The Eastern Sümi Hoho (ESH) today met Nagaland’s governor RN Ravi here and submitted a memorandum on “Petition against exclusion of Sumi tribe vis-à-vis demand of “Frontier Nagaland” by Eastern Naga People’s Organization (ENPO).”

A copy of the memorandum, which was made available through a press conference here at Hotel Japfü stated that the Eastern Sumi Hoho (ESH), representing the native Sumi inhabitants of Tuensang and Kiphire districts of Eastern Nagaland draw the attention of Governor to the issue on the position of the Sumi inhabitants of Eastern Nagaland “whose very existence is being threatened consequent to the ongoing ENPO’s demand for “Frontier Nagaland” and the recent Government of India’s formal invitation to ENPO for talks on August 13, 2019.”

The memorandum stated that the ENPO has been projecting the proposed “Frontier Nagaland” as belonging only to the six tribes comprising Sangtam, Yimchunger, Chang, Phom, Khiamniungan and Konyak while mischievously excluding Sumi tribe, which is one of the major tribes in Kiphire district with Sangtam and Yimchunger.

It stated that Sumi tribe’s prominent presence in Eastern Nagaland since time immemorial is not only a historical fact but encompass both political and social scenario from the time the region was Un Administered Area, and continued under the Tuensang Frontier Division of the then North Eastern Frontier Area (NEFA1945-1956) administration, Naga Hills Tuensang Area [NHTA (Tuensang district) 1957-1962], under Tuensang district (from the formation of Nagaland State in 1963) and till date.

It explained that as early as 1878, Sumi tribe established Phisami village followed by establishment of 10 more Sumi villages namely, Thazuvi, Shothumi B, Lukhami, Nitoi, Honito, Nikiye, Kiyezhe, Xuvishe, Sukiur (Sumi Khel) and Ighoto. The aforementioned 11 villages were established solely by native Sumis (Sumi village). The Sumi tribe of Eastern Nagaland along with other non-Sumi tribes had established 11 other villages / towns, namely, Shothumi A, Yangzitong, Seyochung village, Seyochung town, Shishimi, Sitimi village, Sitimi town, Natsami, Longmatra, new Monger and Kiphire town (co-existing villages/towns). Of the above 22 villages / towns, 21 are currently located under the jurisdiction of Kiphire district and one (1) under Tuensang district. Kiphire was formerly a Sub-division under Tuensang district.

“It is pertinent to note that in the year 1958, twenty-six (26) other Sumi villages in Aghunato Area then under NHTA (Tuensang district), were bifurcated and placed under Mokokchung district in Zunheboto Sub-division (Now Zunheboto district). The status of rest of the Sumi tribe in Eastern Nagaland remain unchanged and they have been cohabitants of the region together with the tribes of Chang, Phom, Khiamniungan, Sangtam, Yimchunger and Konyak from time immemorial as aforesaid,  and till date.

On 24th October, 2003, Kiphire, which was formerly a Sub-division under Tuensang district was upgraded as a separate district by the Government of Nagaland. Except for Sukiur village which remained with Tuensang district, the aforesaid 21 (Twenty-one) Sumi villages and co-existing villages/towns came under Kiphire district, the memorandum stated.

The memorandum stated that Sumi tribe had played a major role in the preparations and events leading to the establishment of Tuensang Head Quarter in the year 1947 and Kiphire town in the year 1952. Shri Zuhovi of Khumishi village [then under NHTA (Tuensang district) and presently under Aghunato Sub-division] was the Dobashi (DB) who represented Sumi tribe at the establishment of Tuensang Head Quarter in the year 1947 [(page-7, Sl.No.18 of the Tuensang Souvenir Golden Jubilee (1948-1998)] and there were four other Sumi DB’s in Tuensang. Similarly, Sumi tribe had prominent participants in the establishment of Kiphire town in the year 1952. At the establishment of Kiphire town, Chehozu (Sumi) of Natsami village became the Head Dobashi of Kiphire town and three other Sumi, namely, Honito, Hoshito and Henikhu, were inducted as DB’s.

