Naga Struggle for freedom

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The formation of Naga Club:

The first stirrings of Naga identity and politics started with the formation of NAGA CLUB in 1918. The members of this club were mainly government servants and many Nagas who had returned from France after the World War I. When the Statutory Commission, headed by Sir John Simon, visited Kohima on January 10, 1929, representatives of the Naga Club submitted a memorandum to the commission demanding that Nagas be excluded from the scope of proposed constitutional reform and kept under direct administration of the British. They told the commission: “YOU ARE THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO HAVE CONQUERED US AND WHEN YOU GO, WE SHOULD BE AS WE WERE.” However, in the report of the Simon Commission, the representation made by the Nagas was ignored and thus the GOVERNMENT of INDIA Act 1935 came into effect from May 1, 1937, making NAGA HILLS backward tract of 1919 as EXCLUDED AREA under Assam but directly under the administration of the Governor.

When it became clear that India would soon become a free country, the leadership of Nagas was in the hands of moderate leaders”

The Japanese invasion of Burma during the WORLD WAR II and the battles fought by the British in the hills around Kohima had brought the Nagas in contact with the outside world. Their leaders were exposed to the prevailing sentiments against BRITISH and EUROPEAN COLONIALISM in Asia. But there was considerable uncertainty amongst the Naga leaders in deciding their political future. When it became clear that India would soon become a free country, the leadership of Nagas was in the hands of moderate leaders like ALIBA IMTI and T. SAKHRIE . Although there were different shades of opinion, some for independence for the NAGAS, but there was no overwhelming demand or unanimity for immediate separation from INDIA.

The formation of Naga National Council:

After the war, Sir Charles Pawsey, the District Commissioner, established an organisation called NAGA HILLS DISTRICT TRIBAL COUNCIL with the main objective of bringing together all Naga tribes on one platform, to help in repairing the damages caused by the war.

The council was converted into a political organisation at its Wokha conference in February 1946, and was named NAGA NATIONAL COUNCIL with MR. T. ALIBA IMTI as its PRESIDENT and T. SAKHRIE as the general secretary. In its early years it was the only organised political formation, which subsequently became the political wing of the underground FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.

The idea of complete independence had not yet crystallized. Mr.T.Sakhrie declared in Kohima in December 1946: “the NNC stands for the unification of all the Naga tribes and their freedom.” Our country is connected with India, connected in many ways. We should continue that connection. I do not mind whether future India be a Congress Government or a League Government.

But as a distinct community, as I stated before, we must also develop according to our own genius and taste. We will enjoy home-rule in our country, but on broader issues be connected with India.”Mr.T. Aliba Imti , the president of NNC, expressed similar sentiments in a public meeting at Kohima thus: “you are looking beyond the ocean for help. Cutting it short, i declare to you that great Britain will never endanger her foreign policy for the sake of you. Lastly, never forget that you have been excluded for enough time, excluded from every angle of life, who is responsible for it? i have but one word to say, our country is connected with India in many ways. We should continue that connection.” As Independence came closer, NNC sent a political memorandum to Lord Mountbatten in February 1947, suggesting that India might act as guardian power for a period of ten years after which Naga people would be free to determine their political future. The NNC took the same position before the advisory committee for Assam headed by Gopinath Bordoloi.

To break the impasse, discussions were held between AKBAR HYDARI , GOVERNOR of ASSAM, and NAGA LEADERS at KOHIMA from 27 to 29 May 1947, which led to the NINE-POINT AGREEMENT, popularly known as AKBAR HYDARI AGREEMENT. The preamble of the agreement recognised “THE RIGHT OF THE NAGAS TO DEVELOP THEMSELVES ACCORDING TO THEIR FREELY EXPRESSED WISHES,” but CLAUSE 9 of the agreement which read as follows, created controversy over its interpretation:

CLAUSE 9:
“THE GOVERNOR OF ASSAM OR THE AGENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIAN UNION WILL HAVE A SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR A PERIOD OF TEN YEARS TO ENSURE THE DUE OBSERVANCE OF THIS AGREEMENT; AT THE END OF THE PERIOD NNC WILL BE ASKED WHETHER THEY REQUIRE THE ABOVE AGREEMENT TO BE EXTENDED FOR A FURTHER PERIOD, OR A NEW AGREEMENT REGARDING FUTURE OF THE NAGA PEOPLE ARRIVED AT.”

