Why commemorate Naga Plesbicite Day, 16th May, 1951 ?
- Part 2 -

Dr Phungchamnao Ranreiphi Kharei *

Following the failure of the Shillong meeting of the sub-committee, the very next year the sub-committee visited Kohima in May 1947 to persuade the Nagas to join the Indian Union. At this juncture, the NNC became more assertive and stated that Nagas are willing to co-operate with India only under the ten years interim period with the freedom to terminate any agreement entered with the Government of India after ten years.

NNC was bold enough to make known the legitimate stand of the Nagas that they have their own Constitution and they would never bow down to subscribe or surrender to the Constitution of any country under any circumstances, come what may.

It was under the heat of this moment that the Government of India sent Sir Akbar Hydari, the Governor of Assam, to Kohima on 27th June, 1947, to meet the NNC leaders to resolve the deadlock. There was three days of hectic consultations, and finally, agreement was reached known as Nine Point Agreement (Hydari Agreement). It was signed by moderate NNC leaders T Aliba, as NNC President and T Sakhrie as NNC General Secretary and the Government of India.

However, NNC leaders like AZ Phizo were never optimistic of the Nine Point Agreement and never believed that India will be sincere enough to implement it.

NNC was given the official recognition as the sole National political authority of Nagas. What has really built up the confidence of the Nagas was that after ten years the Nagas has the liberty to terminate the agreement.

However, within few months after the agreement was signed, the Nagas were given a rude shock when the Government of India denied that there was a provision in the agreement for the Nagas to terminate the agreement after ten years and establish for themselves a sovereign independent State and threatened the NNC leaders that India would use force against the Nagas if they refuse to join the Union of India.
This ugly turn of development shattered the faith of the Nagas on Government of India.

However, the NNC hardliners led by AZ Phizo rushed to Delhi and made things very clear before the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi that Nagas will declare independence on 14th August, 1947, no matter what the opposition is from the Government.

True to his statesmanship, Mahatma Gandhi lent his ears very patiently to the narrative of the NNC leaders. He was true enough to tell the Naga delegates that Nagas have every right to be independent if they did not want to join the Indian Union. Mahatma Gandhi took strong exception and responded, "Sir Akbar Hydari is wrong ! He cannot do that... I will come to the Naga Hills; I will ask them to shoot me first before one Naga is shot."

He further stated that, "Why wait untill 14th August ? Why not even declare your independence tommorow ?!" Unfortunately, the ruling elites in the Government of India were determined to use force to bring the Nagas into submission.

Tragedy struck as Mahatma Gandhi was asssinated but in his death, Nagas finds inspiration in his 'path of non-violence & truth. "

The NNC leaders returned to Kohima, emboldened by the sucessful meeting with Gandhi. They wasted no time and declared Naga Independence on 14th August, 1947. The declaration was sent to the King of England, the Government of India and to the Secretary General of the United Nations in which it was explicitly mentioned that "Nagas will be independent and Nagas do not accept Indian suzerainty, and the right of the people must prevail regardless of size."

The policy of aggression against the Nagas began to unfold when the Indian Army started to arrest and imprison Naga political leaders. Even AZ Phizo, the President of NNC and others were thrown into prison in July 1948 while returning from Delhi after meeting the Prime Minister of India Jawahalal Nehru. NNC pursued a policy of non-violence, approached the Governor-General of India C Rajagopalachari on November 28, 1948 to reason out the Naga political issue.

C Rajagopalachari assured them and said, "India wants to be friendly with you. India does not want to deprive Nagas of their land. Nagas are at liberty to do as they like, either to become part of India or be separated if it would be best for their interest to be isolated."

The act of betrayal against the Nagas came when the Government of India committed a breach of agreement. In 1949, Gopinath Bordoloi, Chief Minister of Assam admitted that the Government of India no longer hold the Nine-Point Agreement valid and invited the Nagas to join the Union of India. To the Nagas, this was like rubbing salt in the wound.

Nagas rejected the offer outrightly and resorted to taking legitimate steps as the only way to find solution to a fundamental political problem. On January 24, 1950, the NNC informed the Indian Government, the United Nations and those countries that had their embassies in Delhi that the Nagas do not accept the Indian suzerainty.

Finally, NNC took a critical decision to organise a Naga Voluntary Plebiscite and accordingly informed the Government of India on January 1, 1951 in no uncertain terms that there is no going back on Plebiscite as scheduled.

The NNC President AZ Phizo informed the President of India to send their observers to bear witness to the whole process of the Plebiscite from the beginning to the end. The Plesbicite was held on May 16th, 1951 that saw multitudes of people never witnessed in the history of the Nagas.

It turned out to be a landslide victory for the Nagas as the tabulated results showed 99.9% Nagas who favoured Sovereign independent Naga Nation. Taking a bold stand, NNC delegates met the Prime Minister of India, Jawahalal Nehru on March 11, 1952 to convey the sovereign will of the Naga people as expressed through the Plebiscite.

The Government of India was however determined to throttle the bonafide standing of the Naga political rights by imposing Indian state elections on the Nagas. When the Nagas boycotted both the 1952 and 1957 General Elections, India used violence that attacked the human dignity of the Nagas.

During the Indo-Naga political dialogue, NSCN leaders led by Chief negotiator Th Muivah spotlighted the declaration of Naga Independence and plebiscite based on solid historical foundations. The Government of India accepted the historical truths that the Nagas were in existence with sovereign identity as a Nation.

Accordingly, two agreements were signed: (i) Amsterdam Joint Communique of July 11, 2002, that recognises the unique history of the Nagas and the political situation. (ii) Framework Agreement of August 3, 2015 that recognises the bonafide status of the Nagas with sovereign rights.

In God's name, Naga Plesbicite Day in consonance with the recognised unique history of the Nagas and Framework Agreement, Naga Plebiscite was commemorated on 16th May, 2024 after 73 years.

Thus the sovereign rights of the Nagas as flaunted on 16th May, 1951, will continue to remain imprinted indelibly in the psyche of the Nagas."In God who has the power and authority over the universe, we put our trust,"

Tongmeth Wangnao,
Vice Chairman,


* Dr Phungchamnao Ranreiphi Kharei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on June 01 2024.

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