Address by Dr.Visier
ACAUT Public Platfrom :
Nagas Opinion on Peacful Settlement
President, Overseas Naga
have returned home from Australia after nearly 20 years.
I have been away for a long time and I may not fully
understand the current situation in Nagaland.
some people will raise questions: What authority has ACAUT to interfere in our political affairs? What is their legal status
and what mandate do they have? These are
legitimate questions and we must listen to all the views but I also would like to quote Victor Hugo, “There is nothing
more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” The time has come to rise up
and fight against the evils of corruption and extortion; the two biggest evils
in our society today. This is where ACAUT will have the moral authority to
fight against the evils of our time. ACAUT will have only that authority and
mandate, but if ACAUT becomes corrupt, you will lead our people down and people
will hate you for that. We have all succumbed to our greed, power and status
and that is why we have lost our moral authority to handle difficult crises.
coming to the Framework Agreement, I am not qualified to talk about the peace accord.
I am not a politician and not a member of any Naga Political Group. But I would
like to share a few comments on this hot topic.
the Naga Political Groups, the NGOs, the public and our society must contribute
their best wisdom so that this Agreement can lead to a solution. As the group
that has brought this agreement, NSCN-IM must be honest, inclusive and follow the
democratic process, inviting the different groups share their vision. This should be said for their own sake and for
the sake of the Naga people. The people must be frank with IM and tell them
where they have done right, tell them to be honest and change their wrong ways as
General Atem boldly asked for at the 8th Naga People’s Consultative
Meeting on 25 August 2015 in Dimapur, so that they can work together with others
for a common future, with one voice for one nation. This is where our values
and struggle are at stake. Gandhi once said to a group of British,“ I don’t
like you Christians but I like your Christ, you are so unlike your Christ.’ Will
anyone say the same thing about us Naga Christians?
I had the honour of meeting uncle Muivah and
uncle Isak at the United Nations in Geneva some years ago. It was like meeting legends,
they are heroes. I was deeply impressed by their commitment and dedication for
the Nagas but I cannot accept their doctrine of politics and revolution, which
has justified the killings that we all know about. I am fully conscious that
all the different national groups have done their own shares of killings of innocent
Nagas. The only difference being that justification for killings was absent. I
have a real problem with the killings of some close and dear friends and my
villagers, which have damaged NSCN-IM’s position as much as it has deeply
shocked and outraged us. I do not know how we Nagas are going to heal the
terrible wounds we have inflicted on one another. As far as I am concern,
healing these wounds is one of the tasks I am committed to.
point I want to emphasize is about integration. Make no mistake; there is no
greater Nagaland or smaller Nagaland but one Nagaland. We must make it clear
that we will not take an inch of Assamese land, we will not take an inch of Meitei
land, not even a piece of stone, no blade of grass. But Naga ancestral land
belongs to the Nagas and to no one else. We have the right to live together
with our own laws and our own culture. We have the right to own our ancestral
land. The solution has to be worked out
through dialogue with our neighbours because it cannot be imposed on us by
point I want to mention is the name of our country. Nagalim is given by one
faction. In other to legitimise the name, all the other groups must approve. If
they cannot agree, we must go for a referendum. I am not against Nagalim but the
right democratic process must take place. We cannot change the name of the country
by force. Naga National Council chose Nagaland when there was only one national
History of many nations has shown us that the future can be shaped by a
leadership who are flexible and open to grasping new opportunities when they
emerge. History has also demonstrated that such opportunities can be lost due
to a leadership locked in the thinking and hatreds of the past.
The experience of Nationalist movements around the world should make us
cautious about embracing the aim of a unified Naga state. Most such visionaries
finish up doing more harm than good. The leadership of both ISIS and the Al
Qaeda movements would appear willing to drag their followers into wars that
lead to the total destruction of cities, communities and families. The “true
believers” hold that this is all for their good, and the good of their New
World Order, the caliphate as they call it! Such movements need not be
religious. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, for example, brought death and
destruction upon their people in the pursuit of a glorious vision.President
Mugabe has done the same for the people of Zimbabwe, reducing many of his
people to starvation with many more fleeing to neighboring countries. Yet still
he promotes himself as the great liberator.How delusional can you be! Sounds just
like Hitler and Stalin; blind and in denial to the very end!
‘Nationhood’ does not have to be all or nothing. There
are many constitutional arrangements where high autonomy has allowed a nation
to pursue many of its national goals, while remaining part of a larger
sovereign state. Scotland in UK is one good example of a people who have a
strong sense of National identity, and enjoy a large measure of political
independence while remaining part of Britain.
Many difficult conflict situations have been solved by the goodwill and
determination of the people. The human desire to live in peace is so great that
given the right opportunities and leaders with vision, communities that have in
the past fought and struggled have put aside their differences and worked out a
peaceful way forward. With realism, the right attitude, and the growth of trust
between leaders, seemingly impossible conflicts are worked out peacefully, such
as the ending of apartheid in South Africa and the successful peace process in
A successful negotiation between the Nagas and the Indian Government
should not be viewed as the end of the Naga journey toward nationhood, but as
the beginning of a new, peaceful political and cultural process. A new Naga
mind-set can assist this process. The Naga leadership in India and in Burma can
pursue a goal of greater autonomy using peaceful means; although divided
geo-politically, we can be united culturally and politically in the broader
realities of civic life. This united Naga culture and mind-set will develop as
Naga in India, in Burma, and in the Naga diaspora and work together to assist
each other. In this changing world, we can all look beyond old colonial boundaries
and draw strength from an emerging vision of Naga National identity that is
rooted in our traditional homelands but has spread to encompass Nagas across
Let me end here with a quote from Edmund Burke, “It is necessary only
for the good man to do nothing for the evil to triumph”
Written by Professor Visier Sanyü:
Rethinking the Naga Future with
Nagas in Burma and the Naga Diaspora: Challenges and Hope
Paper presented by
Visier Sanyü Meyasetsu,
the Nagas in the Contemporary’
Scholars’ Association (NSA)
Hao Research Initiative (THRI)
Convention Centre Auditorium,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Rethinking the Naga Future with Nagas in Burma and
Naga Diaspora: Challenges and Hope
Nagas declared independence in 1947, a day before India got its independence.
