A defining character of responsible governance is in its use of democratic means to evolve equitable solutions based on inclusive, participatory and nonviolent approaches. This is foundational to its ability for constructively addressing conflicts.
Nagaland is filled with examples where the state government has used forceful methods for its own gain. These examples are evident in the mishandling of inter-village and inter-tribe situations. In more recent times, contentious issues such as exploiting natural resources, rampant corruption, and compromised municipal elections are clear indicators that the state has not invested in building capacity to address differences through peaceful means such as dialogue, mediation and negotiations.
This finds Nagaland compromised and urgently needing to develop capacity and create mechanisms to democratically address conflicts.
When conflict is present in our lives it indicates that harmony is broken at some level. Babu Ayindo and Janice Jenner from the Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding say that, “Whether at home with our families, at work with colleagues or in negotiations between governments, conflict pervades our relationships. The paradox of conflict is that it is both the force that can tear relationships apart and the force that binds them together. This dual nature of conflict makes it an important concept to study and understand.” They assert that understanding conflict as a feature of domestic and international relations are critical to peacebuilding processes.
The challenge for governments is how to effectively, proactively engage, as well as address conflicts using inclusive participatory democratic approaches. For instance, a government may be confronted with conflicts around political aspirations, land, natural resources, border disputes, inequitable development, humanitarian crisis, inter-village differences, and armed violence, and so on. In many situations a government may be a party to the conflict or asked to intervene as a mediator. These situations require skills and techniques to constructively tackle the issues. On the one hand, a conflict can be managed negatively through avoidance, and by using threats, intimidation and force. On the other hand, a conflict can be positively engaged through dialogue, negotiation, joint problem solving and consensus building and reconciliation.
Transforming conflicts is both a science and an art. The approaches used in conflict situations are largely based upon past experiences. Historic scenarios indicate that most governments approach conflict with the intent of achieving ‘negative peace,’ where in most cases the absence of violence has not addressed the root cause of the conflict. In today’s political context and increased human consciousness, ‘negative peace’ is not only limited and inadequate, but is counter-productive to sustainable JustPeace with harmonious outcomes.
Ayindo and Jenner remind us that, “Positive peace is filled with positive content such as the restoration of relationships, the creation of social systems that serve the needs of the whole population and the constructive resolution of conflict. Peace does not mean the total absence of any conflict. It means the absence of violence in all its forms and the unfolding of conflict in a constructive way.” Real peace exists “where people are interacting non-violently and are managing their conflict positively—with respectful attention to the legitimate needs and interests of all concerned.”
The Nagaland State Government, in particular its administrative officers, need to assess whether it is equipped to sincerely, respectfully and skillfully address its many local internal conflicts using nonviolent means. Taking a status quo stance and posturing with coercion and power will only de-legitimize its ability to govern the people. Now is the time for the Nagaland State Government to step forward to address conflicts constructively in order to achieve positive constructive outcomes.