The 87-year-old Swu had been unwell and was undergoing treatment at Fortis Hospital in south Delhi on July 5 last year following severe kidney ailments and urinary tract infection and then subsequently multi-organ failure and breathed his last on 28th June. Swu is survived by his wife Mrs Eustar Chishi Swu, five sons, a daughter and two granddaughters.
Isak Swu’s death came at a time when the NSCN-IM and the Indian government are still negotiating for a final conclusion of the Naga Peace Accord. The outfit had several rounds of talks that culminated in a Framework Agreement last year. Swu’s signature for the agreement was taken in the Delhi hospital.
A condolence service was held on 29th at Nagaland House, Delhi where Swu’s family members and several people belonging to the Naga community, friends, senior politicians, media and well wishers in the city including government dignitaries and several men from the Indian intelligence community attended and paid rich tributes. Meanwhile people young and old from all walks of life carried out a candle light vigil in his memory, both in Dimapur that was organised by Sumi Kiphimi Kuqhakulu (SKK) and at Ukhrul.
In expressing solidarity for the aspired common cause of Nagas sovereignty, on 2nd July, the Nagas in Mumbai came together to pay their last respect to the departed leader Isak Chishi Swu. The condolence service was attended by about 120 Nagas ranging from students and researchers to working professionals.The service was the least they could come up with as a mark of paying homage to his sacrifices and charting Naga aspirations.
Thousands of mourners and well wishers from various tribes and community attended the public funeral service that was co-organised by Naga Hoho and Eastern Nagaland Peoples Organisation that was held at Agri Expo site on 30th of June. It is believed to be the biggest ever gathering in Dimapur airport where the traffic on NH-2 almost came to a standstill as thousands made their way to welcome the mortal remains of Isak Chishi. Mourners in colourful traditional Naga attire were present in huge numbers at the airport and at the service venue where Swu’s coffin lay draped in the outfit’s flag. The roads leading to the venue of the service were crammed with cars and jeeps, SUVs and autos, most occupied with mourners and most displaying the NSCN (I-M) blue flag with three lines and a star. Another moving sight was that almost all the Naga political factions and different North East revolutionary groups were present to pay their final respect and tribute to late Isak Chishi Swu. The coffin became invisible as the wreaths piled by the time the service ended.
After the service, Swu’s body was taken to Camp Hebron. A state funeral was held at the Council Headquaters, where flags of the NSCN (IM) flew at half-mast. Then after, the mortal remains of Isak Chishi Swu was taken to his native village Chishlimi in Zunheboto district, Nagaland to perform the “funeral committal service.”
Despite heavy downpour, people from all walks of life gathered and welcomed the mortal remains of Isak with loud Naga war cry at Kohima and paid their last respect and tribute. A striking and poignant public reception programme was organised by the Angami Public Organisation (APO) at the Old MLA hostel junction Kohima. Later, a reception programe was also held at Tseminyu town that was organised by Rengma Hoho,to pay their last respect to Isak Chishi Swu.
It was a time of emotions for the Chishilimi villagers who solemnly received the mortal remains of Yaruiwo Isak Chishi Swu to his final resting place. As an honour and respect by the Sumi frontal organisations, a rich and glowing homage was organised under the aegis of Sumi Hoho where several organizations from various tribes paid their last tributes.Thousands of people turned up at Chishilimi and scores of other militant leaders paid their tributes to Swu as he was given a burial in his native village.
The death of Isak Chisi Swu had emitted gloominess over Nagaland as condolences poured in from all corners, offering their last respect to the departed leader. During the condolence service that was held at New Delhi’s Nagaland House, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval offered a wreath; while former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and Interlocutor in the Indo-Naga talks, RN Ravi, praised Swu for his statesmanship and patience and said he hoped the peace process would soon conclude with an Accord. Swaraj Kaushal, advocate, who was involved in the peace process in the early stages, said that when he was first asked to negotiate, he had found Muivah much more inclined to get angry and they had so many fights that they became friends. But it was the calm and patient Swu who helped establish trust. He said a solution could not just emerge from a microwave but it was also not something that we could put in the deep freeze and forget about.
Swu’s eldest son Ikato delivered a poignant speech of about seeing his father for the first time when he was 15, in Pokhara, Nepal. “After NSCN was declared a terrorist outfit, my parents went underground and all five brothers and sisters were sent to different households in eastern Nagaland. We grew up there, away from each other. In my entire life, we lived as a family only for four years, from 2000 to 2004 when my father called all the children to Manila. His year-long illness brought us together as siblings, as we grew up as strangers to each other,” he said.
