[Assam] Washington Diplomat: Naga News
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Mon May 7 19:41:14 PDT 2007
Religious Fervor May Dominate Emerging Indian State of Nagalim
by Sean OíDriscoll
In sheer population, Nagalim has been one of the worldís most brutal conflicts, yet few people have ever heard of this tiny region in northeast India fighting for independence.
Since Indian troops first started to put down an insurrection by the Christian population of Nagalim, or Nagaland, in 1947, an estimated 200,000 people have been killed in a population of fewer than 4 million.
There has been a ceasefire since August 1997, and after numerous difficulties both sides agreed to a joint communiquÈ in Amsterdam on July 11, 2002, in which India recognized ìthe unique history and situationî of the Naga people for the first time.
The Nagas are represented by Isak Chishi Swu, chairman of the National Socialist Council of Nagalim who also claims the presidency of a region he hopes to see completely free of Indian rule within the next decade.
His party has set up a new office in Washington, D.C., and is scrambling to gain access to the U.S. government, as well as to the United Nations. Swu stopped by his office last week for an interview with The Washington Diplomat before lea ving for San Francisco, where he is to visit a Christian center.
A devoutly religious man known for his elegant style, Swu insisted on beginning the interview with a prayer, during which he asked for blessings for everyone in the room and for peace around the world. It was clear after only a few minutes that Swuís main preoccupation will be with creating a Christian state, which comes higher on his list of priorities than socialism, nationalism or even democracy.
Overflowing with evangelical zeal, Swu explained that Nagalim will send out 10,000 missionaries around the world when it achieves independence. ìOur intention is that Nagalim is for Christ. We have proclaimed it. Nagalim is for Christ. God has got his plan for Nagalim,î he said. ìWe were evangelized by the American Baptist missionaries back in 1839, and we donít have the adequate words to thank the American missionaries.î
It is difficult to assess if Swuís religious fervor is simply that of any country leader suddenly finding religious freedom after decades of oppression. But there is a large young population in Nagalim that is eventually going to come into contact with Western culture and concepts such as atheism, and it remains to be seen if their religious rights will be respected under an independent Nagalim. On the subject of atheism, Swu made his feelings very clear.
ìNo, no, there are no atheists in Nagalim,î Swu insisted. ìThere are people who believe in a higher and a lower god from the older religion. They have a spiritualism, but it is lower spirit.î
Swu was pressed on the pointósurely there must be some atheists in his country. ìThere are no atheists in Nagalim. Everybody knows that there is none,î he reiterated.
Despite his strong objections to atheism, Swu said the rights of other religions will be respected after independence. ìIn the religion, we cannot impose,î he said. ìIt will depend on the decision of the individual, so we cannot restrict people to be completely Christian, because the world is such that the devil may also penetrate.î
In a country where many feel this devil lurks in nonbelievers, it is not difficult to foresee that Nagalim will not be the worldís most liberal country after independence. It will certainly be against homosexuality, Swu explained, adding that his country strongly supports the actions of a U.S. state supreme court judge in Alabama who disobeyed the federal government by placing a monument of the 10 commandments inside a court building.
ìWe subscribe to the people who are trying to stand for the Lord. We subscribe to the idea that, in Alabama, the Christians will have to maintain their integrity and not succumb to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court,î Swu said.
ìThe [U.S.] Supreme Court has gone wrong because they have stopped children from saying prayer before school. That is not according to their constitution. [The supreme court members] are subscribing to having homosexuals. That is not the constitution laid down by your forefathers. The founders of your nations were god-fearing people, and they laid down proper foundations. That is why America prospered,î Swu added, noting that the Statue of Libertyís message to immigrants ìdoes not mean that they do against the word of God.î
Other Naga leaders, however, do not match Swuís religious enthusiasm, and there have been political splits in the past, leading to questions whether various parties will in fact emerge to share the countryís leadership.
ìWe donít believe in the party system now,î Swu said bluntly. ìIn the future, we may have, but the party system depends on the majority decision. They donít depend on right and wrong. When the majority become wrong, they will just carry it out, so that is dangerous for us.î
Despite Swuís deeply engaging, charming and intelligent personality, this political leader is also proposing a state where only Christianity will be tolerated (he is in favor of Hindus returning to India), homosexuality will be banned, democracy will be unheard of, and government will be controlled solely by the will of God.
It is put to Swu that upon attaining independence, Nagalim might not differ much from Iran after its 1979 revolution. Swu, however, insisted that his regionís scenario is different because ìwe shall stick to what God will show us. What the Holy Spirit will tell us.î
Nevertheless, Iranian fundamentalists said much the same thingóthat they will follow whatever Mohammed tells them. ìBut we donít have Muslims between us,î said Swu.
But if you change the religion, is there any difference between the two points? ìGod doesnít want us to change the religion. God doesnít make us accept Hinduism or Muslim.î
But surely people born in Nagalim whose faith has weakened will also have a place in society? ìIf the devil will work hard, he may get some people to do that. We must fight the devil, so that nobody will come like that. No chance must be given to Satan,î Swu said. It is a point on which he will not budge.
Swu does say that the Hindu population can return to India after Nagalimís independence, even those who were born in Nagalim. But the suffering of the Naga people goes far deeper than the return of Hindus to India. There has been a huge number of casualties during the decades-old conflict, and Swu argues that a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Forum, in which combatants fess up to their crimes, would be an effective and essential way of coming to terms with Indiaís actions in Nagalim.
ìWe have to understand the history and the facts. So [India] must correct themselves,î Swu said. ìThen there can be reconciliation and better understanding and respect for each other. But, of course, the U.S. or some such person must be in supervision, because the Indian government might lie.î
The Embassy of India was contacted several times for this story but it did not respond to our inquiries.
As for the United States itself, Swu calls for a ìsweeping revivalî to rid it of sin and return it to its Christian roots. ìWe in Nagalim look to the United States as the country that brought us to Christianity. It is time for a sweeping revival, not just in Nagalim but also in the United States. The United States should be leading the world,î he said.
Next on Swuís agenda is a trip to the Summer Heaven religious center in San Francisco, where he will recite prayers with Christian missionaries and speak to the public to spread his Christian gospel in a determined fight to see that Nagalimís salvation of the world begins one soul at a time.
Sean OíDriscoll is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.
Ed.M. - International Education Policy
Harvard Graduate School of Education,
Class of 2005
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