Rev. Dr. Wati Aier
All human histories are a being. They are living and mutable, and in this are ontological. Among the histories of the world, Naga history is a relative history in its own right, especially in regards to our immediate and de facto communities. Our history is one that can also be sedated by the past, where we find ourselves haunted in the present by the fervent dogmatism of the past memories. Such an opiate of the Naga world view needs to be denounced through a demand for by definitiveness and finality. The alternative, as has been our fateful reality, is to linger in disappointments manifested in the form of rationalization, rhetoric of legalism and to others perhaps, in microscopic politics of narcissism.
Historically, the construction of Naga identity has been chiseled out of our common dreams and aspirations. To be sure, all civilizations are constructed histories. From the onset of the twentieth century, Naga people have desired to safeguard our socio-cultural and political identity. In this, the Naga pioneers’ imagination remains unmatched.
Naga Day, unlike an assault on the physical world of anyone, is in the realm of symbolic cultural restoration by spirit of collective imagination. The Naga memory of belonging yearns to listen and be heard, and Naga Day is an opportunity to nurture that memory by answering the silence of the present and visioning the hope of the future. Our present burned lands are fertile lands that can flourish in the future. History is full of small, symbolic acts that altered the world in astonishing ways and Naga Day is no different. The day itself represents the voice of the people.
Today, if Naga identity is under any threat in ways we don’t understand, it will be at the “nation” level that we either solve it or destroy it. The idea of belonging is a universal idea. Americans have it, Indians have it, Chinese have it and so on. The philosophy that “you are alone” and that there is no common ethos of trying to nurture something shared is the embodiment of “every ‘nation’ for itself.” Such an ethos is a culture “turned inward” against others.
In the Naga context, it is paramount that the healing and connection of “nation” be initiated in order to heal our own psychic wounds. If Nagas do not develop ways to publicly confront the emotional consequences of hatred, jealousy, attitudes of superiority, and division, these consequences will continue to burn us to annihilation. Nagas must come to an urgent realization and act that we are basically at war with ourselves. Shall we not underscore and put a stop to where we differ, and practice social ecology of shared humanity among us and with others? The ultimate betrayal of Naga identity is not in acting competitively—that should be positively encouraged—but in the search and creation of exclusion and exclusivity under the pretext of unity and healing.
Belonging to a shared Naga humanity requires a critical and analytical consciousness that will lead to a type of sacrifice that gives more than it costs—where the “grownups” become disciplined role models for the “young” ones, nurturing and empowering the “young” ones to flourish. This sense of solidarity is at the core of what it means to be Naga and will help deliver us to this extraordinary moment in our history. This could very well be the only thing that allows us to survive our times.
Let us be reminded that Nagas need to be capable at what we do in order to find contentment in this world. We need to be authentic in our lives and we need to be genuinely connected to others. Above all, we need God. Without God there is no basis for morality. These four values are intrinsic to human finite good.
Sadly, the outcome of the Westphalian paradigm of 1648 ushered in arbitrary frontiers and borders of exclusion and division in the world. Like most ethnic groups, the Nagas are no exception to this reality. Naga Day, therefore, is saying to the Nagas, “Let us go beyond the borders of arbitrarily-enacted division.” It is resolving that we are not going to curtail and limit ourselves by the imaginary borderlines by which we, like others, were programmed to approach the world. It is acknowledged that by fighting for the borders of division, we only defeat ourselves. Naga Day is reminding ourselves and announcing to the world that we are moving on with the pace of time without departing from our socio-cultural and political identity. We take a resolute collective affirmation that the colonial term “borders” be removed from the vocabulary of the Naga people. With post-millennial socio-cultural and political agenda being prioritized around issues of restoring ecology, the tantamount importance for the Nagas is the ecology of indigenous peoples without borders.
Naga Day implores Nagas to think generously outside of the box of colonial frontiers—a tool par excellence of divide. All identities are unique and as such to be never at the expense of the other. This means, an identity is always defined only in relation of the other. Thus, while the Naga identity is permeable without borders, by the same token, Naga identity is never at the exclusion of non-Nagas who have their legitimate locus in “Naga-Lands.” Nagas have to catch on to the fact that “birds of the same feather” is a dangerous concept to a society of many feathers. The society of “same feather” is at the end, an exclusive community.
Finally, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation’s initiation of the Naga Day is solely based on the preceding lines. FNR has absolutely no monopoly on any organizations. Time after time, FNR has sincerely appreciated the contribution of all organizations, including fathers and mothers and concerned prayer groups. FNR abides by our commitment of Naga reconciliation and peace for all stakeholders. As such, the formation of FNR was situational—out of exigency. The day FNR becomes an institutionalized system we will cease to be effective.
FNR welcomes all to the Naga Day.
Rev. Dr. Wati Aier is the Convenor of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation