The Dawn of Political awakening of Eastern Nagas
Dr Aniruddha Babar
ANY HUMAN being has a fundamental right to fight for their rights, but that (own right) cannot include anything that is fundamentally trying to deny others what is their fundamental right.
Broken, suppressed, oppressed and depressed people of the Eastern Nagaland started rising gradually through depths of the political, economic ghetto that they were imprisoned in for decades; to claim and re-claim their lost constitutional rights to equality, human dignity, economic justice and political freedom.
How long the Eastern region and its representatives (MLAs) in legislative assembly can remained eclipsed by the ‘dominance’ and ‘influence’ of the ‘state rulers’ in the Kohima in the context of imbalanced/unjust 20/40 assembly seat sharing formula (further marked by questionable allocation of assembly constituencies like - Mokokchung 10, Mon-9, Tuensang-7) which severally and collectively contributed in keeping Eastern Nagaland like a ‘Backyard’ of the state of Nagaland?
The first sign of political awakening is a naked exhibition of political courage which undoubtedly ENPO and its great leadership has shown by standing strong with their demand for a separate state of Frontier Nagaland. Moreover, ENPO’s determination to boycott internationally acclaimed ‘Hornbill Festival’ is a historic step which will be remembered by the people in the years to come, as it not only shows the genuineness of their political determination but also a core ability to withstand the pressure from Kohima. Also, ENPO has shown its inclination to boycott the Nagaland State Assembly Election, 2023 if its demand for a separate state is not fulfilled. These two stands taken by the ENPO gives a clear-cut message to the Kohima, New Delhi and also to the entire nation that the Eastern Nagas clearly know what they want, what they expect from the center and the extent to which they are fully capable to go to claim their Constitutional rights.
The narratives of Frontier Nagaland have already crossed the boundary of the region and tribalism or narrow tribal aspirations. Modern generation of today’s Nagaland who has means to access the truth of Eastern region has been coming forward to support the movement. There is great machinery working to churn the wheels of the movement to take it to the final destination. The support that Eastern Nagaland Movement is getting from different corners of the state is amazing. Who says Nagas are not united? Who says Frontier Nagaland will shatter the great Naga dream? Who says Frontier Nagaland will divide Nagaland further? In fact, Frontier Nagaland Movement is strengthening the Naga unity more than ever. We are all witnessing as to how modern Professionals from different fields, Youtube / Instagram Influencers, Artists from different tribes are taking the message of ‘Justice’ forward.
If we do not call it a ‘Naga unity’ then what it is? If keeping people suppressed under the oppressive development policies of Kohima is Naga Unity, then such unity better be denied in absolute. Politicians need not waste their time defining what constitutes Naga Unity, let the people of the land decide-let the modern, educated men and women decide-let the college going Naga students decide- let modern day Naga professionals decide- let domestic child laborers who are ‘enslaved’ in the rich houses in Dimapur, Kohima, Mokokchung decide. The time is different now. The new developments in Nagaland will likely to bring surprises to the advocates of ‘Status Quo’. We are truly living in an amazing time where common Man from the ‘Backward World’ is seen to be standing strong and tall with courage, dignity and determination to build a new destiny-a new future. However, as the movement grows stronger, number of ‘Doubting Thomas ‘also started mushrooming around.
“Doubting Thomas” phenomenon has seen to be a roadblock in any new endeavor. Such characters are habitually doubtful of everything. Being born with incredulous character they subconsciously attempt to plant seeds of doubt in the mind of every individual they meet. Most of their doubts are not constructive but rather destructive in nature based on hollow, illogical assumptions. Frontier Nagaland Movement is also not free from the presence of such ‘entities’.
When the ‘Constitutional mandate’ is clear and in favour of the people, there should not be scope and space for any doubt in the mind of the stakeholders as to the constitutional validity of the ‘Frontier Nagaland’. Frontier Nagaland could be born as a full-fledged state of the union with protection under Art. 371 (A) or provisions similar to Article 371 (A) in letter and spirit, it could be born as Union Territory with protection under Article 371 (A) or provisions similar to Article 371 (A) in letter and spirit. The question of Regional councils/Autonomous Councils does not arise as it was failed experiment in Nagaland. Also let me draw attention to another constitutional experiment done in India in ‘statehood affair’ which some of us advocating for ‘Frontier Nagaland’ might tempted to look into.
