Monday, December 5, 2022

The lost years of Jaya Prakash Narayan

The period from 1947 to 1963 was a period of political uncertainty in the Naga Hills under Assam State of India. Despite, the grant of statehood in 1963 with the sole objective of bringing peaceful atmosphere, there was no sign of normalcy as the Naga Nationalist Leaders continued to show their stiff opposition to piece-meal solution to Naga political movement for full Sovereignty. The nascent state began to witnessed fierce fighting between the Indian armies and Naga armed groups. It was at this juncture, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) came in to take the initiative to form a Peace Mission which had the support of the GOI. The Peace Mission consisted of Jaya Prakash Narayan, Indian Social Worker, Bimla Prasad Chaliha, the then Chief Minister of Assam and Rev. Michael Scot, a Baptist priest from England.
It was in such a turbulent situation that JP arrived in Nagaland in the month of April 1964 along with his wife to take up the responsibility of working for peace in Nagaland. JP along with the other members of the Peace Mission traverse across the length and breadth of Nagaland to meet with the leaders of Naga Nationalists in their various hideouts. They rode on jeep, walked on feet and braved the monsoon to meet the prominent underground Naga leaders to convince them to come to negotiating table. All the members of the Peace Mission were above 60 years of age but despite so, their enthusiasm to bring about Peace in Nagaland defeated their ages and they climbed the hillocks of the Naga Hills to fulfil the objective they were tasked upon.
Finally, in the month of May 1964, the Peace Mission motivated the Naga Political Leaders to signed the most historic Ceasefire at Satraba Village in the Phek district of Nagaland. At the mammoth public gathering JP spoke “As far as we three are concerned, we shall pursue this task with utmost impartiality. We shall take no sides. The only side we shall take is the side of the right as it appears to us. It may appear that this problem is a political problem. Basically, it is a human problem and a spiritual problem. Our task is to create mutual understanding, to open hearts. I have noticed that every meeting in Nagaland began with a prayer. This deeply religious character is a sign of great hope. You are aware that our leader Mahatma Gandhi considered Jesus Christ as one of his masters. Therefore, friends, it is this kind of Christianity and human love and friendship that exists in the hearts of the leaders of India also. It is this fact that makes me hopeful.”
The Peace Mission noted that while a section of Naga people accepted the status of statehooh another larger section did not consider statehood as the satisfying solution towards their quest for Sovereignty. Therefore, the Peace Mission, while appreciating the positions of both the Government of India (GOI) and the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) declared it’s most impartial proposal which stated: “ On the one hand, the FGN on their own volition, decide to be participant in the Union of India and mutually settle the terms and conditions for that purpose. On the other hand, the GOI could consider to what extend the pattern and structure of the relationship the Nagaland and the GOI should adopt and recast, so as to satisfy the political aspirations of all sections of Naga opinion and to make it possible for the ideals of Peace….”Further, the Peace Mission “ would like to, in all earnest, impressed upon both sides that the approach herein suggested, is not only the fairest, but the only practical way in the given circumstances, and it fervently hopes that it will command itself to GOI as well as the FGN.”
The bold and truthful stand taken by the Members of the Peace Mission was not without any cost. Rev. Michael Scott was charged of indulgence in anti-Indian activities. Mr Dinesh Singh, the then Union Minister of State for Defense accused Scott with indulging in “Prejudicial activitie” and declared in Rajya Sabha that The Reverend is being asked to leave India immediately which was responded with loud cheers. As a result, Scott had to hurriedly leave India. Bimala Prasad Chaliha who had a more political recognition of the GOI also had to face the ire of his bosses as he played a far more prominent role in the Peace Mission. For Jaya Prakash Narayan, his love and concern for peace in Nagaland cost him to be publicity vilified by the patriotic Indians who accused him of trying to divide India. Wherever he went he was sneered as anti-India. Although, JP became a highly prominent Indian figure when he successfully rallied all non-Indian National Congress political parties and over threw Indira Gandhi’s rule of Emergency, yet it is for the reason that he had very boldly supported the historic rights of the Nagas that his three years stay in Nagaland is ignored by many Indian authors and writers who have written books on JP. Perhaps, it is wilfully ignored as the Lost Years of JP for the Indians. For the Nagas, it’s one of the most precious years to have a personality like Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan. His involvement in the Indo-Naga Peace process has proven to a very great extent that the Right to Self- Determination lies with the Nagas and the denial for this right has prolonged the Naga Political struggle. Had GOI heeded to the call of the Peace Mission as early as so, in the right perspective at that point of time, things could have been far different today. In fact, JP ‘s period of three years was the Lost Years for India but a historic period for the Nagas as it succinctly supplemented the Nagas’ political rights to decide on their own volition either to be with India or otherwise. The Naga people must be forever indebted to JP for his unconditional empathy towards the Nagas Struggle for Self-determination.
JP continued to stay in Nagaland for around three years along with his beloved wife and founded the Nagaland Peace Centre in Kohima which became the first ever registered NGO in Nagaland under Registration under Societies Act 1860 in 1971 bearing no. R.S -2-1971. The Peace Centre was founded with the objectives of Peace and Prosperity. Dr. M. Aram, Doctorate from the Ohio State University and a Padma Shri Awardee later became the Director of the Peace Centre.
(Courtesy: Rev. V. K Nuh, Dr. Aram)
Senchumo NSN Lotha
Former president,
Naga Student Federation (NSF)

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