Truth-telling and forgiveness: the heart of reconciliation
Kohima, April 28 (EMN): Truth-telling and forgiveness remains at the heart of reconciliation, but from a process point of view in the Naga context, the challenge is how to take it to a larger and broader opening, said Dr. Aküm Longchari, a member of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR).
He was responding to a query if the Naga people were ready to acknowledge their wrongdoings and seek forgiveness towards the reconciliation which the FNR is working for, during a public interaction initiated by the FNR at The Heritage in Kohima on Saturday as part of the forum’s ‘Walking the Naga Day’ series.
“In the course of FNR’s work, we have found out that unless people feel safe, they struggle to speak the truth or they don’t want to speak the truth because they don’t feel safe. And that seems to be where we are also struggling, and that is why we are also repeatedly asking how we collectively create a safe space for truth-telling to enable the process,” Longchari said. He asked whether it would be possible for the churches to create such safe space or the Naga traditional institutions.
With the formation of the FNR against the backdrop of a decade of rampant fratricidal violence in Nagaland, the day’s discussions focussed mainly on the aspect of whether those who have done wrong could acknowledge their deeds and the victims could forgive them.
“When we talk about forgiveness and healing, we Nagas often misuse the language by saying ‘forgive and forget’, which is very wrong. We should not forget what was done wrong. We should not forget whatever mistakes or crimes we have committed. If we forget that, we will continue doing the same mistakes. Reconciliation means to accept what you have done wrong and to reconcile with yourself and with others so that we don’t repeat the same mistake again.” This statement was put across by a former president of the Naga Mothers’ Association (NMA), Neidono Angami.
Angami’s assertion was supplemented by V Meyase, a retired government employee, who felt that forgiveness does not mean forgetting but to remember and continue to forgive. While acknowledging that FNR is an agent of the present day working for the reconciliation of the Naga families, he questioned if, in the process of reconciliation, the forum was considering these points: acknowledging a wrongdoing, feeling sorry for committing that wrong, ready to seek forgiveness, resolve not to repeat that wrongdoing and if possible, make restitution for them.
He felt that unless such a process was prepared from now, any reconciliation, declaration or agreement that comes would remain ‘unforgiven and continue in bloodshed’.
In his response, FNR convener, Rev. Dr. Wati Aier said this has always been in the FNR’s thoughts and processes. Admitting that it was a very difficult issue, he said the FNR had tried this in small pockets/sessions and were done at an individual level. The forum looks to put the same process in a larger scale, he informed.
Another FNR member, Niketu Iralu shared that Nagas over the last 6-7 decades began to see something about the Naga journey and strongly believed in the aspirations that they loved and believed in, and rallied together and launched it together ‘magnificently’. “But as can happen in all human enterprises, things go wrong very quickly. FNR is doing a very important thing for all Nagas to participate in.”
Iralu further said: “All of history can be written in two small words, ‘challenge’ and ‘response’. Nagas have responded to the challenges that changes in the world brought to them in a way that had never happened before.”
While pointing out that there were talks of a settlement in a few months’ time as well as questions about what FNR will do when settlement comes, Iralu said FNR has no part in the terms of the negotiations. “What the FNR can and will do is that, whatever comes, Nagas will not allow violence and killings anymore.”
He felt that was one of the common stands Naga people must take for ‘everything else to have the chance to develop’. “We will not allow any killings to implement any settlement, if the Nagas can take that stand…”
A member of the audience raised the issue of integration, but was cut short by Aier who said at this juncture, Nagas must work on emotional integration rather than material or physical integration.
Another participant, Jonas Yanthan, a leader of a tribe organisation in Kohima, pointed out that there was a gap between the ‘underground’ (armed Naga groups) and the public; their aspirations and the people’s desire appear to be in conflict mainly due to lack of communication. He wondered if the FNR could bridge the gap.
In response, Aier said in today’s fast changing world, we are talking about political models only from conventional understanding. “Just as Nagas are passionate about the Naga rights, others are also relatively talking about theirs. For FNR, it has made it openly clear that when we talk about the rights of Naga identity, this identity should not be at the expense of other identities. Identity here implies a boundary, not only psychological. But this identity, though it implies a boundary, it has to be permeable.
“That was why the FNR initiated Naga Day on January 10 last was held under the aegis of ‘Nagas without borders’. The Naga identity does not lie only within borders, but transcends borders, which were artificially and arbitrarily created. But now, the FNR is of the view that Nagas should not become victims of borders, rather we should transcend borders. There are political possibilities without the confines of the borders,” he said.
For feedback, he asked: “Can the Nagas be more creative and intellectually prepared to get out of idealism and instead start talking about national construction or constructive nationalism as opposed to idealistic nationalism?”
A young citizen queried about the progress in the reconciliation process and the future plans of the FNR, and the response of the Naga national groups to the reconciliation process as well as the challenges the FNR is facing.
To this, Dr. Longchari said the reconciliation process, despite all the challenges, had more of a positive response when it was initiated. He felt that it was due to the commitment of the signatories that the Covenant of Reconciliation still holds today, that factional violence has decreased by and large.
“The challenge has been to move from that situation of cessation of violence to a place where we can actually say it has gone beyond cessation of violence. It is in that context that we are coming together to seek from the people how to move together, and how to enable the political groups to move forward.”
One of the difficulties for the FNR, he said, was the implementation of the Naga Concordant of 2011. Despite the initial enthusiasm, he observed, putting the idea into practice has been difficult; and the vacuum created has been exploited by the state powers.
FNR’s relationship with the impending settlement
Replying to a query regarding the influence of the FNR in the ongoing talks for solution to the Indo-Naga political issue, FNR member and academician Visier Sanyu said the forum is an arena of moral and spiritual space.
‘If there is violence between factions because of the agreement, how the Nagas face the result of the agreement will be the work of the FNR and each individual,’ he said while pointing out that the FNR has nothing to do with the actual political agreement.
Nevertheless, he asserted that the FNR or anyone with moral conscience has the responsibility to prepare for the looming agreement.