"Ostracized Eastern Nagaland" - The call for frontier Nagaland

Dr. Aniruddha Babar *

"Lost rights are never regained by appeals to the conscience of the usurpers,
but by relentless struggle.... Goats are used for sacrificial offerings and not Lions
- Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings And Speeches: A Ready Reference Manual

As historical evidences teach us, Nagaland (erstwhile Naga Hills) has seen a significant violence, bloodshed and political instability. The ineffective administration of the British government since 1866 in the region resulted in transferring its weak legacy to the independent India. Moreover, the land of Eastern Nagas remained untouched by the British influence and has been left on its own fate declaring it 'excluded and un-administered' area, hence it did not have anything in the name of 'governance' or 'civil administration system'.

This Eastern region -"The mysterious, Invisible Shangri-La" of India finally came on the map of India in the year 1948 as a division under North East Frontier Agency (NEFA) known as "Tuensang Frontier Division" and was kept under the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. The aforementioned time line gives us a clear contours as to why the region spread of 8,154 sq. km kept beyond the reach of 'development' and 'progress' in the past.

In the last decade, a significant rift has arisen between the western and eastern Naga tribes. The main reason of this rift is the lack of developmental opportunities for the eastern Naga tribes in the eastern region of the state of Nagaland. Despite having constitutional protection under Art 371 (A) Eastern region of Nagaland did not see any acceleration of development at par with rest of the Nagaland which evidently benefitted from it on the development front.

The demand for a Frontier Nagaland has been getting stronger since last more than a decade now. The issue which has been ignored by the mainstream media as well as Government is finally getting radiant political contours in the dynamic political environment of the state of Nagaland. The demand is for slicing out a separate state viz "Frontier Nagaland" consists of most Backward Districts- Kiphire, Longleng, Mon, Tuensang, Shamator and Noklak covering total 8154 (out of 16,579 sq. km. of the state of Nagaland) with six major Naga tribes.

The reason for such a movement is for development and welfare of the people in eastern Nagaland and also to recognize-acknowledge and exercise their rightful and lawful share in administrative, economic as well as the political power in the region.

The point of view I will try to put as briefly as I can. It is this that the current form of Governance in the state of Nagaland has failed to give justice to the Eastern people. What the Eastern people, who have been gravely affected by the state, intended to do is to create a state of their own which will have a Government of the people, by the people and for the people where all the mistakes, omissions and commissions happened in the political history of the state of Nagaland be corrected in the best possible interest of the Eastern Nagas.

Eastern people do not blindly accuse the Western Politicians and leaders of indifference or want of sympathy. What they do find is that the leaders are quite incompetent to tackle their problems. If the case was one of indifference only it would have been a matter of small moment, and it would not have made such a profound change in their attitude.

But what the Eastern people and their leadership have come to realize on a deeper analysis of the situation is that it is not merely a case of indifference, rather it is a case of sheer incompetence to undertake the task. The Eastern people find that the State Government of Nagaland suffers from two very serious limitations. There is first of all an internal limitation, which arises from the character, motives, and interests of those who are in power.

It is not because they cannot help the Eastern people in these things but because it is against their character, motives and interests to do so otherwise the people of the east would never have had to suffer for decades in the darkest hours of time. The second consideration that artificially limits the authority of those in power in Kohima, is their mortal fear of being deprived of the opportunities to milk the political 'Cash Cow' like 'Eastern Nagaland'.

Corruption has become a tool in the hands of those sitting in the power. The system that they have tactfully crafted gave birth to a conducive political environment-a healthy system for the exploitation of the Eastern Nagaland-not only by depriving the Eastern people of their constitutional rights but also limiting their political participation (20 seats in Legislative Assembly) and access to the power house in "Kohima".

Yet it is most painful thing that the Government and its 'Nuts N Bolts' has not dared to touch any of these evils. Why? Is it because it has no legal powers to remove them? No, the reason why it does not intervene is because, it is afraid that its intervention to amend the existing code of 'Corrupt Governance' will give rise to resistance from its elite and powerful beneficiaries.

Of what good is such a Government to anybody? We must have a Government in which the men in power will give their undivided allegiance to the best interest of the people in the region and the country. We must have a Government in which men in power, knowing where obedience will end and resistance will begin, will not be afraid to amend the social, economic and political code of life which the dictates of justice and expediency so urgently call for.

This role the current system of Government and its Governance in Nagaland will never be able to play. It is only a Government, which is of the people, for the people and by the people that will make this possible. Hence, the Frontier Nagaland- people in the Eastern Nagaland believe.

These are some of the questions raised by the Eastern people and the answers, which in their view these questions seem to carry. This is therefore the inevitable conclusion, which the Eastern people have finally come to: namely, that the Government of Nagaland, with the best of motives (if any, at all), will remain powerless to effect any change so far as particular grievances of the Eastern people are concerned.

They feel that nobody can remove their grievances as well as they can, and they cannot remove them unless they get political power in their own hands. No share of this political and economic power can evidently come to them so long as the political status-quo in Nagaland and attitude of the tall leadership/s of the state of Nagaland remains as it is.

It is only in a separate state of "Frontier Nagaland" that people of Eastern Nagaland stand any chance of getting the political and economic power in their own hands, without which political, economic and social salvation to the people of the East will remain a distant dream.

