The Naga political aspiration for self-determination over the years is akin to a group of people trying to cross a river, The Morung Express editor opined recently – the end is same but the means to achieve the same differs. Some want to build a bridge and cross; another prefers pole vaulting; while others want to swim across. Simply stated, there is no consensus on how to cross the river.
Presently, a bridge built by a Naga Political Group (NPG) is on the verge of completing its task. However, as one observes the unfolding scenario, it is becoming clearer each day that it is either not ready to share the route with others or it is unwilling to take the course.
An outcome of several factors cumulated over the years, this is unfortunate and does not portend well for the protracted Naga political imbroglio. In recent times, the political agenda of Nagas is increasingly dictated by the politics in Nagaland State capital Kohima and the economic concern of commercial capital Dimapur on the one hand, and the narrative of the dominant NPG on the other. Consequently, the shared commonalities of the Nagas have been relegated to the sideline; self-interest and polarization have gained momentum.
The Indian Government is not blind to these realities but chooses to play the card to its advantage. Conveniently, it adopted ‘carrot and stick policy,’ cajoling the Nagas into complacency and insecurity through economic dependency but chose to ignore the chaotic state of affairs it produces while keeping the security aspect of it intact.
The aspiration for a common future, as a result, has already been diluted by present socio-economic consideration. Right now, different points of view exist. Among others, for instance, many in the current ‘state machinery’ would prefer the status quo. Due to economic insecurities, many Nagas cannot envisage a life beyond the current arrangement. Some are singing the tune of any ‘solution is acceptable,’ browbeaten by years of the vicious cycle of conflict. For many, the need of the hour is cleansing the current system. The outcome is a tendency to articulate issues based on their own worldview which takes precedence over others.
Overdependence has robbed the Nagas of the desire and willingness to be productive and play a meaningful role in deciding their future. The existing institutions are seen as a generator of free dollops, rather than an enabler and facilitator for the progress of society.
While not objecting to the present peace process between the Government of India and NSCN (IM), the definition of ‘uniqueness’ must cover not only Indian and Myanmar’s legality but also Naga’s legality, a group of Nagas from the other side of the arbitrary international boundary recently argued, adding that ‘any agreement should be recognition of inherent rights, not given as a charity case.’
No one has the magic solution for peace, but the burden for each stakeholder struggling for Nagas’ rights must acknowledge ground realities, recognize each others’ needs, focused on commonalities rather than divisive factors. Any political movement must choose to care about the people as a whole rather their own political interests and nurture trust between communities to come out of the tangled web.
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