The preamble of the agreement recognised “THE RIGHT OF THE NAGAS TO DEVELOP THEMSELVES ACCORDING TO THEIR FREELY EXPRESSED WISHES”

The NNC claimed that CLAUSE 9 of the agreement gave the Nagas right to complete independence on the expiry of ten-year period, whereas the Government of India interpreted the agreement in the light that Nagas had the freedom only to suggest revision of administrative pattern after ten years, an interpretation, which was unacceptable to the NNC.

Despite the meeting with Gandhi, the NNC under pressure from AZ. Phizo declared INDEPENDENCE on AUGUST 14, 1947 and the next day the NNC under the PRESIDENTSHIP of MR. TEMJENLIBA unanimously amended Clause 9 to read: –

“THE GOVERNOR OF ASSAM AS THE AGENT OF THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA WILL HAVE A SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITY FOR A PERIOD OF TEN YEARS TO ENSURE THE DUE OBSERVANCE OF THE AGREEMENT AT THE END OF THE PERIOD THE NAGAS WILL BE FREE TO DECIDE THEIR OWN FUTURE.”

“THE NAGAS WOULD BE FREE TO SELECT FOR THEMSELVES THE EXACT ADMINISTRATIVE SET-UP WITHIN THE CONSTITUTION. THEY WOULD BE FREE TO REMAIN IN ASSAM OR JOIN MANIPUR.

Split in the underground

At this stage two important developments took place that were to profoundly affect the underground struggle for independence. The first was the split in the underground and the second, the decision to seek Chinese help. The failure of peace talks heightened the differences in the approach to peace talks and the strategy to be adopted to find a political solution. While MR. KUGHATO SUKHAI, a Sema and brother of GEN. KAITO, was blamed for the failure of peace talks, Gen. KAITO was unhappy with the Angami leadership for sidelining him in the underground military hierarchy. SCATO SWU resigned as the PRESIDENT of NNC and was replaced by Mr.MHIASIU , who was close to Phizo. Gen. MOWU ANGAMI was appointed the CHIEF of the UNDERGROUND ARMY, and Mr. TH.MUIVAH was made the GENERAL SECRETARY of the party. ANGAMIS replaced the hegemony of SEMAS.

“they took the plea that the agreement did not prohibit movement of their cadres outside Nagaland and that the agreement prohibited smuggling of arms into Nagaland during the truce but did not prohibit receiving arms from a friendly country.

For opposing PHIZOITES , GEN. KAITO was brutally murdered in broad daylight in Kohima on August 31, 1968. He was accused of having links with the Indian Army. His followers formed the REVOLUTIONARY GOVERNMENT of NAGALAND (RGN) on November 1, 1968 with a political wing called COUNCIL of NAGA PEOPLE. The RGN was led by KUGHATO SUKHAI and self-styled GENERAL ZUEHOTO . The splinter group appointed SCATO SWU as the PRIME MINISTER, who had earlier resigned as the president of the FGN, and favoured peaceful solution of the Naga problem, continuance of the cease-fire and talks with the Government of India. The other development was the decision taken sometime in 1966 to send a group of Naga youths to China for training in guerrilla warfare. There were groups in the underground, which did not favour links with the Chinese. Even the church was not very comfortable with this development.

Capture of general Mowu Angami
The first batch of 300 Nagas under Thinsuelie trekked 1000 km to reach Yunan in China in January 1967. The second batch of 500 Nagas was led by Gen. Mowu Angami in December 1967. This batch, which was on its way back to Nagaland after training, had no knowledge of the crisis that had overtaken the underground during its absence. The army captured a part of this group numbering 165 under Gen. Mowu Angami in March 1969 with their arms and documents, which confirmed their Chinese links. The capture of Gen. Mowu’s gang is still shrouded in conflicting explanations. The rival group accused Gen. Kaito’s men of betrayal and helping the army in capturing Gen. Mowu and his gang.

The crisis in the underground had repercussions in the overground politics. The Naga National Organisation (NNO) led by Hokishe Sema split over the relationship with the RGN. SC Jamir defected from the NNO and joined the splinter group, which had formed the United Democratic Front (UDF) considered pro underground. There was an attempt on the life of Hokishe Sema on August 8, 1972, when the convoy of vehicles in which he and his family were travelling was ambushed on Dimapur-Kohima road. Fortunately, Hokishe and his family survived, but the driver and two bodyguards were killed and Hokishe’s daughter was injured. The Government of India banned NNC and FGN and lifted the cease-fire on September 1, 1972. The RGN was dissolved on August 16, 1973 and 335 armed cadres of this group were absorbed into newly raised 111 and 112 Battalion of Border Security Force (BSF). ZUEHOTO became a BATTALION COMMANDER and Scato Swu later became a MEMBER of PARLIAMENT.

