July 18, 1947 – The British Parliament had passed the Indian Independence Bill on July 4, 1947. After 200 years of groaning under colonial rule, India and Pakistan were finally free to leave the British Commonwealth and become two sovereign dominions.
This was indeed Asia’s hour of freedom from colonial rule. Very soon Burma o their northeast and Ceylon to their south would also become free on January 4, 1948 and February 4 1948 respectively. To their north and northeast, ancient kingdoms like Nepal, Afghanistan and Tibet would also breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of the departing British imperial power. New constitutions would be drafted, new national flags would be unfurled and Asia would never be the same again.
Foreseeing all these cataclysmic changes that would be sweeping through the entire Asian continent, the Naga National Council (NNC), under its farsighted leader A.Z. Phizo, had also declared Naga independence on 14th August 1947 and informed the UN headquarters in New York. In order to make their stand more clearly heard and established in the noise and din of Asia’s awakening, they had further conducted the Naga Plebiscite events were done to declare to Asia and the world that Nagaland too would become an independent sovereign nation to take her rightful place in Asia’s new chapter in history.
However knowing that India could not be bypassed, Phizo after the Plebiscite had on behalf of the Nagas, written thus to Nehru on December 29, 1951:
…”With the verdict of the Naga adult population embodied in the plebiscite papers go our sincere feeling of goodwill to the Government and people of India. It is the prayer of the Naga people that the Government of India will respect the desire of the Naga people for having their own independent state, separate and sovereign. To allay the fears and suspicion of India, Nagas on their path will agree to accept an Indian national to be President of independent Nagaland for a stated period”….
He further added:
…”What the future has in store for the Nagas, time alone can show. Besides God, India today holds our destiny in her hands. Whether we, the Nagas shall shed our tears in joy or whether in sorrow and anger is a matter which India will decide”….. (See contents of the full letter in Nagaland and India, the blood and the tears, pp. 533 – 541)
Nehru and India’s response to this Naga plea was to invade Nagaland with 2 divisions of the Indian Army and 35 Battalions of the Assam Rifles and Assam Police in the early 1950s. (For details, see B.N. Malik’s book, My years with Nehru, p.312)
This invasion, by the late 1950s reduced 645 Naga villages to ashes resulting in the deaths of over a hundred thousand Naga lives that died from bullets, torture, starvation and diseases. By 1960, the Naga landscape was a wasteland of razed houses and broken lives.
In short, a nation that had desperately tried to raise its flag to take its rightful place in the new Asian scenario now lay devastated and almost destroyed.
However, Phizo had carefully escaped to London on June 16, 1960. His arduous journey across the Angami, Zeliangrong regions and on to East Pakistan too, had left behind a trial of blood, as villagers that had assisted his escape were burned and in some cases its male population wiped out by the Indian Army. But whatever the price paid in Nagaland, all Nagas were now looking with new hope to Phizo for their national salvation. Phizo had been sent with full plenipotentiary powers to present the Naga case in the UN. Therefore all the people in Nagaland were praying, when they learned that Phizo was going top address the world press on July 26, 1960. Phizo was also going to present the well documented booklet. “The fate of the Nagas, an appeal to the world” in order to bring charges of genocide against Nagaland.
However, the sacrifices of over a hundred thousand Naga lives and the divine providence of God in helping Phizo to escape to England would all be nullified by the 16 Point Agreement.
Hearing about Phizo’s achievements, the India Government had hurriedly dispatched an IAF Dakota o Dimapur on the 25th January 1960. Members of the Naga People’s Convention were hurriedly gathered from all corners of Nagaland. They were all flown to Delhi on the 26th July 1960, and on the same afternoon, the Indian manipulated 16 point Agreement was ready lying on the table of the Prime Minister of India. (For a detailed account of the Indian manipulation in creating the Naga Peoples Convention and the 16 Point Agreement in order to nullify the Naga Plebiscite of 1951; see Nagaland and India, the blood and the tears, pp. 18 – 27)
The Naga People’s Convention members that went to Delhi were namely: Dr. Imkongliba Ao, Jasokie Angami, Chubatoshi Jamir, RC Chiten Jamir, Kelhoshe Sema, Etsorhmo Lotha, Sentsi Rengma, Lakhimong Yimchunger, Litinse Sangtam, Pauthing Phom, Pudemo Chakhesang, Imtichuba Chang, Thanwang Konyak, Thinuowholie Zeliang, T.N. Angami, Sashimeren Ao, H. Zopianga, Goyiepra Chakhesang and P. Shilu Ao.