Since that date the Naga have fought unsuccessfully to defeat the occupying
Indian army. Today, despite a ceasefire between the Naga army and Indian army,
the Naga nationalist leadership has failed to negotiate a peace settlement. In
my paper I look at this conflict from the perspective of a member of the Naga
diaspora and argue that we can learn from the experience of indigenous people
in other nations. I argue that political and economic decolonization must be
accompanied by a decolonization of the Naga mind. Past attempts to decolonize
the Naga mind have trapped Naga nationalists in a false glorification of Naga
nationalist leaders and a war that brought untold suffering upon the Naga
people. By rethinking the Naga future in collaboration with Naga of Burma and
the Naga diaspora, we can look beyond the identities shaped by old colonial
divisions and post-colonial conflicts. The role of National identity within the
world diaspora of Naga has demonstrated that Nationhood does not necessitate
national Sovereignty in the current state. In this age of modern information
and communication technology a powerful sense of national identity can unite
people across sovereign borders. I conclude that with a new mind-set that the
Naga in India can work with the Indian Government towards a strong autonomy for
Nagaland that will benefit all Naga.
In the global context,
the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples opened up a
whole new chapter for indigenous people including the Naga. The attempt by
modern states and the UN to come to terms with indigenous peoples’ rights of self-determination is a unique landmark in
modern history. In this paper I want to reflect on this international legal
framework in the context of the Naga struggle for an independent state. I want
to reflect upon how a new collaboration between the Nagas in India, Nagas in
Burma and the world Naga diaspora could become the basis for achieving a new
and more positive Naga mind-set; a mind-set that brings hope to the Naga
The case of Australia
As a Naga living in Australia,
I have witnessed the indigenous people of Australia struggle to gain legal
recognition for their ownership of the land on which they have lived. For two
hundred years, the Aboriginal people of Australia had no legal claim to their
own land. British settlement in Australia was established on the basis of terra
nullius ("land belonging to nothing, no one"). This meant that the
entire continent was considered ‘Crown Land’, owned by the government and able
to be allocated to settlers or sold.
situation was changed when Eddie Mabo and five others from the indigenous Mer
iam people on Murray Island in Torres Strait - to the
northeast of Australia - challenged this legal fiction in a contest that took
them through the courts of Australia for ten years.
Finally the High Court ruled on 3 June 1992 that ‘native title’ of their
had never been extinguished by British settlement. This ruling
means that indigenous groups in Australia who can demonstrate a continuing
connection with their ancestral lands have a legal right to continue to hunt
fish and live on their lands.
Land Rights to Cultural Rights
Mabo’s success in using
the Courts of Australia to protect indigenous rights is only a small step in
the struggle by indigenous groups around the world to deal with the
consequences of colonization and oppression. In another interesting development
in the United States,
American National Council decided to give amnesty to the
estimated 240 million illegal white immigrants living in the United
States. “At a meeting on Friday
in Taos, New Mexico, Native American leaders weighed a
handful of proposals about the future of the United State’s
large, illegal European population. After a long debate, NANC decided to
extend a road to citizenship for those without criminal
records or contagious diseases.”
Such proclamations, though an amusing way to express a bitter truth, can
also reflect a deeper lack of realism among indigenous activists. Another U.S. group
called True Americans wanted to deport the Europeans from America. “They all need to be deported back to
Europe,” John Dakota from True Americans said. “They came here illegally and
took a giant crap on our land. They brought disease and alcoholism, stole
everything we have because they were too lazy to improve and develop their own
Bitter sloganizing is a poor substitute for effective action. Yet
slogans are often all that remain for people that have been colonized
physically and mentally; people who have lost not only their land but also
their cultural vision. Colonization is a cultural as well as a geographical
process; it can be especially difficult to create a positive indigenous
mind-set when you have become enmeshed in the negative mind-set of the
colonizers. The problems faced by indigenous people in affluent countries such
as Australia and the United States demonstrate the complex nature of this
In Australia many indigenous nations have gained legal rights of
ownership of their traditional lands. By 2011, some 1,228,373 km2 (or
approximately 16 per cent) of the landmass of Australia had been legally
returned to some 160 indigenous group claimants.
This is an area 74 times the size of Nagaland. Today, according to the Northern
Land Council, the peak representative body of indigenous people in the Northern
ore than 80 percent of the value of minerals extracted in
the Northern Territory comes from mining on Aboriginal-owned land, amounting to
more than $1 billion a year. Approximately 30 percent of Aboriginal land is
under exploration or currently under negotiation for exploration.
Many indigenous nations have been able to negotiate
lucrative contracts with mining companies, and all have received increased
levels of Government assistance.
Yet despite these changes, Australia’s indigenous communities are still seriously
disadvantaged compared to the average non-indigenous Australian.
Political self-management and land-rights have not helped improve indigenous
health, education, employment, and levels of community violence.
For example, an indigenous woman is
45 times more likely to
experience domestic violence than a white woman.
Despite increased public and Government support,
are destroying themselves from
dysfunctional behavior, such as
alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual violence and suicide leaving young
people trapped in a downward spiral of self-abuse and elders feeling helpless.
The experience in Australia demonstrates that it is not enough for
indigenous people to gain land rights, money and political representation;
indigenous people have also to decolonize their minds, and regain their
self-respect and confidence.
Decolonisation of the Naga mind
The Naga nation and Naga nationalism is an
established historical fact but nations are different from states and whereas
some states are also nations not all nations are states. For example, the Kulin
Nation in Australia is a nation comprising of five tribes but it is not a state
and they have no political control over their land.
The Naga ethno-cultural domain is a powerful nation but our dream of sovereign
state has not materialized as we had envisioned and our national awakening has
been both heroic and cruel.