It stated that with the formation of Nagaland state on 1st December, 1963, Tuensang district was brought under the administration of Regional Council in terms of the special provisions made for Tuensang district in article 371A of the Constitution. The Regional Council comprised of 35 members with the Deputy Commissioner as its Chairman ex- officio, and the members of the Council comprised of representatives from the tribes inhabiting the different regions of Tuensang district including Sumi tribe. Tuensang was one of the original three districts of Nagaland, along with Mokokchung district and Kohima district, at the time the State was created.

Under the Regional Council system, no Act of Legislature passed by the Nagaland Legislative Assembly had any effect on Tuensang district unless it was approved by the Governor on the recommendation of the Regional Council. There was a special Minister for Tuensang Affairs in Nagaland Government. The members to the Legislative Assembly from Tuensang district were not elected directly by the people, but by the Regional Council.

The members of the Regional Council nominated 6 members from amongst themselves to represent the Council in the State Legislative Assembly. In the year 1969, the members representing the Regional Council in the State Assembly was increased to 12. N. Zhetovi Sema was elected as Regional Council Member (RCM) as Sumi representative in Tuensang district from Sitimi Area Council in the year 1964 (1st term) re-elected RCM (2nd term) and elected by the Regional Council to the State Legislative Assembly in the year 1969. From the year 1964-1974, Late. Vikheho of Natsami village and Lt.Kughaho of Honito were represented as Area Council Chairman and Sukuto of Sitimi village and Lt.Sukhahe  of Xuvishe and Khehoi of Honito village were represented as Area Council members during the regional council system, the memorandum stated.

The Regional Council was formed by the Governor to look after the administration of Tuensang district under the aforesaid special provisions for the region under article 371A of the Constitution. In the year 1973, at the end of the ten-year period, the Regional Council was abolished and the people of Tuensang district began to participate in the elections to the Nagaland Legislative Assembly along with the rest of the State. There were 20 MLA’s from Tuensang district (before its bifurcation into Mon, Longleng, Kiphire and Noklak districts), out of a total of 60 seats in the Nagaland State Assembly.

The memorandum stated that prior to the upgradation of  Kiphire Sub-division to a district, Sumi land, topography and population being very crucial for demarcation of Kiphire district, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) dated 3rd  August, 2003 was entered amongst the three tribal bodies of Sumi, Sangtam and Yimchunger, namely, the United Sangtam Likhum Bumji (USLB), Yimchunger Tribal Council (YTC) and Tuensang District Sumi Hoho (TDSH) now the nomenclature is changed as Eastern Sumi Hoho (ESH)) with mutual agreement to adopt modalities specified in several clauses in the memorandum, particularly, agreeing as equal partners, to share equal opportunities within the three signatory tribes; respect and honor each other’s respective traditional values and to strive towards a peaceful co-existence amongst them. The MOU was officially submitted to the Government of Nagaland vide letted dated 13th August 2003.

It stated that per contra the prominent role played by the Sumi tribe in the political, social and historical scenario within the region as explained above, “the ENPO has been employing exclusionary policy in so far as sharing of privileges and benefits with Sumi tribe in the region is concerned by excluding the tribe in all it’s demands, be it job reservation, special economic packages for the region, etc., which is not emphasised herein and would be taken up separately at appropriate forums.” It stated that fuelling the sentiments of the already aggrieved ESH, in November, 2011, ENPO submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India dated 26th November,2011 with the “proposed Map of Frontier Nagaland” covering  the districts of Mon, Longleng, Kiphire and Tuensang, indicating only 6 tribes (Chang, Konyak, Phom, Sangtam, Khiamniungan and Yimchunger) as inhabitants of these districts while divisively excluding Sumi tribe.

