Khekiye K. Sema IAS(Rtd)
Upper Forest Colony, Kohima, Nagaland
It was certainly a significant speech delivered by our Hon’ble Chief Minister during the Independence Day at the Nagaland Secretariat Plaza. However, the question that lingers in the air is: whether some of the crucial subjects so covered in his speech were only intended to sound politically correct or that PDA managers would find true resolve to follow it through?
At the outset one would like to opine that there are certain subjects which call for a participatory responsibility of every concerned citizen rather than indifferently pass the buck to an equally complacent system. Subjects concerning: (A) the pending Indo-Naga political settlement and (B) Natural Disaster Management…are issues that directly impact upon our common future and welfare. Contributing well intended thoughts with the hope that the Government might find a constructive direction to follow, is being assumed as a sensible duty of any concerned citizen….whether such proffered suggestions are adopted or not. With this perspective in mind the following views are being shared.
(A) Indo-Naga political settlement: One would fully endorse the statement of our Hon’ble Chief Minister when he said (Quote): “Political negotiations have been going on for the past 21 years. We have had many challenges but there is no problem that is insurmountable before the collective will of the people…Together we need to strive towards that goal with the collective cooperation and support of all sections of society” (Eastern Mirror: Thursday, August 16, 2018). While this expressed political vision is impeccable, an upright approach to mould such a realistic “collective will” and “Collective cooperation” has never been attempted on an elaborate scale at an unquestioned platform. This is potentially a persuasive democratic weapon at our disposal that the GoI is more likely to respect than the AK 47…but has never been sensibly deployed. A unique possibility exists to make not only the GoI but the International Community to sit up and perceive the legitimate will of the Nagas like they have never seen before. Instead, one can’t help noticing that the Nagas have been more than successful in gaining a reputation as “one of the most corrupted State in the Indian Union”…thus exposing our feet of clay in broad daylight. At some stage we need to honestly admit that our past efforts have been rather shallow and haphazardly conducted with less determined focus on the end goal. The corruptive lust for power and money within the ‘Political Circles’ and ‘the NNPGs’ has more than overshadowed and diluted the core issues of “self-determination” and “Integration“. The GoI has been able to see through the hypocritical lip service being rendered on these issues. They have therefore knowingly resorted to facilitating financial dole outs without much checks and balances or accountability all these years….thereby breaking the backbone and blunting the spirit of our honourable past. Erasing this tarnished image will not be an easy task for sure…but if GoN is serious about realistically playing the declared role of an ‘active facilitator’ it needs to begin a focused exercise of minimising this despicable tag of a ‘corrupted beggar race’… and visibly bring “collective will of the people” to the fore. Adopting a fresh approach seems to be in order. GoI has yet to see a genuine collective will of the people beyond the Plebiscite of 1951 that even the Mainland population and the International Community knew nothing about because of the complete media censorship at that time. It would perhaps be in the fitness of things for the GoN to practically generate mass movement at least on the issues of ‘integration’ by facilitating a comprehensive platform of ‘Naga Conference’ including all the contiguous Naga inhabited territories represented by their respective traditional Tribal Hohos, GBs and Village Councils and other relevant NGOs to register an emphatic show of solidarity and help India to open their collective eyes for a change. Had the Nagas been democratically fragmented for administrative convenience, the relevance of redrawing the map through a democratic process would have perhaps been accepted as a warranted road to solution. However Nagas were autocratically, arbitrarily and unjustly segmented without their consent. Here…the ‘Historical facts’ and ‘Justice’ are positively on the side of the Nagas! Justice for Naga integration issue must therefore be first served through judicial emancipation duly ratified by the Parliament thereafter. Through the mandate of the conference, GoN could then set up a matured, knowledgeable empowered Committee (including those beyond the present boundary of Nagaland) to fill the interceding vacuum for interactive dialogue with: (a) GoI; (b) our neighbouring States and (c) our NNPGs on the issue of integration. It is for the Government to evaluate whether “Joint Legislator’s Forum” manned by indifferent members for the sake of membership would serve a purpose that would require a knowledgeable and committed time investment giving lesser priority to sightseeing and shopping while at Delhi.
