E-Pao! Opinions - On sovereignty and what the Naga struggle is all about

On sovereignty and what the Naga struggle is all about
By: Kaka. D. Iralu *

Having written about the Naga struggle for over nine years and having written over one thousand pages about it, some fellow Nagas (and perhaps even Indians) may already be fed up with me and my opinions. I am also quite aware that I have repeated myself on many occasions. However, allow me to once again express myself with the following article.

Yes, what is Sovereignty and the Naga struggle all about? Here I would like to emphatically restate again that our struggle is to be sovereign and Independent.

In other words, it is to be a nation among the nations of the world. This assertion on our part is based on irrefutable, historical, anthropological, political and legal facts that bind all nations on earth.

Now, on the basis of these universal facts, what is the meaning and implication of sovereignty and independence with relation to the Naga struggle?

In the present Naga context, though the ordinary Naga soldiers and villagers are quite clear as to what sovereignty is and what they are fighting for, our leaders on the other hand – both overgrounds as well as undergrounds – seem to be totally confused as to what sovereignty is all about.

For example some of our senior Nagaland (Indian) State politicians are now saying that sovereignty has changed its meaning over the years and that economic sovereignty has now overtaken the meaning of political sovereignty. They go on to say that in the peculiar North Eastern context, we have to redefine the meaning of sovereignty and adopt one that will suit our own context.

Then there are some of our national leaders who, despite the fact that India had invaded our sovereign lands in 1954, and despite the fact that ever since, a foreign Indian flag and Burmese flag have been flying over our lands; they are still continuing to insist that sovereignty of the Nagas is still with the Nagas.

These leaders are now talking about a Federal relationship with India - the invader country. Now to clear up all these confusions created by our own leaders, let us examine the meaning of the word Sovereignty in its linguistic and political context:

Here, let us begin by stating this linguistic truth that: "Words" apart from their association to material objects has no meaning in themselves.

For example, if I, an Angami Naga is talking to an African in my own dialect, and I am saying " This is my mouth," ( Haw ame) without pointing to my mouth , the African gentleman will not understand what I am saying. All that he will be hearing will be some phonetic sounds with no meaning whatsoever! However, if I point my fingers to my mouth and say "This is my mouth;" then though he doesn't understand my language, he will comprehend that I am talking about my mouth.

Words therefore have no meaning in themselves apart from their association to material objects. This is true of any words and their association to material objects, whether it is in relation to the stars, the moon or the whole planet earth and all that is in it.

Conforming to this linguistic law, the word sovereignty too, has no meaning apart from its association to material geography and material human beings. Now in the context of this linguistic truth, what is the meaning of the word "Sovereignty" or its synonym – "Independence" in relation to the Naga struggle?

In the context of political science and sociology, to be sovereign is to be self governing in one's own geographical territory. It is to be free and independent of any other nation's political dictates or Constitutional control.

Here, like the word "My mouth," the word "Sovereignty" also has no meaning apart from its association to a concrete material geographical land and a material self governing people inhabiting that land with their own distinct history, culture and laws.

That being the definition of sovereignty and independence, a people and nation like the Nagas whose lands have been invaded by two other sovereign powers is no longer a sovereign country. After all, when the writ and laws of India and Burma are controlling our national affairs and when their flags are flying in our national lands, how can we claim that we are still independent?

We have in fact become "Subject" nations of these two invading nations. In such a situation, the only option left for the citizens of the suppressed nation is to take up arms to defend their declared sovereignty against the occupational forces. In this context such armed, self defence activities of a suppressed nation can never be termed as "Unlawful Activities." Far from it being "An unlawful activity," it is in fact the most "Lawful activity" waged against the "Unlawful activities" of the aggressor nations.

In our case, these two nations are India and Burma who are, against all political and international laws accusing us of indulging in "Unlawful activities" under Regulations like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act of 1967 etc. This is exactly why Naga citizens and its soldiers have been waging a war of self defence against the invasion forces of India and Burma for the past 60 years (1947-2007).

Now, on the basis of the above stated facts and also in exercise of my Naga traditional democratic rights, allow me to address the following questions to both our respected over-ground as well as underground leaders of our nation.

I am posing these questions to you because confusions over political terms and their meanings have brought us into a state of fratricidal killings and even the bleak prospects of a very bloody civil war among ourselves:

Questions to our over ground (Indian Nagaland State) leaders.

  1. What do you mean by saying that as long as we improve our economic and human resources, we can become sovereign within the Indian Union?

  2. While appreciating the importance of economic sovereignty of a nation, is there one single nation in the whole modern world where such a particular nation has complete economic sovereignty to the extend that, that country does not need any imports-technological or material- from any other countries for their economic survival? Also, can economic sovereignty be equated with political sovereignty?