The Indian side was represented by the following persons; S Dutt, Foreign Secretary, KL Mehta, Joint Secretary (E), NK Rustomji, Advisor to the Governor of Assam, M Ramunny, Commissioner NHTA, R Khathing, DC Mokokchung, TS Krishnamurthy, Private Secretary to the Governor of Assam, Har Mander Singh, Deputy Secretary (N).
The discussions from the meetings between the NPC and the Indian Government resulted in the State of Nagaland Act 1962 which converted the Naga Hills District of Assam into the Indian State of Nagaland on December 1, 1963.
From thenceforth, Naga lives would be divided into two camps. In one camp, the inmates would be provided with heavy security for their protection. In fact even till today their houses are still guarded by these forces. In the other camp, the inmates would be hunted like animals for the rest of their lives. Many of them would even fall prey from the enemy’s bullets.
As already stated, Phizo addressed the world press in London on 26th July 1960. Parts of his statement read:
“I have come to this country on behalf of the Nagas to tell the people of Britain, and through them the people of the whole world of the terrible tragedy that has overtaken our country. I have come here because we found ourselves helpless in the hands of superior forces. ….. I should like to make particular appeal to the people of India to understand what has been done in their names and to come forward to help bring these suffering to an end… Killing… raping….. forced labor… concentration camps….. torture must be stopped… this horrible tragedy must not be allowed to continue even for a day longer… The world press must be allowed to see for themselves the real state of things in any and all parts of Nagaland… we are helpless; that is why I am here and I am humbly making this appeal to the great people of Britain, to the Indians and to the whole world to help resolve our differences between India and the Nagas….” (Extracted from, statement by AZ Phizo, 81 Danison House 296 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, dated July 26, 1960)
Back in India too, and on the same day, the NPC delegates were having a closed session with Nehru and some Indian leaders. Immediately following these discussions (stretching to 27th and 28th July) a counter statement was given by the Indian Government declaring to the world that the Indo-Naga conflict had been amicably settled through the 16 Point Agreement.
In this way, as the Naga nation stood grievously wounded and tottering from its baptism of fire, and even as Phizo was pleading with the world for intervention, the Naga nation was stabbed from within by its own people who had collaborated with the enemy for their own ends.
This act of treachery would condemn Nagas to 43 years of Indian rule. And since the sacrifice of over one lakh Naga lives would have to be sacrificed again to defy that Indian state of Nagaland in the subsequent years.
In the light of all these historical facts, fellow Nagas – as you once again walk to the polling booths to cast your votes for this Indian state of Nagaland, remember this – that you are treading on the blood of your own kith and kin to justify India before the world.
The over one hundred thousand innocent Nagas who were killed by the 54,000 Indian troops in the 1950s were described by the Indian Government as goondas, gangsters, extremely blood thirsty and so on. Were they indeed such heinous criminals that their villages and houses had to be burned to ashes? As they perished staring and shivering in the jungles, was their fate a deserving punishment that they had brought upon themselves?
The destruction of their homes and lives were carried out under the authority of Indian laws. The Indian soldiers who carried out these heinous acts were operating under the sanction, protection and legal immunity of Acts and Regulations like The Assam Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1953. The Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 etc. etc.
Now, had these Naga villagers indeed created public disorders in Assam? Had they disturbed peace and tranquility in Assam that they could even be shot to death on mere suspicion as sanctioned under The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958?
The truth is, none of these innocent Naga villagers were anywhere near any Assamese lands when their villages were attacked by the Indian Army and burned to ashes. I repeat, none of the 645 villages that were burned- whether it was Khonoma or Longpha or Xhuivi- were in Assamese territory or Assamese lands.
Why then were over one hundred thousand Nagas done to death in the 1950s branded as bloodthirsty goondas and gangsters creating disturbances in Assam and India?
In the name of God and in the name of humanity, we demand an answer from the Government and people of India. If however, the people and Government of India cannot give us a satisfactory answer, then we shall take our question to the highest court of law in the world. We shall do this because thousands and thousands of Nagas cannot simply disappear from the pages of history without a reason or an answer.
