Nagaland Deputy Chief Minister TR Zeliang while addressing the Naga Students’ Union Delhi (NSUD) Diamond Jubilee Celebration Cum Nagas Meet on November 11, 2023 emphasized the urgent need for unity in the face of cultural dilution and internal challenges.
The event was held at Talkatora Indoor Stadium, New Delhi under the theme “Rekindling the flame of Naga unity.”
Zeliang highlighted the impact of foreign influences on Naga history, tradition, and culture, asserting that the 21st century has transformed the landscape of Naga Nationalism and the land itself.
The speech touched upon the grim realities of fratricidal killings, kidnappings, and extortions that have marred the Naga society. Drawing attention to the words of the late AZ Phizo, the great Naga leader, Zeliang stated that corruption has become a vicious cycle, and money has become the master of the Naga people.
Reflecting on the current scenario, Zeliang declared that after 60 years of existence, the time is ripe for NSUD and the Naga people, in general, to “rekindle the flame of Naga unity” and reflect on past shortcomings.
“Today, tribalism and sectarianism is the problem of the Naga people,” stated Zeliang, asserting that these factors hinder the Naga people from embracing higher democratic values. The negative attitude of one tribe towards another, favoritism towards one’s own dialect, culture, and tradition, were cited as divisive elements that impede true unity among the Nagas.
Addressing the external blame for geographical divisions among the Nagas, Zeliang posed a crucial question: “Who can stand in our way if we are united politically and socially?” He further called on student leaders in the capital city to play a pivotal role in repairing the damage caused by tribalism and sectarianism, urging them to be prepared to forgive, forget, and move forward.
Zeliang also implored the Naga community not to allow the shadows of the past to further divide them. Stressing the bounden responsibility of every Naga, Zeliang called for unity to resolve the longstanding struggles of their ancestors. Despite acknowledging the challenges ahead, Zeliang expressed confidence that no problem is insurmountable with mutual understanding and cooperation.
“We should not blame only the GoI for delay in resolving Naga political issue”
The former Chief Minister also shed light on pivotal moments in the Naga peace process, particularly the engagements of the Naga negotiating parties – the NSCN (IM) and the 7 NNPGs – with the Government of India following the signing of the ‘Framework Agreement’ and the ‘Agreed Position.’
“We should not blame only the Government of India for undue delay in resolving the Naga Political Issue but somewhere we have to admit our own shortcoming which is, infighting within ourselves particularly between the two negotiating Naga groups,” stated Zeliang.
Zeliang said that all 60 Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA), representing six political parties and two independents, have expressed unanimous support for the expeditious resolution of the longstanding Naga Political Issue. He called the formation of Coordination Committee on Naga Political Issue (CCoNPI) a significant step in coordinating efforts at various levels to facilitate a solution to this protracted issue.
Expressing his heartfelt desire for an amicable settlement, the Deputy Chief Minister urged both negotiating parties—the NSCN (IM) and the 7 NNPGs—and the Government of India to reach a comprehensive resolution. He underscored the importance of an inclusive, honorable, and acceptable settlement that aligns with the aspirations of the Naga people at large.
At this crucial juncture, with the Nagas facing various social and political challenges in India and Myanmar, Zeliang stressed the significance of unity. Quoting the adage “Together we stand, Divided we fall,” he cautioned against singing different tunes and fostering divided opinions. Zeliang emphasized that the present generation must address the numerous obstacles arising from the unresolved Naga Political Issue, ensuring that it is not left unsettled for future generations.
Zeliang on Nagas not acknowledging Zeliangrong leaders
Zeliang also questioned the apparent reluctance of some Nagas to acknowledge the contributions of Zeliangrong leaders such as Haipou Jadonang and Rani Gaidinliu. Zeliang, expressing frustration, emphasized the historical significance of their fight against British colonial powers, aimed at integrating the Zeliangrong people arbitrarily divided across Assam, Manipur, and Nagaland through colonial “Divide and Rule Policy.”
“Apart from our Naga brothers and sisters living across the international boundary – if any tribe living in different States within India desire to come together in their own land under one umbrella, and for that matter, if the Konyak Tribe in Nagaland and the Wancho Tribe in Arunachal Pradesh desire to come together under one umbrella, why should we not support their demand?
Sometimes, such matters should be debated in this kind of forum in order to remove confusion and misunderstanding among us,” he said.
He continued by stressing the shared identity of the Naga people, emphasizing commonalities in blood, history, culture, and faith. He also warned against the fragmentation of civil society organizations and student groups, acknowledging that the situation has reached an almost irreparable stage. However, a glimmer of hope was noted, as Zeliang highlighted the efforts of organizations like the Naga Students Union in Delhi and other cities, working tirelessly to maintain the torch of Naga unity.