The polemic on
Decolonisation of the Mind has been going on for more than half a century. Colonialism
is not just politics and economics, it also includes consciousness. Karl Marx
long ago observed that the working class did not understand what was in their
own best interests, as their minds had been "colonized" by the values
of the ruling class. Critical theorists such as Frantz Fanon and Paulo Freire
drew upon Marx’s philosophy and pointed out that the minds of indigenous people
in Africa and Latin America had also been “colonized” by European ideas and
and intellectuals played a leading role in popularizing these ideas. In his
speech to the 1960 Pan-African Congress, Patrice Lumumba, the indigenous leader
of the Republic of the Congo, called for mental decolonization saying we have
"rediscover our most intimate selves and rid ourselves of mental
attitudes and complexes and habits that colonization… trapped us in for
activists focused on the issue of language and argued that simply by using
African languages they will be liberated from a colonial mentality. Others have
argued that using a colonial language could be a positive asset for
I will not use the
term ‘decolonising the mind’, in the political sense advanced by Marxists, or in
the narrow linguistic sense of promoting a Naga national language to replace a
colonial language. Rather, I will use the concept to think about the emerging
historical and ideological understanding what it means to be Naga.
a new Naga mind-set
I want to focus on two neglected factors
in our thinking about the future of the Naga; these two neglected factors concern
the potential role of the Burma Naga, and the role of the Naga Diaspora. I want
to show how these two factors can have a profound influence on our Naga
mind-set, and suggest that this new mind-set can have a positive influence on any
political arrangements for the future.
I want to begin
with a real life example of re-inventing a new Naga mindset; I will draw from my own experience to illustrate
my argument. Mao and Angami were the same tribe. The Angami migrated to the
present homeland from Mao country not too long ago. They have the same dress,
the same religion, and spoke basically the same language but Mao became part of
Manipur kingdom during the colonial rule. Let us see what happened.
Anthony, a Mao
was brought up in Kohima. His father got a job in Kohima in 1958 when Kohima
was in Naga Hills. His father’s name is in the first electoral roll when
Nagaland became a state. Anthony was just a town chokra
in Kohima town with his Angami friends and neighbours but he could not get a tribal
certificate from Nagaland government or a government scholarship. He could not get
a job, he could not even get a building permit to build his house because Mao manu tu local nohoe.
Anthony was furious and left Nagaland. Many years later I met Anthony in Australia.
He blurted out his frustration and anger to me, “Mao are treated worse than the Bangladeshis.” He told me about a
Mao boy born and brought up in Kohima who became a table tennis champion but
was refused to represent Nagaland because he is from Manipur. There are
numerous stories of this kind.
It took many
years for both of us to understand that some of these problems have colonial
roots and it is only by decolonising our minds that we can begin to seek
Nagas were divided
into India and Burma by the colonial rule and this has caused immeasurable
hardships for many families. The Nagas of Burma are one of the
poorest and most neglected ethnic groups in Burma. Nagas have suffered
untold miseries in the past under the military junta. Some villages are split between
Burma and India and some villages have their rice fields in India but their houses
inside Burma. Their cattle and mithun graze on the Indian side while their houses
are on the Burmese side. This has given the corrupt military from both the
nation states excuse to harass the Nagas. Very often Nagas visiting their
families are arrested, put in prison and tortured.
Naga land in
Burma is more than twice the size of Nagaland state in India. The ancestral
territory of the Nagas in Myanmar reaches Kalaywa on the far south, Taung Thut
Hills on the east and Hawkong valley in present Kachin state in the north. After
the independence of Burma, Hawkong valley was included in Kachin state. The
Nagas however did not approve or accept it. U Nu included Homalin, Khamti and
other three townships, Layshi, Lahe and Namyung as Naga Hills District. In General
Ne Win's 1974 constitution, the Naga Hills District was divided into five
Townships: (dissolving the Districts) Homalin, Khamti, Layshi, Lahe and Namyung
under the Sagaing Division. The Five Townships were known as “Naga Hills
territory” (Naga Taungtan). In the 2008 Constitution, two important Naga Townships
of Homalin and Khamti were included into Sagaing Division. Today only three hill
Townships of Layshi, Lahe and Namyung are marked as Naga territory by the name ‘Naga
Self-Administered Zone’. A pragmatic solution for the future of the Nagas will
have to be worked out by all states concerned, so justice and dignity of the
Nagas can be restored.
with Nagas in Burma has given me new insights for rethinking our future. When I
was growing up in Nagaland, Burma was just another foreign country like
Thailand or Vietnam. I knew some Nagas lived across the border in Burma, but it
was not until some Nagas from Burma came and lived in my home as Mini
that I became interested in them. They told me horrific stories of atrocities so
I decided to go and explore Burma.
I took my
young friend Asti Dolie and we went on a long journey. We walked from village
to village for a month. We were received like royals, villagers often dancing
for us throughout the night. To my surprise some villages were in the same
condition as our villages on the western side of Nagaland a hundred years ago. When
I returned to Nagaland I was informed that a top bureaucrat had told one of my
friends that I had done something illegal. This drew my curiosity as we met
hundreds of Burmese Naga going and coming from Burma every day and no questions
were raised, but when a University teacher crossed the border it became “illegal”.
I went again after 12 years and was adopted by the Chief of Thangnokniu village.
In accordance with our tradition, I killed a mithun and performed the feast of
There was much fanfare and celebration and I was made Nokpao, “Chief”. We dragged
up a huge log drum and brought it back to the village. Some years earlier all the
drums had been burnt when the people became Christians. I am now truly a
citizen of Burma by our customary law.
I worked closely with Burmese, mainly from the Karen and Chin ethnic groups. I
was also one of the founders of Ethnic Nationalities Organization of Burma in
Australia. As a Naga I have represented many Burmese organizations. They all know
I am a Naga and welcome me into their organizations.
