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How Atal Bihari Vajpayee won Naga hearts

Vajpayee not only recognised the “unique history” of the Nagas, but also admitted that mistakes had been committed, and lamented the unnecessary spilling of blood in the state.

Written by Samudra Gupta Kashyap | Guwahati |
August 4, 2015 2:15:00 am

“Ami laga bhai aru boyni-khan. Aami Nagaland-te matiye karone besi khusi paise dei. (My dear brothers and sisters. I am very happy to be amid you on the soil of Nagaland.)”

This was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, opening his speech at a public reception in Kohima on October 28, 2003. He went on to speak about the “unique history” of the Nagas — the sentence that Nagas, and especially the NSCN (IM), have always remembered.

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Neither Indira Gandhi nor Rajiv Gandhi ever visited Kohima as Prime Minister. A visit by Jawaharlal Nehru had witnessed an embarrassing spectacle of 5,000 Nagas turning their backs on the PM after he rejected the demand for a “sovereign” Nagaland on March 30, 1953. Morarji Desai and H D Deve Gowda travelled to Kohima, but neither of them is remembered with the fondness that the Nagas have for Vajpayee. The first NDA Prime Minister not only recognised the “unique history” of the Nagas, but also admitted that mistakes had been committed, and lamented the unnecessary spilling of blood in the state.

“It is true that of all the states in India, Nagaland has a unique history. We are sensitive to this historical fact,” Vajpayee said in his speech. “But this uniqueness has in no way diminished the spirit of patriotism among the Naga people. We have the inspiring examples of patriot Jadunong, who became a martyr, and Rani Gaidinliu. Who can forget that in critical times of war in 1962, 1965 and 1971, Naga underground organisations did not fire on the Indian Army? They showed restraint. I would also like to acknowledge the sacrifices of jawans from Nagaland during the Kargil War,” he said.

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