengma village . An elaborate ceremony was organized with the singing of  their National  Anthem .:
God bless  my Nagaland
Land that I love,
Stand beside her and guide her ,
Through  the night with the light from above
From the mountains and the valleys
And the hill-tops where I roam,
God bless my Nagaland
My home , sweet home
This song  was probably borrowed from the  American patriotic song originally written by Irving Berlin in 1918 " God bless America", which runs as follows :- God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Irving Berlin originally wrote the song in 1918 while serving in the U.S. Army at Camp Upton in Yaphank, New York. The song  was popularised by singer Kate Smith who introduced the revised version during her radio broadcast on Armistice Day, 1938. "God Bless America" is a quintessentially American song. This anthem, with its history, is meaningful for Americans, but how does it  resonate with the Nagas ?

6. In the pamphlet entitled Bedrock of Naga Society  published by the Nagaland State Congress Party  (Chief minister S.C. Jamir /NPCC, 2000),  they raised the question "is it really true  that  Nagas have been a separate independent entity from time immemorial ?  The same pamphlet  gave the  answer  as follows -
"The stark and inescapable truth is that neither did we have a definite and unified political structure and nor did we exist as a nation. We were actually a group of heterogeneous, primitive and diverse tribes living in far-flung villages that had very little in common and negligible contact with each other.  Each village was practically an entity in itself. The main contact  between villages was through the savage practice of headhunting. Mutual suspicion and distrust was rife. Internecine warfare was the order of the day. There was no trust or interaction between different tribes. In these circumstances, the question of a unified Naga nation did not arise (NPCC, 2000).

7. The First World War show the seed of Naga National movement. During 1914-1919. the Naga National movement began during the First World War when a Labor Corps of  about 4,000 Nagas, were sent to France, where they saw great civilized nations fighting for their ends and interests while Nagas were condemned as barbarous for their head hunting ways (Yunuo, 1974: 125; cited in Eaton, 1997: 256).

In 1918, after returning from France, twenty Nagas including few government officials and leading Naga chiefs formed an organisation known as the "Naga Club" at Kohima for promoting the interests of the Nagas. The Club was informally supported by local British administrators mainly Mr. Charles Pawsay, the then Deputy Commissioner. When Indian Independence was imminent, this same Naga Club transformed itself into Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946, at the behest of Mr. Charles Pawsay. Pawsay was rewarded and became Sir Charles Pawsay. Thus, a mere club became a National Council or Parliament. The first stirrings of Naga nationalism were prompted or at least encouraged by certain British Colonial Officers, who felt that  the "distinctiveness of Naga culture" would be at risk in an united India. It will be recalled that the crystallization of the "tribes, Nagas"  were itself aided, if not created, by British administrators and anthropologists.

8. The demographic realities does not support at all the Naga Cease Fire Extension and demand for Greater Nagaland or Nagalim .
• Senapati district is a pro-ceasefire and pro-NSCN area where apart from Nagas, there are Thadous (23060), Vaipheis(3057), Paites(202), Mizo(298), Kom(2602), Koireng(762), Koirao(918), Kabui(3702), Hmar(138), Gangte (347), Chiru (2064)and Aimol (86), who have openly protested against the extension of ceasefire to Manipur  and  vehemently opposed the idea of Greater Nagaland. Thus about 56% of the district population do not support the claim for Greater Nagaland.

• In Tamenglong district also, the population group of Thadous and other categories  vehemently opposed  the extension of ceasefire to Manipur  and  the idea of Greater Nagaland.

• Ukhrul district is the birthplace of Th. Muivah, General Secretary of NSCN(IM). He has recruited a  large number of Tangkhul youths to the NSCN cadres . But not all Tangkhuls are followers of Th. Muivah. Shri Rishang Keising and Youngmasho Shaiza were two  prominent and popular Tangkhul leaders who, in spite of  small  size of Tangkhul population  ruled Manipur as Chief Ministers of Manipur for more than 12 years and  in whose time many resolutions  opposing the demands of  Greater Nagaland were passed unanimously by the State Legislative Assembly. Shri Rishang Keising is presently the Rajya Sabha M.P. nominated by the State Government of Manipur as Congress nominee. This shows the lack of unanimity of  the demand for Greater Nagaland even among the Tangkhul Nagas.