There are two
incidents that changed the way I perceive Burma. The first occurred when I was
working in refugee camps in Thailand and Malaysia. Word spread that a Naga was
around in the refugee camps. One day I met a Burmese monk who was the Abbot of
a Buddhist temple in Malaysia. He was interested in the Nagas, as he had never met
one. After some conversation he suddenly asked me, “Are you Indian Naga or
Burmese Naga? I asked him, “Are you Thai Burmese or Chinese Burmese?” He said,
“I am a Burmese from Burma.” And I told him, “I am Naga from Nagaland.” He got
my message and we both had a good laugh.
second incident concerns the experience of a friend, Neichu Angami. Niechu was
working in Burma and one day a Burmese Naga lady, on hearing there was another
Naga in the town, came to meet her. This Naga lady spoke to Neichu in Burmese.
Neichu told her through an interpreter that she does not speak Burmese. The
lady looked surprised and asked her if she was from Noklak. Neichu said, “No,
but not far from Noklak.” To which the Naga lady turned to the Burmese interpreter
and said, “These young girls go to foreign countries and have even forgotten
our own language.” Like some of us on the Indian side of the border, she had no
idea that there are Nagas living on the Indian side. I have had similar
experiences. Burmese are usually surprised when I tell them that I am Naga
brought up across the border. “I did not know there are Nagas in India” is often
point of sharing these stories of complex cross -border relations is that we Nagas
can draw strength from each other. Nagas from India and Burma can help each
other develop our unique Naga identity. Naga land in India and Burma has been
our homeland for thousands of years. Nagas in India and Burma can help each
other in our struggle for recognition and rights for our homelands. We have the
right to and ought to inherit that land. Nagas from India and the Nagas from Burma
can make a stronger case if we work together.
Iralu went to USA in 1949 to study medicine. He eventually switched from
medicine to the field of public health, and became the first Naga to earn a
PhD. He worked at several institutions in United States doing research on
tropical parasites such Trypanosma curzi and fungi such as Cryptococcus
neoformans. He became the Chairman of Microbiology at the Philadelphia College
of Osteopathic Medicine before he died in 1984. He supported A.Z Phizo, the
father of the Naga national movement throughout his life. His son Vilasier
Iralu went to Yale University and later became the first Naga to earn an M.D.
from Harvard Medical School, Boston in 1987.
role of Vichazelhu Iralu in supporting A.Z. Phizo is an early example of the
role of the Naga diaspora in supporting the Naga nationalist movement. Today
the overseas Nagas are everywhere, holding many prestigious positions around
the world. Among the Naga diaspora are scientists, diplomats, theologians, professors,
doctors, businessmen/women, artists, fashion designers, models, musicians and
so on. In rethinking the future, this diaspora group will no doubt have a very
significant role to play.
thoughts on an Alternative Arrangement for Settlement
As pointed out above, the traditional geographical
homeland of the Naga people has been divided between India and Burma and many
Nagas have left their traditional homelands and become part of the worldwide
Naga diaspora. As is often the case with people whose homeland has been divided
by colonization, there are dreams of reunification and independence. The
diaspora can have an important role in such political struggles.
are numerous examples of the important role played by Diasporas in mobilizing
support for independence movements. For example, the East Timorese people, with
key support coming from the Timorese diaspora (many operating out of Australia),
succeeded in gaining international support for a UN supervised referendum, and became
a sovereign state – the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste – in 2002. While
each situation is unique, there are common elements. Political activists have
frequently been forced to flee their homelands and continue their struggle from
abroad. Using overseas countries as a base, they have drawn support from their diaspora
of refugees and migrants living overseas, both as a recruiting ground for
people with talent to serve that vision and also to collect funds. This has
been the model for many modern political-cultural movements.
last decade this model of political and cultural activism has been further
enhanced by the use of social media on the World Wide Web.
movements, such as the recent Scottish attempt to gain independence from the
UK, have also made effective use of social media to recruit support from their Diasporas.
The combinations of a Naga diaspora, and people’s access to social media
through the World Wide Web have created new opportunities for Naga activists.
civil society groups and national movements have found an effective voice
through social media. The 'Arab Spring' revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya
were largely driven by young people who communicated by Facebook and Twitter.
Many consider the Egyptian revolution began with the Facebook page created by
Wael Ghonim on June 8, 2010 called “We Are All Khaled Said”. Said was a young
man who was beaten to death by the Egyptian police. Within two minutes of
starting his Facebook page, 300 people had joined it. This grew to more than
250,000 followers in three months! From the Facebook followers began the
massive protests in Tahrir Square that led to the resignation of the military
dictator President Mubarak.
social researcher Stowe Boyd
Ideas spread more rapidly in densely
connected social networks. So tools that increase the density of social
connection are instrumental to the changes that spread. […] And, more
importantly, increased density of information flow (the number of times that
people hear things) and of the emotional density (as individuals experience
others’ perceptions about events, or ‘social contextualization’) leads to an
increased likelihood of radicalization: when people decide to join the
revolution instead of watching it”
movements who effectively use social media include the Kurds and West Papuans
.The Free West Papua page has over 145,000 likes.
the most dramatic example of the power of social media in recent years has been
Wikileaks, founded in 2006 by the Australian online activist Julian Assange.
Wikileaks claims to have obtained access to 1.2 million secret government and business
documents. It has released documents in stages, revealing corruption, spying
techniques, military mistakes, and illegal activities by government agencies,
including USA government bodies such as the CIA. The release of documents has
had far-reaching effects, including – according to some commentators – leading
to the downfall of the Tunisian dictator Ben Ali, to serious diplomatic embarrassment
between USA Government and its European allies, offense to a number of South
American countries including Brazil and caused difficulties between Australia
experience of Nationalist movements around the world should make us cautious
about embracing the aim of a unified Naga state. Most such visionaries finish
up doing more harm than good. The leadership of both ISIS and the Al Qaeda
movements would appear willing to drag their followers into wars that lead to
the total destruction of cities, communities and families. The “true believers”
hold that this is all for their good, and the good of their fantasy New World
Order (caliphate of whatever)! Such movements need not be religious.
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, for example, caused brought death and
destruction upon their people in the pursuit of glorious vision.
