What Nagaland looses in the demise of K. Zhimomi?


By Rupesh Dutta

The central government must have given the due respect and honour to Khe Kiho Zhimomi by ensuring state funeral to him with top country leaders in attendance but they clearly failed to utlised his potential as great Naga leader who could have helped in resolving numbers of Naga issues with New Delhi. Also, with the leader's demise, the people of Nagaland have lost a hope of their issues being raised at the national level, which until Zhimomi's death was kept alive by him.

Apart from standing tall in the Naga politics for decades, it was the audacity and his leadership quality due to which the 70-year-old Zhimomi was among the ones who could bring the Naga conflict in the national media, rather than just keeping it confined to the state like what other Naga leaders did.

It was the stature of the politician because of which Zhimomi was part of the Indian delegation that traveled to Myanmar recently with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, where several insurgent groups inked peace pact with the Myanmar Government.

So courageous was Zhimomi that even after belonging to a political ally of the NDA, he condemned the home ministry's move to ban the anti truce faction National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang), clearly stating that the central Government was not serious about the Naga Peace Talks and merely trying to play with the sentiments of Naga communities.

It is entirely a different matter that the NSCN (Khaplang) faction had once accused Zhimomi of collecting illegal "taxes" in its name. However, it always remained in the realm of accusation and the Khaplang faction never came out with any proof.

Zhimomi was born on February 19 in 1946 and became the member of Nagaland assembly in 1989 for the first time, and continued to serve as the state assembly for another two terms — from 1993 to 1997 and from 2003 to 2008. It was during Zhimomi's successful stint as the Nagaland's Industries and Commerce minister under the chief minister Vamuzo in 1990, during which the Naga leader proved the potential Nagaland had in terms of business opportunities apart from agriculture, on which 75 percent of the state's people depend.

Though Zhimomi was fortunate enough to see the inking of the Naga Peace Accord between the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagalim(Isak-Muivah), the agreement of which he was a staunch supporter, the only clamour he raised for was the unity of all the Naga communities towards the support of the pact.

His urge for unity among all communities of Nagaland, especially the ones residing in the Naga inhabited lands of Nagaland's neighbouring states — Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh — has today become one of the major bone of contention for the Indian Government in terms of convincing the people of the state.

It may be remembered that when the peace accord was inked and there was state of confusion among the Naga communities regarding the inclusion of Naga inhabited lands from the three neighboring states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur, Zhimomi emerged as the lone Naga political leader to raise the issue in the national media and calling all the Naga inhabited land as ethnic Naga property, which at any cost needed to be returned back to Nagaland.

Zhimomi, who continues to remain as one of the most cleanest politician from Nagaland, was only once seen as controversial leader, when he was featured by the media suggesting division of Manipur into two union territories for a peaceful co-existence of the tribal and the meities, following the violence the state had seen over the passing of three important land bills.

However, the humble Zhimomi, immediately after the issue raked a controversy decided to apologise and simply stated that being a North Easterner he had every right to think about the possible solutions concerning the violence in the region, which continues to see inspite of projecting united outside the region.

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at dutta.rupesh711@gmail.com)