The Army is Called Out

NNC formally declared the formation of Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) in March 1956, and hoisted its flag at Phenshinyu, some 40 km from Kohima, in the Rengma area. A parliament (Ho Ho) of one hundred members (Tatars) and a president (Kedaghe) with 15 ministers (Kilnosers), governors, magistrates and many other officials with the trappings of a full-fledged government was announced. The Naga Home Guards, which was by now 3,000 strong and armed with weapons left behind by Allies and the Japanese after the end of fighting in World War II, constituted the army of the underground.17 The Government of India intervened by sending troops of its regular army to quell the rebellion. Maj Gen RK Kochar was appointed the General Officer Commanding Naga Hills and Tuensang in April 1956.

The ambush party had consisted of two to three hundred Nagas. The assembly and concealment of such a large body of hostiles demonstrated the skill of Nagas in guerrilla warfare.

The Army began its operations in September 1956 and by the year end 619 rifles (including muzzle loaders), eight machine guns, 17 sten guns, and some other arms and ammunition were seized or recovered.18 But the hostiles were by now fairly well organised and had intimate knowledge of terrain and an efficient intelligence network. In a well-planned action the hostiles ambushed a road protection party of one junior commissioned officer and thirty-two other ranks of 9 Punjab on road Khonoma-Jaluke on April 1, 1957 and killed all except one who survived to tell the tale.19 The ambush party had consisted of two to three hundred Nagas. The assembly and concealment of such a large body of hostiles demonstrated the skill of Nagas in guerrilla warfare.

The hostiles attempted seize of Kohima in June 1956 led by Kaito Sema and Tungti Chang.20 The town was attacked from three different directions on June 10, 1956. The rebels cut off telephone lines, electricity, water supply and destroyed few bridges. The army sent reinforcements, which brought the situation under control.

PHIZO’S ESCAPE TO EAST PAKISTAN
With the intensification of operations by the army, Phizo thought it prudent to flee Nagaland. He escaped to Dacca, then the capital of East Pakistan, taking the North Cachar route to cross the border on December 6, 1956. He had attempted to sneak into Pakistan earlier in 1952 through Burma but was captured by the Burmese and sent back to India. He was subsequently released on compassionate grounds when his wife met with an accident while travelling in a jeep near Khonoma. Phizo was welcomed with open arms in East Pakistan.

The convention inter-alia asked for the formation of a separate state to be named Nagaland within the Indian Union, which virtually over turned the plebiscite held by the supporters of Phizo

After a prolonged stay of three years in Dacca, he went to London via Zurich on a Peruvian passport with the help of Michael Scott, about whom we will hear more in the narrative. He died in exile in Britain on April 30, 1990.21 His body was brought to India by a chartered flight and then taken to his village Khonoma where he was buried.

SIXTEEN POINT AGREEMENT AND FORMATION OF NAGALAND
Naga Hills witnessed much violence between 1956-58. There was, however, a silver lining in the dark clouds. Many moderate Nagas who saw the futility of violence joined the Peace Committee, which was formed at the initiative of the government. The first convention of all Naga tribes, called the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) was held from 22 to 26 August in Kohima on whose recommendation the Naga Hill District and Tuensang Sub Division of NEFA were amalgamated to form Naga Hill-Tuensang Area (NHTA) on December 1, 1957.

This new unit was administered by the President with the Governor of Assam as his agent and through the Ministry of External Affairs. In order to create a proper atmosphere for the new administration to function, an amnesty was declared and in the hope that hostiles would respond, further grouping of villages was stopped and it was made known that degrouping of villages would take place as and when situation improved. On their part the delegates gave up the demand for independence.

The second convention of NPC was held in May 1958 at UNGMA where a liaison committee to contact underground leaders was formed. The historic third convention was held in October 1959 at Mokokchung and was attended by 3,000 delegates drawn from all Naga tribes. The convention inter-alia asked for the formation of a separate state to be named Nagaland within the Indian Union, which virtually over turned the plebiscite held by the supporters of Phizo in 1951. The church leaders also gave a call for peace. A delegation met Nehru in July 1960 with the proposal, which was accepted and came to be called the SIXTEEN POINT AGREEMENT.

President Dr Radhakrishnan inaugurated the new State of Nagaland on December 1, 1960 on the basis of the above agreement, which was earlier signed by the Government of India and the Naga delegation. A crowd of 10,000 Nagas had lined up the three-mile route from the high school helipad to Raj Bhawan in Kohima to welcome the President; an expression of peoples enthusiasm on the creation of the new State of Nagaland.