President Mugabe has done the same for the people of Zimbabwe, reducing many of
his people to starvation with many more fleeing to neighbouring countries. Yet
still he promotes himself as the great liberator.
How delusional can you be! Sounds just like Hitler and Stalin; blind and in
denial to the very end!
What lessons can be learned from these
movements? The current globalization of culture, politics and the economy, and
the parallel growth in identity-based groups, promoting their political,
cultural and economic autonomy has generated mountains of academic papers. Some
left-wing intellectuals portray globalization as a conflict between the
Capitalist economic system and the People’s struggles for their own identity.
This is too simplistic. As the communist regimes in China and Russia have
demonstrated, the “people’s representatives” are just as much caught up in
struggles over power, wealth and the status, prestige and benefits that go with
it as their capitalist opponents. Bill Gates and his fellow capitalists are not
necessarily any worse than the “people’s liberation” leaders’ national
movements in Africa and elsewhere.
Our own experience
in becoming followers of our leaders should have taught us that we are just as
weak and susceptible to delusions as those who put their trust in Mao, or
Mugabe.Of course not all movement leaders
need to be delusional and destructive. For example, it would seem that the
Tibetan community, under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, has not caused too
much harm and destruction. Yet the negative example of leaders, whether
African, Asian, or European, should encourage us to be cautious in believing
that gaining Naga Nationhood is the solution to all our problems and hopes. All
too often, when visionaries have gained power, it has only made the situation
worse for their people.
How do we develop
the quality of leadership and the type of organization that can genuinely serve
the people, and not become yet another vehicle for leaders to grandstand and
promote their own careers and grandiose visions? How do we create organizations
that don’t succumb to heroic fantasies, and draw people into wars that have no
chance of success-wars, that even if they did succeed in redrawing geographical
boundaries, do nothing to give the people better life.
How do we resist the temptation of
becoming “yes-men” seeking our leader’s approval, and sharing their blindness
and fantasy? For example, Chairman Mao was surrounded by yes-men telling him
that his “cultural revolution” was a great success. Victorious “heroes” of
liberation struggles have all too often turned into despots; they become so
deluded and surrounded by the groupthink yes-men, that they lose touch with
reality, and are unable to see that the grief and suffering that they bring
upon their people is far worse than any that the so-called “oppressors” ever
inflicted. If we are to create a useful national organization, we have to
address human nature at both a collective and individual level.
Blindness about human nature and the
dynamics of organizations and leadership, underpin much of the wasted energy in
politics. Leader’s dress up their ambition in different clothes, provide
different moral justifications for their actions, but the bottom line for
narcissistic leaders is their overconfident belief in their own great mission. Narcissistic
leaders tend to breed bitter division and internal conflict.
As Jerrold M. Post, Professor of Psychiatry, Political Psychology and
International Affair at George Washington University has argued,
place overly high value on their own judgments and tend to overestimate the
probability of success for their plans. Indeed, the narcissistic tendency to be
overly optimistic may contribute to the group appraisals described by Janis
(1972) under the rubric of 'groupthink'." (109-110)
Where narcissistic leaders can attract
loyal followers, who share their leaders vision and belief in the moral urgency
and importance of their task, groupthink often follows.
The MerriamWebster dictionary defines
groupthink as “a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced
manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics”. Groupthink
is a problem for organizational cultures because it inhibits realistic decision-making.
The social psychologist, Irving Janis, pioneered the technical use of the term groupthink
in his analysis of spectacular policy failures in elite circles of the US
When groupthink takes hold the inside circle become incapable of dealing
objectively with their situation. Supporters become ruthless in dealing with
anyone who challenges their leader’s absolute supremacy; a wall of fantasy and denial
builds up around the leader. All too often followers enter into a state of
denial over their leader’s failures. Realistic decision making becomes
impossible, and critical voices are driven into exile.
Overly narcissistic leaders and groupthink
followers are endemic problems in politics. Leaders fail to appreciate the
extent to which their own ambition and vanity blinds them into believing that
they are special; they fail to see that their desire for positive recognition
has seduced them into surrounding themselves with sycophants. Likewise,
followers fail to see that their need to be part of an important “inner circle”
of a strong and visionary leader can seduce them into becoming “yes-men” who conform
to the groupthink that has developed around the leader. Narcissistic leaders
and groupthink followers form a ‘circle of charm’; in which exaggerated
groupthink evidence of their importance and success becomes gospel. They become
deluded into thinking that “their people” or movement depends on them, and that
those that oppose them are putting at risk the future of their “movement” and
For sixty years our Naga leaders have
repeated their false promises. They could not admit that they were promoting
false solutions; they could not acknowledge that they had surrounded themselves
with yes-men and become caught in promoting a false history of exaggerated
glory. We need leaders who are not captive of personal ambitions and grand
visions. We can make use of the talent and resources of the Naga diaspora, and
seek a new spirit of collaboration and unity with the Burma Naga. If our
leaders have the courage to seek realistic, achievable goals, we may be able to
use our collective strength to build a more realistic Naga mind-set, capable of
making a realistic assessment of our current situation.
made our his history unique?
1 A memorandum submitted to the Simon
Commission in 1929 pleaded that after the British left India, the Nagas be left
as in ancient times. It stated that India never conquered Nagaland and Nagas
were never subject to the rule of the neighboring kingdoms.
2 Nagas declared independence from Britain
on 14 of August 1947, a day before India got independence.
3 The plebiscite conducted by the Naga
National Council on May 16, 1951 where 99% of the population voted for
independence, was the most unique stand of solidarity that the Nagas had ever
More than any agreements or treaty, the above
records set the Naga position apart from any other indigenous group in the region.
The Government of India and the National
Socialist Council of Nagalim, NSCN-IM signed a ceasefire agreement on July 25,
1997 and the Myanmar Government and National Socialist Council of Nagalim,
NSCN-K signed a ceasefire agreement on April 19, 2012.
For 18 years the Government of India and NSCN –IM had held
peace talks for a final settlement that has so far resulted in nothing but
except that the ceasefire continues. The fratricides and factional wars, which
started in 1980s, continue till today though in a smaller scale.