“ESH was utterly shocked and dismayed by the proposed Map which included Sumi’s ancestral Land with its demography, topography and population in Kiphire and Tuensang districts while unceremoniously and blatantly excluding the presence of Sumi tribe in their own native land,” the memorandum stated.

“It is important to note that the MOU was entered amongst the three tribal bodies of Sumi, Yimchunger and Sangtam tribes for the purpose of up gradation of Kiphire as a district and Sumi population and its land has been accounted for carving out Kiphire district. However, such blatant act to discard and trample Sumi tribe in the demand of the ENPO for Frontier Nagaland goes beyond any reason whatsoever,” it stated.

The memorandum stated that ESH has been having series of talks with the ENPO ever since it started excluding Sumi tribe in the sharing of privileges and benefits as aforesaid.

“Several requests were also made to the ENPO for a joint meeting with all officials of the six tribes for clarification as to the status of native Sumi inhabitants of Tuensang and Kiphire district apropos to “Frontier Nagaland” demand,” it sated.

In fact, the ESH and ENPO had a cordial meeting on 29th October, 2011 at Tuensang and decided to schedule another meeting soon after. ENPO, vide letter dated 20th May, 2012 intimated to the ESH that a joint meeting would be held on 15th June, 2012 at Hopongkyu Memorial Hall at Kiphire. However, ENPO abruptly cancelled the meeting at the last hour, the memorandum stated.

“In the light of such treatment meted out to Sumi tribe and all efforts for talks with ENPO not forthcoming, on 18th September, 2015, the ESH, convened a General Body Meeting at Phisami village, Kiphire district, wherein a unanimous resolution was passed to protect and safeguard the historical and geographical rights of Sumi and to oppose ENPO’s “Frontier Nagaland” if Sumi tribe is not taken into confidence as stake holders. A representation dated 11th September, 2017 was submitted to the Chief Minister and the State machineries with no response from the State Government on the same,” it stated.

In the midst of this backdrop, the memorandum stated that the official invitation of the Government of India to ENPO for Frontier Nagaland talks on 13th August, 2019 has further aggravated the deeply wounded sentiments of the Sumi inhabitants of Eastern Nagaland caused by utter neglect of their predicament even by the State machinery, leaving them helpless with deep feeling of uncertainty of their future.

“On the record, ESH hereby clarifies its stance that it is not “for or against” the demand for Frontier Nagaland by ENPO, but rather strongly object to the exclusion of the Sumi tribe as one of the constituent tribes along with 6 (six) other tribes in the proposal by virtue of their ancestral land and population census having included in the Frontier Nagaland topography and demography. ENPO does not have the right to use Sumi land and the Sumi population census in the proposed Frontier Nagaland Map while discarding the legitimacy of the tribe and treating them as non-entity in their own land, which tantamount to gross violation of human rights,” it stated.

“Having exhausted all sincere attempts to discuss this grave issue with the stake holders and miserable failure of the State machineries to address our plight, as our only resort of help, the ESH, humbly call upon your Excellency to urgently intervene in this grave matter and to convey to the Government of India till such time: (1) that, Sumi tribe is one of the major native tribe of Eastern Nagaland and therefore, Sumi tribe be included in the proposed “Frontier Nagaland”  along with other stake holder tribes; or (2) exclude the  Sumi’s  ancestral land with its topography and demography and population census from “Frontier Nagaland Demand” and initiate reorganisation of the areas inhabited by Sumi tribe in Eastern Nagaland including all arrangements, as may be necessary, in consultation with and concurrence of, the ESH; or (3)  involve the ESH along with ENPO in all talks by the Government of India, in so far as the  Frontier Nagaland is concerned, failing which, in the interest of justice, equity and peace, ESH, with deep sense of regret, opposes  the proposed Frontier Nagaland demanded by ENPO, as it is directly threatening the very existence of Sumi tribe and their political, social, historical and all other legitimate rights,” the memorandum signed by ESH president Vikato Yeptho and general secretary Z. Robert Heeto stated.