Guwahati: Ahead of the reported crucial talks between NSCN-IM and the Centre in New Delhi on Thursday, former IAS officer and anti-corruption activist KK Sema has said that a majority of youths in the state feel that Nagaland deserves to be independent.
“At least among younger generations, I think those are the core feelings,” said Sema during an exclusive interview with EastMojo editor-in-chief Karma Paljor on Wednesday evening.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Karma Paljor: If you look at Nagaland, there is an environment of uncertainty; there is an environment of fear and also because of misinformation that is going on around the peace talks. What do you have to say on this to the people of Nagaland right now?
KK Sema: Well… the confusion is palpable, that is for sure. But the problem begins from the fact that neither the government of India or, for that matter, our national workers have actually made the framework of agreement for the preamble made known to the people for all this while. And it is of recent situation that all the parties concerned of government of India, the NSCN-IM and the several working groups have now come out openly with the framework of agreement, the preamble and the competency clauses.
Now, the people of Nagaland are just getting to know some of the glimpses of whatever negotiations have been going on between the government of India and suddenly, we are now confronted with the dateline set by the govt of India that by October 31 the negotiations must be included. Now, within this time frame, the people of Nagaland have hardly an opportunity to evaluate exactly what is going on and when the government held the consultation meet on October 18.
It was made very clear by the interlocutor that the government of India is serious about the dateline (no 1). No 2, they have made it explicitly clear that they will carry on with signing the agreement with any of the fractions that are willing to sign the agreement that government of India will take whatever necessary actions against those who are not prepared to sign the agreement. With the NSCN-IM talking about the constitution and the flag at the fragrant of the 22 or 23 years of negotiations, it has created a lot of stir because our people opinion has been divided into various feelings about the actual need for Nagas to have their own constituent and their own flag.
There are the other people who after having gone through the last 50 years plus being tortured and bearing the excruciating burden of all the taxation that has been raised by the national workers at the threat of gun pointed at them. They are thoroughly fed up and they necessarily want a quick solution, they can no longer hold on with all of these tortures that have been going on for past so many years. And so there is a natural desire for the people that the solution should be done concluded immediately.
Now, when the interlocutor, who is also the government of Nagaland, gives a very serious ultimatum to say that come what may the government of India will conclude the negotiation. It means that if there is any one group among the fraction who refuses to sign this will have to be taken out in whatever manner the government of India feels fit and it obviously implicates that government will be prepared to use force in order to tackle those sectors that are not willing to sign. Now, here the problem is that the people of Nagaland they stay homeless, the common man, he is going to be right in the middle of the crossfire when government goes against those who are not prepared to sign this agreement and the common men are going to be right in the middle of the crossfire and those who have seen this violence in the early 50s or the mid 50s, it is not a pleasant sight to behold and so, we believe that the government of India must also have some amount of patience to try and find out what are the best possible ways within which they could come with some alternatives manner in wish to resolve this problem, without this impatience that government of India have begun to show.
Now our problem here is simple, the October 18 meeting with interlocutor governor of Nagaland where the 14th apex tribal hoho of the Naga’s of Nagland have joined that consultation meeting. All have endorsed that solution should be carried out with immediate effect within the dateline. The heartache in this basic decision or mandate given by the 14 Apex tribal hohos is that they have never had the time to speak to their own constituent tribes and so the people here are out in the dark for so long and continue to be so even by their own apex presidents who have not consulted them as to what should be the verdict of the people as a whole and governor has taken this endorsement of the 14 apex bodies to say that the solution must be conducted and concluded at the earliest possible time.
This is not a mandate of the people of Nagaland and my point of view is something, I say that whatever it is worth all the tribal presidents of the tribal hall must get back to their own tribe, have all the issues put on the table and let the people of Nagaland, who are the real stakeholders, decide for themselves whether the solution must be concluded with immediate effect or go slow so that we also understand exactly what are the realities of the kind of demands that the national workers are making. Without this mandate of people, if government of India takes their aggressive action based on this meeting of October 18, it will be a criminal aggression all over again like the 50s is what I hope.
KP: When it comes to the voice of the people, recently, the chairman of the NSCN-IM said that he would go as per the voice of the people when he was participating in talks with the Naga Baptist Church Counselors at his residence. He said this, but when you tell me that nobody is really listening to the people of Nagaland and they are in the dark place certainly are isn’t it?
KKS: That’s precisely the reason that NSCN-IM has made who is taking a very hard stand on issues of strike and the constitution. It is fair on their part to ask for that as it may but as I said that the people of Nagaland has just recently begun to see exactly what the competency clauses are and within those competency clauses the people hadn’t had really the time really debate on what we would envy or feel comfortable about or what we won’t.
Now here, if IM honestly says that the views of the people of the Nagaland or the Nagas will be taken into consideration for the final solution, it is precisely this reason why I say that all tribal must get back into the tribe, put all those harsh realities on the table and let the people decide which direction they would like to go and without doing this government of India taking this particular October 18 decision as the final mandate of the people would be grossly misleading the people completely and totally. And I totally disagree with this.
KP: If I go with what you are saying because the tribal halls and the Naga hoho have really not had the time to go back to the people and come back with the possible solution about what the people want, with that, the halls have really no say in this. Can we really say that?
KKS: When it deals with each individual stakeholder’s destiny and his children’s destiny it is not the prerogative of the presidents of the tribal halls to make independent, individual decision on such a critical issues and so it is imperative that the people must be given an opportunity to be heard, it cannot be rough shot by individual presidents claiming to be elected representative of their tribe and that they can decide whatever they wish to do on a personal scale.
KP: The government of India also must have patience as they are saying because they can stand on an ultimatum and say okay this is the cutoff date, without really understanding the ground situation.
