I grew up learning that the right to vote is a human right of every citizen. In truth, the very foundation of democracy is the right to vote. Although this right comes with a bonus called ‘responsibility’. By qualifying myself as a voter, I bear an enormous responsibility in determining the fate of the leaders that I will choose, the outcome of which has an enormous impact both on me and the society. One should be cautious and thoughtful in choosing a leader to avoid any unwelcome mishaps. Make a wrong move and you are doomed for five long years. Yet, to get a taste of this so called responsibility, one should be given the freedom to choose whoever his/her heart desires.
The population of Nagaland has been affected by the widespread disease of corruption in one way or the other. And unless each and every responsible individual takes the lead in finding a remedy for it, every one of us will be digging our own graves. Come election, we forget our own selves for selfish pursuits. The truth is, it is us who run after corruption, and not vice versa.
I would like to share a simple narration in relation to the practices and conduct of election in my homeland, which, I suppose, happen to many unfortunate citizens who are denied the right, power or privilege of making a choice.
It is alarming to witness the whole of Wokha getting split up into two equal halves during elections – the areas to the right of Police Point, controlled by Village 1, and the areas to its left, controlled by Village 2. The population residing in between these two big villages get caught up in a whirlpool of unutterable anguish and terror. There’s no other way but to remain submissive because that’s where force and threat make their grand entry. It is disheartening, but the fact will always lie bare that a huge population of the enrolled voters do not even make it to the polling station, let alone choose a leader.
Carefully tucking my newly laminated voter ID into my shirt pocket, I took the path to the polling station. Halfway down to the polling station, I saw a large group of people, consisting of aged persons, men and women, being held up by another group belonging to a particular village. They appeared to be taking control of the timorous crowd. It was apparent that whatever was going on there was not good news. I saw that everyone in the assembled group was giving away their voter IDs, as demanded.
As I observed those group of people, I wished they could realise that the way they were conducting themselves was not democratic at all. I wished that they could understand what electing a representative meant, and that there was no such thing as ‘my candidate’ or ‘your candidate’. It’s that simple to understand that by voting we’re actually deciding the fate of the rulers and the collective fate of the ruled. An ugly and degrading performance such as this was happening right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t decide which of the two angered me more – the frightened group who were too afraid to voice out their rights or the other group who amassed authority in their own hands, denying fellow citizens to exercise their sole rights.
“You are an offender! Booth capturing is a punishable offence under section 135A of the Representation of the People’s Act. Just because you took money from the candidate or you let him promise you in securing a smooth future for your sons and daughters, or even for yourself doesn’t give you the right to take the matter into your own hands and deprive other’s rights. You might not be aware but there are still a bunch of people who want change, a real change, and who are interested in the greater good of the society unlike you. You cannot take away a fellow human’s basic right and you also cannot deny us representation. We live on the same soil as you are, we breathe the same air as you are, and we toil the same as you are. How then can you exclude us from exercising the equally given right in choosing a leader who is to govern the society as a whole? Are we not part of the fabric of the society?”
Those were the exact words I had in mind, but I was too afraid to speak up, or simply didn’t have the courage to deal with the consequences of my just action. I wished I was bold enough to fight back or things could have been different. That was me back then, an 18 year old who happened to have just a bookish knowledge, but unsure of how to apply that knowledge in the real world. Knowing one’s right is not enough, the fact of the matter is how far we put that knowledge to practice. As my turn came to submit my voter card, I murmured to myself, “Vote or no vote, I’m not giving you my voter card”, but I meekly handed the same to the man in charge.
At a time when one is almost running out of hope, taking into account the recent incidents which happened in some parts of Nagaland, the efforts being made by the NBCC seem like a soft refreshing breeze in the scorching summer heat. The NBCC’s endeavour in making ‘Clean Election’ a reality is laudable. It’s time you and I as distinct individuals come together and unbound ourselves from the shackles of corruption.
Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: email@example.com.