READ: Latest Interview with Niketu Iralu on Naga Issue
An exclusive interview with Mr. Iralu at the time when misunderstanding and divisions are enormously rampant more than ever in the Naga society vis-a-vis the neighbouring communities like the Meiteis, the Kukis and the Assamese. Youngsters are angry, confused and directionless in the absence of model leaders but the thoughts of this Naga peace icon, Mr. Iralu, are worth pondering as point of reference to our dealings with one another for the sake of fraternity and humanity.
Mr. Iralu is the nephew of Angami Zapu Phizo, the pioneer of Naga revolutionary movement. But unlike his uncle, Iralu has resolutely chosen the path of reason and peace building through dialogue. That has made him instrumental in resolving conflicts among the warring Naga groups. He is one of a kind who enjoys the timeless trust of all Naga warring factions even in the heat of factional conflicts. He is well known internationally and has worked most of his life on international platforms.
He once said, “I was asked by Indian army Major friend, Mr. Iralu, “are you an Indian or a Naga?”, to which I responded: “I am a Naga but an Indian by citizenship.”
Note: Do not be confused Niketu Iralu with the writer Kaka Iralu.
THIS POLITICS: Why do you think Nagas are always divided based on tribes and boundaries? What can help prevent this?
Niketu Iralu: Main problem, we do not seem to know ourselves correctly! We started to come together and start our journey into the modern world as a people and a nation only very recently. We haven’t travelled far yet from our villages although we now dress, look, smell, sound very modern. The instinctive reactions for survival that have served us so well for centuries are still binding us to the village morung moorings and festivals. We should thank, not condemn, our tribalism that have brought us thus far, but we now need to inspire and help one another to solve our family problems together instead of being so suicidal – pull one another down because of our greed and ambitions.
THIS POLITICS: What is your message to young people at the time when Naga society is highly fragmented (Naga civil societies as well as Naga Political Groups)?
Niketu Iralu: Come together to listen to one another and to our soul and conscience in honest conversations to UNDERSTAND the SIZE and NATURE of our CRISIS instead of stabbing or throw acid at one another in the concealed dark underworld of social media. The dishonesty and reckless irresponsibility being indulged in is outrageous, NOT WORTHY of the young and not so young Nagas of today, “Over ground” and “Underground”. The lack of concern for consequences is positive proof that we are not aware of the adventurous, dangerous journey our people have started and its baffling challenges we have to turn into our strength instead of letting them destroy us. The intellectual, ethical and character quality of our youth is our main hope for growth. Without it we’ll end up creating hatred and killings fields. This is the key lesson from history.
Tell them (to Naga Political Groups) “Lead us not into your temptations, but evolve a roadmap that will take us forward by delivering us from the evils they know that will destroy all of us.” Nagas expect “healing, creative, far-seeing leadership” from the fighters for the Nagas at this historic moment.
THIS POLITICS: Which one does it matter most to the Nagas right now – peaceful settlement of Naga political issue by compromising part of our rights as a nation or standing up for inherent Naga political rights with prolonged struggles? How do you draw the line there?
Niketu: The first one must and can be achieved now. But dishonesty and manipulation to control rather than leadership of transparency and statesmanship about the new realities everyone knows has made the first and the second choices issues mutual blaming. The line is known to all Nagas. Nagas should take this position: Nagas can discuss sovereignty (for which so many have died) with GoI any time. But Nagas have found after almost 7 decades of fighting that although an ancient civilisation, India is too young a democracy to even discuss Naga sovereignty. The legal and political validity of our position based on the facts of our history are not disputable. And it was not because they hated India or planned to harm India that they decided to claim sovereign nationhood before the British left. Their history entitled them to make the claim. Nagas were not, are not, against or anti- India. But Nagas cannot defeat the Indian Army and push India out of the Naga homeland. So leave sovereignty out for now and work out a settlement that will be right for Nagas and India. When India will be ready one day Nagas of that day will discuss sovereignty and find a settlement that will be honourable, acceptable and therefore sustainable. Nagas cannot treat lightly their inherited position on sovereignty or be apologetic about it just because it is too difficult for India and we are so small.
THIS POLITICS: Meitei civil societies have been saying that any solution for the Nagas in Manipur shall never go unopposed. Yet Nagas are also likely to be never giving up for demanding separate arrangement out of the purview of Manipur state. These two are quite kind of extreme stands from both sides. What will you say on this (to Meiteis as well as to the Nagas)?
