Aug 14, 2007

Nagalim: A Forgotten Anniversary

On the day of India's sixtieth anniversary UNPO focuses attention to the Naga question which remains unresolved, though conditions necessary for constructive negotiations on the Indo-Naga dispute appear finally to be in place.

While India prepares to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of its independence, the Naga people remember instead their own declaration, communicated sixty years ago - one day before India.

Today [14 August 2007], on the eve of festivities celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of «the world’s biggest democracy», three million Nagas will commemorate another anniversary: that of the international community’s indifference to their own declaration of independence.

Although the past sixty years have been years of emancipation and progress for a great part of the Indian population, they will be remembered by the Nagas as five decades of marginalisation and war followed by a decade of difficult reconstruction. As British forces withdrew from the Indian subcontinent, the Nagas, an indigenous people of Tibeto-Mongolian descent, witnessed most of their land incorporated into the territory of the new Indian state in direct contradiction to their own wishes, expressed in a declaration sent on 14 August 1947 to the United Nations, the British government, and other embassies present in the sub-continent. Whilst the UN acknowledged receipt of the document, formal recognition of Nagalim was never an agenda item. The previous month in India, Mohandas Gandhi had taken a stand in favour of the Nagas’ right to self-determination but his unexpected death in 1948 denied him the opportunity to ensure a peaceful settlement prevailed. Five decades of futile conflict at a high human cost between Indian and Naga parties ensued.

Excluded from the main international fora, the Nagas became members of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) in 1993. Based in The Hague, the Netherlands, this democratic platform has enabled their leaders to reach out to the international community, with negotiations between the Indian government and Naga representatives taking place in some countries proving receptive to their commitment to peace. A peace process was initiated in 1997, most recently culminating in the indefinite ceasefire of 31 July 2007 and the beginning of promising in-depth negotiations on the future status of Nagalim.

Today, the conditions necessary for constructive negotiations on the Indo-Naga dispute appear finally to be in place. While tensions remain tangible, a fragile peace has helped stabilise the region. The situation on 14 August 2007 is very different from that of 14 August 1947. On this symbolic date, UNPO calls upon both sides to work to foster an environment of trust, renew the commitment to peace and dialogue in resolving the conflict and honour the ceasefire. At a time when India prepares to celebrate more than half a century of independence and development, UNPO would like to invite both parties to remember the words of Mohandas Gandhi: “I believe in the brotherhood of man, but I do not believe in force or forced unions”.

UNPO presents its compliments to the peoples of India on the occasion of the anniversary of their independence and hopes that ongoing efforts on both the Indian and Naga sides will produce an agreement for future generations to commemorate; with all parties enjoying a share in the growing prosperity democracy has brought to the peoples of India over the last six decades.

Speech by Mohandas Gandhi on 19 July 1947 (link to external site)