Kohima: Nagaland PWD (housing and mechanical) minister Tongpang Ozukum on Friday said that Naga society is currently in shambles, fragmented, and one that was deep-rooted in tribalism. The legislator was addressing the 29th Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) general conference as the special guest of the inaugural session at Solidarity Park in Kohima on Friday.

“What really pains me is the fact that there is not a single apex Naga organisation which has the representation of the entire Naga community. Because of this, our voices are less heard and our forces are weaker. Because we are divided, we are fragmented, there is hatred and tribalism is deep-rooted in us,” the minister said.

Ozukum said that the irony of Naga society is that the people continue to urge the Naga national workers to come together as one. He expressed doubt that Nagas will ever progress at this rate.

Angami Students’ Union members presenting a folk tune

In this regard, he said that the NSF has chosen an appropriate theme for the conference “towards harmony”. Ozukum said that there is a need to create a harmonious environment where respect, democracy, justice and peace are the founding stones of the interdependent relationships in society. To achieve this, he said that Nagas must change the mindset and correct the past mistakes.

What is the status of Naga Students’ Federation (NSF)?

Questioning the present status of the students’ body, Ozukum, who is a former NSF president, said: “I am not in a position to confidently say that NSF is one of the most organised, disciplined and powerful students’ organisations in the Northeast region. We have even failed to maintain the respect that we got from our counterparts.”

To this, he said that NSF needs “retrospection and introspection”. He hoped that through the conference, students would be reminded of the formation of NSF as a pan-Naga students’ body formed to articulate the Naga aspirations and to respond to issues confronting students. Besides being the “guardian” of the students’ community, he said that NSF also functions as a pressure group on all issues and positively contributed in formulation of important public policies, and has been at the forefront of socio-political activities, making significant contributions to the Naga political movement as well.

“With that dynamic, NSF is functioning till today and therefore we cannot afford to deviate, or shy away from the objectives and responsibilities of the federation,” he said. He further urged the upcoming leaders to uphold the functioning of the federation, making its presence felt even beyond the Naga territory.

Naga political issue and RIIN:

The minister recalled the meeting with Union home minister Amit Shah where the latter had said that all other issues, except the Naga flag and the Constitution, are settled. Reiterating the chief minister’s statement, he said that Shah had categorically stated that Nagas can use their own flag anywhere but not in government establishments and functions.

He also expressed Shah’s willingness to hoist the Naga flag, if invited to do so. However, as far as the Naga constitution is concerned, he said that Shah had reiterated the Centre’s stand that “Nagas cannot have a separate constitution at this juncture”. He revealed that the Centre made a new proposal to the collective leadership [of the NSCN-IM], who responded that there will be no compromise on the flag and constitution.

Also read: Nagaland ‘lockdown’ begins. Here’s what’s allowed, what’s not

“Are we not worried of how things are unfolding?” he questioned, further expressing fear that the hard-earned peace and the positive progress of the talks made after more than 20 years of negotiation may “collapse”. Saying that the solution to the Naga political issue is for all Nagas, he urged the students’ body to spell out what it desires for the people.

On the exercise of the Register of Indigenous Inhabitants of Nagaland (RIIN), he said that it is intended for proper certification of the indigenous inhabitants of Nagaland. He said that the exercise will also look into the prevailing adoption practices in the state which is in line with the NSF stand on “Nagas by blood” and not by adoption.

He also sought suggestions from the students for the proper formulation of the policy so that no citizen is denied or deprived of their inherent rights.

Meanwhile, NSF president Ninoto Awomi highlighted on how 74 years ago, visionary student leaders from across Naga-inhabited areas came together with a purpose and vision to secure the future of our people, culminating in the formation of the Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) on October 29, 1947 under the chairmanship of Z Ahu Zinyu.

NSF president Ninoto Awomi

On the Naga political issue, he expressed hope for an agreement that will “honour the historical and political rights of the Naga people and restore the pride of the Nagas without compromising its future”. He said that what culminated as a national movement is now slowly losing impetus into polarised camps, factions and groups, based on tribal and territorial lines, which according to him “threatened the very fabric and the existence” of the people.

“The younger generations yearn to live in peace and on a par with the rest of the world, and the only way forward to realise this common hope is to learn to accommodate each other, setting aside all egos, past differences and enmity among the various Naga tribes, groups, factions and other barriers.

He urged the student community and the youth to act as ambassadors of goodwill and help in creating a harmonious environment, further urging them to also rise up against corruption, mediocrity, isms and from the narrow tribalistic mindset.

Awomi also highlighted the efforts made by the NSF team in responding to issues such as the extension of ILP in Dimapur, setting up of the Nagaland Staff Selection Board (NSSB), no false claim on scholarship, and many others.

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