Delivering a moving testimony of his around five decade-old association with late Isak, NSCN (IM) General Secretary, Th.Muivah was hardly able to control his emotions as he mentioned many notable contributions made by his late friend and colleague during their long and hard times journey. Th. Muivah, recollected his 52 years of togetherness both in treacherous and happiness they faced and in all modesty he said that it was under the leadership of Isak Swu, the Indian leaders have come to a recognition of the Naga struggle as a political issue and not military, uniqueness of Naga history and of sovereignty being with Naga people. He further said, “We understood together the purpose of God for the Nagas. We were happy because that was the conviction we had and we did not betray each other but walked together along this line.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the death of Swu saying that he will be remembered for his historical role in bringing out the Framework Agreement for Naga peace. “My heartfelt condolence to the family and supporters of Mr. Isak Chisi Swu on his demise. May his soul rest in peace” He tweeted. “Mr. Swu will be remembered for his historical role in bringing out the Framework Agreement for Naga peace,” he added. Modi said Swu had wished the best for the Naga people and aspired for peace.
Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi condoled the passing away of Isak Chisi Swu. In her condolence message, Gandhi said she hoped that Swu’s legacy would evolve into that of lasting peace and reconciliation.
Interlocutor for Naga talks, R.N. Ravi in a condolence message described Isak Chishi Swu as a “God fearing great leader who lived and worked for the best interest of the Naga people”. Stating that he was a man of peace, Ravi said his crucial contributions to bringing out the land mark Framework Agreement would be remembered for all time to come. Ravi further said that all those working for peace in Naga areas would sorely miss him. “Let the gracious God give peace and rest to his soul and fortitude to his family to bear with this devastating loss.” Ravi stated.
Nagaland Governor P.B. Acharya, in a condolence message to Swu’s immediate family, said, that Nagas have lost one of the most influential and courageous leader, “He spent all his life for the cause of Nagas. The contribution of Mr. Isak Chishi Swu, Chairman of the NSCN (IM) for the frame work agreement signed between GOI and NSCN (IM) has been enormous. His guidance and contributions will remain vital. It is unfortunate that he is not in our midst to participate on the final agreement between GOI and NSCN (IM) which is heading towards the final stage. The vacuum caused by his departure will be very hard to fill.”
Former Nagaland chief minister and Odisha Governor S.C. Jamir also expressed in his condolence message that “Though basically religious minded, he had always firm belief in peace and non-violence. Prior to joining the Naga movement he was one of the champions to restore peace in the trouble-torn Nagaland in the late fifties. As a matter of fact, he and late Gohovi Sumi were sent as peace emissaries to the Naga Federal Government but they never returned back from there. Since then in different capacities and position, he played an important role in the Naga independent movement with full commitment and dedication. Dedicating to this cause by drawing inspiration and motivation from his eventful life will be the best tribute to Issac Swu.”
Lok Sabha MP, Neiphiu Rio expressed pain and said that his death is a huge loss and enormous setback for all Nagas especially at this juncture of political history. “Late Isak Chishi Swu was one of the greatest patriots who sacrificed everything he had for the rights and aspirations of the Naga people. As we mourn for the departed soul we recall the steadfastness with which our beloved leader Isak Chishi Swu held the national aspiration. Unflinching and unwavering he held on to the cause of the Naga Nation. For such a man the hardship and suffering that came his way only strengthened his determination in his belief that Nagas were free people. That freedom was too precious a thing not to be squandered away for personal gain was deeply etched in his heart. The Naga political movement, which is today recognized by the Government of India, owes much to this great leader who never made any compromise but continued to fight for what he believed in till his last breath. His sacrifices, many of which we will never know, will never go in vain as he has been an inspiration to generations of Nagas. His passing away has left a deep void and an irreplaceable vacuum. His life, his vision, and his sweat, blood and tears will be remembered and continue to inspire the younger generations.
“In his condolence message, Nagaland Chief Minister T R Zeliang said “on the several occasions that I have had the privilege to interact with him I have always been impressed by his dedication to the cause of the Naga people – the cause for which he had forsaken the numerous opportunities of personal comfort he could have easily availed as one of the few Naga graduates in the 1950s.” On behalf of the Government of Nagaland and all elected members of Nagaland Legislative Assembly, the Chief Minister paid tribute to late Isak, and said “He is one of the greatest Naga leaders of our times; a great and inspiring Naga freedom fighter who believed in the power of truth and non-violence, a true gentleman, a man of principle and above all, a strong believer and a faithful servant of God.” He further said, “His passing away at this crucial juncture of the Naga political movement, when the issue appears to be nearing its peaceful resolution is indeed tragic and lamentable. The best tribute we, the Nagas can pay him now is the peaceful and honourable settlement of the Naga political issue.”
Peace activist Niketu Iralu said that Isak Swu played his political role, held on with evangelical fervor and zeal to his Christian faith which he inherited from his pioneering father. The social activist believed that it could be said to credit that Isak Swu never let go of Jesus Christ’s imperishable injunction: ‘To give unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar and to God what belonged to God.’ He further said, “In the leadership, he sought to give, there can be no doubt about the place he gave to his command, from above the battlefield of politics and life. I believe it will turn out that it made a crucial difference in our crisis, and it will be remembered with gratitude as his special contribution. Nagas will pray that the legacy of his commitment to his faith will be brought to bare on the tough issues still to be resolved in the common journey ahead of all of us,”