OVERGROUND POLITICS:       
The Governor, Gen Srinagesh, swore in an Interim Executive Council headed by Shilu Ao on March 16, 1961. After the transitional period of three years elections to the new state assembly were held from 8 to 18 January 1964 in the Naga Hills except Tuensang. Two political parties, the Nagaland Nationalist Party and the Democratic Party participated in the elections. The former won 34 seats and the latter 12. Despite threats from the underground, to boycott the election, 74 per cent voters cast their votes.

A new state government was formed under the leadership of Shilu Ao, who became the first Chief Minister of Nagaland. The successful election was a resounding expression of people’s mandate for peace. Unfortunately the hostiles saw this as a slap on their face and expressed their frustration by stepping up violent activities.

Role of Michael Scott:

Michael Scott had served in India as domestic chaplain to the BISHOP of BOMBAY between 1935-37, and CHAPLAIN of ST BISHOP CATHEDRAL in Calcutta between 1937-39. The man was a veritable champion of underdogs. In 1960, he had helped AZ. PHIZO to travel from ZURICH to LONDON on an irregular passport and helped him to obtain BRITISH CITIZENSHIP. During the 3RD BAPTIST CONVENTION at WOKHA , in February 1964, he was nominated by the church leaders to be a member of the PEACE MISSION. He was expected to represent the Naga case impartially. But all his actions were not only partisan but also hostile to the INDIAN GOVERNMENT.

The splinter group appointed SCATO SWU as the PRIME MINISTER, who had earlier resigned as the president of the FGN, and favoured peaceful solution of the Naga problem, continuance of the cease-fire and talks with the GOVERNMENT of INDIA.

In April 1964, he came to Kohima with BP CHALIHA who provided ten white jeeps to facilitate SCOTT to travel freely and meet NAGAS including the UNDERGROUND. When he returned to DELHI from his visit to KOHIMA, SCOTT’S first act was to circulate a sheaf of papers accusing the GOVERNMENT of INDIA and the Indian troops of foulest atrocities. Indian troops were accused of having butchered 34,000 men, women, and children in the Sema area alone whereas in the 1961 census, the total population of SEMAS was around 47000. The Indians were accused of the destruction of 79,794 houses. The total population of Nagaland and Tuensang in 1951 was 2,50,000 and it would be reasonable that total houses would be around 50-60,000 @ 5 person per house.

SCOTT’S conduct at the negotiations, his public statements and the letters he drafted on behalf of the underground, were all unequivocally partisan and subjective. DR MANKEKAR , the distinguished journalist, described SCOTT’S conduct “AS PASSIONATELY SUBJECTIVE AND PACKED WITH DEFENCE COUNSEL’S CYNICAL TRICKS ADDRESSING A JURY – A PLAY UPON EMOTIONS, SUPPRESSIO VERI, SUGGESTIO FALSI, MANIPULATION OF FACTS, THAT STRAIGHT AWAY DISQUALIFIED HIM FOR THE ROLE OF A NEUTRAL ARBITRATOR, WHICH WAS BESTOWED ON HIM BY THE TWO PARTIES AT THE NEGOTIATIONS WHEN HE WAS APPOINTED ONE OF THE THREE MEMBERS OF THE PEACE MISSION.”

MINISTERIAL TALKS:
When the ongoing talks failed to produce any result, it was submitted by the underground delegation that the talks should now be held at ministerial level. Six round of talks between the UNDERGROUND led by KUGHATO SUKHAI and the PRIME MINISTER, SMT INDIRA GANDHI, were held in 1966-67, which resulted in a stalemate, as the underground refused to agree to any settlement within the CONSTITUTION OF INDIA. The underground lost a historic opportunity to find a lasting solution when they refused the offer of a settlement by Mrs.GANDHI not within the framework of the constitution but within the framework of the Indian Union meaning thereby that the constitution could be amended to accommodate a settlement.

The other development was the decision taken sometime in 1966 to send a group of Naga youths to CHINA for training in guerrilla warfare.

As the ministerial talks progressed, JAIPRAKASH NARAYAN resigned from the PEACE MISSION due to intransigence of the underground leaders. MICHAEL SCOTT was expelled from India as his attitude had become openly partisan and hostile. The PEACE MISSION, which had come into existence on 5 April, 1964 ceased to exist on May 7, 1966. A six-member Commission was later formed to investigate allegations of cease-fire violations.

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