Former Chief Minister of Nagaland SC Jamir

Kohima: Former CM of Nagaland Dr SC Jamir believes “a very strange phenomenon in the political dialogue” has created a fear psychosis in the minds of Nagas. 

In an exclusive interview with EastMojo, the veteran politician said, “I think that a fear psychosis has been spread in the minds of Naga people, and now people are afraid to speak out”. This demonic force, he said, should be removed, and people should have a chance to say what they want.

The Government of India has been holding separate talks with the NSCN(IM) since 1997, and the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) since 2017. On August 3, 2015, it signed a framework agreement with NSCN(IM), and an Agreed Position with NNPG on November 17, 2017.

As no final solution has been achieved with the NSCN(IM) remaining firm on its demand for a separate flag and constitution, Jamir shared his thoughts on the issue. 

For over two decades, the negotiating groups have been discussing and analysing all issues related to the Naga issue. “And at last, perhaps, after very long, perhaps, analysing, discussing, examining various points, maybe, sovereignty, integration, flag, constitutional issue, I think they have arrived at a consensus between the parties and brought that into writing, an agreement which is known as a framework agreement (FA) signed on August 3, 2015,” he said.

It clearly shows that they have consciously, knowingly and formally administered their signatures on the body of the framework agreement, he said, adding that in the FA, which was circulated, there is “neither sovereignty nor integration nor flag nor constitutional figure.”

“Not only that, on the day of signing the agreement, they have not raised any other issues except for clapping and shaking hands. Therefore, I believe that whatever they have done, they might have carefully examined word by word, line by line, and they might have come to the conclusion that is in the best interest of the people of Nagaland and also the Government of India, I think, had drawn up this framework agreement,” he added. 

Don’t understand the question of a separate constitution

Whatever has been drawn up, whether it is the NSCN-IM’s competencies or the NNPGs agreed position, Jamir said these agreements should clearly define the autonomy under which the Naga people should work and spell out what are the relevance and provisions, which can be incorporated into the constitution of India.

“Because, as you know, whatever they have agreed, if some of them are to be incorporated, has to be done in the Constitution of India through the parliament. Therefore, I don’t understand the question of a separate constitution,” Jamir said. 

He said that the question of a separate constitution does not arise. Negotiations, he said, are a give and take, meaning to compromise issues which would accommodate each other’s views.

He went on to say “To my mind, whether it is the flag or constitution, even after settlement, it can be taken up democratically. Because the sum and substance of any agreement should be the autonomy, whereby the people can function freely, effectively and transparently.”

The nonagenarian then talked about the Naga identity saying there are two identities–one as a Naga and the other as a Christian. 

“Identity does not reflect on the flag. Therefore, I urge upon leaders engaged in political dialogue to listen to the passionate desire and opinions of the people because all that they are contemplating will bind the Naga people,” he said. 

Let people have a chance to say what they want

Jamir also said that the Naga people, especially the youth, should have a chance to say what they want, which can be incorporated into any of the agreements or understanding with the government of India because Nagas understand politics. 

“The mind of the young and their vision is quite different. We should not be a slave to the past and should now decide what is best for the Naga in the present and future. 

Since the agreements were “prayerfully endorsed and appended” by the signatories on two occasions–August 3, 2015, and October 31, 2019, he said that as a Naga it has to be proven to the world that Nagas keep their word. “The sanctity of what they signed should be honoured and be presented. Hanging on other issues gives a distorted image of the Nagas. They should do it with sincerity and commitment,” he added. 

The Naga society, he said, should not be bound by political agitation and talks and that Nagas should not be too obsessed with politics as it is because of this uncertainty that is not giving the youth the space for their development. 

“Therefore, this roadblock should be removed so that our younger generation can play an effective role according to their genius. As an old man, I only feel that opportunity should be given to us. They should inherit a legacy of peace, unity, harmony and progressive society,” Jamir said. 

Lone surviving signatory of the 16-point agreement

“Those people who are talking about 16-Point Agreement they were neither born nor were too young to know the kind of situation prevalent at that point of time,” the former CM said. 

Recalling the times, he said that it was because of arm conflict, the houses were burnt, granaries were burnt, villages were targeted, movements were restricted and there was famine, hunger and diseases.

According to Jamir, Naga people had to suffer, unseen, unheard and unloved by the world. “So, at that point in time, when we were about to surrender, we didn’t like to go back to Assam as a district after demanding sovereignty,” he said. 

Jamir narrated that leaders of that time led by Dr Imkongliba Ao, JB Jasokie, Vizol, Kevichüsa Angami, Sashimeren Aier, R.C. Chiten Jamir wanted to do something to salvage the hopes and aspirations of the Naga people.

Recalling how he, as a fresh graduate, was the joint secretary of the Naga people’s convention, Jamir said, “Because we don’t like them to bury under the scorch of the atrocities committed on us. So, 16 representatives of 16 different tribes were consulted not only once but three conventions.”

As a follower, he said that along with the leaders, a memorandum called the 16-point agreement was deliberated for five days and was unanimously adopted as the basis of political negotiation with the GoI. 

Subsequently, a delegation called the negotiating body was constituted that met the prime minister of India, following which Nagaland was granted as the 16th state of the Indian Union, with a constitutional provision to safeguard the interests of the Naga people under Art 371(A).

“The NSCN(IM), many of them but they never participated in this Naga Peoples’ Convention. Just because there is nothing to talk about, they are always accusing me. I am not an architect. The architects were Dr Imkongliba Ao, Kevichüsa Angami, Sashimeren Aier and Jasokie. All of them were there. So, whatever they are saying I think they are saying it without knowing the background,” Jamir pointed. 

The NSCN-IM had earlier accused Jamir of defending the ‘sovereignty and integrity of India in the ugliest manner by taking the lives of many Nagas’. 

The Padma Bhushan awardee said that as the only living signatory, he has to only speak the truth. “Unfortunately, the political leaders-underground or overground should receive criticism. As leaders, they should absorb what people express–whether for or against. And I think they are not used to this kind of criticism because they are all the time in the jungle. But in democracy, there is an opposition to pinpoint the defect of the ruling party and we accept it as a norm. Let them criticize, as long as I stand on my upright position for the people,” he said. 

Further, he added, “As an elderly person who has been involved in Naga political affairs for the past years, I have got the right to tell Indian leaders what had happened and what is going to happen and what is best for the Naga people according to my view. As a citizen, everyone has got the right to tell the highest authority what is best for the people he represents.”

Also read: Death toll in Amarnath cloudburst rises to 16; 15,000 stranded pilgrims evacuated

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