Friday, December 2, 2022

An unholy mess

We, the so-called ‘Christian’ Nagas seem to have seriously misplaced our moral campus and the moral courage to stand up for what we truthfully believe is right. One can’t help wondering: for how long do we, the stakeholders, intend to continue living in this unholy mess?
It would not be entirely wrong to make a general observe that the only thriving industry that the Nagas has ever know to date, is the insatiable industry of corruption being perpetuated both by the ‘over-ground’ establishment called the Government of Nagaland manned by our very own indifferent elected representatives and the unrestrained ‘underground national workers’ operating under the broad banner of Naga National Political Groups encompassing all shades of NSCN Factions, with NSCN (IM) being the giant of them all. Each of these organizations has disdainfully been plowing through the very lives of the common man and recklessly shattering the dreams of a budding generation for decades. ‘Over-ground’ or ‘underground’ without exception, all emphatically and hypocritically swear on the Holy Bible where the meaning of the word ‘honesty’, ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ does not exist. They must perhaps be referring to a Holy Bible with serious printing mistakes. Compounding the already crippled system is the innocent sounding ‘opposition-less government’ presumably seeking for an ‘early solution’ to a terminally ailing Indo-Naga imbroglio? The only net result visible thus far however is that the State Government servants, mostly in the lower cadres are now being deprived of even their entitled monthly salaries just because they are much too poor to fight back for their elementary rights. This comes as no surprise. After all, our State exchequer has now become little more than a self-help service counter for all political parties with their unstoppable itching fingers in the kooky jar. With the next election looming in the horizon, things can only get worse at best.
The ground reality is quite desperately damning. On the one hand we have the Ali Baba’s first cousins running a shady Government totally subservient to the dictates of the Factions who publically decry Indian election but otherwise are clandestinely instrumental behind the success of one political party or the other. On the other hand we have the Factions themselves carrying out their own unholy brand of extortion, praying on the helpless common masses. All this has been going on for the past several decades in the glorified name of sovereignty. It is not as if Nagas do not have intellectuals who could collectively create sufficient awareness to right the wrongs but each is much too afraid of the gun-toting factions to speak out the truth thus inadvertently allowing unpalatable events to recur over and over again. From 1980 onwards we have witnessed series of NSCN factional population explosion each proclaiming to be Naga Sovereignty warriors and each independently commandeering their thriving industry of ‘extortion/ taxation’. Apart from their gluttonous appetite of widespread day to day extortion, the NSCNs are also issuing highly priced illegal syndicate licenses for every conceivable essential commodity in the market like …egg syndicate…chicken syndicate…second hand clothes dealership syndicate…transporters syndicate… MS rod syndicate… cement syndicate…you name it…most essential commodities are covered by one syndicate or another. In fact it was a pleasant surprise for a change to read the news that the Nagaland Police has dared to arrest one such non-local Transporter syndicate owner who is alleged to be trying to stifle local entrepreneurs doing second hand clothes transportation business. As monopolists, each syndicate license holder throttles any competition in the market and arbitrarily controls the market price of the commodity under his control…aided by a mafia-like protection of NSCN (MPs)…money patriots. All this is happening under the very nose of a very busy State Government equally engaged in similarly nefarious priorities while exploitations of the populace through insane “taxation/extortion” continue unabated. Today, the fatigued stakeholders have reached the end limits of forbearance, being brutalized by both an indifferent ‘opposition-less Government’ in power and the omnipresent multi-Factions going full speed ahead with their multi-taxation spree. Each in their own inimitable style is causing a never ending misery on the masses struggling to cope with the cost of living that has hit the stratosphere. The ultimate desire that is understandably overflowing from the depth of the hearts of all beasts of burden is for an early end of this nightmare called the Indo-Naga political talk…even at the dire cost of no longer caring what the future holds. In the midst of such an intolerable existence, the finer aspiration of self-determination envisaged by our first generation folks is gradually becoming a bizarre tune that is slowly fading into the distant horizon. Here lies the danger of induced impatience because we need to understand in no uncertain terms that an ill conceived decision we make today will perpetually haunt not only the present generation but all the generations that will follow.
