Only One Answer
By Monalisa Changkija
The day after ShangwangShangyungKhaplang breathed his last on in June 9, 2017, at Taga, Myanmar, I received calls from several colleagues from “mainland” India but just one Whatsapp message from a young Journalist from a neighbouring state asking me “where does the K faction go from here now? And the entire Naga freedom movement too?” And yes, an email from a news portal asking me if I would “be interested in writing a piece taking off from Khaplang’s death? What does this mean for the Naga peace process? Will most groups gather around the NSCN (IM) now? What direction do you think Naga political aspirations will take now?” etc. This could be taken as a breach of confidence but these are the same questions all of them asked. And, my replies would have also been made public. But that’s not the issue ~ even ten days (at the time of writing this) after Khaplang died, we are asking the same questions in Nagaland too ~ and indubitably, so must the Governments of India and Myanmar, and their Intelligence agencies also.
Nobody can accurately answer the question “now what?” most of all because we are talking about an organization of which we know only what it wants us to know ~ and that goes for all similar organizations for who secrecy and opaqueness is their strength and best defense. Moreover, the success of guerilla warfare hinges on stealth so even if such organizations are very hospitable towards Journalists et al, they will reveal only what they want to. This is even more pertinent because such organizations consist of tribals and hospitality is one of the most defining tribal traits ~ besides all tribals are loathe to divulge our “kitchen affairs” in front of guests. If it weren’t the case, there would have been no speculations by Journalists, who have gone to such organizations’ camps, interviewed the leaders and wrote articles, features and books on them, about who after Khaplang.
True, KhangoKonyak has reportedly taken over as Chairman of the NSCN (K) but somehow things within this group still appear to be quite fluid. Not surprisingly, because this group has members from two countries – India and Myanmar – and it would take some time to find a leader that would be acceptable to all, as did Khaplang. Also, it would take a long time to find a leader with the same, well almost, the same personality, stature and command, as Kaplan. And during this period of transition, anything and many things can happen ~ (a) it is possible that the several other such Naga groups would reach out to the NSCN (K) cadres, on both sides of the border; (b) Indubitably, the Governments of India and Myanmar, through their respective Intelligence agencies, would also work on reaching out to the new leadership ~ not least individual cadres; (c) let’s also not forget that NGOs and civil societies in Nagaland had already approached the NSCN (K) to come to the negotiating table much before Khaplang passed away ~ possibly and probably such efforts are now intensified and the results could surprise us all; (d) possibly also now with the passing away of the old, so to speak, the NSCN (K)’s new leadership could totally change strategies that could alter the face of insurgency movements in the Northeast ~ either ways. The list of possibilities are endless and so anything or many things can happen in the next few months that could and/or would impact on “peace” particularly in Nagaland and rest of the Northeast.
Then again, while the official mourning period, by all Naga tribes ~ normally five to seven days for men ~ is over, let’s not forget that the NSCN (K) is still in mourning for the passing away of not just their organization’s tallest leader but also of one of the tallest Naga leaders in the history of the Naga political movement in the modern period. Even the younger generations of Nagas have heard of Khaplang ~ much more than they did of AZ Phizo. Now, while strategies are made and future plans discussed during the period of mourning, decisions are normally never finalized at this time ~ so, only time holds the answer to “now what?” or “what next?” And it would be futile to speculate on the answers for there are circles within circles to understand the rationales of why insurgent groups operate the way they do or the ways of “national movements”. And these circles have a lot to do with much more than the political ~ after all, we existed centuries before conflicts such as insurgency and militancy emerged, which are not even a century old. Older conflicts of histories, ideologies, politics, cultures, traditions, religions, beliefs, superstitions, lore and legends of tribal societies are harder to understand, analyze and deal with through alien modern concepts such as democracy and its institutions, unmindfully imposed post-Independence, on ancient societies which have their own trajectories of democratic concepts and practices. Also conflicts entrenched in tribalism, conflicting aspirations and interests, cultural diversities and dreams and schemes of tribal hegemony, besides power struggles at varied and various levels of society, perhaps due to multiplicity of existing value-systems, are often forgotten and ignored, especially keeping in mind that these are the very same factors that also spawned insurgency and militancy, which can be understood and appreciated better if we consider that not only have tribal societies in the Northeast, especially Naga society, been rudely tossed from our subsistence economies into modern forms of economies but also our histories and cultures were unceremoniously hijacked at a certain point of time by alien forces and factors, which has disoriented us ~ spawning newer conflicts that have hitherto been ignored, neglected or simply brushed off as extraneous to the larger scheme of things of matters Northeast. It must be underscored here that standing at the crossroads of the traditional and modernity, we are still unsure how to view and what to make of the rapidly-changing equations around us, locally, regionally, nationally and globally ~ and so we tend to look at them with suspicion, with trepidation and either retreat into a form of passivity or react defiantly.
The entrenched impact of such a situation calls for an in-depth study of the psychological profiles of our peoples, which have shaped our histories, economies, politics, cultures, traditions, and laws, which have also simultaneously shaped our psychological profiles over the centuries. Today we may be a kind of by-product of western or modern orientations by way of education and the technological revolution increasingly reaching our remotest areas but our people are also products of ingrained traditional cultures and concepts. Add to that our inability and/or unwillingness to shed our biases and prejudices, and generally our traditional and cultural viewpoints (often self-centered) of the world thereby unwittingly imprisoning ourselves to the ‘dominant’ politics, economics, cultures, ideologies, often made out to be the ‘dominant aspirations’ of our peoples, which do get internalized.
There are no easy answers that can be given in a few minutes’ sound/“print” bytes. But then sound/“print” bytes are not, and cannot be, the intent of journalism. Hence to all these questions, I have only one answer: I’m a Journalist, not a Soothsayer.
(The Columnist, a journalist and poet, is Editor, Nagaland Page)
(Courtesy: Assam Tribune)