Fiery Woman Journalist and Author Silenced by Militant Kangaroo Courts in Nagaland, Book 'Banned'
The 'banned' book
NEW DELHI: Militancy has impacted adversely on a free media in the North-Eastern states with most journalists fearful of rubbing one of the many insurgent outfits the wrong way. Death threats are issued immediately to scribes and newspapers questioning any of the militant organisations with reporters from the area scared to write and speak out on serious issues of concern.
Journalist and author Timerenia Monalisa Changkija has come under threat since the release of her book Cogitating for a Better Deal on October 25 this year. Known for her bold speech and journalism---Monalisa edits the Nagaland Page---she published six seminar papers that she had written in the book. Within days, on November 9 to be precise, Monalisa received a letter from Ao Senden, a strong outfit representing the Ao community in Nagaland.
The letter summoned her for a hearing “for writing against the Ao Senden” on November 11 at the organisation’s outfit in Mokokchung, Nagaland. The Yaongyimsen Village Council was also invited as a witness, with Yaongyimsen being her husband’s village.
The hearing began with a prayer and speeches by about ten members of the Ao Senden Presidential Council who were informed earlier that Changkija did not speak the Ao language. The main contention of Ao Senden was to a few lines in one of the chapters of the book where she wrote, “ … the Ao Senden (Ao Hoho), which is actually just an NGO and has no mandate to arbitrate over intra and/or inter village disputes. Still, the Ao Region IM and the Ao Senden tied up, allegedly after being paid a good sum of money, and expelled Changki village from the Ao community and the Ao Senden.”
Changkija was asked by the President to explain how she assumed that Ao Senden was only a NGO with no mandate, and what proof did she have that money was paid to the organisation. She apologised for hurting sentiments if at all and said that she had come to the conclusion that it was a NGO on the basis of books and government documents. She said that the reference to money was an allegation per se without any specific charge.
A consultation between the Council members followed and the hearing continued with Changkija being asked the same questions. In between one of the Presidential Council members stood up and holding up a copy of her book, said it was banned. He repeated this a few times.
The “hearing” ended with the author being asked to sign a paper which basically that her husband had admitted guilt on her behalf, which according to information with The Citizen he did not seem to have. However the next day, on Nov 12, the Yaongyimsen Vilalge Council Court summoned her. Eventually at the end of both hearings Changkija was asked to issue a statement containing many of the facts written here.
What was not documented, and happened subsequently, was another summons letter on December 6, this time from the NSCN(IM), Ao region to appear before them on December 9. This hearing was at an undisclosed place in Mokokchung district. NSCN (IM) was disturbed about the same sentence in her book where she had written, “Still, the Ao Region IM and the Ao Senden tied up, allegedly after being paid a good sum of money, and expelled Changki village from the Ao community and the Ao Senden.”
This ‘hearing; lasted for three hours and was also conducted in the Ao dialect that Changkija does not understand. She was left with no choice but to agree with the ‘court’ and sign an undertaking that she had retracted whatever she had written, that she apologised for the same, and would make sure this was published in the local newspapers. And that if she ever brought up the issue again NSCN(IM) Ao region, could take action against her as they deemed fit.
The local dailies carried her ‘declaration’ in the Decmber 12 issue where she wrote,
“The undersigned was summoned by the NSCN/GPRN Ao Region on 09/12/2014 to clarify a sentence in the book ‘Cogitating for a Better Deal’ on Chapter 2, Page 25 – “…the Ao Region IM and the Ao Senden tied up, allegedly after being paid a good sum of money, and expelled Changki village from the Ao community and the Ao Senden.”.
After deliberating on the matter, the NSCN/GPRN Ao Region has refuted the content and clarified that it had, at no point of time, tied up with the Ao Senden and has also never been paid any sum of money, as implied. Accordingly, I take back the sentence and regret for any misgivings that may have been caused, however unintentionally, by my writings.
NSCN(IM), Ao Region, however, followed this with the release of the paper that Changkija had been made to sign at the ‘hearing.’ This, published on December 14 stated, “I, Mrs. Tiamerenla Monalisa Changkija sincerely admit that the claims that I have made in my book “Cogitating for the Better Deal” against NSCN/GPRN (IM), is totally baseless and untrue and for which I sincerely apologies to the NSCN/GPRN (IM) government and the people in general. I hereby declare that I have paid an amount of Rs. 50/ (Rupees Fifty only) as fine for false allegations towards NSCN/GPRN (IM), Ao Region and take further responsibilities that if any issues in relevant to my book cause any inconveniences to the said authority, then I shall be held responsible and shall bear/accept any form of punishment as deem fit by the NSCN/GPRN (IM) Government”
The Nagaland government has not said a word since the ban on the book, and despite the many ‘hearings’ the author has been submitted to. The Ao Senden, according to information available here, is described as an NGO, which came to existence only in the 1980s. It is not a statutory body protected under Article 371 (A) of the Indian Constitution, unlike the Naga Village Councils, which are statutory bodies. The Ao Senden also does not come under the purview of the Nagaland Village and Tribal Council Act, 1978 (with amendment up to 2011).
Despite being informed by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs to provide security to Changkija, the Nagaland Government has not acted so far. She herself cannot ask for security as that could stir a hornets nest insofar as the two organisations holding ‘trials’ to ban the book are concerned. The well known journalist was left with no option but to comply with all the demands made by the militant organisations, lest the gun be turned on her and her husbands village. As a woman her status is ‘questionable’ in the tribal society represented by Ao Senden that is clearly the jury and the executioner in Changkija’s case, as well as others. The journalist, now under direct threat from the militant organisations, has been effectively silenced through the kangaroo courts where she was reportedly insulted and humiliated as well.
From a free voice who spoke out on violations by the state and militants in Nagaland and neighbouring states of the region, Changkija’s security is jeopardised. It is unfortunate that the state government has not stepped in to provide her security, and take action against those conducting a parallel government in Nagaland.