ACAUT: Change, Where should it start?
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] am sure Nagas from all parts of the Naga homeland are represented here today. There are also people from different parts of India who have become part of today’s Naga society – the society the Naga struggle for our aspirations has produced. Our history is revealed in this rally. Let us understand this emerging society, claim ownership of it, and decide to care for it and make it better, instead of exploit its crisis foolishly or selfishly.
What is ACAUT? I ask myself this question as I am sure many of you have done. One of the greatest teachers of mankind who lived in Greece over 2000 years ago said, “A life not examined is not worth living”. It is well known. We all know things go wrong very quickly in our lives, and if we do not correct ourselves our lives become impossible and God’s most precious gift to each one of us is wasted.
I believe ACAUT is Naga society taking the first steps towards becoming mature and responsible. It is examining itself and deciding to affirm what has gone right and acknowledge and correct what has gone wrong in our story, “Underground” and “Over ground”, because today’s Nagas want to build a society they can be proud of.As I stand here I am keenly conscious of my inadequacy knowing that there are many who can do a much better job with the precious opportunity of this occasion. However, despite my limitations, I am going to share some thoughts and convictions because I believe in the rightness, timeliness and urgency of the moral and spiritual battle ACAUT has launched, and I am committed to the battle with all that I have in my life.
ACAUT is saying nothing new. It is only bringing to the surface what all of us, Nagas and non-Nagas, feel in our guts are wrong and must be changed for something better that will be worthy of our people. No one will deny that our society has become undevelopable and is destroying itself. Why?
ACAUT is not against anyone. It is not against any political group or party, any tribe, any cast or religion. It is against what is wrong therefore what is dangerous for our society’s survival and growth. It is for all to decide to do what we need to do together for the common good of all.
Each of us has contributed our share to produce this society we have today. The moment to be honest and responsible has come. This is where ACAUT’s campaign and battle starts for every one of us. If we shout our condemnation of where others are wrong, but justify, rationalize or hide the wrongs we have done or are doing, ACAUT or our Naga society will make no progress, indeed it will collapse.
But if we will honestly acknowledge where we have been wrong or are wrong and put things right perhaps by saying sorry where that is required, or returning whatever we should not have taken, and so on, we will open the door to God to enter and transform our wounded relationships. Our sacrifice of pride and selfishness for the sake of what is right inspires trust and hope. Others see they too can do it. This way of helping one another to start the change process is urgently needed.
We tend to continue our wrong ways, thinking the wrongs we have done or do are harmless while the wrongs of others are bigger and more damaging to our society. I have a friend from South India who said when he was confronted by the need to change, “I am dishonest and corrupt only when it is absolutely necessary due to unavoidable reasons!”
ACAUT has cast the searchlight on the big unbearable taxes, commissions, cuts and bribes, collected with impunity by extortion and other methods of abuse of power by all sorts of groups and individuals, UG and OG. We are dismayed they show no concern for the long-term costly consequences of their actions on our society. ACAUT says “Enough is enough” and the people shout back “Yes!”
I should state here that I believe there are sincere leaders, UG and OG, who know ACAUT’s battle must win and will support it. They know our fragile society just starting to grow cannot cope further with the opportunistic, short-sighted, unacceptable ways we have so far adopted in our politics and in our misuse of resources for economic development. We can no longer use the excuse “it is wrong but in politics and development this is how others are also doing this way.” Realization has started that the consequences of our unexamined doctrines of politics and of life are too destructive. ACAUT is giving our OG and UG leaders the opportunity to show farsighted statesmanship our crisis demands from leaders.
There is no dispute at all that the big wrongs must be ended if we are to build a new future. But if we think only the big, mega wrongs and scandals need to change, we will simply continue to blame one another and pull our society down.
We who think our wrongs are excusable because we do them “only when absolutely necessary” can more easily give the lead in showing what change means and that it is do-able! The moral sense of society thus raised by an increasing number of “small-scale” ethics violators will begin to change the moral climate, gradually increasing the effectiveness of public opinion towards reducing the level and toleration of corruption in society. To be fools for Christ, walking the Way and living out the Truth and the Life in our respective situations.
Now to come down to a very few of the small-scale wrongs:
Can the students in our schools decide to become honest with their teachers or Principals about the exams they have cheated in and decide never to cheat again to show their support for the battle of ACAUT for building a better future for them? How about some students in some schools making such a decision? I am speaking as an old cheater who had to get honest with his teacher! This first step did not change Nagaland, but I started to learn by experience what the eternal battle between right and wrong meant. It led me on to deeper changes in me.
Can all the students whose parents’ incomes do not entitle them to apply for the Scheduled Tribes Scholarship decide not to apply for the Scholarship to show their support of ACAUT’s battle for change and their Christianity?
Which village will decide to be completely transparent about the various money coming from the Centrally-funded Schemes for the development of the village, setting a standard all Naga villages must rise to if we are to raise health, education, sanitation, agriculture, and so on to what they can be now?
Will the youth, student and other public organizations in all tribes collect their funds and use them with unquestionable integrity and responsibility that they generate hope instead of cynicism and bitterness in mind of the public from whom the funds come?
Is it impossible for red-blooded Christians and Nagas to show simple sense of shame, self-limitation and normal Christianity at election times so that the candidates do not have to collect so much money unethically and waste them to satisfy the basest greed of the voters?
Recently a senior Indian journalist, a political analyst in Delhi, came for a brief stay with us. She was passing through Kohima from Imphal. My wife and I have known her for a number of years. Having followed the Naga story over the years she asked many questions. I shall try to recall what she said at one point, “Niketu, I understand and respect very much the Naga historical stand as understood by the Nagas. Your people’s story is clear. I also know how dear it is to you and your people. I sincerely wish a settlement will be worked out that will show respect for your history. I am sorry no Government in Delhi will be able to go as far as the Nagas have insisted all along. But India and the Government have started to understand the Naga story. I do believe the best thing for the Nagas at this stage is to take the fullest advantage of the economic development approach that Delhi will pursue for the Nagas also. I feel what is important is Nagas must regain the respect of Delhi and the Indian people. I trust this will not be misunderstood.”
An African proverb says “He who wakes me up in the middle of the night to go on a long journey I will thank him only after I have travelled far with him”. ACAUT’s call to Nagas to understand their journey afresh and resume it properly brings this saying to mind. Will tomorrow’s Nagas be grateful because enough Nagas today are ready to change and show the secret of unity and take us forward?
Speech delivered at the
First Anniversary Rally, KOHIMA, 31/10/’14.