Government of India
Faced by a disunited Naga, aging Naga
leadership, and the disintegration of the Naga army, the Government of India is
applying delaying tactics.
First, the Naga
Leadership is old, and there are no clear successors, so by waiting until the
present leadership dies, the Indian Government will face a far weaker movement.
Second, the Naga army is
no longer an army. Unemployed youth are recruited. They are untrained, poorly
motivated and poorly paid. Rather than fight the Indian Army they become
extortionists and have thus lost the support of the people. As the Naga army
disintegrates into unpopular gangs, support for the army will be dissolve and
if there is no armed struggle there is nothing to negotiate.
Third, and most
importantly, the Nagas are geographically divided into two nation states; the
Nagas of India and Burma. Though recognised by international law, the Naga
national movement is badly divided in India and weak in Burma. Such a disunited
force cannot function effectively politically or militarily, but it remains a
potentially powerful base for a nationalist movement.
Since the independence
struggle began over sixty years ago the situation has changed; armed struggle
has failed. Yet the nationalist leaders are determined to maintain the fight
for independence even though they have no realistic strategy to achieve their
Naga leaders know that
they are not negotiating for a sovereign state but they keep talking to the
Naga people about achieving a fully independent nation. They are locked in
their factional groupthink bubbles of political falsehoods. They are afraid to
tell the truth.
The current negotiations
with the Indian Government are a political charade; the Naga nationalist
movement is no longer a military threat and the Indian Government does not feel
any urgency in reaching a new political accommodation.
Naga national leaders of
all the factions have given a false hope to the Naga people of taking them to a
Promised Land; a goal that, with their present strategies and mindset, they
have no real hope of achieving.
The Naga People and the State of Nagaland
The Naga people and Naga
civil societies from all the Naga homelands are getting tired of this long
process of peace talks and want to see an alternative arrangement for a final
settlement. They want to see a path to a better future but instead they are
left in the dark.
Nagaland state, the beneficiary of the whole negotiation
movement, is in a hurry to sign a final settlement, as civil development cannot
progress in a conflict zone. Yet a settlement cannot be reached with the Indian
Government that empowers the Nagaland state, if the Naga political leadership
continue to promote unrealistic goals, and fail to talk to either the Naga
people or the Indian Government in good faith.
Hope – the unquenchable spirit of the Naga people
The Naga determination
and spirit has surprised the Indians, Burmese and Naga observers around the
world. Despite the setbacks and disappointments, Nagas in India, Burma and the
world diaspora retain a strong sense of their Naga identity.
As the process of globalization improves communications,
more Naga have awakened to a vision of their Naga identity and a determination
to continue to fight for the reunification of their homeland. This Naga
national spirit will grow stronger.
The Government of India and the Indian thinkers have
realised that the Naga desire to preserve their identity cannot be defeated by
conventional warfare and military power. There is something in the human spirit
that is far more powerful than the barrel of a gun. Therefore, they are willing
to talk and find a solution.
to from here?
The hopes that motivated the heroic
struggles of the Naga people in the past have been disappointed. Yet there the
scenario I have described, if faced realistically, does provide grounds for
To begin with, it is clear from similar
struggles around the world, that a people, no matter how geographically
fragmented, can develop a united identity and voice. Although the Naga
leadership is currently fragmented, there is no reason why old factional
enmities and allegiances should not be put aside for the sake of a realistic
Secondly, there are many good Indians and
thinkers out there who are willing to work out a settlement, willing to be
friends to the Nagas and walk alongside us in our quest to find a political
solution. Likewise there are many Burmese leaders and thinkers who are willing
to include the Nagas in the nation building of Burma. They are our allies. The
development of Naga nationhood and unity can occur alongside the framework of
Indian and Burmese sovereignty in the current situation. Naga on both sides of
the Indian-Burmese border, and across the world, can help build a united
political identity, even though in physical and geographical terms we respect
the sovereignty of the states within which we now exist. This vision of Naga
unity achieved peacefully in a ‘virtual world’, and implemented separately in
two states is a starting point for rethinking a new vision of Naga nationhood.
‘Nationhood’ does not have to be all or
nothing. There are many constitutional arrangements where high autonomy has
allowed a nation to pursue many of its national goals, while remaining part of
a larger sovereign state. Scotland in UK is one good example of a people who
have a strong sense of National identity, and enjoy a large measure of
political independence while remaining part of the Britain. In the recent
referendum over Scottish independence, most Scots preferred limited autonomy
and continued links with Britain. They realize that Scottish national pride and
identity, does not necessitate national sovereignty. Scottish pride and
identity can flourish alongside economic and political links with Britain. In
an uncertain world, the Scottish people voted against a romantic return to the
past, and took less dramatic, but more practical steps toward building their
For sixty years the Naga leadership has
pursued Naga nationalist goals through armed struggle. The cost to the Naga
people in suffering and lost opportunities has been immeasurable. Today the
Naga sense of identity remains strong but we have lost faith in the old
leadership. In this article I have been suggesting that we must look toward new
possibilities. I have suggested some, but in our rapidly changing world, there
are others that we cannot know. For the example the youth of today are far more
educated than my generation. The Naga Blog, TNB, Naga Spear and other online
communities will have
far-reaching consequences for re-inventing a new mindset.
It may be that these unknown opportunities shape our future;
the history of many nations has shown us that leadership who are flexible and
are open to grasping new opportunities when they emerge can shape the future.
History has also demonstrated that such opportunities can be lost due to a
leadership locked in the thinking and hatreds of the past.
Many difficult conflict situations have
been solved by the goodwill and determination of the people. The human desire
to live in peace is so great that given the right opportunities and leaders
with vision, communities that have in the past fought and struggled have put
aside their differences and worked out a peaceful way forward. With realism,
the right attitude, and the growth of trust between leaders, seemingly
impossible conflicts are worked out peacefully, such as the ending of apartheid
in South Africa, and the successful peace process in Northern Ireland.
