Naga Republic News & Analysis
A notable and the first of its kind document prepared by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) has come out with a roadmap that seeks to bring about peace, mutual understanding and co-existence between India, Nagas and neighbouring peoples of North-East India. Titled “A Treatise to the Public”, the six page document is intended to reach out to the Naga public, its neigbours and to India.
Mention may be made that the FNR was formed on February 24, 2008 as one of the outcomes of the Naga Peace Convention organized by the Naga Shisha Hoho in Dimapur. Since then it has been mediating between the warring armed groups and was successful in putting an end to inter-factional violence and killings.
“It is a document that touches upon the important issues of our times—religion, identity, political aspirations and the security dimension”, says the FNR to The Naga Republic while pointing out that the ‘treatise’ is a wide encompassing and very well thought out statement that has a message for the Indian government, the Naga public and the neighbors.
Pointing to the immediate reality of intense social, political, and religious aspirations all around, the FNR document calls for an “inclusiveness” in which “diverse people groups share a common humanity” and one that “respectfully honors and preserves their multicultural heritage, as well as their sacred beliefs”.
“Our deep conviction, as articulated through this treatise, seeks a common humanity and a resilient co-existence to usher in a paradigm for a new harmonious and respectful human order in the world”, states the FNR treatise.
The timing of the important document comes against the backdrop of the rise of the Hindu-right wing groups, most notably the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the North-East region and concerns thereof. The points raised in the ‘treatise’ should also be put into context with the likely signing of the Indo-Naga peace accord in the next few months. The peace accord is expected to have greater ramification across the North-East region.
In an obvious reference to religious fundamentalism whether it is Christianity, Hinduism or Islam, the FNR states that “all too often religions contribute to global and regional conflicts” though at the same time it also acknowledges that “through the centuries, world religions have been moral and spiritual agents of love, nonviolence, peace, tolerance, and human-hood”.
Perhaps referring to the Hindutva politics of the RSS, the FNR has expressed concern over what it stated was “the co-opting of socio-political agendas to religion” “in our time”, which it states, has “degenerated into a civil religion”.
“This has become an expression of the dominant ideological doctrines of the present order”, the FNR states while adding that in “this paradigm, religion is manipulated to serve the needs of power and to give a religious dimension and credibility to policy decisions shaped by the powerful”.
“This civil religion results in the deadly equation of the religious, faith-inspired way of living with the way of life promoted by ideological doctrines”, the FNR says in its treatise.
The FNR also truthfully admitted that in the name of Christianity, “Nagas have sanctioned an ideology that has resulted in violence” and they have also “carried prejudicial, superior, demonizing, punitive and dismissive attitudes towards persons from other religions and faith traditions”.
This according to the FNR, needs to be addressed, while pointing out that the challenge was not to “perpetuate any injustices” in the “process of regaining our humanity”.
The document also states that “since the interplay of religion and conflict requires serious attention”, the FNR’s position is that “religions are an essential resource for transforming conflicts, not to arbitrate a case of who is right and who is wrong”.
Referring to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the FNR points to the recent past of the RSS “lashing out at Christianity and the Nagas”. “The degree of idolatrous language used and the discontent hurled on Naga Christianity does not, in any manner reflect and represent the minds of Hindu believers whose religion, built on the harmonious voices of the Sanatana Dharma and the Bhagavad Gita, is thousands of years older than Christianity”, it states.
Perhaps referring to the Hindu-right and the present establishment in Delhi, the FNR says that “Nagas eagerly yearn for an olive branch and not a gun, honesty and not superficial framing, and a genuine embrace without calculations”.
“Nagas yearn for sincere guidance and not patronizing lectures filled with superior attitudes. Nagas yearn for truth”, the FNR treatise states.
Calling for a “New Human Order” of “belonging and identity”, the FNR states that people are “searching for new paradigms and approaches”.
In this regard, the FNR takes the position that the Naga political issue should be placed and addressed in consonance with the historical and political aspirations of the people and that the “Naga people’s unique and distinct identity” must be put into proper context.
Against the backdrop of the political dialogue between the Government of India and Naga Political Groups and the reported statement of Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio that “symbolic matters” continue to be a “stumbling block” in arriving at a final solution, the FNR appears to be sending out a message to the Government of India when it states that “an identity always carries with it symbols”.
“An identity without a symbol is a crisis of identity, as identity and symbolism are different sides of the same coin. To strip symbols from an identity is to deny its existence. In the case of the Nagas, symbolism is based on history”, states the FNR.
The FNR also points to the “distinctiveness of the Naga nation – its politics of identity and history”.
In what should be seen as reaching out to its neighbours, the FNR was of the view that “the assertion of Naga identity should never be at the expense of others, such as our neighbours, whose identities are equally unique”, states the treatise.
History according to the FNR has taught both the Nagas and our neighbours that “our identity cannot be pushed to the margins, erased or addressed merely on economic well-being and development”.
The FNR has also taken a critical view of colonial history, the European Westphalian State tendencies and past colonial mindsets of boundaries.
According to the FNR, while Nagas and our neighbours “are caged in fear and suspicion within our boxed-in boundaries, we are neglecting more important issues, such as the illegal flow of people groups crossing our borders”. “This issue is of greater magnitude which will eventually eclipse the fear and suspicion over political boundaries held by our neighbours”, the FNR cautions.
The FNR it may be mentioned is organizing a series of ‘Open Public Interaction’ under the broad theme ‘Reasoning Together’ in Nagaland, Delhi and other Naga areas in the North-East.