|Naga youths stage a demonstration in front of a police station in New Delhi. File picture
Naga youth get pragmatic
The younger generation of Nagas is no longer the unquestioning recipient of received wisdom that their elders postulate. Naga sovereignty — the coded ideology on which a generation of Nagas has grown up — is now being deconstructed by the present generation. They are not diffident about stating upfront that the leaders of the Naga National Movement have failed to achieve the aspirations that they had built into the collective Naga psyche for nearly 50 years. The Naga Blog, a Facebook page created by Naga youths, gives an insight into what the young Nagas think and how they envision their future.
This fascinating Facebook page has thousands of members who key in their concerns on a day-to-day basis. One posted a terse message about a dead hornbill being put up for sale at Ghaspani. Considering that the much-advertised Hornbill Festival is at hand, a dead hornbill is not such a good advert. The Hornbill Festival, celebrated annually in December, has become a symbol of Naga cultural synthesis. The festival draws visitors from India and abroad.
On a good day, the Naga Blog gets some lengthy posts from young Naga intellectuals who dissect the current thread of Naga political and civil society. There are disparaging remarks about blatant moral and financial corruption, which has pockmarked the Naga political and the government system. Bureaucrats and politicians are on the take. An unscrupulous business cohort completes the triangle. They own half of Dimapur, most of Kohima and are now branching out into greener spaces.
Protective of turf
At one time the Nagas used to be very protective of their turf. The leaders of the Naga movement did not tolerate dissent from within or outside Naga society. Today with social networking sites granting anonymity (if we choose to remain anonymous), there are varying shades of views that appear on the Naga Blog. However, some things take time to change. A couple of rabid hate posts followed an attempt by this writer to share some of her views on the hypocrisy of the ongoing Indo-Naga peace talks. I was asked to shut up and mind my own business. But this is typical of all tribes, hence, one does not even take offence. We all think we don’t need others to tell us what we already know about ourselves. We can live with our warts and even try to incise and excise them with our native genius, but no one should do it for us.
It is encouraging to note that a growing population of Nagas living outside Nagaland and outside India feels that it’s time to break the silence and the denial about the enigma surrounding the peace talks. They are tired of the illusion that Nagalim would free them from all the ills inflicted by India. Not that the Nagas are unaware of the power games played in Delhi vis-à-vis the peace talks. They are smart thinkers and are as wise as the Chanakyas of Indian stagecraft. However, they are waiting and watching. At the moment the Naga youths are more interested in checking the rampant corruption and breakdown in governance.
However, this does not mean that Nagas have stopped debating about the “peace talks” dilemma. Some are cynical, others still hopeful, but there is greater insight and clarity in the deliberations. At least they seem to have got over those delusional phases such as owning a separate passport and being part of a new country. The peace talks between the NSCN (I-M and K) and the Centre are a fig leaf that is not even covering the shame.
Dead end to talks
All are aware that the talks are going down a cul-de-sac where the process is soaked in semantics and the outcomes shrouded in mystery. The common man and woman only have to second-guess what’s really happening. While the elderly seem to hang on to a hope that’s fast diminishing, the young are pragmatic. Whatever be the future political shape of Nagaland, the fact remains that it has to be governed by the same tools of governance. It would be naive to believe that a new political dispensation would exorcise the ghost of corruption that has eaten at the vitals of Naga society.
While some bloggers tend to point to the upcoming elections and the need to curtail money and muscle power, another berated them saying that democracy does not hinge on a once-in-five-year election. Limiting everything to elections is a reductionist viewpoint, the wise blogger said. He pleaded instead for responsible and participatory politics — by way of ensuring responsible and accountable governance throughout the five-year period. It was a reprimand to his people not to get gung-ho only before the elections and remain passive citizens thereafter.
The fact that even today large swathes of Naga countryside remain as they were half a century ago speaks about the indifference of the government at Kohima which has always been dominated by three tribes — Ao, Angami and Sumi. The anxieties and cries of agony of the rural populace of Nagaland go unheard. For over 50 years, the simple rural folks have been fed the lie that things will be different once the leaders of the Naga national movement wrest an honourable settlement from India. They have waited and struggled to give their children a decent education so that they can be part of the new governing dispensation. However, the children are now educated and find no gainful employment because nepotism ensures that they are kicked out of the roster even if they are meritorious. In Nagaland, as elsewhere in this country, the highest bidder gets the job. Examinations and recruitment processes are formalities to help reinforce the lie and give it a cloak of respectability.
It is no secret that job creation in Nagaland has not taken place. Entrepreneurship is difficult because it involves paying money at every step of the way. Competition is never fair. The top politicians and bureaucrats own the best and most picturesque spaces for resorts farmhouses and holiday homes. There is simply no scope for anyone without political strings to make it big in life. Do we wonder then why drugs and alcohol flow freely, despite claims of Nagaland being a dry state? Yet another hypocrisy! And the biggest hypocrisy of them all is what the bloggers themselves say, “Nagaland for Christ — the biggest travesty of a slogan if ever there is one.”
In this chaotic scenario it is important for the youth not to lose focus. Life is about analysing problems and addressing them without indulging in the easy way out — the blame game. It is important to do what is possible, what is within one’s grasp! The rest will hopefully be taken care of by nature. Nagas have great respect for Gandhi and I know of many who believe in the Gandhi dictum: “Be the change you want to see.” If at all Nagas want change then the youth must take the bull by the horns and play politics by their own rules and not by those written in stone by their elders. Those stones are not the tablets of Moses anyway, so they are not indispensable. They must be broken and new sets of political rules have to be agreed upon and rewritten. Can young Nagas, both women and men, take up this challenge? Yes, you can!
(The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)