WC, NNPGs Convenor pays homage to Naga freedom fighters, speaks on Manipur, FCA in 77th Naga Independence Day address

Khehoyi Designated Camp: Forest (Conservation) Amendment Act 2023 threatens all indigenous peoples, communities and their ancestral lands

BY | Monday, 14 August, 2023

Following is the address of Ato Kilonser of GPRN/NSCN and Convenor of the Working Committee (WC), Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), N. Kitovi Zhimomi on the occasion of the 77th Naga Independence Day.

I thank our God Almighty Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Creator of Nagaland, for being the Master of our lives and sustaining our political journey. I salute and pay homage to thousands of Naga freedom fighters and martyrs over nine decades, whose sacrifices we cherish and uphold till today.

Two historical events confirmed and solidified a thousand years unblemished Naga historical and Political rights.

Firstly, the Naga pioneers and enlightened delegation addressed the British Statutory Commission at Kohima, through a signed Memorandum, on January 10, 1929, appealing to be left alone to politically self-determine their future as in ancient time, in the event of the British departure from the Indian subcontinent.

Secondly, eighteen years later, on 14th August 1947, Naga people declared their Independence from British rule, one day ahead of Indian Independence. By 1953, the political aspiration of the Naga people turned into military confrontation between Indian Military and patriotic Naga volunteers and safeguards. By 1960, Government of India failed to crush the Naga spirit militarily and thus began the policy of division, creating mistrust and unrest within and among Naga leadership on tribal lines. By 1975, the differences and steep division within Nagas soon led to bloodbath in Eastern Nagaland, compounded by newly acquired intolerant and merciless philosophy of finishing everyone who opposed the new ideology. 1980, 1988 tragic episodes and subsequent calamitous killing exercises are testimonies of internal strife which shamed the Naga political movement. Nagas were forced to confront two enemies at once; Gol and among factions.

The saving grace was the Naga Churches, prayer warriors, genuine peace mediators, the tribal Hohos, Village headmen and the eminent, elderly scholars and intellectuals in Nagaland and abroad who do not bow down to money power or gun-barrels. They do not invest their time and energy to dictatorial, secretive and manipulative agenda of idealism and sentimentalism. The powerful stakeholders advocating practical solution to Indo-Naga political problem for all Nagas is creating a space for all Nagas to meet and converge. I appreciate their sacrifice and loyalty to the Naga people and their desire for acceptable and honorable political solution. They stand for honorable Naga future for the coming generations.

On 17th Nov. 2017, the Government of India (GoI) and Working Committee (WC), Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) signed an Agreed Position.

“The Government of India recognizes the historical and political rights of the Nagas to self-determine their future in consonance with their distinct identity. The two entities have agreed to work out the details of a relationship that is honorable, enduring and an inclusive peaceful co-existence with due regard to contemporary political realities ”

After January 10, 1929 Memorandum, the “Agreed Position” of 2017 is the only Naga political document which defines the Nagas as a people with distinct history and identity, acknowledging their right to self-determination. Based on this, a clear roadmap towards a political solution was negotiated and declared. This is the umbilical cord that binds the two people; Indians and Nagas, their past and present and that which will determine the future relationship between Gol and the Nagas.

It is also deeply disturbing that Naga tribes in Manipur led by UNC are simply watching and waiting as Meiteis and Kukis inflict catastrophic destruction against one another. In the midst of human tragedy and destruction caused by ethnic violence and religious intolerance, the puppet Naga organisations in Manipur organised a rally for NSCN (IM) demanding solution based on FA. Why was the rally not for peace, tolerance and communal harmony in Manipur? This is insensitive and inhuman conduct on the part of UNC. These apex Naga Civil societies were bought off and became the mouthpieces of a particular faction. They failed to differentiate between illusion and reality. Today, with ropes around their necks, these apex bodies are unable to even comment even when the entire neighbourhood is on fire. Painful as it is but these apex bodies are discarded and hollow as empty vessels. Nagas are aware that Meiteis are younger brother of Tangkhuls but the former inhabit only Imphal valley. Kukis will remain eternal neighbour of Tangkhuls and other tribes sharing the same Christianity faith! Whether in the 90s or today, it was never a Kuki-Naga conflict as some silly individuals narrate to give it a Naga color on the unfortunate episode. Factually it was, Tangkhul-Kuki issue. It is a total mischief to label it a Kuki-Naga clashes.

The concept of Sovereignty and self-determination of peoples and Nations have evolved tremendously since WW-II. Today, the idea of political Independence and economic interdependence are one coin with two sides, redefined through shared values, vision and strategic goals. This is the reason why the WC, NNPGs, during the course of negotiations with former interlocutor Mr. RN Ravi, agreed on the practical concept of honorable and enduring peaceful co-existence without compromising on the Naga historical and political rights which has been agreed upon by both the parties/entities on 31st October 2019 and thereby declared the negotiations had concluded.

On 4th Aug. 2023, the Indian parliament amended the FOREST (CONSERVATION) AMENDMENT ACT, 2023. At the core, this amendment act, to the Naga people, is against the spirit of Agreed Position signed on 17th Nov. 2017 between Gol and WC, NNPGs. Indo-Naga political negotiations had traversed entrenched the subject matter based on historical and political reasons. The Nagaland state government headed by the Chief Minister must reflect the sentiment of the Naga people in the media on the subject of land, resources and utilisation in Nagaland. The Naga people are the masters over their land and their voices will be final. Land and its ownership is the one reason why the Indo-Naga political conflict began. Gol must respect the desire of the people of Nagaland on the issue of land. It is not wise on the part of Nagaland Government to make haphazard comments on inalienable and emotive issues beyond their chair and which will affect future generation Nagas.

On this day in 1947, we chose to be free and join our unadministered brothers and sisters on the eastern Naga homeland. Thus, the political conflict turned into military conflict in 1952. As we celebrate that spirit of freedom, today, Naga people are being challenged again by the latest amendment in the Forest (Conservation) amendment 2023, of the Indian constitution.

Naga tribes and villages must know the great many red flags in the amendment.

* It will allow Gol to take the land without permissions from landowners or Village Councils.

* Within the radius of 100 Km in the international border, Gol will use protected forest lands

without permission.

* Forests in the entire North East India will be under direct threat.

* Gol will destroy forest lands for commercial activities

* Rights of the indigenous peoples will be completely trampled.

* Without any clearance from landowner and village councils, Forests will be destroyed for “construction of National security needs”

* Destruction of natural wealth and indigenous identity under big slogans like Eco tourism, Zoos

and Safaris.

* Forest not recognised by Indian government not under protection.

* Natural ecosystems of our forests once destroyed cannot be restored.

* Natural ecosystems cannot be compared with commercial plantations and commercial activities within our natural forests. This will endanger all indigenous tribes and communities in India.

As we remember the pioneers of Naga freedom movement, all Naga tribes must open our eyes to reality and the dangerous political hooliganism threatening us. This bill threatens all indigenous peoples, communities and their ancestral lands. This act is an infringement on the political and historical rights of the Naga people that WC, NNPGs aim to restore to the Naga people. It is, therefore, not acceptable in any form or shape.

God bless Nagaland!

  1. Kitovi Zhimomi

Ato Kilonser, GPRN/NSCN &

Convener, WC, NNPGs.

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