33 OTS students currently on a 1-month internship tour on clean election share their midway experiences and findings
Morung Express News
Dimapur | July 6
This summer, 33 students of Oriental Theological Seminary (OTS) are on a unique mission. Perhaps, one of their biggest challenges– spiritually, emotionally as well as physically.
On a mission to spread the message of “Clean Election” as a part of their summer internship, the students are traversing through two constituencies of Nagaland.
The journey that kick-started on June 20 will culminate on July 20. By then, the students, divided into 5 groups, would have covered more than 35 villages and towns in Tseminyu and Pughoboto areas.
Rev. Dr. Chekrovei Cho-O, Associate Professor of Applied Theology in OTS said the mission objective is about “conscientising people” and spiritualizing with the Churches.
The mission briefing also involves meeting people from various walks of life and analysing the ground realities, observing practical challenges and findings ways out of it.
For instance, Dr. Cho-o opined that until there is clean e-roll, the idea of clean election does not hold waters. “This is beyond the jurisdiction of the church and needs people involvement at ground level.”
Prior to their mission, the students were given one-week total orientation especially on interpersonal relationship and group dynamics at the mission centre in OTS.
While, six faculties dropped them to start their mission on June 20, they have been left on their own since then. A mid-way assessment was done by two faculties on July 5 at their respective locations.
The Council of Rengma Baptist Churches (CRBC) and Sumi Aphuyemi Baptist Akukuhou Kuqhakulu (SABAK) are actively endorsing the mission.
When The Morung Express contacted the students on July 4, one group was in Tseminyu village.
Besides door-to-door education of households and church services, they hold interactions with various stakeholders, including Gaon Buras (GBs), Village Councils, members of Rengma Hoho; and other ‘important person’ including party political agents, youth and women, informed Ajung T Aier, a Master of Divinity (M.Div) student.
While the response has been positive, many were skeptical. “It will take time,” was a common refrain.
At the ground level, people are still lost. The NBCC campaign is yet to have an impact in the interiors. It is quite a surprise, Aier noted. Election is viewed as a “One-time opportunity” for the people to get back at politicians, who seldom visit them after election. In some cases, people considered OTS’ visit as another political party and assumed that the team “were coming with lot of money,” Aier added.
Youth involvement in politics was also a common concern. “If flow of alcohol is stopped, clean election is possible,” a group of women told the team.
One common trait was the “blame game.” As Aier pointed out “the church blames the public, who in turn blame the politicians, who return the favor equally.”
However, the CEC effort is definitely bearing fruits. In Tseminyu village, for the next election, various NGOs and people will collaborate and among others, stop door-to-door campaigns and provide a common platform for the candidates.
In Tseminyu Town, we had a positive interaction with members of influential youth group (club) and hopefully, their involvement in the process will have a deep impact, Aier further stated.
The group will be covering another 4-5 villages besides meeting different stakeholders before the mission ends.
Another group – covering Asukiqa and Puhuboto areas under Pughoboto – was camping in Lazami Village, their sixth village.
“Almost all the people agree that one of the most common problems is the involvement of villagers residing outside, during election,” said Vitoka Chopi, another MDiv student of OTS.
Besides regular activities as the first group, another strategy is holding separate open discussion with women, youth, and men.
Most people are skeptical and reluctant to share, but once a person breaks the ice, it opens a floodgate, observed Chopi. In many villages, the involvement of non-state actors was a crucial concern and their influences, especially during election, were very high.
The Sumi Students Union (SKK)’s ‘Amikucho Kikishe’ (Clean Election) campaign launched in April is also making an impact. Most of the attendees have an idea about the concept, Chopi informed.
However, many are still ignorant and everything is not in black and white. For instance, in one meeting, a young man opined that ‘backdoor appointment is positive’ as most could not get through the competitive exam. It was seconded by another.
The team will be covering 5 more villages and towns, besides holding fellowship with SABAK, Kohima on July 20.
‘It is loss for us if it is done only in our areas or by us’
A group, covering the Northern Rengma area, was in Shisunu Village, their fourth stoppage.
Incidentally, Shisunu already has a Clean Election Sub-Committee while in Ehunu Village there was a Clean Election Monitoring Action Committee. Kandinu, a candidate village since 1964 is not fielding anyone from the village next election, but has affirmed for clean election.
Sharing his experience, Shozenlo Thyug, another M.Div student said: “People were most interested with the Youthnet analysis of election expenditure in 2008 &13.”
A 60 plus old man during a meeting confided to the team that he had never allowed his wife to vote barring once or twice.
The election commission is faulted too. “They are sending security, but they never do anything when malpractices or other activities occur.”
In all the areas the teams visited, there is a common refrain perhaps felt across Nagaland. “It is loss for us if it is done only in our areas or by us.”
Finding solution to this predicament would be a key factor for the success of the CEC.