Friday, January 27, 2023

A response to the article ‘The paradox of the Naga Club: Then and now’

Dear Daniel Shiu,
Tipitsuning Village, Myanmar,
Greetings to you and our brethren in Myanmar. We are pleased to note that you have a concern for the Naga people and we look forward to associate with you further and deeper in future for the Naga common purpose and the common interest that we serve, which is to bring the Nagas together in unity and brotherhood. The incumbent Naga Club executives do not claim to be perfect nor are comparable to the great legendary leaders of our rich heritage, who took wise decisions at the right time for our people. And though the incumbent Naga Club executives may be found wanting in many ways, we can assure our utmost sincerity for the common cause and creating a common platform for the larger interest of the Nagas wherever they may be, irrespective of arbitrary boundaries created by India and Myanmar (Burma) to divide us. It is with this goal to emulate the footsteps of our ancestors in providing a common platform of meeting point for all Nagas to associate together for better understanding that we have envisioned to rebuild a worthy Naga Club Building as it had served in the past.
It appears that while your concern for the Naga fraternity is genuine and which is deeply appreciated, however there seems to be a sense of misguided and misinformed understanding of the Naga Club. Miscommunications usually create misunderstanding. It is for the interest of promoting understanding that necessitates us to respond to your article not to antagonize you, but that we may throw more light for your better comprehension. If you are aware of the history, you would know that ‘The Naga Club’ was formed by some educated and erudite Govt. servants serving in the DC’s office, Kohima on 7th Jan. 1918 under the Chairmanship of Rheichalie Pienyü, peshkar, and his team served the Naga Club from 1918 to 1942. The humble yet erudite members of the Club, conscious of the consequences that would follow the departure of the British from the Naga Hills, submitted a Memorandum to the British Statutory Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir John Allsebrook Simon, commonly known as the ‘Simon Commission’, on the 10th Jan. 1929 which became the written Magna Carta of the Naga National Politics. For a brief period from 1969 to 1981, the Naga Club remained hiatus as the atmosphere was not congenial to hold various activities due to hostile military operations by the Indian security forces against the Naga National Movement except for the existence of Naga Elders’ Conference which took the responsibilities of Naga Club under the Chairmanship of Peselie Suokhrie. On 7th Jan. 1982 at Kohima Vill. Panchayat Hall, the Naga Club was revived and the legacy of the office continuum has been passed down to the present office of today.
Prior to the World War II, the Naga Club building was situated below the Mission Compound which was used as a Morung as well as absolutely free Guest House with cooking facilities for travelers coming from remote villages/areas to promote brotherhood and unity among the Nagas. However, during the war, the building was completely destroyed and the present Naga Club building in its current location was constructed in 1946 on the land provided through the benevolent goodwill of Kohima Village. The ownership of the land is duly acknowledged then and even now. Lt A. Kevichűsa had categorically stated that he personally supervised the construction of the Naga Club Building and in his own words (quote) “It does not belong to the Angamis in particular. Neither does it belong exclusively to the Kohima people nor to the Christians. It belongs to the Naga people as a whole” (unquote). It is for a Pan-Naga community without borders. During the early period of Naga National Movement, the building served as a meeting place for the functionaries of NNC as well as the Naga people. As a matter of fact, even the speech of NNC President, A Z Phizo on the occasion of Naga Plebiscite on 16th May, 1951 was delivered from this building. Taking advantage of the political turmoil following the departure of the British from the Naga Hills, the Indian army forcibly occupied the building till the formation of Nagaland Statehood. In 1963, the Directorate of the Forest Dept. occupied the building till the early part of 1983, when it was repossessed by the Naga Club at that time the NSF has played an important role and the Naga Club has allotted some rooms on rent basis to the NSF through an Order Dt 07/04/1983 under the condition which states (quote) “with the good consent of mutual understanding under rental basis with effect from the date of issue of this order” (unquote). The question of any quarrel with NSF does not arise and we would entreat it as a failure of the NSF to see and understand the larger picture of the Naga Club Vision to uphold the larger interest of the Naga community. While the inherent and intrinsic nature of relation between NSF and Naga Club is ‘familial father-son relationship’, the relation between the two entities with regard to the occupation of the Naga Club Building by the NSF is akin to that of a ‘transactional Landlord-tenant relationship’. It is unfortunate that they have been misguided and misinformed just as you have been. Nevertheless, it is hoped