The historical and political rights of the Nagas draw support from the many right-thinking Indians. They admired the Naga’s legitimate political movement shouldered by the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN) which they know is the only Naga revolutionary torch bearer and only authentic political group fighting for the Naga political dignity as a sovereign nation.
One such person is Pranab Mukherjee from Kolkata. He is a “die-hard human rights” and “political activist” since his student days. He proved himself as a hard nut to crack when it comes to defending human rights issues, particularly Naga political issues. He is not unaware of the consequence of taking up the human rights of the Nagas. However, something in him played with his political consciousness that drove him closer to Naga issue, and never ran away from Naga people’s political issue which he knows is a clear violation of human rights. In return, he went through hell of time in the hands of police and security forces.
The atrocities and violation of human rights under Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 on the Nagas opened his eyes like many other progressive organizations and activists who sympathised and shared solidarity with the Nagas’ cause. As a hard core student activist with deep knowledge and respect for Naga people’s human rights he stood firm like rock with a strong voice for the Naga political issue.
A courageous man he was, he didn’t think twice for his own safety but condemned the Indian government and its cohorts of killing machineries. To deliver the message loud and clear he took the courageous decision to go for an indefinite hunger strike twice for the rights of the Nagas.
Pranab Mukherjee took to indefinite fasting firstly in Dimapur Central Jail in January 1975 and followed the same reason in Presidency Jail, Alipore on 18th April 1977 during the 19th month of Emergency. He demanded for the immediate fulfillment of the following:
1) Release all political prisoners of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram unconditionally.
2) Withdraw all special rules, such as Nagaland Security Rule, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, etc from Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram,
3) Withdraw the declaration of “Disturbed Area” and revoke “Presidential Rule” from Nagaland and Mizoram,
4) Reject the “Shillong Agreement” (Accord) if it is not acceptable to the Federal Government of Nagaland.
5) Stop “Jungle Operation” in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram and withdraw the ban on NNC and from all organizations related with NNC.
6) “Withdraw extra army” from Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.
7) Wherever the police arrest any political element, the government must recognize him as “political prisoner” and this must be transformed into law.
His passion for Naga political cause brought him to Nagaland searching for NSCN leaders in Nagaland. He travelled many places to encourage the Naga freedom movement at his own expense and did not take any help from the Nagas. He was jailed 3 times, at Phek and Kohima and he was banned from entering Nagaland. He was released from jail on the condition that he should never set foot again in Nagaland and stay away from Naga issue. However, his love for Naga issues became the driving force that always brought him to Naga soil. The Naga issue was like a magnet to him.
Thus, after he was released from jail he came again to Nagaland and was caught by the police at Dimapur and landed up in jail.
While in Dimapur Central Jail, he remains restless pondering over the Naga issue. Engrossed with the passion for taking up human rights violations of the Nagas, he collected Bibul leaves, got them dried. On these bundles of dried leaves he wrote letters to the Naga students at Delhi. This triggered the human rights movement among the Naga students leading to the rise of many die-hard human right activists as we find today. His letters on leaves inspired many Nagas by making them realize that when a non Naga could do so much for the Nagas, how the Nagas themselves could sit silent when their human rights are blatantly violated by the Indian security forces.
Today he is in wretched condition as he was physically disabled on account of tortures he underwent at the hands of police for taking up the cause of the Nagas. He is already 82 years but his spirit for the Nagas’ right is still spewing fire, wanting to see the light of the Naga freedom struggle. Recently, NSCN leaders led by General Atem made a courtesy visit at his place in Kolkata,
A person like Pranab Mukherjee proved himself that he is made of sterner stuff when it comes to human rights and political rights of the Nagas. He is a person who has the guts to raise the intellectual consciousness on Naga political issues leaving aside his own comfort and security. In the process he went through a horrid time and still manages to smile while talking about Naga political issues.
(The article is republished from the Nagalim Voice, November 2023 Edition)