A successful negotiation between the Naga
and the Indian Government should not be viewed as the end of the Naga journey
toward nationhood, but as the beginning of a new, peaceful political and
cultural process. A new Naga mind-set can assist this process. The Naga
leadership in India and Burma can pursue a goal of stronger autonomy using
peaceful means; although divided geo-politically we can be united in a broader
cultural sense. This united Naga culture and mind-set will develop as Naga in
India, in Burma, and in the Naga diaspora work together to assist each other.
In this changing world, we can all look beyond old colonial boundaries and draw
strength from an emerging vision of Naga National identity that is rooted in
our traditional homelands but has spread to encompass Nagas across the
For the context of these early Naga struggles see:
(1978). Nagaland, the night of the guerrillas. New Delhi: Lancers
Sanjoy Hazarika, (1994) Strangers
of the Mist. New Delhi, Penguin Books
Bertil Lintner (2012) Great
Games East. New Delhi, HaperCollins Publishers
For an Indian military perspective, see Sinha, S. P.
(2007). Lost opportunities: 50 years of insurgency in the
North-east and India's response. New Delhi: Lancer Publishers
Ngugi wa Thiongo, Aime Cesaire, Frantz Fanon, Ojijo
Pascal and others
From Memories of My
Father, unpublished note by Jonathan Vilasier Iralu, M.D 2009
Janis, I. L. 1972 Victims of groupthink; a
psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascos, Boston:
Written 13.003.2013 by Kaka D. Iralu, Naga activist and author:
An Analysis of the AFSPA 1958 From Its Historical Backgound of Nagaland
in the 1950’s
:: By Kaka D. Iralu
The Armed Forces profession is one of the noblest professions in the
world. In this profession, every soldier swears an oath of allegiance to the
nation that they would risk even their own lives towards safeguarding and
defending the citizens of the nation and its territories from any external
In short, an army is instituted by a government to defend its citizens
and the country from external aggression. But in the case of The Armed Forces
Special Powers Act of 1958, the Indian government has instituted an act which
shields its armed forces in such a manner where they can wage war against their
own countryman with total immunity and impunity. This is a case where both the
Indian government and its armed forces are guilty of doing just the opposite of
what they are elected and appointed to do. On the Indian government side,
instead of promulgating laws for the protection of its citizens, the government
has sanctioned the army to shoot its own citizens even on mere suspicion. On
the other hand, instead of defending the country’s citizens from external
aggression, the army is on the contrary, internally empowered to kill even
their own citizens under the protection of the AFSPA.
The AFSPA therefore, nullifies the very dignity and honor of the
military profession by transforming the army into a killing machine that can
kill even on mere suspicion. Such a machine could be a very useful tool in the
hands of politicians intent on imposing their national identity on others as
has been done to the Nagas for all these 62 years.
With that short personal opinion about the infamous AFSPA, let us now go
to the historical background which brought AFSPA into existence in the 1950’ in
the killing fields of Nagaland. In the first place AFSPA was not promulgated
for the protection of the armed forces in the face of an invading enemy attack
like the Chinese aggression of 1962. On the contrary, AFSPA was created to
protect the Indian Army when they invaded Nagaland in the early 1950’s. It was
created in the context of an invasion situation where all able bodied Nagas-
both males as well as some females- were compelled to take up arms to defend
their declared independence which had been declared on August 14, 1947.
At this stage of the war, the Nagas still did not have a uniformed army
with conventional weapons which could differentiate them from the civilian
population. As such, the Naga army, then, called The Naga Home Guards had the
advantage of disappearing into civilian populations after encounters with the
invading forces. On the other hand, the Indian army had the disadvantage of
seeing every Naga face as that of one similar face which could not be
differentiated from the others. Because of such difficulties in identifying
Naga soldiers from the civilian population, the sanction to shoot to death even
on mere suspicion was granted to the Indian army.
As for the Act, section 3 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958
stipulates that for the AFSPA to become operative, an area has to be first
declared as “a disturbed area” based on the sole opinion of the Governor of the
Now, the question that must be asked is: Was Nagaland really a disturbed
area in the early 1950’s so much so that the Indian government had to
promulgate the Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act 1953 followed by the Assam
Disturbed Areas Act 1955 and eventually the AFSPA in 1958?
Now, as far as the historical facts and records show, the situation in
Nagaland was still peaceful up to the end of March 1953. It was only after
Nehru and U Nu’s visit on March 30, 1953 and the boycotting of the function by
the Naga public because they were not allowed to present a memorandum to the
two visiting Prime Ministers that trouble started. Right after they left,
arrest warrants were issued against the NNC leaders. From that time on, one
thing led to another until open hostilities broke out after the promulgation of
the Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act in 1953. Subsequently, the Indian
army moved into Nagaland in October 1955. To quote B.N. Mullick, the then
Director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau, he had written: “Troops moved into
Tuensang by October 1955 and the war with the Nagas started from then.”(B.N.
Mullick: My years with Nehru, p.308) Note the word “troops moved into
Tuensang.” It was not Naga troops moving into Assam or India, but Indian troops
moving into Tuensang, Nagaland which caused the Indo Naga war and brought the
AFSPA into existence. As for the number of troops deployed, Mullick admits that
it was two Divisions of regular army and 35 battalions of Assam Rifles and
paramilitary forces.(ibid p 312) In later stages of the war, far greater
numbers of troops were deployed in Nagaland.
In this invasion issue, as far as the Nagas were concerned, ever since
the declaration of their independence on 14th August, 1947, the Nagas had been
defending their declared independence through non-violent means. Therefore, the
Naga forces that rose up to defend its territories against this external
aggression from India in October 1955 were not even a regular army, but as
stated earlier-a rag tag defense force called The Home Guards with hardly any
To date, many Indian politicians have repeatedly tried to portray the
Nagas as rebels and insurgents who are bent on seceding from India. However,
the opposite is true in that Nagas peacefully hoisted their national flag on
14th August 1947, and have ever since been desperately holding on to the
defense of that declared independence.
