Why commemorate Naga Plesbicite Day, 16th May, 1951 ?

Dr Phungchamnao Ranreiphi Kharei
Nagas from across the world along with well-wishers like UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization), Naga International Support Centre (NISC) joined hands in commemorating the Naga Plesbicite Day 16th May, 1951, on 16th May, 2024 after a gap of 73 years. It was a red-letter day in the history of Naga freedom struggle as Naga Plebiscite was conducted to reaffirm the declaration of Naga Independence that was announced before the world on 14th August, 1947. It was the day the Nagas portrayed themselves loud & clear with their thumb impressions in which 99.9% of the Nagas voted for Sovereign Naga Nation. It was the most powerful symbol of Naga People's inalienable right for sovereignty. It also represents the virtue of the Nagas and ignited the flame of irreversible political identity of the Nagas as a sovereign Nation.
National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN GPRN), Naga People's Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), Naga Hoho, Naga Students’ Federation (NSF), Naga Mothers' Association (NMA), Global Naga Forum (GNF), United Naga Council (UNC) Manipur, Tirap Changlang Longding People's Front (TCLPF) Arunachal Pradesh, Eastern Naga People's Organization (ENPO), Naga People's Organization (NPO) Myanmar, Naga Women Union (NWU), Tribe Hohos, All Naga Students’ Association Manipur, District Apex Bodies, Naga Churches, Politicians, Social Activists, intellectuals and well-wishers expressed in one voice to reaffirm the stand of Naga Nation. "Remembering with  thanks to our ancestors," said Eno Gen Ningkhan Shimray, MC, VC Longvibu, Naga Army in his welcome address on the commemoration day at GHC.
As the historical truth is told, Nagas under the banner of Naga National Council (NNC) took the crucial steps to conduct Naga Plebiscite. "We are here today to reaffirm the stand of our Naga Nation that we do not need India and we do not want her. We are here today, to prove to India and the world that Nagaland is United and that our Nation aspires the same conviction to continue to be independent as a distinct Nation as we have always been the sovereign National State of the Nagas," said AZ Phizo, President, NNC on the Naga Plesbicite Day, May 16, 1951.
Brief Background of Nagas as a Nation and the Declaration of Naga Independence on August 14th, 1947
Nagas came into existence as a free Nation since time immemorial without any pressure from the outside world. Nagas are politically a distinct Nation with each village as a republic with sovereign authority. Naturally, Nagas were against any kind of intrusion/incursion and domination over the sovereign right. Nagas zealously guarded against the misadventure of alien forces like the Shans from the east and the Ahoms from the west. When the British intruded into the Naga territory, they went through horrible time in the hands of the ferocious Angami Warriors. This depicts the spirit of Naga Nationalism for the love of their mother country. It shocked the forces that dared to test the nerves of the Nagas. The Naga People's allegiance to the Naga Nationhood is the dynamism of the Naga culture. The passion for political freedom and independence are intrinsically linked and had been the motivating factor that drives the Naga political movement.
The British ruler which established their authority over the small Naga area known as Naga Hills District in 1879 became more conscious of the Nagas political right and their concern for future political status. They could follow the burning desire of the Nagas who did not want their National identity be buried under the shadow of British India or British Burma. Thus, when JH Hutton, a British officer convened a meeting with the Naga Club to ascertain their wishes after the departure of the British, the Nagas expressed their desire to be left alone just as the British found them at first. When Simon Commision visited Kohima on January 10, 1929, the Naga Club exhibited remarkable political maturity by coming up with more organised system in their political approach towards their stand. They submitted a memorandum that the Nagas be left alone to decide their own future and their political status be reverted to the independence they enjoyed before the British came. The memorandum reads: "We pray that we should not be thrust on the mercy of the people who could never have conquered us themselves, and to whom we were never subjected; but to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times."
Ironically, things were not moving as desired by the Nagas as the British Government and British India Government showed no sign of withdrawing their hold on the Nagas. This compelled the Nagas to organise themselves under the banner of Naga National Council (NNC) and assert their rights in the manner that carried the weight of authority and credibility. Henceforth, NNC occupied the centre stage to lead the Naga political movement.
The NNC submitted a memorandum to the British Government and British India Government on February 20, 1947 with the request for interim Government for themselves and proposed a 'Protected State Status' with India as a guardian power for an interim period of ten years, at the end of which the Nagas would be left to decide their political future.
The copy of the memorandum was sent to Clement Atlee, the Prime Minister of England, Lord Simon, Member of the House of Lords and Winston Churchill. Part of the cover letter to Lord Simon, the House of the Lords reads:  "No argument is needed to show that the Nagas are a separate people with their own customs, traditions and culture; and to say that the British Government has decided to hand- over to the Indian hands complete authority for governing over Nagaland, in complete inconsistence with the policy of administration hither followed in these Hills and in violation of implied but clear pledges in the past years, without even asking the opinion of the Nagas is not only unjust but immoral."
Nevertheless, the Nagas decided to put up a good fight when it became very clear that the overriding geopolitics of the Indian Government was simply to make the Nagas as part of the Indian Union. This was made known when the Indian Constituent Assembly was established in 1946. T Aliba Imti, the first NNC President was made a part of the sub-committee. When this sub-committee met in Shillong over the issue of joining India, Nagas refused to be bogged down under any pressure and stoutly took the stand not to go along with the other princely States and walked away with the comment: "We the Nagas, cannot sign our names to be under India. We do not agree with it and we resign." Not willing to let his name go down in history as having led down the Nagas, Imti plainly told the sub-committee, "I cannot return to my people as a traitor."
(To be contd)