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Op-Ed

A Peek Into the Future of Nagaland

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By EMN Updated: Jun 25, 2022 11:11 pm
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By Dr S.C.Jamir, Former CM & Governor

What does the future portend for Nagaland? This question looms large as we approach the reality of a final political settlement that has eluded us for so long. The optimists amongst us envision a brave, robust, united and peaceful Nagaland embarking on the path of progress and seizing the opportunities that have been lost. Others may not be as sanguine. And they cannot be blamed given the bitter experiences of our past. This article makes an honest attempt to provide some answers that will better equip us to meet the challenges ahead of us.

Let me begin with the question: What is Nagaland? No one has better envisioned the true picture of Nagaland than Late T. Sakhrie, one of the shining lights among Naga Political leaders and I quote him: “Truly we are a peculiar people. We are all equals. Men and women have equal social status. We have no caste distinctions, no high or low class of people. There is no communal feeling, neither are there religious differences to disturb our harmony. There is no minority problem. We believe in that form of democratic government which permits the rule not of the majority but of the people as a whole. We govern ourselves by a government which does not govern at all. “We talk freely, love freely and often fight freely too. We have no inhibition of any kind. Wild ! yes, but free. There is order in this chaos, law in this freedom. If I were to choose a country, it would be the NAGALAND, my fair NAGALAND –again and again.”

There is no doubt that nature has bestowed upon us matchless natural beauties. When we look around, we find beautiful rolling mountains and hills, glistening with the rays of the morning sun. Our lush green forests and valleys below provide sustenance to our people while our mountain streams, as they glide downwards, create a music that is divine. The generation before us-people like Late Sakhrie- were not only proud of our natural bounties and our rich traditions; they also wanted to see a vibrant, peaceful and united Nagaland moving forward with the times with progress and prosperity for everyone. A people-centric governance model with the village councils as its core and the benefits of development percolating down to every Naga living in the villages and towns was what our leaders who fought for recognition of a distinct Naga identity wanted. This is what the present generation of Nagas, predominantly our youth also want.

As against this, what picture of Nagaland do we see today? A polity convulsed by divisions created on tribal lines by self-seeking elements trying to block a permanent political solution for the Nagas. And a government unmindful of people’s aspirations but busy only with self-aggrandisement.

The elements mentioned above, underground in name only, have systematically and insidiously subverted the entire system of governance in the State to further their heinous and selfish designs. To make matters worse, the ruling establishment has totally abdicated its constitutional authority and made itself puppets in the hands outfits underground bosses. In such a scenario, violence and extortions continue unabated with the government machinery incapable of taking any action against those causing such mayhem.

In a democracy it is the government elected by the people which is the only constitutional and legitimate entity vested with the mandate of exercising lawful authority towards maintenance of law and order in the State. However, the painful reality today is that this authority has been usurped by unconstitutional elements who are, as a matter of fact, running a de facto government in Nagaland. Despite the presence of a plethora of non-governmental organisations and civil societies, the rot continues to fester.

The people of Nagaland have been aghast to witness the fragmentation of both the underground and over-ground organisations into multiple factions with divergent outlook and agenda, much to the peril of peace and unity in Nagaland. Perhaps, the most disturbing and alarming development in Nagaland has been the growing sense of indifference and benumbing frustration in the hearts and minds of not only leadership in the state, but also the bureaucracy, the intelligentsia, academia and even the common people in Nagaland. A pall of gloom and despair seems to have shrouded the entire physical and mental framework of people inexorably pushing them into a sense of utter helplessness. In this sordid scenario, what kind of a future can we expect for the Nagas? Is it not high time to take a serious note of the situation and make efforts to redeem the situation before it’s too late?  Can we allow the proud legacy and glorious heritage of our civilisation to wither away into nothingness? Can the valiant Naga tribesmen summon their legendary courage, gallantry and tenacity to rise to the occasion and salvage their land and society?

“There is no way to peace, peace is the way”. There can be no wiser dictum than this. Any society bogged down in conflict is destined to doom. The sooner we realise this the better for us. There are the two choices for the Nagas-peace or violence. As Christians, Nagas should truly uphold the tenets of Christianity which advocate peace, communal harmony and mutual co-existence. True religion propagates compassion, fellow feeling, selflessness and self-transformation. The question before us is how to get out of this combat mode? We may have to clear our minds of all cluster. Next, we should cultivate a positive attitude, so that we can face any kind of confrontation with composure and patience that is absolutely necessary to rein in whipped up passions. Only then can we generate solutions that are reasonable and peaceful.

Let us first build a Temple of Tolerance: In our struggle for a separate homeland too much of innocent blood had been shed.  Many children have been orphans and many parents have lost their sons and daughters. Enough is enough! Let us now learn to live in peace.

The question before the Nagas is : Even if you refuse to confess that you belong to the same family, you cannot deny that all of you are immediate neighbours. Why then should we quarrel among ourselves. Many ugly things have happened during our political movement. If yesterday was a nightmare, let it go. Let today be a new beginning, a shared dream. Let us rise and build together, for we too have a temple to build, the temple of Nagaland where God delights to dwell as love. Let our theme be Forget and Forgive. Forgiveness means to make a new beginning, to start all over again with the person who caused you pain. “ Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet released as the foot crashes it.” Let bygone be bygone.