10. The NSCN-IM is led by  Isak Chisi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah.  The outfit aims to establish a "Greater Nagaland" ('Nagalim' or the People's Republic of Nagaland) based on Mao Tse Tung's ideology. The outfit has also established a government-in-exile called the Government of the People's Republic of Nagaland (GPRN). It has an estimated 4,500 strong cadre base. It is supported by a section of Aos, Semas, Zeilangs, Anals, Maos and Manipur-based Tangkhul Nagas. The NSCN (IM) has been passing its annual budget to the tune of Rs 200 million to Rs 250 million each year. It is alleged that drug trafficking from Myanmar is reported to be a major source of income for the NSCN-IM, and it also reportedly engages in extortion, bank robberies and other criminal pursuits to obtain finance.  NSCN-IM uses money earned through narcotics trade to buy arms and also pay for training of their cadres. )

11. The NSCN (IM)'s territorial claims to Kuki inhabited areas in Manipur and Assam is pregnant with the seeds of a bloody ethnic conflict. Kukis, who co-inhabit the hill districts of Senapati, Chandel, Tamenglong and Ukhrul in Manipur with the various Naga tribes, are averse to the concept of a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim or Southern Nagaland.

12. The ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the NSCN (IM) on the Kuki inhabitants of these districts between the summer of 1992 and winter of 1995 was perhaps intended to  evict the Kukis from the so called Naga Territory or force them to identify themselves  as Naga but the land belong to the Kukis for many centuries. Thus  the NSCN has earned the  image of  "perpetrators of genocide"

13. The Kukis vehemently objected to the idea of integrating Naga areas of Manipur, which ultimately led to "Quit Notice " and "Ethnic Cleaning "perpetrated by the NSCN  leading a serious communal clash between the Nagas and Kukis in 1992-1994 where  more than 900 innocent people were killed . In the Zoupi ( Tamenglong) in the  massacre of 13 September, 1993, about 90 Kuki men were hacked to death with machetes. On 13 September, 1993, 13 infants were butchered to death in front of their mothers. On 7 June, 1993 at Khatong, Sadar Hills, 8 women were raped and then killed along with three  men and three children .On 8 October, 1992, at Moultuh in Chandel district , three women were killed after being raped . Two men  and one two month old child was also killed. On 19 November, 1994 at Thingsan  in Chandel district, NSCN-IM cadres dressed in Indian Security Forces uniforms killed 25  Kuki men (P.S. Haokip, Zale'n-Gam, the Kuki Nation , Kuki National Organisation , 1998 – page- 530)

16. It is alleged that the NSCN (IM) openly indulged in terrorist activities like kidnapping, extortion, illegal drug trafficking, imposing compulsory tax to commercial  vehicles running in the national highways. According to the World Geopolitics of Drugs 1995-1996 Report, the two branches of NSCN collect a "tax" of 20% of the value of drugs passing through the area under their control in Nagaland (The World Geopolitics of Drugs 1998-1999-Annual Report). This has become an open secret .

17. The NSCN imposed a tax on every commercial vehicle, charging Rs. 3000-5,000 per trip. Receipts for such collections are openly issued in the name of the Government of the People's Republic of Nagaland. In 1996, the first public protest against the NSCN(IM)'s extortion on the national highway—the sole supply line running through the Naga hill areas into the Manipur valley—was led by the Manipur Truck Drivers Association.  The Meitei public supported this strike even though it led to a severe shortage of essential commodities and inflation. Despite such protests, the practice continues, and the current rate is reported to be Rs. 10,000.  During such lengthy blockade of the National Highway  sponsored by the NSCN(IM),  there was a great scarcity of food in the valley and food have to be transported by air by the Government of India from neighbouring states. This weakened  the  claims of the NSCN(IM).

