Contributions of 21 Leaders of Naga People’s’ Convention is not only towards building a peaceful and prosperous Nagaland but also sowing the seeds of a peaceful North East of India and stabilising our nation’s eastern frontier! They were leaders and nation builders of post colonial India! Naga rebels denigrated them and the rest of the country forgot them!
Multiple times in the history of culture, civilization and nations, vested interests take a toll on overall development and beliefs that prosper in the minds and hearts of people. Truth becomes causality and the lies float around like oxygen.
India has been subjected to multiple invasions and foreign rule leading to distortion of artefacts, heritage sites, literature and the overall history. The last of our subjugators- the British left no stone unturned to ensure that we as a country and as a civilization are fed with lies and twisted narratives to an extent that we’re addicted to it, that we reject any other shape and form of truth and continue to nourish their lies making us slaves to their follies even after they physically left the territory; they wrote and portrayed whatever shallow understanding they had of India.
It is not hidden from anyone that India got divided on religious grounds and the “divide and rule” policy of the British came to fruition with the Radcliff line. What does not shine bright in front of our eyes is their dark conspiracy of creating “Crown Colony” in the northeast of our nation. They were ready to butcher this country piece by piece and use each part to their advantage.
But, they were Colonial rulers, with no ties to this land, with no sense of attachment and oneness, they were ruthless rulers and businessmen only looking for their economic and political gain and hence expecting responsibility and respect from them might not be wise.
What actually is saddening is the trend that we Indians followed even after their departure, how we chose to blindly follow their footsteps and give up on any understanding of our own people. How our perceptions have been flawed to such levels of misrepresentation that when you Google “Father of Nagaland” the result shows the name of A. Z. Phizo. – A man who allegedly held citizenship of UK and pushed the people of the Naga Community into a storm of Violence and insurgency while he himself fled to countries like Bangladesh in 1956. He was one such “father” who abandoned his motherland to die in exile in London.
A Z Phizo rose to power in Nagaland after he was made the president of Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946. After he assumed office as the president the situation among the Naga communities spiralled out of hand so rapidly that the region, and the people could be seen making a nosedive towards their own doom. He plunged into the vicinity of radicalism, killing not only people from his own community but also from his own Naga National Council. Reports have it that two members of NNC- Imkongmeren (first vice president of the NNC) and Sakhrie(General Secretary of the NNC) were murdered by Phizo because they had chosen the path of moderation. Phizo then went on to arm brothers against brothers where Nagas killed each other without realizing the repercussions they would face. This was intolerant, and this was fascist.
Phizo was undoubtedly backed by foreign powers, could be China, could be Myanmar, we do not know just like this power-hungry man did not know what he was getting his people into. How would they lead a life of development, peace and prosperity once these foreign ‘India Divisive’ forces would pull their support back after achieving what they wanted to?
But Phizo was not the only man who was being heard. The Naga people’s Convention brought the sanity that these rough times demanded– 1) Dr Imkongliba Ao, 2) Dr SC Jamir, 3) J B Jaskoie, 4) Khelshe Sema, 5) Chiten Jamir, 6) Goyiebra Chakesaus, 7) T N Angami, 8) Etssorhomo Ezung, 9) T. Konyak, 10) P. Demo, 11) Imtichuba Chang, 12) Lakiumong Yimchug, 13) Bautung Phom, 14) Seatsi Rengma, 15) P. Shilu Ao, 16 ) Shashimeren Aier, 17) R. Khating, 18) Chuba Sangtam, 19) Loyem Chang, 20) Chingai Konyak, and 21) Hokime Sematogether formed the Naga People’s Convention and in the latter half of the decade of 50s, when there weren’t enough means of both transport and communication, toured across the region meeting communities and households and village headmen, explaining to them where their betterment lied- with the Indian Union.
If Nagaland is a state in the Union of India, it is because of members of NPC, if article 371A exists in the Indian constitution, it is because of NPC, if the gap that imperial rulers created between ‘Indians’ and ‘Nagas’ has been bridged, it is because on NPC, and if the myth of Indians and Nagas being different has been busted, it is because of NPC!
The members of NPC were selfless, not politically driven people who succeeded in causing a political awakening in the region, churning out a socio-political movement only for the sake of safe, secure, prosperous and peaceful future of their people.
Phizo also, in 1951 created a façade of “the will of Naga” after conducting a mockery in the name of a plebiscite. He claimed that 99% Nagas wanted separation from India, what he hid was the numbers- 6000. Only 6000 people participated in that so-called plebiscite while the population of the Naga inhabited areas according to the Census of the same year (1951) was over 2.5 lakhs. This was the level of manipulation that he used to Astray his people.
The NPC, on the other hand, made the actual will of people known through the 16 point agreement of 1960 which led to Nagaland’s statehood. We can definitely call these people’s will because these unarmed people succeeded in talking to the people, convincing them and logically explain to them the pros of discarding violence and the idea of separation. The members of NPC were being hunted down, threatened and attacked by militants, yet if these unarmed people could travel and talk, it was possible only due to local support which clearly indicates where the interest of the people lied.
While the much glorified Phizo, died in London, probably surrounded by facilities, the first president of NPC – Dr Imkongliba Ao was shot dead by the trainees and followers of ‘Phizo school of Radicalism’ when he was in the service of his people. But as a nation, we forgot his contributions and ignorantly moved on with our lives. Such is the sad state of the way we presented and studied our own history.
Rightfully Dr Ao got his due respect on the 71st Republic day of India when the Governor of Nagaland- R N Ravi renamed the durbar hall of the Raj Bhawan ‘Dr Imkongliba Ao hall’ in his memory.
This is most certainly a right step while realizing that nothing shall show enough of our gratitude for these heroes who made sure that the people of Naga community lived a peaceful, prosperous and meaningful life. The members of NPC would step out to tour the local villages at a time when the members of pro-separation groups were hunting them down, only to ensure that the people of Naga Community were not misled and stayed where they belonged.
With the formation of the Nagaland State, the people of Nagaland came to know better the administrative systems of their country and turned away from violence. The 16 point agreement signed between NPC and Government of India led to the end of insurgency and brought peace to the region. This was possible only due to the supreme sacrifice of the members of NPC and their family and as a nation we should not only be indebted to them, but also recognize them as the Heroes of Naga Struggle and the true Father of the state.
(The Author of the article is Anandita Singh, who is research fellow of Centre for North East Studies, New Delhi)