On 2 April 1970 an Autonomous State of Meghalaya was created within the State of Assam by the Assam Reorganisation (Meghalaya) Act, 1969. In accordance with the Sixth schedule to the Constitution, a Legislature of the Autonomous State consisting of 37 members who were elected indirectly by the Autonomous District Councils was set up. The first sitting of the Assembly took place in Tura on 14 April, 1970. In 1971, the Parliament passed the North-Eastern Areas (Reorganization) Act, 1971 which conferred full statehood on the Autonomous State of Meghalaya. It attained statehood on 21 January 1972, with a Legislative Assembly. Meghalaya has a unique administrative structure among all Indian states. The entire state — save a tiny area within the capital Shillong — is covered by the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India under Article 244 of the Constitution.
Needless to mention that the bifurcation of state as was done in the case of Meghalaya by creating a ‘virtually’ autonomous state within a state of the then Assam in itself did not bring solution to the core demands and requirements of region as it could not free itself completely from the ‘legal shadows’ of the Assam. Meghalaya kind of arrangement which has its roots in autonomous units by virtue of Article 244 (2) of the Constitution of India cannot be the correct ‘precedent’ for the case of Frontier Nagaland.
Taking a look into provisions of THE ASSAM REORGANIZATION (MEGHALAYA) ACT, 1969 makes us clearly understand as to the illusion of ‘statehood’ that the idea of ‘Autonomous State’ creates.
The need of the moment is to choose the valid, correct and politically viable negotiation card rather than getting carried away in the jungles of illusionary precedents.
The Frontier Nagaland movement is an ‘awakened’ people’s movement, which will continue to go forward and grow unabated as time progresses.
New Delhi is now in the hands of some of the dynamic and powerful people (known to take quick policy decisions) the modern political history of India has ever witnessed. Central Government is fully aware about the ‘uniqueness’ of demand of the Frontier Nagaland in the context of its strategic location, country’s strategic needs, ongoing peace building process in the region and India’s growing political & economic influence in the ‘East and South East Asia’.
Despite having some similarities in the issues involving in other / previous ‘separate state demands’ like uneven distribution of infrastructure, lack of opportunities and development etc. Central Government knows very well that complex and dynamic issues of Eastern Nagaland cannot be compared with any other demands which are pending in-line or any other statehood demands that their ‘predecessors’ fulfilled in the past, as the issues of the Eastern Nagas are more serious in nature and has the contours of strategic, global political as well as economic interests of India.
Frontier Nagaland is not simply a question of bad roads and lack of development but a burning question of human dignity, economic rights, constitutional justice and enabling people in the region, making them stronger and self-sufficient to build themselves-to lift themselves up from the prisons of darkness and grow forward as the agents of ‘change’- the dominant, aggressive contributors and partners in the dynamic success story of modern India.
Eastern people need Frontier Nagaland more than ever- to empower themselves-to build their life-to participate in the dynamic growth of our country.
Showing solidarity with NAGA REPATRIATION AND HEALING OF THE LAND movement, I SAY, “More than hundred years of plundered Naga heritage including Naga ancestral human remains displayed across European Museums as exotic and primitive showpieces- they must be brought back with honour to our people and the land.”
HOWEVER, I ALSO SAY, at the same time lost rights and dignity of “living” human beings ‘surviving’ in the inaccessible jungles and the remote mountains of Eastern Nagaland must be brought back and restored as well.
THIS IS MY SIXTH ARTICLE IN “FRONTIER NAGALAND SERIES” WHICH IS DEDICATED TO ‘THE WARRIOR SPIRIT’ OF FRONTLINE LEADERS, MEN, WOMEN, STUDENTS, PROFESSIONALS, INTELLECTUALS AND ALL OTHER UNSUNG HEROES BEHIND THE CURTAINS WHO BELIEVE AND WORK TIRELESSLY FOR ‘FRONTIER NAGALAND’ – Author
(Dr Aniruddha Babar is a Professor of Political Science & International Law at Tetso College in Dimapur, Nagaland)
November 27 2022