Nagas and India will remain two separate entities : Thuingaleng Muivah-I
The readers must have read the news of this interview on October 17 and many would have seen the interview (recorded or live on October 16) of the interview. Nevertheless the full transcript of the interview which is long, very long, is being reproduced here courtesy The Wire. The interview will be serialised and we hope the readers enjoy it and gain an insight on the subject.
On October 16, in an interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, the general secretary of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) Thuingaleng Muivah revealed that there are still sharp differences that are separating the NSCN from the Indian government. He repeatedly and forcefully said that the Nagas will never be part of the Indian Union nor will they accept India’s constitution.
He said there could be no compromise on the NSCN’s insistence on a Naga flag and Naga Constitution. “We have stood our ground on these two non-negotiable issues and we shall continue to stand till the last man standing”, he said. Muivah added that Naga organisations like the Naga National Political Groups or several civil society organisations, who are not insisting on a separate flag and Constitution, are “traitors”.
In a 55-minute interview, the 86-year-old Muivah also sharply criticised RN Ravi, the Interlocutor and Nagaland Governor. He says Ravi has “betrayed” the NSCN. He said “he has thrown us away” and that he was acting at the behest of the Home Ministry.
The following is a transcript of the interview, edited lightly for clarity and style.
Hello and welcome to a special interview for The Wire. Five years ago when the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – as it was then called – signed a Framework Agreement, it was widely believed that a solution to the 70-year-old Naga problem was just around the corner. But now, five years later, it seems the talks are at the brink of collapse. With me to share his side of the story, in an exclusive interview, is the general secretary of the NSCN, Muivah.
Karan Thapar (KT henceforth) : Muivah, let’s start with the statement your organisation put out on October 13, just three days ago. The statement says, “The road to a final deal has become ticklish as the sensitive issue of Naga flag and Yehzabo,” that’s the Naga constitution, “remains as the sticking point. We have stood our ground on these two non-negotiable issues and we shall continue to stand till the last man standing. NSCN shall be failing before God and before the Naga people if we stumble at this most decisive moment of our history.” I’ll come to the details in a moment’s time, but are these two issues potential breaking points for your talks with the Government?
Th Muivah (TM henceforth) : Yes now, the point is that most of the important points have been understood together. There is no confusion anymore between us because – allow me to tell you like this – when the Nagas went to meet Jawaharlal Nehru, unfortunately, he had no patience to listen to the Nagas. When the Nagas said, “We will not be under the Indian Union because our history is clear,” when the delegation members said that, he had no patience anymore and he replied, “Even if heaven falls, and the whole country goes to pieces, and rivers run red, yes, with blood, I will not allow the Nagas to be independent. It will be a matter of few days for the Indian armed forces to crush the Nagas.” That was what he uttered. All Nagas were totally surprised! You know, that was the beginning – and I memorised it.
So that was the attitude. So, when the Nagas refused to be a part of the Indian Union, yes, you know, countless troops were sent and operations started. How ? And how they treated Nagas ? Sorry. In the most cruel and inhuman way Nagas have been treated, but Nagas did not surrender. So, after fighting and after the – I mean, yes, condemnation of the Shillong Accord and this and that – after fighting nicely and successively, more than twenty years, from your side, from the Indian side, an official declaration was made: military solution is no longer possible. It is not a law and order issue of India, it is a political issue of the Nagas and India.
KT : Quite right, sir. In ’97 there was a ceasefire, in 2002 or 2003 the AB Vajpayee’s Government accepted the uniqueness of Naga history and identity; since then, for 23 years you have been talking. In 2015, you had a Framework Agreement and everyone thought a solution is bound to follow. Today, you have issued this statement, which says that the sensitive issue of the Naga flag and the Naga Constitution is the sticking point. So, tell me, is the flag and the Constitution an issue over which the talks can break ?
TM : Hmm, you’re right, you’re right. You know-
KT : Just be clear, sir. Can the talks break over the flag and Constitution ?
TM : Of course. If those rights are ignored, you know, it is not acceptable to us, because – as we have told your delegation members very often – Nagas are not lost people. We have our history, we have our history, we have our right. Now, we have told them and, at last, they recognise, “Mr Muivah! Your history is unique, you were never under the Indians, either by consent of the Naga people or by,” I mean, “the force of the Indian armed forces.”
KT : You’re saying the Modi Government has accepted that the Nagas were never under the Indian people, you’re saying that ?
TM : Yes!
KT : The Modi government has accepted it?
TM : Huh?
