GUWAHATI: A condolence message from Nagaland Chief Minister Shurhozelie Liezietsu recently sparked a controversy and spurred a debate on Naga nationalism. The immediate comparison one may draw is vis-a-vis BJP’s aggressive Indian nationalism. Liezietsu had mourned the death of S S Khaplang, a Naga from Myanmar, chief of insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN)-K. NSCN-K is proscribed, and Khaplang was wanted by security agencies after the outfit killed 18 soldiers in Manipur in 2015.
The debate was about if a CM, sworn under the Constitution, can mourn the death of an insurgent leader whose group is banned. This is not the first time that a politician in Nagaland or a political party in the Northeast has spoken warmly about rebels as “national workers”. Former Nagaland CM Neiphiu Rio did it in 2003, and in Mizoram, the Mizo National Front stands up for Mizo chauvinism.
“Khaplang was part of Naga nationalism. Whether there was a ceasefire with the government of India or not, he was working for the Nagas,” said former Congress minister I Imkong.
Liezietsu’s Naga People’s Front (NPF) is a BJP ally in Nagaland and Manipur and in Parliament. When it came to criticism of his condolence message, parties, including the Opposition, firmly stood behind Liezietsu.
Few political parties in Nagaland can afford to ignore Naga nationalism. While the Naga Club had approached the Simon Commission for excluding Naga Hills out of a future India, A Z Phizo’s Naga National Council had declared “independence” on August 14, 1947. With polls next year, Naga nationalism is hardly subliminal. The NPF slammed “a section of national electronic media, which needlessly criticised the message of the CM, which exposed their ignorance of ground realities here”.