Coming back to the subject of the article, Phizo had fled to London to present the plight of his suffering people to the attention of the world. This had become necessary because the world was not willing to believe the many reports that had been sent out from Nagaland to various Governments in the world. India had effectively seen to this by pulling down an iron curtain of total news censorship all over Nagaland. At that time, not to talk of foreign pressmen – even conscientious Indian journalists were not allowed to see what was happening in Nagaland. (see for example, The Tuensang Frontier Division [undesirable persons] Regulation Act, 1955).
But as stated earlier, all the sacrifices of the Nagas and all of Phizo’s attempts to draw the attention of the world were foiled by the Naga Indian collaborators of the 16 Point Agreement.
At this juncture, someone might ask: But has not all the development in Nagaland come as a result of the 16 Point Agreement? Others might even say, where would Nagas be today if it were not for the 16 Point Agreement? My reply would be: But for India’s interference, Nagaland today would be as progressed and developed as any of her Asian neighbors. This is because God had gifted enough resources for Nagaland to develop herself like any other nations.
As for India’s development assistance to Nagaland in the form of roads, buildings, schools etc., if these so-called development works are meant as compensation for all the Nagas that the Indian Army had killed, then let India take away all their roads and buildings back to India. For we will not trade the blood and tears of our people for any of their development works in Nagaland. Yeah, we would rather, walk barefooted on bare footpaths than exchange the lives of our kith and kin for metaled roads and concrete buildings.
As for Phizo and the 99.9% Nagas of the Plebiscite, they refused to surrender to the treacherous betrayal of the 16 Point Agreement. From London, Phizo continued to plead with the Naga People’s Convention not to go any further and conduct any election in Nagaland. In letters after letters running into thousands and thousands of words, he pleaded with the NPC members not to go ahead with the Indian elections in Nagaland. In one such letter he had written:
“If we simply barter away the birthright of our posterity due to fear or through selfishness, we shall have committed an unpardonable sin…”
In another letter he wrote:
“But for Shilu Ao or any other Naga to compel our people to do things against their will, and that with the force of the Indian Army, it is most unthinkable. We shall never agree to such a betrayal…”
In one of his last letters, dated December 5, 1963, Phizo even went so far as to write:
“The so-called Interim Body will be burying the Nagas alive if the proposed election takes place…”
(For details of Phizo’s quoted words, see “Reminiscences of Correspondences with A.Z.Phizo, pp.13, 25, by SC Jamir, March 31, 1998).
However, the Naga people’s convention and the Interim Body in collaboration with the Indian government went ahead with the first election in Nagaland on January 10-16, 1964.
Both the Indian general elections of 1952 and 1957 had been totally boycotted by the Nagas. But now, the NPC with India’s armed assistance had successfully conducted the first Indian election in Nagaland. After consolidating their position firmly in the Indian Union, on January 24, 1964, eight days after the completion of the election, SC Jamir wrote to Phizo saying:
“It was not without difficulties, (that) the Nagaland administration obtained guarantees of safe conduct for you and your delegation… I personally feel that no better opportunity would come for our meeting and thus, we should not fail to meet at this stage…”
Phizo never replied him because he realized that the NPC had betrayed the Naga nation and there was no further point in meeting some Naga- Indian politicians.
Earlier on, even Jawaharlal Nehru, having realized that Nagas could not be intimidated into submission and knowing fully well that the 16 Point Agreement was not what Nagas were demanding, had, from the floor of the Indian Parliament expressed his willingness to talk to Phizo in March 1963. But some members of the NPC opposed even this desire of Nehru and successfully prevented him from meeting Phizo.
In one of his earlier letters to SC Jamir dated August 31, 1963. Phizo had written:
“But I know we have some excitable young men to deal with who does not care what may happen to the nation.”
These ‘excitable’ young Nagas had through the 16 Point Agreement of 1960 and election of 1964 condemned the Naga nation to 43 years of Indian rule in Nagaland. If this is not treachery and betrayal, then what is it?
In conclusion, as for subsequent Naga history and tragedies, if there had been no NPC and no 16-Point Agreement in 1960, there never would have been Revolutionary Government surrender in 1973, or a Shillong Accord in 1975, or an NSCN in 1980 and 1988 or a second NNC in 1990.
In summary, the seeds of confusions, suspicions, corruption and fratricidal killings were all sown into Naga hearts and soil when the NPC signed the infamous with the Government of India in 1960.