Niketu Iralu: Both sides are underestimating each other given the emotional, political, economic, legal and historical compulsions fuelling their respective positions. The extreme stands will end in eventual destruction of both. Fresh informal dialogue to find what will be right long term for both sides should be started without anything being said publicly that will let the media in and turn it into toxic chatuni which neither side can eat.
Suppose Nagas take the initiative by first surprising our Meitei neighbours by letting them know we want to understand their doubts and fears more than we want a settlement that we have always wanted. We should care more for the purity and quality of the dialogue process than the outcome. Nothing less will work. The result will surprise us also! Nagas can say we will pledge with our honour that from henceforth we will never use our easy but immoral and self-degrading advantage of bandhs and strikes to settle differences so that they need no longer fear we will be a threat to their proper growth and all other human rights they are entitled to enjoy. Thus completely undisturbed, Imphal can become a Singapore for Meiteis and all of us surrounding them.
THIS POLITICS: Are Nagas capable of living peacefully as one entity and why?
Niketu Iralu: Yes, that is God’s plan and destiny for us. Why? Because the stunningly colourful peoples of the ethnic nationalities that live in the region of Asia in the middle of which we are placed need to learn to live and grow together by caring for one another instead of destroy ourselves by selfishness that never satisfies. Anything less will be boring and suicidal. We won’t need to go to hell to know what hell is. If we get there, God forbid, we will be surprised the hell we left behind to be much worse! Giving fish and bread, not serpent and stone; our best instead of our worst to one another, is the great choice. The first option always challenges us. The second tempts us. Which one is our calling?
THIS POLITICS: Should Government of India be held responsible for all the chaos in our region? What do you think Government of India should do as first step towards peace building in the region?
Niketu Iralu: The GoI should carefully arrange with some right thinking Indians to ask Nagas “Where have our Govt and Indians gone wrong and produced so much pain and suffering for you the Naga people? We will tell the Govt and the Indian people what you will tell us.” They should also ask Nagas to help by understanding the real difficulties every Prime Minister and his cabinet in Delhi have to cope with in doing the right thing. This will be so different from the feudal attitude the policy mandarins sitting in their offices inside South Block have taken for a very long time that the struggle by the Nagas for their aspirations and dreams was not their own thinking but the instigation of foreign missionaries to weaken India. That Nagas are not developed and intelligent enough to be stirred by such human aspirations. The feudal attitude has outraged the Nagas and made things extra difficult.
No. GoI is not solely responsible for all the chaos in our region. But the leaders in Delhi failing to give sufficient and timely attention to understand the reasons for fear and resentment in the region’s people has played a considerable part in increasing the despair, insecurity and use of violence to solve problems. And certainly we
Nagas have to admit the places where we have made our crisis more complicated and dangerous by our shocking selfishness and unrestrained weakness for instant gratification, showing no concern for the consequences. Human beings becoming more and more like leaches?
THIS POLITICS: Allegedly, peace is finally envisioned for the Nagas. What is your advice to NNPGs, NSCN (IM) and GoI to make this vision a reality in our land?
Niketu Iralu: The three negotiating entities should declare this to the Nagas: They and all Nagas have produced the Naga crisis in different ways and measures. They will not make the crisis already extremely dangerous more dangerous, meaning, no violence or threat of violence will be started by any side because to do so will bring us to a Black Hole that will suck all Nagas into destruction and it will not benefit India for long either. This will give God His chance to rally the hunger for peace that is in all Nagas to work out a solution that all can accept. Too idealistic? Or could it not be simply giving the opening God needs to enter our darkness and do what we cannot on our own?
THIS POLITICS: Should Naga public condemn or welcome the Naga negotiators if they bring a solution that is short of basic Naga National Rights?
Niketu Iralu: Condemnation has become habitual but we blaming addicts should have learned by now that addiction is simply slow motion suicide watched by everyone. We should say to negotiators we understand their mind-soul-back-breaking difficulties and thank them. But also that they have no right to put their personal, tribe, factional agendas above what is right and best for all Nagas. Tell them “Lead us not into your temptations, but evolve a roadmap that will take us forward by delivering us from the evils they know that will destroy all of us.” Nagas expect “healing, creative, far-seeing leadership” from the fighters for the Nagas at this historic moment.
WATCH: Mr. Iralu Spoke on Democracy Dialogue with special reference to Naga Political Issue.