“Inclusive solution” is a fine sounding terminology. However NSCN (IM) has fortified itself behind the Great Wall of China and seems to get hyper allergic to any sentence that has the word ‘inclusive’ in it. FNR valiantly hoisted “Nagaland for Christ” banner and sincerely tried to dismantle this wall through invocation of Christian principle of forgiveness and reconciliation but unfortunately discovered that this was more challenging than climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen mask. The Chief Minister may have to find a less Christian approach to achieve “inclusive solution”. Without this, his “commitment to pave the way for an alternative arrangement that may arise from the political agreement” may instead turn out to be a very awkward and uncomfortable pavement to walk upon. A concerted effort beyond words would be necessary to bridge the toxic gap between NSCN (IM) and the remaining NNPGs, the majority of whom are also officially participating at the negotiating table with the GoI. The great-grandmother of all questions which our Hon’ble Chief Minister must find answers to is: who will be penning the final settlement document that the stakeholders have absolutely no knowledge about? The answer could turn out be far too complicated beyond his simple aftermath ‘paving’ mission without first reconciling the antibodies in order to facilitate a smooth transition. Setting up a ‘knowledgeable empowered committee’ may therefore serve more productive purposes than an indifferent JLF. These exercises could reduce the tension within the family and further the interest all concerned at the negotiating table.
(B)Natural Disaster Management: There can be no dispute over the remark of Hon’ble CM that mankind has no control over the wrath of Mother Nature. But to only “call upon the citizens to be aware of problems that could occur due to unplanned development and encroachment of drain, especially in the urban area” sounds much too simplistic a solution to mitigate the monstrous disaster that awaits a place like Kohima. His statement covered by Eastern Mirror: Thursday, August 16, 2018 along with all the other local print media that (Quote): “Adherence and enforcement of building bye-laws is absolutely essential given that the state is situated in seismic zone five, which is most vulnerable to earthquakes” (Unquote) is certainly an accurate reflection of a requirement but was silent on action plan in the enforcement front. The building bye-laws, which have been in existence since 1991, should urgently be dug up, updated and vigorously enforced. There is also a need to inculcate a civic responsibility amongst the urban dwellers and root out the aggressive “Kya Hai!…It’s my land and what I do with it is my business” attitude. The urban residents must be made to realise that they are not living in total isolation on a marooned island. What they carelessly do on their land could very well cost the lives of their neighbours. When travelling up to Kohima from Dimapur, one never fails to notice a very unnerving sight (on the opposite flank of the Para-medical junction), of a jam packed houses precariously clinging on to unstable landslide prone hillside with dense high-rise buildings above them. This is a terminal disaster-in-waiting. In fact this is a common rampant sight everywhere in urban Kohima. Now consider how many of these high-rise buildings have earthquake proof foundries laid according to building bye-law before construction?…perhaps limited to a very negligible percentage. Apart from the danger of landslides where the whole hill moves from under you, imagine the catastrophic consequence when an earthquake of 4 or 5 or 6 in the richter-scale hits this sector. The collapsing high-rise structures above will destroy what the earthquake fail to smash. Similar unsettling replication can be seen along ‘Phulbari’ main road, above the New Market locality…which has a history of the whole hillside sinking. The unchecked high-rise buildings six /seven stories high with questionable foundries will definitely pose additional threat beyond the earthquake for those living below. Therefore, simply asking the citizens to be aware of unplanned development and encroachment on drains is hardly the answer. This responsibility squarely rests with the Government to vigorously inspect and enforce safety standards especially in such a critical landslide prone zones and at least take necessary measures to stop reckless upward extension of floors on weak foundry. In general, the present urban Kohima is headed for a monstrous disaster of the century with the prediction of impending earthquakes that will eventually come when it will come. Perhaps there is no reliable remedy to mitigate the threat of a horrendous disaster within the already existing establishments but any further infrastructural expansion should strictly be regulated for everyone’s safety. Most importantly, Nagaland being situated in a seismic hot zone, the Government must do everything within it powers to convince the Centre to establish a state of the art Seismological Centre at any relevant location in Nagaland with efficient advance warning system put in place. Our people across the board deserve a fighting chance of a forewarning. This must be considered as an elementary responsibility that cannot be evaded.