KKS: Mr Interlocutor has actually made a very pre-detailed statement to say that it is impossible to have one united voice of the people of Nagaland but the point here is, he is also aware that we are living in a democracy and the voice of the people may not necessarily be the complete majority of voice of the people in unison. But in a democracy, the voice of the majority comes and when issue such this comes up it is imperative that the voice of the majority in a democracy must be given an opportunity to be heard. The only issue they are making, our people who have not have an opportunity to be heard and therefore, the interlocutor cannot conclude that the voice of the majority will never come up. We will get the voice of the majority provided they are given the opportunity to do so.
KP: The voice of the majority must come up, Nagaland is a place which is going to vote, people come out and vote and elect a government. If the people of Nagaland can come out and vote and elect the govt and they are participating in Indian democracy till now, the question, therefore, is why can’t they have a majority voice and there should be a majority voice just like a statement and you cannot walk away without that statement.
KKS: As far as I am concerned, it is imperative the voice of the people must be heard at all cost before government goes into serious plunge into a confrontation into one fraction or the other. The people, the common man is going to be in the middle of crossfire, I keep on repeating this. And those people, those who are making brave endorsement on their own, perhaps will be the first people who run for cover, the moment the bullets start flying. As far as I am concerned, the people deserve to be given an opportunity to be heard. I have no two ways of thinking of this call.
KP: What do you think will the role of the judge be as far as coming him intervening and saying to the government of India have patience and also asking everybody to now come together with a majority voice. Does the church have a role to play in this?
KKS: As far as the church is concerned, even they seemed to be having differences of opinion because many of them take that this is a political issue that the church should not get involved in. But here the issue is not very much, the issue of religion is the question of the people that are going to be put in harm’s way and it is important for the church also to exercise its own mind and let the government of India know that the right way to do this is to do with a little more patience so that the people of the state can be given an opportunity to be heard even for them, they had the legitimate responsibility to do this. But I am afraid, they have woken up to the situation up to this point of time and I properly think they are not going to get involved in this at all.
KP: They are calling out now and I have a press release which has come from the council of the Nagaland Churches, where they are calling on the people to pray to God for protection of the identity, history, and political riots of the Nagas, so there is an entire list. In the end, the church also says that let us pray to God for the positive outcome of the formal talk to be held on October 24 between NSCN and the government of India so this also indicated clearly that, is there any space for the people of Nagaland to have a majority voice?
KKS: As far as praying is concerned, that’s their immediate responsibility and therefore there is no harm in praying but I would say that the church do have a responsibility to the people when our people are being put in harm’s way and it is necessary for them also to enteric with the government of India that after 73 years of hard difficulties that the people have gone through and another 23 years of negotiations. What harm is it? What will it cost to the government of India just to spend another couple of months more allowing our apex house to go back to the people laying all the realities on the table and let them have it discussed thoroughly and come back with the majority voice, that’s all that is required to do and even for the govt of India, it is a legitimate road that they can travel where the endorsement of the people that are going to be on harm’s way will get the opportunity to endorse whatever action the government of India takes and therefore, it is in the greater interest of the government of India as well as for the people of Nagaland and in the eyes of the international community that the govt of India has taken the mandate of the people in real legitimate way rather than this rough shot way in which you put a dateline and carry on whether the people’s voice are inclusive or not. So I think these are situations even govt of India needs to give the people a chance to be heard.
KP: On the 18th of October all important meeting that the governor had are with the 14 apex hohos. What were discussed clearly? Was there any discussion at all?
KKS: The interlocutor had the framework of agreement read out verbatim in the preamble of the 7 NPG’s or the 6 NPG’s, then on the November 17 that was also read out and some questions were raised about competency, some issues on the rehabilitation and issues like the bicameral house will be granted to the state of Nagaland with the upper and the lower houses with enhance fees.
These were some of the issues that were shared by the interlocutor with the people that were there during this discourse and as far as that is concerned, those were the deputation and the other part that he made very certain for those groups or sections, that are willing to sign the agreement the govt of India intends to go ahead with it and they will take their necessary cause of actions as they fit against those who do not come to sign the agreement, those were the terms clearly stated in the meeting.
KP: A slightly difficult question, because there is so much uncertainty and all, is there a ultimate final solution that is acceptable to the majority of the Naga people?
KKS: I think it’s a matter of a cause or sentiment in the Nagas that if it was really possible to get complete independence that would have been the most ideal kind of sentiment that the Nagas actually have in their own hearts but the Nagas also have to realise certain realities in as far as the future is concerned and especially, when the world has become a global village as it was, I mean the old philosophy of sovereignty and what the modern scenario of national and international situation is. I think there are a great many people who also feel that the times have changed and so I would not be able to say very strictly that the people of Nagaland will become completely and totally unhappy if complete and total sovereignty is not given, I think that about limits of possibilities that I can only consider.
I think people are now having a balanced view on new situations around the world and so as long as the absolute identity and security of our race, our people is guaranteed in one form or another that we will get an even opportunity with all the rest of the world to go ahead with our lives. I think with those sureties and security the Nagas will have to be happy with whatever solution that is derived at as long as those securities are assured.
KP: Final question on the youth of Nagaland. Clearly they are the ones who are going through a lot of stress right now because of all kinds of messages that have gone out. As the ongoing political talks are concerned do you think the students of the organisations in the state are doing enough to contribute to it?
KKS: They are beginning to wake up to the political situations and as would be expected, the younger generations are still strongly involved with the sentiments of the issues of sovereignty that had started the whole movement and I think a good majority of them still feel that Nagas deserve to be independent. At least among younger generations, I think those are the core feelings.