Total Overhauling of the Systems of Governance:

Mushrooming of multiple authorities, both constitutional and extra-constitutional, in the state of Nagaland has totally destroyed all systems of governance.  There is a clear breakdown of the rule in the state. The internal security situation is far more disturbed than the deceptive outside calm- it is being held hostage by armed underground groups, right before the helpless eyes of the state government. Nagaland needs to be liberated from the clutches of this deadly monster. The first and foremost task is to restore the broken fabric of governance at all levels. Let  this task of reformation   be entrusted to the most able and best qualified people in the administration to bring about drastic changes as rapidly as possible. In the current progressive- resistant society of Nagaland where there is a deficit of trust and nepotism is rampart, a merit-based governance needs to be established.“ The I, the me, the mine is our great enemy. Through experience we have seen that our greatest enemy is the self which rises up at every turn and thwarts our desire for the common good.” Today Nagaland is plagued with corruption and the absence of rule of law.  We should remember that the degree to which a society is respectful of the rule of law is linked to the rigor of its ethical code. The extent to which honesty, fair play and a sense of social responsibility are a reality determines the strength of a society. Corruption is like a cancer that eats into the vitals of a clean and effective system of governance, strangles economic development and has the potential of whipping up public anger and unrest. If Nagaland has to move forward and be competitive with other states of the country, Naga society has to be liberated from this demonic culture of corruption and multiple layers of authority, more particularly those who are unconstitutional. For this, sitting back in helplessness will not do. If Naga society is to be reformed and rejuvenated, the responsibility rests with the people alone.

Nagaland should keep abreast with changing times:

The people of Nagaland, especially the younger generation, want the truth to emerge. If we were to move forward to catch up with other advanced States of the country, we must reorient our mindset to be in tune with the contemporary realities. The future prospect of Nagaland would largely depend on how it responds to the changing contemporary realities and also the actions and inactions of leaders to face up to such realities.

Paradox of Naga Political Movement:

The hard realities staring us in the face are the hubbub of rival claims for leadership within the underground organisations. This not only weakens the sinews of the political movement towards a permanent solution but puts roadblocks on the attainment of peace and reconciliation in the society without which progress is not possible. Let us not forget that in the initial years of our struggle, the leaders of the movement spoke in one voice. Sadly, today, the Naga people are still waiting for the  emergence of a true, united  and genuine leadership to lead them to a bright future. To compound matters, the elected government which should be responsive to the needs of the citizens and efficient in governance is anything but that. Thus, we have a scenario where the constitutional government is inefficient and corrupt while the extra-constitutional elements are many whose sole objective is to establish their supremacy through inter-group conflicts and illegal extortions which has brought upon the people of the State unmitigated miseries. In such a situation, Nagaland can hardly progress and match with States in the region, not to speak of the country at large.

The Bright Light of Enlightenment Beckons  Nagaland:

We live in extraordinary times. Changes are more rapid and more radical now than ever before. Change is now a fact of life. These days, if we wait too long to recognise the importance of an innovation or if we postpone analysing the ripple effects it may have on our society in general and on our lives in particular, the new thing may pass us by. Are the younger generation of the Nagas ready for this? If not, be careful. History may pass you by! We are now seeing before our eyes the most radical change in the field of science and technology especially information technology. What is going on in our land and society?  Are we oddballs?  Certainly not. Some amongst us, the so-called leaders, are too obsessed with the status quo. But the younger generation, especially the educated youth of Nagaland want to be part of the contemporary civilisation. Their passionate desire is that they want to be players in this competitive world. If Nagaland has to progress sufficient space had to be created for them. At this stage mere tinkering with a broken system would be disastrous, rather our objective must be to reconstruct the entire system.

There is marked change in the mood of the people of Nagaland. The ideological watchdogs have failed to note that there is anger against anti-social and anti-national elements, and a passionate desire for a peaceful and progressive environment and for a practical solution to the vexed Naga problem. A vast majority of the people are anxiously waiting for a new dawn but a small minority of the Nagas want to continue the status quo but people are now vehemently against it. The Naga public is no longer novice to accept the dictates of the underground. Nagaland cannot remain captive to the social elements that strangled the progress of economic development of the State. Time has come to look forward to and participate in nation building without getting bogged down with impractical ideals, thereby wasting precious time. “ The colour of the cat does not matter so long as it catches the mice.”:- Deng Xiaoping.

It is the desire and prayer of every Naga that their land should be a role model for the country. With peace and stability, Nagaland can develop by leaps and bounds. It is inevitable that growth of wealth leads to more opportunities for individuals, especially the educated youth and this leads to a social transformation. The future of Nagaland is bright because an overwhelming majority of the people of Nagaland want it. The youth of the State want it. Collectively, we can make it happen.

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By EMN Updated: Jun 25, 2022 11:11:28 pm