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Op-Ed

Are online social platforms promoting a gentle Naga revolution? (Part-I)

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By EMN Updated: Nov 26, 2013 9:51 pm
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[dropcap]O[/dropcap]nline Social Platform (OSP) or Social Media Networks like facebook and twitter are not only avenues for connecting with people and exchanging ideas but are fast emerging as inclusive and democratic platform with blogs and pages such as The Naga Blog (TNB), Naga Spear, and Nagaland Open Online Barter or Sell (NOOBS). Of course, naïve use/abuse of OSP often promotes elements such as cyber bullying, tribalism and a form of idealism without pragmatic personal responsibility. It can also be manipulated for promoting vested ideological interests (as in the case of “mass exodus” of NEI students from the cities in mainland India). In this article my focus is limited to commenting only on the socially constructive use of OSP. This article may not be necessary in a context where citizens already have a developed awareness of OSP as a tool for promoting change. Naga society is still struggling to create a vibrant civil society in its truest sense and it is in this context that this essay is presented.Online Social Platform is a priceless gift of the younger generation to the present Naga leaders: OSP is so far one of the creative social forces from which politicians, bureaucrats, tribal leaders and the church can learn about their successes, failures and what the younger Naga generation expects from them. It is on OSP that young Nagas express their anger and hopes for future. In these narratives, one can see the inevitable seeds of change and a blue print of what and how a Naga society should look like. Thus, many socially conscious users of OSPs feel that we are already experiencing a moment of gentle Naga revolution mediated through pages such as TNB and Naga Spear.
Welcome to the “online face” of gentle Naga revolution: For lack of a better term what we see unfolding everyday in the Naga online platforms can be characterized as the “online face of Naga revolution.” Of course, we have seen this gentle revolution being translated in concrete human actions such as: mission pot holes campaign, aid for fire victims in Mon area, cleaning up of maternity ward in Dimapur, Christmas charity works, and ACAUT rally.
Is a cyberocratic Naga revolution really happening? The terms cyberocratic or cyberocracy are often used for describing the experience of democracy on the cyberspace by different categories of users. Visit TNB and other online platform to confirm whether a cyberocratic Naga revolution is really alive and kicking. There is a public trial going on every minute and every hour on TNB and it covers almost everything that is happening in Naga society. Nobody is spared by this truth trial and there is no impunity: politicians, government departments, Naga political groups, church, individuals, the list of issues is unending. Presented in many forms (such as questions, complaints, appeals, fact reporting, images, analysis, suggestions), these online discourses unmask the deceptive Naga reality and create an alternative Naga revolutionary discourse.
Socially informed use of OSP should be viewed as a form of critical prophetic mediation: Users of OSP should be active and purposeful because every comma, phrase and image that you key-in or upload is a form of prophetic mediation. WE ARE NOT SIMPLY BLOGGING because we are participating in a political act! In fact, WE ARE BLOGGING FOR CHANGE. Therefore, it is vital to employ OSP as a form of critical socio-political intervention in the ongoing politics of Naga history. By seeing OSP as an extension of Naga movement for change, online platforms are fast becoming a lively form of critical social practice. In this manner, each and every blog that voices out against injustices challenges the “powers that be” and acts as tools for subverting the oppressive narratives of the society. However, users should remind themselves that this mode of social practice involves a lot of risk as there is no naïve or neutral position that one can maintain.
The socio-political significance of OSP depends on the kind of mindset and questions that users bring to the discourse: The attitude and questions that users bring to OSP changes radically if and when they try to situate their voices in the context of the ongoing crises in Naga society. The purposefulness and impact of SN transforms automatically when users make the reality of faltering leadership/institutions, rampant corruption, economic disparity, and political division as their shared social location and entry points. It is these perplexing contexts and so many other dilemmas that I believe should inform and frame the discourses of OSPs.
OSP models a reflexive and morally enhancing sense of Naga identity and community: One of the most liberating aspects of OSP is that its membership is open for Nagas and as well as others, irrespective of gender, clan or country. This online platform has the potential of modeling an inclusive Naga identity/community that transcends clan, tribe, and social status. It is on such sites that one experiences an ontological transformation of identity: transcending tribal boundaries and histories of enmities, and the willingness and attempt to embrace each other for the cause of change. These members love to define themselves beyond the colors of their tribal shawls as their trade mark is “a shared common future.” Many young people prefer to put on YAN (Young Association of Nagaland) batches and TNB T-shirts as they find these symbols more empowering and unifying in the present Naga context (there are also tribe specific OSPs and I am not suggesting here a negation of our own cherished respective tribal identities).
OSP democratizes the formalized rigid codes of gender and age that bar many women and young people from leadership and decision making positions: Unlike traditional tribal gender codes that privilege “male elders” as the legitimate leaders and decision makers of the community, OSP is a place where even mothers, young women, and young men can participate. In fact, OSP disbands the “instituted hierarchy” of tribal customary practices and offers its users the possibility of experimenting with “a modern Naga village council” where there is space for everybody. To explain this point in Ao-Naga terms, dehumanizing formalized language such as tetsur tanur (meaning, women and young people, a derogatory term in Ao language) do not have a place in the ongoing democratic practice of OSP.
OSP counters the formal social rhetoric (speech) that continue to monopolize the dominant narratives of Naga society: Socially conscious users of OSP will discern that speech and formal public discourse/ rhetoric is no longer the prerogative of tribal leaders, politicians, and church leaders. Many people perceive of OSP as a safe space as there is no monopoly of communication or fear of speech. In this “emerging Naga public” every conscientious citizen has the right to speak up without having the fear of being threatened, excommunicated (from ones clan.tribe) or fined (two or three pigs).
Naga Blogs: Finding healing and legitimating each other’s voices: The warm thoughts for change that is relayed in the SN sites ought to be viewed as forces that counter the culture of fear and silence that has ruled our society for decades. By speaking up online, we experience liberation from and healing of our suppressed speeches and voices. For this reason, finding the space to make oneself heard must be an act of healing and a deeply personal and spiritual process for many users of OSP.
Constructing the Naga historical project of hope and critical solidarity: The moral and intellectual energy generated by the affirmation of each other’s voices through OSP not only helps users to build critical solidarity but it also gives them the courage to hope against all odds. Even as you finish reading this piece, imagine that there are a dozen of young Nagas keying in their thoughts. I want to remind these socially informed users that “every word of change that you blog is creating a melody, and every line of social thought that you text or key-in is singing a chorus of critical solidarity.”
Embodying the gentle Naga revolution: One of the greatest ongoing challenges for socially committed users of OSP is the following: how can we continue to expand as well as embody the “online face of Naga revolution” in a sustained and concrete manner? Part-II will offer an answer to this question and comment on the dangers associated with the use of OSP as a tool for change.
Pangernungba (This article reflects the personal view of the writer. He can be reached at
pangerandren@gmail.com)

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By EMN Updated: Nov 26, 2013 9:51:42 pm