As things stand, the NSCN (IM) must take full responsibility for the present impasse. They have successfully created a general confusion with their eloquent half truth while leaving a good number of troublesome and awkward questions piled up in our own backyard unanswered to date despite being repeatedly asked to clarify, the most important being: Why is NSCN (IM) still adamantly maintaining secrecy with regard to their list of competency clauses in the like manner of their Framework Agreement… the contents of which only happened to be an ambiguously worded road map that did not warrant confidentiality? It is imperative for NSCN (IM) to understand in no uncertain terms that the stakeholders have a fundamental right to know what their future is going to be, since such decisions will have a direct implication upon the generations to come positively or negatively. It is therefore extremely important for the stakeholders to be made aware”before” and “not after” the deed is done! Deliberately ignoring this ethical principle could result in a backlash from a generation that will have no alternative but to harvest the bitter legacy/curse sown by the NCSN (IM). This is also a subject that must transcend unnecessary Factional politics or petty tribal rivalry. We must honestly and honorably try to evaluate ‘down to earth’ fair and equitable survival dispensation for all the Nagas in relation with the GoI and within our own Naga tribal communities in the aftermath of post solution scenario that must squarely answer to the benchmark of fairness for all concerned.
The little that the stakeholders have been given a glimpse of, of the NSCN (IM)’s competency clauses are: (1) “the State of Nagaland will cease to exist” on the premises that “it will become a Nation”. (2) That a Statutory Cultural Body called the “Pan Naga Hoho” will be created through an Act of Parliament, as a ‘purely cultural platform’ for emotional integration of the Nagas…to be directly funded by the GoI. The original goal post of this initially innocent looking Pan Naga Hoho has since been shifted by NCSN (IM) now demanding for a more robust mandatory authority that goes to the extent of being able to nominate members into the Upper House in a bicameral setup being proposed within the so-called “Naga Nation”. These are the only two Clauses within their ‘Competency Clauses’ that the NSCN (IM) has thus far made public. We dread to think what other dubious camouflaged agendas may exist within the remainder of their undisclosed Competency Clauses…because this two clauses are downright damning enough for the Nagas of Nagaland already! It causes a tremendously uneasy sense of suspicion since NSCN (IM) is painstakingly holding the rest of the clauses very close to its chest.
Now dispassionately consider why these two clauses are being considered damning for the Nagas of Nagaland. Before doing so, firstly remember that the issues of sovereignty and integration have unfortunately been left out as subjects beyond the immediate purview of the final solution…of course with the make-believe continuity rider possibility of addressing these subjects through ‘due democratic processes’ in the post solution era. This is purely a stick and carrot proposition by the GoI which will never see the light of day even in a distant century. All said and done, this is the unpolluted ground reality from where further pragmatic and realistic analysis must be exercised fair-mindedly.
(1): NSCN (IM) proposes that the present State of Nagaland become a “Naga Nation”, even without geographical integration. This necessarily signifies that the present State of Nagaland will become a common homeland for ALL the Nagas, irrespective of their present place of habitation. This would conveniently allow our Naga brothers of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to enjoy dual privileges within their own exclusive Autonomous Regional Territorial Councils (that has been agreed in principle) and at the same time also enjoy the same privileges within the common ‘Naga Nation’ (the un-integrated State of Nagaland). How fair does this sound?
