The Nagaland Assembly has passed a Resolution recognising the Naga undergrounds as those “who have selflessly worked, fought and sacrificed” for the “aspirations and rights of the Naga people” and said these forces continue to follow the “tradition of selfless sacrifices” for the “common cause” of the Naga people. It said that the time had come for the Assembly to rise to the occasion and play its contributory role. Just pause and think: What has been the role of the elected representatives of Punjab and the Punjab Assembly in their engagement with the Sikh aspirational struggle? For someone like Prakash Singh Badal, here is a lesson in how to engage with the agitation and struggle waged by thousands of Sikhs for the self-respect of the community. For the Indian nation state, this is a slap in the face of all those who are quick to berate aspirational struggles and battles as “terrorism”. “Terrorism” has become such a tag that the governments conveniently slap on actions of civil society groups, people’s movements and ethnic societies. But the brave people of Nagaland and their elected representatives have sent out a clear signal that even the dumb establishment cannot miss. On Friday, the 27th of November, 2009, the Nagaland Assembly created history and a precedent by unanimously adopting a resolution in which the House recognised the Naga undergrounds as those “who have selflessly worked, fought and sacrificed” for the “aspirations and rights of the Naga people.” The House also expressed recognition of those undergrounds who continue to follow the “tradition of selfless sacrifices” for the “common cause” of the Naga people. The members of the Assembly put on record their appreciation for “sincerity” of the underground groups, “especially the commitment towards peace and understanding by signing the Covenant of Reconciliation on September 23, 2003 at Chiang Mai, Thailand.” Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who moved the resolutions said the political issue and the negotiations had reached a crucial stage and that the time had come for the August House to rise to the occasion and play its contributory role. The development should be a lesson to the elected MLAs and MPs in Punjab who are beneficiaries of the struggle of thousands who died defending the sanctity of the Sikh community’s religious places and stood up to tyrranical regimes to protect the self respect of the community. The Punjab Assembly has never even thought of passing a resolution to honor the memory of those who fought for the interests of the state, for its assets, its waters, its territory. The fact that the Nagaland state legislative assembly has extended ‘recognition’ to the Naga undergrounds even as talks between the Government of India and the NSCN(IM) have yet to reach a conclusive stage shows the dedication of the elected representatives to the cause and their eagerness to take along those who really fought for the Naga people. The fact that the resolution was passed unanimously must be hailed. In Punjab the Congress and the Akali Dal have both worked only to dilute or negate the contribution of those who took a stance in favour of their people and were made to suffer or were even killed. The resolution passed by the Nagaland Assembly said those termed as insurgents are in fact the ones who “continue to follow the tradition of selfless sacrifices for the common cause of the Nagas.” The state assembly also reiterated its earlier stand on integration of all Naga-inhabited areas in the region, an issue that also figures prominently on the NSCN agenda. “It is the desire of the Nagas to live together as one family and this House has rightly voiced the cry of the Naga people,” Chief Minister Rio said. The Nagaland Assembly has so far passed four resolutions in favour of integration of Naga areas” first on December 12, 1964, followed by August 28, 1970, September 16, 1994 and December 18, 2003. The 60-member House in the resolution also appealed the negotiating parties of the Naga political dialogue to expedite the political process and bring about an early resolution through a negotiated settlement which was honourable and acceptable to the Naga people. “We appeal to the negotiating parties of the political dialogue to expedite the political process and bring an early resolution through negotiated settlement which is honourable and acceptable to the Naga people,” the resolution said. Chief Minister Rio, while moving the resolution, called upon legislators to come together, cutting across party lines, with one voice on the Naga political issue. “Our unity and understanding will create the right environment for all sections including civil societies and underground groups to unite and work together.” He said it was all the more imperative that the over ground groups first unite before the undergrounds were called upon to come together. When was the last time you remember the Akali Dal president and Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal who first enjoyed power during 1997-2002 and then from 2007 onwards ever making such an appeal to other Akali factions? The state assembly, through its resolution, also appreciated efforts towards finding a permanent solution to the decades-old “Indo-Naga” political problem. Has Mr Badal ever used a term like Indo-Sikh problem? Or even Indo-Punjab problem? The Nagaland Assembly resolution also appreciated the civil society, churches, NGOs and the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) for their all out efforts towards reconciliation, understanding and oneness of all sections of Naga society. The resolution also hailed the sincerity of the underground groups, especially their commitment towards peace and understanding by signing the “Covenant of Reconciliation” earlier at Chiangmai in Thailand on September 23 this year. The resolution further decided to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Naga political issue comprising members from all political parties. This committee would carry the voice of the House to all concerned sections including the Centre and the Naga rebel groups. The Naga Peoples’ Front (NPF) has appreciated the Nagaland Legislative Assembly to institute the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). Just when some voices in India murmurred about such a resolution, New Delhi was jolted by the unity of the Naga people and ensured that the discordant voices are silenced immediately. This is what happens when a community is clear about its interests and a sense of purpose and unity binds them to a common cause. No wonder, India’s Home Secretary G K Pillai was quick to not only not oppose or criticise but even go as far as to back the Nagaland Assembly resolution in support of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN). Pillai said that the NSCN is not a banned organisation and that the government was looking to resolve all Naga issues through dialogue. In contrast to the Punjab Assembly which did not ever praise even men like Bhai Jaswant Singh Khalra or Sirdar Kapoor Singh, forget about praising Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale or Bhai Shahbeg Singh, here was the Nagaland State Assembly that praised Issac Swu and Thinuselie Muiva, the founders of the NSCN, the most feared ultra outfit in Nagaland. Irrespective of the Indian media’s concerted efforts to paint the NSCN (IM) as being responsible for the deaths of prominent editors, police officers and army officials and tom-tomming the NSCN getting plenty of support in arms, ammunition, cash and other resources from China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, here was the elected Assembly that gave legitimacy to the brave underground movement and thus telling the world that what is called the “six-decade-long insurgency” is something that was a movement of the people, for the people, by the people. It is to be noted that the 60-member Nagaland Assembly that passed the Resolution also included 19 opposition Congress party legislators. The move of the Nagaland Assembly will also yield benefits for the militant groups as it is also aimed at uniting all underground groups and ending violence and bloodshed. The rival NSCN factions are fighting a bitter turf war for territorial supremacy in Nagaland since they split in 1988. The internecine war has claimed many lives. Another significant resolution was to integrate all Naga-inhabited areas in the northeast, a demand that has for long been raised by the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM). ‘It is the desire of the Nagas to live together as one family and this house has rightly voiced the cry of the Naga people,’ Rio said in the assembly. The NSCN-IM, one of the oldest and most powerful of about 30 rebel groups in India’s northeast, was earlier fighting for an independent homeland for the Nagas but scaled it down to a ‘Greater Nagaland’, to be formed by slicing off parts of adjoining states that have Naga tribal populations. The governments of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh have rejected the demand for unification of Naga-dominated areas. New Delhi too has earlier rejected demands for unification of all Naga inhabited areas. But with the united voice now coming through the Assembly, New Delhi will have little option but to concede. One cannot help but wonder what would have been the conditions in Punjab had the political leaders of the state displayed a similar concern for Punjab, Punjabi and Punjabiyat rather than raise the bogey of terrorism. The Nagaland Assembly’s Resolution appreciated efforts towards finding a permanent solution to the decades-old “Indo-Naga” political problem. Has Mr Badal ever used a term like Indo-Sikh problem? Or even Indo-Punjab problem?