The Frontier Nagaland- Quest for the final freedom of 'forgotten man'

Dr. Aniruddha Babar *

"Liberty needs the state and the laws. But it is not given by the state or the elites controlling it. It is taken by regular people, by society. Society needs to control the state so that it promotes people's liberty instead of quashing it. Liberty needs a mobilized society that participates in politics, protests when it's necessary, and votes the government out of power when it can…For liberty to emerge and flourish, both state and society must be strong. A strong, mobilized society is needed to control and shackle the strong state."
~ Narrow Corridor, Darren Acemoglu and James Robinson

A major development has been witnessed in the progress of the Eastern Naga People's Movement to restore their Constitutional Rights through a demand for a separate state 'The Frontier Nagaland'. Eastern Nagaland People's Organization-an apex civil society organization that represents all seven eastern tribes inhabiting the six districts of Eastern region of the state of Nagaland on 19th December, 2022 decided to stand firm on its earlier decision to abstain from participating in the upcoming State Assembly election in 2023. At the meeting held at Chang Khulei Setsthang in Tuensang district on 19th December where the ENPO reaffirmed its earlier resolution to abstain from participating in the upcoming 2023 assembly elections.

Even though Election boycotts have no place in a functioning democracy; free and fair public participation being at the heart of the democratic process, however, boycotts have played constructive role to play in a democracy that is not functioning as it should be and where 'constitutional rights of the people' have been constructively, systematically, seriously compromised.

I would like to examine the stand of ENPO from the angle of constitutional "Right to Protest" to publicly challenge and try to persuade the government to respond. This is a fundamental right of the people that stems directly from a democratic interpretation of various provisions of Article 19.

Also, the decision of ENPO to abstain from Nagaland State Assembly Election, 2023 can be seen as 'Civil disobedience' which is the active, professed, non-violent, peaceful, lawful refusal of a citizen/citizens to obey certain laws, demands, decisions, orders or commands of a government (or any other authority) in the context of systematic alleged mass destruction of 'Constitutional Rights' of Eastern Naga people by the successive governments that came in power in the state of Nagaland since 1963 and to invoke the true spirit of democracy as well as to restore the constitutional rights of the Eastern Naga people by constructing a separate state- The Frontier Nagaland.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India recognized the right to peaceful protest, stating that "democracy and dissent goes hand in hand. In a democracy, the rights to free expression and peaceful protest-through words or/and acts are "treasured" and must be nurtured and safeguarded. Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of protestors and that peaceful protest should be tolerated in democracy.

Although the Right to Protest is not an explicit right under the Fundamental rights, as said above, it can be derived from the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19.

Article 19(1)(a): The Right to free speech and expression transforms into the right to freely express an opinion-through words or acts on the conduct of the government. Let us understand that the purpose of protest by a group, community, or individual is to express their disapproval or defiance of the actions, policies, statements, etc of the state, government, or organization.

Article 19(1)(b): The Right to association is required to form associations for political purposes. These can be formed to collectively challenge government decisions.

Article 19(1)(c): The Right to peaceably assemble allows people to question and object to acts of the government by demonstrations, agitations and public meetings, to launch sustained protest movements.

These rights, in cohesion, enable every citizen to assemble peacefully and protest against action or inaction of the State. Right to Protest ensures that people can act as watchdogs and constantly monitor governments' acts. It provides feedback to the governments about their policies and actions after which the concerned government, through consultation, meetings and discussion, recognizes and rectifies its mistakes and omissions.

The Constitution of India has empowered the public to act as a watchdog and monitor the government's every move. As a result of injustice or misuse of power, the public-while exercising the constitutional mandate, has often acted as a watchdog and protests have been held.

The majority of protests are driven by political waves, which are also a sign of the collective organization of people to compel the state or government to address their issues and take steps to overcome them. In general, protests work in two ways. First, it shows the community or group, or individual that they disagree with the policy, and second, it helps governments identify their own shortcomings and work to make them better.