It must also be recognized that while the intelligentsia is a very important part-a backbone and a thinking mind of any civilized society including that of our Naga society, here, in Nagaland, it is drawn from its upper strata and although it speaks in the name of the Nagaland and move the political, religious and cultural wheels, it has not shed the narrow particularism of the class from which it is drawn.

The administrative sector has been dominated by the western Nagas, education sector has been dominated by the western Nagas, Entrepreneurial spaces have been occupied by the western Nagas, media and newspaper industry have been completely dominated by the western Nagas, legal profession have been dominated by the western Nagas, field of literature have been dominated by the western Nagas and last but not the least-POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE of the Nagaland have been dominated by the Western Nagas.

Where do the Eastern Nagas, then stand in today's Nagaland? When will the Eastern footsoldiers (from every walks of life…..for e.g. political footsoldiers obediently serving their masters-some willingly, some under duress in Kohima etc, etc) will get a chance to be the real decision makers, honest leaders of the people?

Through media and public forums, people of the East are often reminded that the solution to their problem lies elsewhere than in politics. I would like to take strong exception to this view. I maintain, that the problem of the Eastern people will never be solved unless they get political power- the rights granted to them by the Constitution of India- in their own hands. If this is true, and I do not think that the contrary can be maintained, then problem of Eastern people is I submit eminently a political problem and must be treated as such.

Also, a fact need to be taken into consideration that demand for a Frontier Nagaland need not have to be compared with a repeal of Art. 370 of Jammu and Kashmir. J&K has its own complicated history. There is no reason to imagine non-existent situation thinking Frontier Nagaland-once become a reality- the eastern region or the current state of Nagaland will lose the special status. Also, the demand for Frontier Nagaland did not come overnight.

It is a result of the bitter experience of decades under different governments, chief ministers and leaders. Constituting mini secretariat or relocation of DUDA will not going to be helped either- as Secretariat and DUDA will remain in the hands of Kohima and remained eclipsed by 20/40 formula of political representation between Eastern region and the Western region in the Legislative Assembly of the state of Nagaland which actually perpetuates bad practices in Governance that encouraged all types of corruption, irregular/backdoor appointments, imbalanced representation of the Eastern people in government services and misappropriation of development money intended for the development of backward eastern region.

I am afraid the Eastern people have waited too long for time to work its miracle. At every successive step taken by the Government of Nagaland to widen the scope of its governance and development policies; the Eastern people have been systematically left out. No thought has been given to their claim for justice. I protest with all the emphasis I can that the people of the East will not stand this any longer. The settlement of their problems must not be left over to the shifting sands of the sympathy and goodwill of the rulers of the present or the future. The reasons why the Eastern people insist upon it are obvious.

Every one of us knows that the man in possession is more powerful than the man who is out of possession. Every one of us also knows that those in possession of power seldom abdicate in favour of those who are out of it. We cannot therefore hope for the effectuation of the settlement of the congenital, chronic political problems that the people of the East have been suffering from since ages.

The Eastern Nagas have had no friend. The Government of different times and eras have all along used them only as an excuse for its continued existence. The "KOHIMA" claim them only to deny them or, better still, to appropriate rights. Powerful elites in our Naga society refuse to recognize their unique history, separate existence and painful ground reality, because they fear that their privileges may be curtailed by the admission of a newly awakened, rising and equally powerful 'TRUTH'.

Depressed by the Government, suppressed by the System and disregarded by the intelligentsia , Nagas of the Eastern Nagaland are left in a most intolerable position of utter helplessness to which I am sure there is no parallel anywhere in India and to which I was bound to call attention.

I have no quarrel with logic and logicians who without experiencing and understanding the brutal ground reality attempt to appropriate the issue of Frontier Nagaland. As an old Uncle (my Gaon Bura friend) once said, "People have to be careful in the selection of the premises they choose to adopt for their deductions". It is all a matter of temper whether you will abode by the fall of your logic, or whether you will refute it.

I sincerely believe in the need to form Frontier Nagaland as a necessity of time because 'Political Demography' dominated by the Western Tribes and Tribal dynamics is something that has become a permanent "Structural reality" of modern day Nagaland which transformed the entire 'Naga Polity' into a kind of a tall building without staircase where both the entities i.e. the Easterners and Westerners will remain where they are. In such a condition, Eastern people cannot even dream of reaching to a decision making position in political spectrum of the state of Nagaland.

All I will say at the present moment is that, although people of the Eastern Nagaland want a Frontier Nagaland with stable, responsible Government and mature, transparent, visionary Governance upholding the JUSTICE-EQUALITY-LIBERTY AND FRATERNITY the ideals enshrined in the Constitution of India, they do not want a Government that will only mean a change of political masters. The earth does not want new continents, but new men. Let the Legislature be fully and really representative if Executive is going to be fully responsible.

The TRUTH of Eastern Nagaland is not easy to comprehend, but destiny paved a path for me to be able to reach its core on my own feet. Man, no matter how small or how insignificant, has every right to live like a human being with honor and justice.

The Nagas of the East are the inhabitants of an oppressed region; and I am still, and shall be, to my last breath, one of them!

* 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 17 October 2022.

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