KT : Narendra Modi has accepted it? That Nagas were never under the Indian people?
TM : No. Among the negotiators, we have come and they agreed. They agreed.
KT : So, Ravi has agreed?
TM : Yes, it is not Ravi but the Indian side.
KT : Has agreed ?
TM : Yes, agreed because-
KT : That Nagas were never under the Indian people ?
TM : Yes, they have admitted it is not a law and order issue of India. That is how they declared to the whole world.
KT : Then tell me this, Muivah, is the flag and the Constitution a breaking point ? If the Indians do not agree that you can have your own Constitution and your own flag, will the talks break on that ?
TM : If our rights are ignored, then we are being treated as lost people. That, we cannot accept. How can we accept, you know, this kind of attitude towards us ?
KT : So, you’re saying without a flag and without a Constitution being granted to the Nagas, there can be no solution.
TM : There can be no solution ! Why ? Because we’re not lost people. We have our history and our history is officially admitted from the Indian side also, “Your history is unique, you were never under the Indians – either by conquest of the Indian armed forces or by consent of the Naga people.”
KT : For the record, tell me, what does the Indian side say to you when you say, “We must have a flag, we must have a constitution”? What do they say ?
TM : Well, they said, “Your history is unique.” So, since our history is unique, I mean, our Constitution must be ours. We cannot out constitution or flag or this or that from others. It is our right to have.
KT : That’s your position, what do the Indians say ? What does the Indian side say when you say, “We must have a flag, we must have a Constitution” ? What is their answer ?
TM : Their answer was this, “Your history is unique. You are never under the Indians according to your-“, I mean, “own efforts or accord.”
KT : But they will not agree ? They will not agree to a flag or Constitution ?
TM : No. The history is unique, this is the main point. Since the history is unique, solution must also be unique. Yes. Since our history is unique, the right to have our Constitution, the right to have our sovereignty, this is up to us. Why should you ask from others? How is it that the Indians will have to impose this Constitution and right on us ? Why ? How ?
KT : Let me put this to you. In August 2019, India revoked Article 370 as a result of which Jammu and Kashmir – which had a Constitution, which had a flag–lost both. After that, how can the Indian Government agree to give Nagaland its own Constitution and its own flag? They’ve just taken it away from Jammu and Kashmir, how can they agree to it for you ?
TM : The issue, the problem, is that Nagas were never under the Indians and by virtue of what Indians will have to impose their Constitution and their flag on us. We were not under them either by conquest of their forces or by consent of ourselves so…
KT : So, your position is, “Because our history is unique, the solution must be unique and if the solution is unique, we must have a Constitution, we must have a flag. What has happened to Jammu and Kashmir cannot apply to us.”
TM : You’re right, that is our stand. Why ? Because in the course of our long talks, they have agreed, “Your history is unique. Your history is unique.” So, solution must also be unique.
KT : Let me put a problem to you. The NSCN, your organisation, is insisting on a Constitution and a flag. The problem is, there are many other Naga groups that are not insisting on a Constitution and flag – the Naga National Political Groups, several civil society groups – don’t worry if there is no Naga Constitution, if there is no Naga flag. On this issue, the Indian Government has divided the Nagas.
TM : Now, you know, these are traitors. These are traitors.
KT : Traitors?
TM : Traitors! They are traitors.
KT : You’re saying the Naga National Political Groups are traitors ?
TM : In most cases they are traitors. Okay, okay, the unique history is clear; how can they deny that? How can they deny that? Who are they? Who are they? They are the people who accepted Sixteen Point Agreement which was rejected by the Naga people – we fought against it. So, how many years after that ?
KT : So, you’re saying to me, Mr. Muivah that Naga groups who are not insisting on a flag or a Constitution are traitors? You mean that ? Traitors ?
TM : They are all traitors. Those people are traitors. We have been standing for our rights, for our history since we were never conquered by the Indians – since we were never with them, as part of the Indian Union. How could you ? How could you, the Indians, say that the Nagas will have to be under the Indian Union, or Nagas will have to be under the Indian flag ?
KT : So, you’re saying – as you said in your statement, till the last Naga is alive, you will insist on your own Constitution and your own flag?
TM : Yeah, we have to stand our ground ! That is our history.
KT : There is no compromise possible on this ?
TM : Well, the compromise, you know, that they brought – we don’t deny that, or we don’t totally reject that. Because, you know, they started finding out the way to make a compromise from the Indian side. Well, I will let you know. “Well, since Nagas have rights, your history is unique, solution must be unique, you’re right.”
(To be continued)