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“There is so much noise, but no one is raising our voice.” This simple but incisive remark made by a Naga theological student refers to the state of the current public discourse confronting Nagas. Indeed, the young woman’s observation reveals the truth and power inherent to the Naga condition.
In the Naga context, it is safe to assume that print-media and social networks are the most far-reaching form of mass communication. And, a close look helps us understand what the theological student is lamenting. The ‘noise’ is evidently expressed clearly in some of the opinions and commentaries. The language of judgment, blame-game, accusation, revulsion, self-justification, exclusion, discontentment, sweeping assumptions, uninformed conclusions and arrogance rings clearly through the printed word.
The repetitiveness of the written word is suffocating, and just like a broken record, the most melodious sound maybe reduced to pure and simple noise. Amidst the confusion and the search for clarity, when music is reduced to noise, it becomes loud shouting, discordant, irrelevant, confusing and even unpleasant and disturbing. None of this is energizing or inspiring as it reinforces the existing fatigue and weariness of the Naga public.
Without negating the feelings and the issues that are being raised through the opinions and commentaries, the important task is how the ‘noise’ becomes an expressive and critical voice that has the potential for asserting positive social and political influence.
John Paul Lederach tells us that, “voice” has an aural, sonic, metaphoric base and “reflects the idea that when people say they want a voice in the affairs that affect their lives, they are in part asking to be included in a space where meaningful conversation happens.” Voice, he says, requires “proximity of process that includes people, who often feel at distance from the locus of conversation and the ensuring decision.”
Absolutely, the young Naga theologian seems to be urging people to be included in web of processes where meaningful conversations occur and to ensure that decisions that affect their lives are embodied in the outcome. This also means that continuous drumming of problems, creating stereotype images and repetitive use of negativity needs to stop. What is required is for us to channel a process where people take ownership of the “voice” so that it becomes a positive power enabling a transformative praxis in which people’s rights become attainable.
It is in raising the voice that the nonviolent social and political action becomes a natural extension.