Celebration of the 100th year of Naga Club under the theme “Celebrating the legacy” began with participation of Nagas from western, northern and southern areas and Myanmar at a function organised by Naga Students’ Federation (NSF) at Naga Solidarity Park here on Wednesday. United Nations consultant for peace building and dialogue Philippus Petrus Visser took part in the function as an honoured guest.
The programme was also attended by various frontal tribal bodies, Naga Hoho, Naga Mothers’ Association, NPMHR, Khasi Students’ Union and well wishers including former NSF office bearers.
In his address, Visser said he was honoured to be part of the celebrations commemorating 100 years of Naga Club’s legacy and struggle.
He stressed that unity was essential for political struggle and urged the Nagas to find ways to work together cutting across tribal divides.
Visser said he could not comment on Naga political struggle, but shared his experiences and urged Naga people to ponder what hindered finding a solution to the issue.
Citing the instance of world’s youngest nation South Sudan that got independence in 2011, he said two years later, civil war erupted due to divisions among the people who belonged to different ethnic groups.
Stressing the need for relationship between political leadership and communities, the UN consultant urged the Naga people to celebrate 100 years of Naga Club by striving to leave behind another legacy for the next 100 years for the upcoming generations.
In his address, former secretary general of South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR) Tapan Bose said he had travelled the length and breadth of Naga areas and found the Naga people well-cultured, but unfortunately were not found interesting by Indian States.
He added that the Naga people were fighting for their right to self determination and right to life, while continuing to live in peace in the manner they had over the centuries.
He observed that the submission of memorandum by Naga Club to Simon Commission became a historical event for the Nagas.
Bose alleged that the idea of India’s sovereignty and nationalism was so overwhelming among a section of leaders in the country immediately after independence that they had forgotten the concept of human rights and sent Assam Rifles to Naga hills. He reminded the participants of Oinam village incident of 1987.
The former SAFHR secretary general urged the Naga people to introduce a system whereby all the tribes with their diversity and culture could live together under one political system as one people, having total control over their lives, resources, legal system, etc. He also emphasised Nagas having their own constitution, while still being part of the Indian constitution to protect their history and culture, control over resources, their languages, right to retain their identity, maintain diversity, etc.
Speaking on the occasion, organising committee convener Neingulo Krome said the rally was being held to commemorate 100 years of Naga Club, honour its pioneers and celebrate the legacy. He said the Naga Solidarity Park was established 25 years ago when Nagas from all Naga areas had come together and celebrated 1993 as the International Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples as declared by the United Nations with the motto “Indigenous Peoples - A New Partnership”. He said a function was jointly organised by Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights and NSF from December 1 to 5 that year.
Neingulo remarked that despite the many challenges “our society” was facing today due to some internal contradictions, which continued to mar Naga society, “our ancestors who laid the foundation of our nationhood must be looking at today’s gathering with affection as we equally embrace their blessings upon us.”
He said “Today, as we all join our hearts and souls to re-affirm the pledge of our ancestors, we re-iterate that the land of Nagas straddles across the political boundaries, which the British drew to demarcate territories of India and Burma (Myanmar) without consulting the Nagas. This imaginary line runs through the middle of villages and even houses.”
According to him, the political boundaries further divided Naga areas into the present States of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, besides the erstwhile Sagaing Division and the recently-formed Self-Administered Zone in Burma that left out Khamti, Homalin, Tamu, etc, and also many Nagas living in Kachin in Myanmar.
However, he stressed “We are all here cutting across national and international boundaries, representing all these geographical regions to reaffirm what our ancestors and Naga Club had stood hundreds years ago.”
The programme was compèred by Theophilus and Gugu Haralu and traditional blessing done by former chairman Japfüphiki Pfütsana Krotho. A one-minute silence was observed in honour of departed souls and associated with Naga club.
Welcome address was delivered by NSF president Christopher Ltu, while Nagas from Myanmar and from western, northern and southern areas presented cultural items.
As North East Students’ Organisation chairman Samuel B Jyrwa shared a solidarity message, representatives from Arunachal Pradesh and Kuki Inpi, Nagaland spoke on the occasion.
Poetry reading was done by Virokono Kuotsu, while southern Nagas from Oniam shared the tale of struggle and suffering caused by Assam Rifles personnel after their camp was attacked. Eirene choir presented postlude and closing prayer said by Rev Fr Paul Punii.
More than 4,000 people, including students, general public, student leaders and others, attended the programme.