(2): Over and above this, our Southern brothers in NSCN (IM) are also very meticulously laying down a foundation to ensure that they are able to continue exerting a direct influence (as they are doing now) in the affairs of the so-called common ‘Naga Nation’ through the institution called the Pan Naga Hoho. According to the scheming echelon of NSCN (IM), the ‘Naga Nation’ will have a bicameral establishment…the Upper House and the Lower House. The latter will be represented by elected members while the former will be manned by nominated members. The question as to who will hold the ultimate nominating authority of members into the Upper House has been unambiguously answered by the NSCN (IM)…the Pan Naga Hoho! In order to soften the blow, the NSCN (IM) also explained that there would also be other Electoral Colleges consisting of “Intellectuals” and “Traditional Bodies” who will also be given authority to nominate members into the Upper House. NSCN (IM) is silent on the percentage of the total number of members that each sector would be allowed to nominate. Further, NSCN (IM) needs to clarify whether the nominated members would comprise of individuals only from within the present State boundary of Nagaland or include members from other regions as well. We are also not clear what kind of Tribal composition the Pan Naga Hoho would have but for all practical purpose it would not look any different from the present Naga Hoho where Nagas of Nagaland held a minority status…[even though all the Tribal Hohos of Nagaland have now withdrawn membership from this ineffective mouthpiece organization of NSCN (IM)]. The other rather unpalatable intention disclosed by the members of the NSCN (IM) think tank is that any Bill proposed by the Lower House of representatives will mandatorily be required to seek approval of the Upper House without which such a Bill cannot become an Act. In other words, it only simply means that the Naga brothers from Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh will continue exercising their right to have their will imposed within the so-called ‘Naga Nation’ through their nominated sycophant members in the Upper House. A relevant question that gets prompted is: does the resource-less state/“Naga Nation” need an Upper House in the first place, expanding the arena that will definitely weigh heavy on the exchequer of the State/“Nation”, simply to accommodate more unscrupulous Ali Babas? The readers are herewith informed that the above narrative is not a concocted dissemination of the author but an honest excerpt of the discourse that was had with one of the think tank member of the NSCN (IM).
To the best of my knowledge this is not the kind of self-determination that the Nagas of Nagaland have been fighting for all our lives. It is pure absurdity to try and rid ourselves of one ‘colonial power’ to only be replaced by our very own brothers from across the border. To the sentimentalists it may sound like an uncharitable anti-Naga expression but to a pragmatist, population integration can never be an acceptable solution. We would be guilty of narrowing the window of opportunity in perpetuity for our younger generation from Nagaland in the years ahead.
Under an already tested circumstances of ‘trust deficit’ where GoI is concerned, it would have perhaps been more pragmatic for NSCN (IM) to have determinedly stood its ground on the issue of ‘Integration’ rather than the “Flag” which loses its significance under a “shared sovereignty” status within the Indian Constitution especially in the absence of integration. In as far as the separate “Yehzabo” is concerned the Nagas would certainly prefer to hold a guaranteed identity even if such a “Yehzabo” is exclusively incorporated within the Indian Constitution. On a lighter note it would at least discourage Mainland Indian population from calling the Nagas “Chinkees” and “Momos”. On a serious note however, for all practical purpose the parameters of ‘Yehzabo’ which will become synonymous to Article 371 A, more or less, should be intelligently crafted and expanded upon in a legally binding unambiguous terminology to safeguard our identity, our religion, our customs and tradition, our natural resources etc. and ensure that such Clauses that enshrine the spirit of ‘shared sovereignty’ therein is not unilaterally undone, amended or abrogated by any kind of majority of the Indian Parliament except through the expressed consent by our own mandatorily empowered Legislative Assembly.
At this moment one can only hope fervently that the Core Committee Members of our very own ‘opposition-less government’ have a matured and unbiased perception that the fate of the Nagas is sitting right beside them, willing them on to part the curtain and recognize the mega catastrophic disaster of a biblical proportion waiting to happen to the Nagas of Nagaland if the present chartered course of NSCN (IM) is allowed as it is to sail through without question. If the Core Committee of the opposition-less government truly has the honest interest of the Nagas at heart its first primary responsibility should center on the need for transparency in the most crucial area of Competency Clauses…from both GoI and NSCN (IM) for a clear headed scrutiny and evaluation by relevant representatives of the stakeholders.
May the Good Lord give us wisdom at this critical juncture to get the Nagas out of this unholy mess.
Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Retd); 3rd Mile Thilixu Village;
Chumukedima, Nagaland

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