The constitutional guarantees in the form of Fundamental Rights guaranteed to the every citizen of India go a long way in strengthening Indian democracy and allowing space for peaceful dissent within our political system. The right to protest through word or action, even to the extent of peaceful civil disobedience will go a long way in safeguarding the right to protest which makes dissent co-existent with democracy.

India attained its Independence through peaceful struggle. Passive resistance, civil disobedience and Satyagraha are well known instruments of protest. They essentially involve peaceful and non-violent methodologies of protest. Satyagraha is an instrument where truth is used for assertion. ENPO as a guardian organization of our Eastern Naga people know very well as to where it stands in this time of historical challenge and complicated circumstances.

The political awakening of the Eastern Nagas empowered them to take bold steps in the spirit of the Constitution. This is for the first time in the history of modern Nagaland, common Nagas have finally awaken to their constitutional rights and determine to carve their own social, political, economic, cultural destiny in a separate state- The Frontier Nagaland.

The stand taken by ENPO to boycott assembly election is not at all ambiguous but a crystal clear. The Eastern Nagas have proved their metal by showing the courage to completely abstain from participating in the recently concluded Hornbill Festival. Moreover, the apex body of Eastern Nagas also decided to demand resignations of all the party workers belonging to any political parties. Filing of nominations will also not be allowed.

This shows the readiness, thoughtfulness, psychological determination and strong fortifications of the Eastern people. Now, the onus is on institutions and holders of constitutional office to respond to the growing public outcry by reflecting on their actions and committing themselves to their proper role-as a constitutional guardian of the people of Eastern Nagaland to help them secure Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity.

As I observe, the Frontier Nagaland has not remained a dream of a sad child, but a battle cry of an awakened, smiling warrior who has been empowered and revived by the spirit of the Constitution and Rule of Law.

In the history of the movements for separate state, the Frontier Nagaland Movement is a first political movement in the northeast India that has clearly reached down to a grass root level- to the last man. It is interesting to observe that Frontier Nagaland Movement has also broken the 'newly' created class system in Eastern Naga society. As I have seen with my eyes, right from the top Government officers serving in the Kohima, Business class people, Intellectuals, women, Students studying in schools-colleges-university to the poor, illiterate farmers toiling hard in their fields in Wui Village of Noklak or Anatongre Village of Kiphire, all have been united for the cause of Frontier Nagaland.

Tikhirs and Khiamniungans- the most discriminated and greatest victims of the fractured system of hollow governance, who are completely invisible people for the state, forgotten by Kohima since 1963 and also by the New Delhi since 1947 waiting silently for the justice since ages. Sangtams, Konkyaks, Changs, Yimkhuing, Phoms have been standing strong to reclaim their rightful share in the 'guaranteed' constitutional justice.

The overall picture of Eastern region is totally different now. The talks about Frontier Nagaland has been going on everywhere. The people are eager to create a new world. How would the new world be? Will Frontier Nagaland be the Kingdom of God? The future is in the hands of people.

Right people at right places to do the right jobs in the right manner will only create a beautiful heaven in the future Frontier Nagaland. Corruption, Clanism/Tribalism, Nepotism, Discrimination, short sightedness, Selfish insanity will ruin the system that people dream to build. Nagaland has been a slave of 'power', let the Frontier Nagaland be the Master of 'Power'.

Frontier Nagaland, will be constructed by Law, but will finally be built by the people committed to the ideals enshrined in the Constitution of our nation which Dr. B.R. Ambedkar have identified as a Foundational Principle of 'Social Justice' and 'Final Freedom of Man'.

* Dr. Aniruddha Babar wrote this article for
The writer is at Dept of Political Science, Tetso College, Nagaland
The writer can be contacted at aniruddha(AT)tetsocollege(DOT)org
This article was webcasted on 24 December 2022.

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