‘The role of literature in political writing’ discussed at Literature Festival in Nagaland
DIMAPUR — Shelmi Sankhil, Vikas Kumar and Rohlupuia were the panelists on the topic ‘The role of Literature in political writing’ at the ongoing ‘Literature festival and book fair,’ while Jim Wungramyao was the moderator.
Shelmi stated that in the last 20 years Nagas writing in English has become phenomenon as some works by Naga writers have been translated in other languages. He informed that there are more than 30 anthologies of short stories and novels by Naga writers in English.
Speaking on how people read books and perceive the Naga political issue, which is the longest running unresolved political issue in the region, he opined that his own journey was to characterise history into Naga moments. He stated that writers mentioned momentous events that shaped the Naga history.
Shelmi mentioned that when people read the historical events being retold from a native’s perspective, through a subjective matter of a creative retelling or rewriting, there is a merging of a perspective that enriches their understanding of history and subsequently changes the way they understand Naga political history.
“So in this way, rather than hard power literature performs a form of soft power, and it enriches us in understanding a particular people political situation and perhaps go a long way in ushering a lasting peace and mutual respect for one another. These are the contribution to their political situation currently,” he said.
Vikas Kumar stated that Naga English newspapers have given birth to a shared understanding of certain public concerns. He, however, stated that English papers have limited reach due to language barrier. On the contrary, he stated that some vernacular newspapers have contributed a lot.
Rohlupuia, speaking on the context of the Mizo society, stated that the Mizos are very literate but Mizo society continues to be primarily an oral society.
Rohlupuia said he writes about how Mizos express their freedom movements in their own language and about the interface between orality and nationalist politics. While the Mizo national movement was also called the Mizo freedom struggle, he stated that “in academic discourse, all kinds of political movements are clubbed it as insurgency.”
“In many ways, ‘insurgency’ was unable to capture what Mizo really is expressing and fighting for. So this vernacular language found expressions in many of the songs they composed before, during and after the movement,” he said.
Rohlupuia shared that he came across many writers, poets and composers who were not involved in the Mizo freedom struggle but they contributed in the wider discourse of Mizo nationalism.
He stated that during the period of counter insurgency, there was harsh censorship by the Indian goverment where all forms of writing were banned and any form of writing was burnt. “So the Mizos fall back to the oral and began to compose songs in troubled times. The songs tell us an alternate story of what people underwent during the time of counter insurgency, which is largely erased in the official document of the state,” he added.