18. The first British expedition into Naga territory took place in January, 1832. Maharaja Gambheer Singh embarked upon opening of a route from Imphal to Nowgong in Assam across the extensive hills and deep gorges. He set out with three British officers Capt. Jenkin, Capt. Pemberton and Capt. Gordon in January, 1832. Altogether 700 foot soldiers and 800 coolies were pressed into service for this gigantic work. But the Nagas particularly the Angamese equipped with spears, muskets and stone boulders  made unprovoked attacks resulting in the death of many workers. This route was the first route connecting between Imphal with Assam. This route  was known as "Manipur Road"  for a long time. Now this route is named  as National Highway No.-39.

Maharaja Gambheer Singh thought of subduing the recalcitrant Nagas and occupied Thibomei ( Kohima) in 1832. To commemorate the event, he left footprints engraved on a slab of stone . A festive ceremony was performed in which the Naga villages contributed one buffalo , two goats and one hundred pigs. Later 600 heads of cattle were presented to Maharaja Gambheer Singh as a tribute

In the Naga battle  of 1879, the relief of Kohima was effected by the  troops of the King of Manipur. In return for his service, King Chandrakirti was  created KCSI. The Raja   Churachand was formally installed in 1908. During the  World War-I, the Raja Churachand placed all his resources at the disposal of the British Government  and his valuable services were recognized by the  bestowal of the hereditary  title of Maharaja . He raised  a  corps of  2000 labourers for France. (Sir Edward Gait , A History of Assam –page - 331)

19. Politically the most important development of the World War-II  was the emergence of a British Government plan for Naga independence. The  British had already offered India the propend of independence in return for loyalty during the war; also on the table was a plan for a Crown Colony for the Nagas and other hill peoples. Satisfied with the participation of the "hill tribes" in the war and their loyalty to the Government, some British officers abroad suggested new plans for the hill areas of Northeast India.(NE). Before the British  left India in 1947, they had a plan to create a "Crown Colony" comprising of the entire north eastern region.This was to separate the entire northeast region from India. The region was to be formed into an independent political authority separate from both India and Burma, turning into a special colony directly under the British crown. The man behind the proposal was R.Coup Land, who came to India as Secretary to Strafford Cripps. The British Political Officers like Robert Reid and others supported the proposal. The north eastern  region was considered to be a territory distinct from India and Burma.The scheme of a "Crown Colony could not gain ground due to the peculiar political and constitutional situation facing India  on the eve of Indian Independence." (R. Coup land, Future of India-London 1944, p-160).

20. The World Wars  had a tremendous impact on the Nagas. During World War I the Naga members of the Labour Corps brought money and dresses, but World War II was fought in Nagaland itself. The Nagas were introduced to modern guerilla fighting which was natural to them. The War brought a greater degree of unity among the Nagas. The dumps of arms and ammunition left by the retreating Japanese Army provided ready material to be used against the security forces later.

21. Some Nagas claimed that prior to 1947, Nagaland was largely a sovereign country. This  is not correct.  In olden days, Naga Hills and Tuensang  areas were simply a congregation of villages with no definite boundary, no rule of law and no system of administration with the practice of head hunting. Each  village was independent and there was fighting among the villages. No village rule another village.  The British brought some sort of  control only in the nineteenth century. There was no treaty between  the Nagas and the British relating to annexation or surrender.

The fact is that  prior  to 1947 , there was no Nagaland. In 1950, the Naga Hills district was put under the sixth schedule of the Indian Constitution as an autonomous district under Part-I–within the state of Assam . In 1957, under the Naga Hills Tuensang Areas Act , 1957, the Tuensang Frontier Division of NEFA was added to the territory of Naga Hills. It was only Naga Hills administered under Assam.  The Ahom kings and the British did not want to interfere in their internal  feuds and  head hunting wars. Since every village is independent,  there was no question of treaty. The objective was limited to   protecting  the valley from the incursions of the Nagas. In 1866, the Angami country was taken possession with headquarters at Samagutting , which was later shifted to Kohima. In 1875, the country of Lotha Nagas was annexed and one British Officer was posted at Wokha in 1889. After the foundation of the new district , the Angamis gave no trouble until 1877. (Sir Edward Gatt,, A history of Assam, 1905, ,page- 300)

For a list of References, please click here.

To be continued...

* Dr. Khomdon Singh Lisam wrote this article in The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on May 08th, 2010.

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