TODAY -

Political nexus complicates things in Nagaland

Nirendra Dev *



The centre has started consultations with chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur on the recent developments in Nagand and assessing how much adverse impact those will have overall on law and order situation and the Naga peace talks.

Nagaland Pradesh Congress Chief K. Therie alleged in Dimapur on Thursday that chief minister Neiphiu Rio had prior knowledge of the army movement in that area around Oring on the fateful day of Dec 4. Of course the issue has come to debate on AFSPA withdrawal since then.

One senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar addressed a pre Christmas gathering in Nagaland House on Thursday, but he too did not give any hope or commitment on AFSPA repeal. A strong impression has gone that perhaps the entire Naga population is against India and the Indian army and other security forces.

Dec 4, 2021 certainly remains a Black Day and the Naga population and for that matter other tribal communities in the northeast are against the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). Well, the common people have faced enough brunt and so it is not without good reason that they are opposing the AFSPA.

Nagas or Khasis in Meghalaya and people in Manipur could be anti-AFSPA but it may be one of the biggest blunders of our time if in Delhi any ivory tower expert within the government apparatus or outside it try to label the entire Naga population and others as anti-India.

Maybe, to call them 'anti-Indian army' per se too would be erroneous. What's happening over the AFSPA is genuine, but the rest of it -- taking battle too far is part of politics. It could be part of a larger conspiracy as well to derail the peace talks between the Government of India and Naga militant groups.

The NNPGs - an umbrella organisation of seven groups - are still in favour of early signing of the Final Naga Peace accord. So are a section of Naga leaders.

"The Government of India and the central agencies will give the excuse that as long as the Solution is not arrived, the AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act should be retained. So, our purpose need not be served. As a Naga and as a politician working with various nationalist party leaders, I would like these black laws to go permanently from Naga life. But to hope for this without Final Solution may not help our struggle," wrote former state Minister N. Thomas Lotha in local newspaper 'The Nagaland Page'.

This journalist has spent many years with Nagas and Mizos and hence, I would not be wrong to suggest that for most Nagas and other native communities in the region, there is a strong ethical and moral bond with the rest of the country. Hundreds of them are today settled in places like Pune, New Delhi and Bengaluru.

People in the region have grievances against army and the Government of India, about whom a former Chief Secretary of Nagaland A M Gokhale had once said - "New Delhi still thinks like Aurangzeb's Delhi". But these simpleton tribals - sometimes hot-headed do not consider themselves out of tune with the Indian political system.

If Indira Gandhi was popular in Delhi and cow belt states, she was popular in the northeast too. Her handling of the Bangladesh Independence struggle in 1971 is hailed by Naga or Mizo old timers. If Narendra Modi is popular in the rest of India, people have shown high intensity craze for him when he visited Kohima in Naga attire.

To strengthen my argument I will take the clock back to 1999 - when Indian army jawans and officers laid down lives in the hills of Kargil. In fact, it could not be concealed when Indian soldiers were fighting the Pakistani intruders, the Nagas and Khasis had decided where they stood.

The patriotic drama or to stand in solidarity with the Indian army is not quite an easy proposition which many experts in Delhi and social media activists cannot appreciate. In many places, the ultras had served warnings asking locals to stay away from the Indian army's circus.

Locals declined to oblige

In the Kargil hills, among the martyred soldiers were - Lieutenant Neikezhakuo (alias Neibu) Kengurusie, an Angami Naga from Nerhema village. He attained martyrdom on June 28, 1999 at Black Rock, Kargil at the tender age of 24. The 2 Rajputana Rifles officer was later posthumously awarded the Maha Vir Chakra, India's second highest gallantry award,

His funeral journey from Dimapur airport to Kohima left hundreds in moist eyes and the gathering was huge. "Nagaland has not seen anything like that since the death of its legendary leader Phizo in 1989," reported 'Indian Express'. Our media coverage still was somewhat different, I suppose.

This notwithstanding the fact that the Naga rebels from time to time have collaborated with Pakistani ISI elements and middlemen. The same sense of pride pervaded in Meghalaya as well. Capt. K. Cliffore Nongrum had sacrificed his life in the difficult Batalik sector. When ULFA announced its support to 'Kashimiri freedom fighters' in their newsletter 'Freedom' during Kargil conflict, there was a wave of condemnation.

In Assam's Sibsagar district one ULFA activist was killed when he stopped locals raising funds for army during Kargil conflict.

Wrap up:

In final analysis, one also needs to talk about challenges of soldiering in the wilds of northeast. I know a joke often cracked in the camps : - "Sir please have Laddoos, my son is one year old today. I have not been home for the last two years".

The joke has a pensive cry of a man in camouflage who is easily forgotten when he breathes his last or is killed in a merciless ambush. In the 1990s, Lt Gen (Retd) V R Raghavan had said - "To ask for abrogating the AFSPA misses the essential point. That is, whether a state should govern its citizens through the unending use of the military".

Another quote here will be relevant to the situation the state of Nagaland is in. The state's only Christian Governor M M Thomas (from Kerala) had said: " You don't give a second thought to writing against the state (government) fully aware that the state will not retaliate to the extent these anti-national elements would" - as reported in 'Weekly Journal', Kohima - Feb 27, 1991.


* Nirendra Dev wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a New Delhi based journalist and can be contacted at nirendev1(AT)gmail(DOT)com
He is also author of books, 'The Talking Guns: North East India' and 'Modi to Moditva: An Uncensored Truth'
This article was webcasted on December 19 2021 .



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