2024 an opportunity to give ‘Naga future’ a chance
DIMAPUR — Most states may consider issues related to road, education, healthcare, youth empowerment and others as top priorities for government action, but eminent Naga personalities, Rev. Dr. Wati Aier and Niketu Iralu opined that addressing the Naga political issue is paramount for Nagaland state to move forward.
When asked to share their views on ‘what the state government should prioritise in 2024’, the duo told Eastern Mirror that without addressing this core issue (Naga issue), progress on other fronts would be limited.
In this context, Professor Emeritus of Constructive Theology and Philosophy at the Oriental Theological Seminary (OTS), in Bade, Rev. Aier said that the Naga political issue has ‘taken its toll’ and should not be left unresolved.
He said that ‘whether we like it or not,’ there are now two official documents signed between the government of India and the Naga political groups — the Framework Agreement with NSCN (IM) and the Agreed Position with the Working Committee, Naga National Political Groups (WC-NNPG).
Asserting that neither the government nor the people can deny the existence of these officially documented and mutually agreed upon agreements, he advised the Naga people against showing favouritism towards one party over the other.
Elaborating further, he said that the resolution of the Naga political issue should not be left solely to the government of India. Rather, “the state, its people, the government, and India can collectively address and resolve this issue,” by finding a political structure or “fitting form” in the Naga context, that resonates with the Naga people in relation to the contemporary world, he added.
Towards this, he called for a departure from traditional idealistic concepts and emphasised the need to transition from idealism to a more realistic approach. While the Naga people have the historical, political rights, “just saying that Nagas have historical, political rights is not going to solve the problem. If we have historical and political rights, why are we not practising that?” he asked.
Political will exists
The catalyst for progress in resolving the issue is the ‘political will’ of the state of Nagaland or its government, which according to Rev. Aier, exists, but is not allowed to flourish. “And partly, it is because there are many agencies that are not helping. There are agencies that think only about themselves. But now, for once and for all, let us give a united effort,” he urged.
The solution to the Naga issue is within reach, but it requires collective effort and political will to unlock it. The Naga mindset, characterised by preconceived notions about individuals and groups, serves as a stumbling block to progress, said Rev. Aier, adding that it is time to listen to each other without bias.
“If we look at the good thing about the Naga people, we are talking about the same thing but our perception is sort of diluting what we are thinking,” he maintained.
He went on to say that the state can play a very ‘creative role’ as it is empowered with legitimate authority and capacity to steer the future, and it must “garner all its ecology to bring about changes by involving Naga people”.
Noting that there is a tendency to create divisions among the Naga people with certain groups of people or organisations not willing to associate with the other, and vice versa, he said: “So we are not allowing the Naga belonging to grow. This is a malignant disposition that the Naga people carry with us.”
The perspectives among different groups of people, different organisations, apex bodies or even individuals may differ vastly, but 2024 presents an opportunity to give “a chance to the Naga future,” he said while suggesting that ‘experts,’ people from the field of academia, bureaucrats, politicians, social workers, people who are well-versed in law, social workers, and church leaders should come together for dialogue with one agenda.
“You cannot talk about the future, asking the future to arrive someday. The future is created by us,” he said.
Rev. Aier went on to state that the rights of the Naga people are enshrined in their history and this has been acknowledged by the government of India, “therefore, that which we already have must be cherished and must be kept alive.”
“Our hope is not an idealistic hope. Our hope is not something that is empty. Because we have something, we can be hopeful,” he continued.
Asserting that building personal power through criticism is not true power but rather a manifestation of pride, he urged the Nagas to exhibit greater generosity and magnanimity towards each other.
“One cannot allow the immediacy of the Naga situation to be dragged on and on, and on,” he said, while urging for a collective effort to find “not idealism but a clear vision,” that will serve as a roadmap to a political solution.
‘Do not make things worse’
In his conversation with this newspaper, Peace activist Niketu Iralu underscored the importance of not exacerbating the existing issues within Naga society and instead focusing on healing and self-reflection.
“Whether it is the state or groups, the wisest thing to do – we do not make things worse… If we cannot make it better, then let us not make it worse,” he said.
He cautioned against blaming others and crusading against perceived wrongs without acknowledging one’s own faults.
Iralu said that mutual trust can only be built through accepting personal responsibility and being honest about where one has gone wrong.
Stating that “Delhi has a say” in any settlement in regard to the Naga political issue, he said the way forward is “that we do not make it worse”.
He called upon the Nagas to stop poisoning the metaphorical “water” and instead focus on doing what is right, thereby allowing room for divine intervention and genuine progress.
Quoting English writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley, the peace activist said, “Those who crusade not for God in themselves but against the devil in others, never succeed in leaving the world better, but leave it as it was or sometimes even perceptibly worse than it was before the crusade began.”
‘All Nagas must decide not to make it worse. Let us give ourselves a little chance to make it better,’ he said, adding that Naga people will “begin to solve our problems” when they begin to understand Huxley’s observation.
(This is the second and final part of a series, the first of which was published on Feb. 6)