  3. Are not political sovereignty and economic sovereignty two different issues altogether? In my understanding, political sovereignty means a country that is politically independent from any other nation's interference in their national affairs. As for economic sovereignty of a nation, it means the economic self sufficiency of that particular nation.

    In other words, in a general sense, when we talk about political sovereignty and economic sovereignty, we are talking about "Freedom" (Political and legal in nature) and "Food" (Material and physical in nature). In this politico-economic context, as far as I am concerned, a full stomach will not automatically result in a sound sleep if, as in our case, the Indian Army under AFSPA can enter our houses and even shoot us to death on mere suspicion.

  4. Can we Nagas, spitefully redefine such an important and universal political term as "Political sovereignty" into "Economic terms" so that our compromised political stand- caused by the 16 Point Agreement- can be justified before India and the world? Some of our over ground national leaders indeed betrayed our political sovereignty in order to gain economic benefits from India, when they signed the 16 Point Agreement in 1960. Here, please do not try to justify that treacherous betrayal by mixing political terms with economic terms.

    If we, a small nation try to do that, then the rest of the world can sue us in an international court of law for trying to twist political terms that are crucial for the political survival of any nation on earth. After all many nations have gone to war with many other nations when their political sovereignties were threatened by external invasions. Here we have absolutely no right to redefine political terms with economic terms and insult the sacrifices of other nations who have also suffered like us in human history.

Questions to our Naga national leaders.
  1. As you go for final crucial talks with the Government of India for a federal relationship with her, what do you mean by a "Federal relationship with the country that has invaded our lands?"

  2. Do we not already have a Federal relationship with India because of our over ground leaders who treacherously signed the 16 Point Agreement and made Sovereign Independent Nagaland into an Indian State in 1963? Are you trying to further consolidate this betrayal and condemn all future generation of Nagas into Indian citizens and Indian subjects?

  3. When our Naga Yehzahbo in Article 1, with reference to the integrated Naga territories of Nagaland had clearly stated that "The territory of Nagaland shall comprise of all the territories inhabited by the Naga tribes…," what integration of Naga territories under the Constitution of India are you talking about with India? Does one sovereign nation ask another nation to demarcate its national boundaries and integrate its people under the political umbrella of that other nation?

  4. What do you mean when you say "We have not given up sovereignty; sovereignty is with the Naga people?" When a foreign flag is flying in our country and foreign soldiers are empowered to even shoot us to death on mere suspicion, can sovereignty of the Naga nation be still with the Naga people? Is political sovereignty a feeling or a spirit that can still reside in the hearts and minds of a nation even when their leaders have surrendered their political freedom and political geography in a federal relationship with the invading nation?

  5. At the beginning of the present peace talks, India had clearly stated that independence of the Nagas is an issue that cannot be discussed in the talks. What then have you been talking for the past nine years? When the real issue is not being addressed, can there be a solution to the issue? "When will this nine years' 'diplomatic dance' with India finally come to an end?"( The phrase; "diplomatic dance" has been borrowed from an African lady who recently spoke in the CNN over the Darfur imbroglio where the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) and the UN have been talking and talking diplomatically without bringing out any concrete solutions for the suffering millions of the Darfur tragedy).

  6. I for one will salute you, if you walk away from this nine year 'diplomatic dance' with India, if the present Indian leaders will continue to refuses to address the issue of Naga independence. Thousands upon thousands of both Nagas and Indians have already died over this issue in the span of the past 60 years. If however, Indian leaders will still try to evade the issue, then what is the point of having any further dialogue with India?

  7. In a deadlock of the present peace talks, I fully realise that the only alternative will be for Nagas to unite and go back to war against India and Burma with the assistance of other nations. But won't that be a far better option then the present trap into which India has trapped us by effectively dividing us into factions and are compelling us to fight among ourselves rather then with her?

The Naga struggle for independence will have to go on until our freedom and liberty is finally achieved. In that struggle, let us remember that India and Burma are not the only two nations on earth. We can surely over rule their arrogant attitudes and stance with the assistance of other nations that are much more powerful then they.

In conclusion, pardon me for the very blunt and uncomfortable questions that I have posed to you. But please understand that my generation – your sons and daughters – have also suffered with you for the past half a century.

Please therefore do not condemn us into a bloody civil war by compromising the sovereign independent status of Nagaland at the end of 60 years of blood and tears.

After all, all those sacrifices were freely given by our own kith and kin so that Nagaland can become a Nation among the nations.

* Kaka. D. Iralu, Noted writer and outspoken social figure of Nagaland, wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on August 22, 2007 .

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