that good sense will prevail and the common interest of the Nagas without borders will be upheld rather than the petty interest of NSF in making the Naga Club Building into a purely commercial enterprise. The urgent and imperative need to revamp and rebuild the building which has undergone the severest of depreciation and stand dilapidated, without proper amenities projecting our Naga people particularly Naga Club and all that it represents, in a very poor light, has necessitated the need for tenants to vacate the building and which they have refused to do so, thus obstructing the very effort towards the creation of a respectable Naga Club Building for all Nagas irrespective of their geographical location so as to provide free accommodation to the far-flung Naga areas including Nagas of Myanmar, Nagas of Manipur, Nagas of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagas of Assam as was done by our forefathers in the past whereby they get to know each other and promote brotherhood.
The Naga Club is deeply concerned with the historical significance of the Club and its building and the historical relevance to the Nagas, rather than the commercial returns that the building may yield. It is on this account that a reconstruction of the Naga Club building is imperative and thus gains significance. It is the earnest endeavor of the officials and representatives of the Naga Club to restore the Naga Club Building to its rightful owner, which is the Institution of the Naga Club, and that it may continue to stand tall without fear or favor to shelter and provide a platform to all organizations that work for the interest and welfare of every Nagas both far and near. Once the reconstruction of the Naga Club Building near the Old Secretariat Complex Kohima is completed, it is envisioned to house a large MUSEUM to preserve and display the Naga traditional artifacts such as antiques, ornaments, tools and equipment, alongside a LIBRARY where all the literature referring to the Naga people, its history, social, political, economic, literary, and important aspects of the Nagas are made available so as to exhibit the illustrious history, culture, heritage and legacy of the Nagas. In consonance with the old tradition where the Naga Club building served as an amenity for the Naga public, it will also house an office as a Morung, a Conference hall and also make provisions to house the various representation of all the Nagas encompassing an inclusive Pan-Naga community to foster unity and to pave way for better understanding so as to usher progress, development and peace. It is therefore hoped that wisdom will prevail over youthful brashness in the good interest of the Nagas. In view of this benevolent mission with a vision, the Naga Club welcomes every Naga to be a part of this historical legacy without any misgivings.
If you are aware of the recent activities of the NSF, you would also know that NSF had obstructed the erection of the Naga Club Centenary Celebration Monolith at the present Naga Club Building site. The same NSF now opposes the reconstruction of the dilapidated Naga Club Building. It then should be clear to you as to who is working against the larger interest of the Nagas. However, because we entreat the NSF as our own children, we would wish not let the shortsighted views of NSF blind your greater interest for the common good of the Nagas. You must be aware of the reality that because of the forced occupation of the Naga homeland by foreign forces, all Nagas living on the Indian side are being compelled to use the Indian Currency, Indian Pan Card, Indian GST, hold Indian Aadhar, Indian passports, Indian trade license, Indian Scheduled Tribe certificates for loans, employment, etc. as much as the same would exist in the Myanmar side of the Naga homeland. And no one is exempted on either side of the arbitrary border created by India and Burma. But that does not diminish the fact that we are a distinct race as a Naga and united by a common goal, and in no way does it discount the political rights of the Nagas. You must be aware that on 28.08.2022, as a token of our concern for our people in the Burmese Govt-occupied Nagaland (Myanmar), the Naga Club has provided rice, health camp and humanitarian aids for our Nagas from Myanmar sheltering in Nagaland and we wish to continue to do the same in future. The Naga Club has evolved into the Naga Hills District Tribal Council and then to the Naga National Council (NNC) as was stated by you which is true but since today we have so many Naga political groups in Nagaland, it may be kindly noted for record that we have decided not to be affiliated to any particular political group or against any political group.
In goodwill and brotherhood, the Naga Club hereby extends its heartfelt welcome and invite you, Mr Daniel Shiu to Kohima for meaningful deliberations on the misgivings and misconceptions you may have with regard to the Naga Club. Only such interactions can foster understanding and good relationship, which is the sole aim on the Naga Club since the time of its inception. You shall be our distinguished guest and all travel expenses if required shall be paid for and the need of such may be communicated to the contacts provided.
Information & Publicity Cell, Naga Club,
HQ Kohima- Nagaland

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