Isak Swu: End of an Era, Dawn of a New One.
By Ninglun Hanghal.
Under the humid and hot Delhi sun, Naga youths were making last minute arrangement for public condolence at the garden-lawn of Nagaland House, when I arrived on Wednesday, June 29. The formal ceremonial function was to begin at 5 pm.
Slowly but steadily, people starts trickling in. Nagas in Delhi came to pay their last respect and homage to their departed leader Isak Chishi Swu who passed away at a private hospital in south Delhi on June 28. The rebel leader of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) was hospitalized for over a year.
One could feel some kind of an 'uneasy calm'. Not much was said, there were not many songs, people were engaging themselves in small talks and day to day discussion. The arrangements seem to take forever. It never got ready, the formal function never began. An announcement said it will take another hour. The sun was mercilessly hot over the western sky, as people make themselves comfortable – pulling chairs under the few trees or moving in the corners to hide themselves from the scorching heat.
Suddenly everybody was in attention, a bustle, the sound of siren, an entourage entered inside from the gate of Nagaland house. Naga warriors in traditional attire escorted their leader's body; wailing as they came in and carry the coffin for the public to have a glance and mourn.
Covered in the 'Naga Flag' and flanked by Naga warriors, the body of the Naga leader was paid the highest respect and honor.
Uniquely, no flowers or wreath.
When I heard the news of the dead of "the NSCN-IM man" it felt like the end of 'something'. The thought that came to me was "at least in his dead the rebel leader will find his peace".
As news spread, there were mixed re-action. Unsurprisingly, one is of respectful mourning and another, of hatred. Five hours after the news of his dead was confirmed, about five articles on/about "Isak Chishi Swu" have come out and are already in circulation on the social media.
His integrity, statesmanship and religious beliefs were the main description of Isak Swu- founder chairman of NSCN-IM.
The air was thick. Most of the young Nagas gathered on wednesday seemed a bit confused (or was it a mixed feeling?). Indeed hard to read the atmosphere. The urgent arrangement understandably, not in proper order. How should they observe the "historic event"?. There is a void, no doubt. Un-settling; the air is pregnant with anxiety.
Surely, none of those young Nagas who had come to Nagaland house in Delhi haven't met 'the leader' in person. I believe many are not "update with the movement and peace process". They are definitely away from home for a long time. They were not even born when the Naga movement began.
Visibly there is an un-spelt question looming over that hot summer afternoon in new Delhi as the new generation of Nagas in India's capital condole the dead of their leader.
Perhaps the generation gap! Indeed many waters have flown down since Muivah and Isak decided to return back "somewhere in Burma" after being unhappy ( rather angry) with the Shillong Accord, as Muivah emotionally recalled. That was over 40 years ago.
If not in his lifetime, in his dead , Isak had achieved a great feat. Government of India spoke in the language of the Naga - the "Naga-lish" language in terms of style and form. The evening witnessed Naga Peace talks interlocutor publicly confirming and declaring that an agreement framework was signed and that the 'peace journey left behind by Isak' will soon see the final completion. Kuknalim.
For the first time, the NSCN (IM) which would have otherwise used an individual name, now represented by Muivah, officially and publicly declare about "reaching a point". Instructively , or rather in a commanding but urging tone, Muivah told the Nagas to return the respect and good will gestures from their "enemy" which have now accepted to 'understand' and build a 'cordial relationship'.
Muivah's strong but firm words categorically directed towards the Naga people, carries a huge meaning. The otherwise fiery leader, who unlike a dreaded rebel is all in emotions and sentiments, the word 'Thank God' was repeatedly used between his sentences. Another was understanding and wisdom. Most importantly the leader's underlining tone are the words of acknowledgement, praise of his 'enemy'. That the 'enemy' had been conquered not militarily but with 'the mind'. In a more elderly advise the rebel now turn peace maker told the young Nagas not to doubt the GoI. While mentioning criticisms and challenges on the way to the 'peace journey' which he said were overcome under the leadership of Isak, Muivah's public speech emphasized that both India and NSCN (IM)'s sincerity should no longer be doubted.
India accept the Naga history, they have realized our issue is not military but political' we have come to an understanding – for a peaceful relationship said Muivah to the Nagas who listened to him intently.
Many will still be critical. Many will still be sceptical. Maybe even the Nagas themselves.
That politics will continue. Critics, scepticism is part of 'political issue' and definitely not a military one which had been put to an end by Isak and Muivah.
The clarity that came with the dead of Isak Swu and as put forth sternly, but firmly by his right hand man Th.Muivah is that the ball is the court of the Nagas now. That now is the time for Nagas to understand the Indian leadership, which Muivah have indirectly stated " the leadership of the day"
If not in his lifetime, at least in his dead , Isak Swu was publicly recognised, acknowledged, saluted as a leader who fought for 'his people'. That under his leadership a considerable progress was made, almost to the final. From anger to the jungle to corridors of understanding, he had led his people. An honour he rightly deserved, in his end !
In his dead, ends an era and beginning of the dawn of a new one.