Friday, August 28, 2015

Time flies --- When I interviewed Mrs Jwane Phizo on Aug 29, 1990

25 years !!

Interview with Mrs (Late) Jwane Phizo, wife of legendary Naga rebel leader A Zapu Phizo
(This interview was done on August 29, 1990 at her residence in Kohima and was published in Kohima-based ‘Nagaland NewsReview’, then a weekly tabloid)
Jwane Phizo was 76 and during the interview she was interpreted and helped by her son Kevitsielezo, whose only condition, I still remember, was : “please do not distort the truth of what has been really said”. Both he and his mother told me that she had stopped giving interviews especially to non-Nagas as many a times her version has been twisted. 
Incidentally the interview happened about four months after Phizo, founder of rebellious outfit Naga National Council (NNC), had died in London.

Me, 20 something then, was thrilled from the very beginning as it was supposed to be my first major ‘exclusive interview’. The interactions started informally and that gave me confidence. She asked for ‘phika cha (Naga black tea)’ and in typical Naga hospitality said, “bhaat khabo (will you have rice)”. At around 8 am in the morning, I obviously said, ‘no thanks’.
Excerpts of the interview (as published in Nagaland NewsReview, September 10, 2014)

Ques: Madam, it’s now about four months since A Zapu Phizo is dead. Would you share your grief of leading a widow’s life?
Jwane: Look, death is predestined. And though we feel sad, man being mortal we cannot stop it. (Even otherwise she had not met Phizo for years as the former rebel leader was in exile in London)

Ques:  How do you feel about the election of your daughter Miss Adino Phizo as NNC president following Phizo’s death?
Jwane: From our family side we thought of taking rest from all these. But it is the people who have given her a mandate. So Adino is doing her best to live up to the expectation of the people.

Ques: Whether she wrote to you after her election as NNC chief, particularly on the Naga issue?
Jwane: Very much, now and then she has been writing. But all on domestic matters. She has been with her father and she knows the issue (Naga movement). Perhaps she discusses politics with her leaders. But between us, we avoid politics. We hardly discuss politics within the family.

Priceless possession: Jwane Phizo's autograph
Ques: Are you aware that a parallel NNC has come into existence with Mr Khodao Yanthan as the president?
Jwane: Yes.
Ques: Did Khodao meet you during his recent visit to Nagaland?
Jwane: Khodao did meet me about one and half months after his coming to Nagaland.
Ques: Do you mind sharing with us what he said?
Jwane: He was only referring to the past days and his meeting with the Naga delegation which went to London to bring home Phizo’s body. But no talk on politics. (She smiled)

Ques: Now we find so many factions among the Nagas. Is there any chance of reunion? What’s your opinion on the future of Naga issue?
(My question was in reference to the split in Naga movement as NNC has already split and National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed in 1970s and by 1989-90 even NSCN had split between Muivah-Isak Chishi Swu and Khaplang factions while after Phizo’s death the remaining NNC had split once again with Khodao heading one faction and Adino Phizo heading the other)
Jwane: Yes, cropping up of this factionalism is very unfortunate. And with division among the people, striving for the goal is difficult.

Ques: Do you foresee the end of the issue or solution to the Naga problem?
Jwane: No; one cannot predict the end.
(Certainly she looked pensive for a while and spoke at length on her thoughts about the Naga movement getting derailed and politicians both in Nagaland and in New Delhi being not sincere to resolve it. She had even named a few individual leaders. However, she extracted a promise from me with moist eyes that I should not write all that)
Ques:  Madam, what is your opinion about the prevailing social evils such as corruption, drug menace and alcoholism?
Jwane: All the evil practices and anti social activities should be weeded out from the social life of the Nagas.

Ques: What according to you has been the Government of India’s attitude towards Nagaland? Do you find any change in people’s life since statehood?
Blogger in North East
Jwane: Although the relation with the government of India is still not normal, I can say that the intensity of conflict has minimized. As for the living standard of the people, economically, the people are still living in poverty, especially in rural areas. It is very sad that only a handful of people have grown rich.

Ques: Zapu Phizo’s foreign stay was claimed as a necessity to give the Naga issue a global publicity. How far do you think this has been achieved?
Jwane: It’s because of Phizo’s stay in London that the Government of India minimized its aggressive nature.
Ques: To tell the truth, though Phizo enjoyed people’s respect and love, he was not above criticism. There has been severe criticism on Phizo’s going to London. Allegation also cropped up that he fled from hardship and turmoil?
Jwane: Going to London was not his choice or decision. In 1956 when the hardship in Nagaland reached its peak, NNC and the Federal Government (self-styled Naga rebel-run dispensation in exile) sent him abroad to tell the world about the rights of the Nagas and also the hardship the Nagas were facing. And Phizo’s achievements abroad will be soon made public.

Ques: The Nagaland Chief Minister Vamuzo has recently reiterated that Nagaland is an ‘integral part’ of India and that all Nagas and non-Nagas living in Nagaland are Indians. Would you venture into a comment on this?
Jwane: His statement is best known to him. No comment from my side.
(Chief Minister Vamuzo had made the remark in a radio message and cautioned extortionists and some groups like then floated Naga Youth Liberation Front (NYLF) who were threatening non-Nagas)

(more on the interview excerpts will be added in subsequent blogs of course depending on the feedback) 
Pfutsero town


  1. Good to read about her and her views & also about the ways so many factions of rebels came up...still the context and background merit more space

  2. This was a useful post and I think it's fairly easy to see in the other reviews, so this post is well written and useful.
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