Now, both the Assam Disturbed Area Act of 1955, as well as the Armed
Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 states that these Acts were promulgated for
the maintenance of “public order” in a “disturbed” area. Therefore, the next
question that must be asked is:
WHO DISTURBED WHO?
Here again, as far as the factual historical records go, it is an
undeniable historical fact that Nagas never went to Assam or India and
disturbed Assamese or Indian peace in the 1950’s. It is however an indisputable
fact that hundreds of thousands of Nagas died from Assam Armed police and
Indian military atrocities in the 1950’s when 654 Naga villages were burnt to
ashes by these invading forces. (Clearly recorded statistics are still
available if anyone wishes to examine them.)
As for the justification reason stated in the AFSPA that the Act was
necessitated for destroying “arms dumps” or “fortified positions” of Naga
rebels, let the Indian government or its army furnish even one single picture
of any one such destroyed ammunition dump or fortified position, used by the
Naga army. These justification reasons are but imagined and exaggerated
pictures created by the Indian government to justify the promulgation of the
AFSPA. As a matter of fact, no such grave dangers from fortified positions or
ammunition dumps have ever existed in the long drawn fifty nine year Indo- Naga
conflict. On the contrary, in this conflict, Naga soldiers had to again and
again undertake long tracks to Pakistan and China to refurbish exhausted
ammunition as well as arms because they did not have ammunition dumps or
fortified positions. The long drawn war has all along been one of a guerrilla
war of running and fighting. As for fortified positions, the only fortified
positions that the Naga army ever had were just temporary camps which were
hastily abandoned when it came under heavy artillery as well as mortar attacks
accompanied by thousands of ground troops.
many citizens of many other Indian states are also tasting and experiencing the
many horrors that Naga s have experienced for the past five decades under
AFSPA. It seems to me that what some Indian leaders had cleverly devised
yesterday to deny the Nagas even their very right to life is today backfiring
on Indian faces too.
Written by my late good friend Rudolph Johnson (*07.03.1916-† 12.01.2007) (see obituary below/se minneord etter artikkelen):
Sami View of Norwegian American Ethnicity
paper was originally presented at an international conference in 1975, and
later published in the proceedings
Norwegian Influence on the Upper Midwest, edited by Harold Næss (Duluth, University
of Minnesota, Continuing Education and Extension Division, 1976). Rudolph was later largely responsible
for the term Sami being accepted as normal English usage.
What does it mean to be an ethnic? Aren't we all Americans, and why should
some of us consider ourselves Norwegian at a time when our immigrant
subcultures have dissolved in the great melting pot? Not too long ago Harry Golden told us that we are all
homogenized, and now we are reviving our interest in our particular ethnic
heritage. Is ethnicity mere nostalgia, or does it have some value for our
troubled days? And might there be something in our Norwegian immigrant heritage
that can have meaning for the future?
I have been puzzled to account for my personal interest in a Norwegian
identity. We have been led to
think that ethnicity established a type of bias. Michael Novak in his book The Rise of the Unmeltable Ethnic (New
York: Macmillan, 1972) tells us that Americanization has meant a kind of
WASPization. We believed that we had to assimilate, and that this meant that we
had to become like the Anglo-American.
There is nothing wrong with being an Anglo-American, except that we now
realize that the Anglo-American is just another ethnic, and that his historic
memory is not ours. And we know
that Americanization can have a broader meaning. For Indian people, and Vine Deloria calls them American
Americans, it means just being themselves, and for immigrant Americans there
are various cultural backgrounds.
Bogardus, in his book Immigration
and Race Attitudes, published in 1928, told us something about the
immigrant, that he is ". . . more than clothes and a bundle on his back
and a satchel in his hand he is a
culture medium, and a part of all human life that preceded him.1 Our family
came through Ellis Island as Norwegian immigrants in 1917 when I was yet an
infant. I recall years later, when
riding street cars in Duluth, that my mother would admonish me to "speak
English, people will think we are foreigners." The Norwegian American is now fully acculturated and no
longer represents a small foreign enclave. He actually knows little about modem Norway, which is quite
a different country than the land which his forefathers left some generations
past. Yet he tends to think of himself as Norwegian.
I don't feel that the new ethnic interest
is a revival of nationalism. Many of us have had quite enough of the modem
nation/state with its endless wars, its racism and its aggressive violence. I
look upon the present Norwegian monarchy as a rather quaint anachronism, and I
don't find Norway's parliamentary democracy to be a perfect model. A recent
trip to Norway convinced me that politics in Norway can be as absurd as
anywhere. And I vividly recall some
of the long conversations heard during my childhood in which our immigrant
neighbors over coffee and lefse would
complain about things in the old country, especially about the herrefolk, and a recent book by that
title suggests there might still be such attitudes surviving in modem
Norway.2 My background is North
Norwegian (nordnorsk) and Sami (Lapp)
and in Norway we were considered to be a minority people, some kind of
primitive naturfolk, l attended the
International Summer School in Oslo in 1949 and my landlord was a member of the
Board of Directors of the Norwegian Folk Museum. When I asked him why there were no Lapp exhibits in the
Norwegian Folk Museum he told me, "but they are not Norwegians!" Happily Norway now considers the Sami
to be Norwegian and the Sami materials have been transferred from the
Ethnographic Museum to the Norwegian Folk Museum. From a Sami viewpoint my
interest in things Norwegian is ancient, goes back beyond the national period,
and I feel that the foundations of the new ethnicity are also prenational,
older than the nation/state.
I must admit to being somewhat embarrassed
by the Vikings. This very
remarkable civilization had some great achievements, but their martial exploits
and piracy seem less than admirable.
When the Nazi occupation forces came to Norway during World War II they
expressed unbounded admiration for the Vikings, not only because of their
alleged racial purity, but also because of their fiery, war-like qualities: All
this makes good reading for the adolescent hero-worshiper, but what does it
offer us today? Yes, Norway may
have a great past and an inspiring history, but this was not part of my
Minnesota school curriculum, and my ethnic interest does not rest upon this