The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s speech at the inauguration of the Nagaland’s premier Hornbill Festival 2018 on December 1 can be summed-up in three E’s – effusive, (but) evasive and earthy.
While Singh was effusive in praises, he was tactfully evasive in addressing the ‘elephant in the room’ – the protracted Naga political issue and the ongoing talks. As a seasoned politician, his choices of words were ebullient, often at the margin of being considered as ‘sweet nothings.’ However, it was amply tempered with earthy messages; evidently, preferring ‘realpolitik’ to do the talking, rather than giving away any outright information.
The annual festival is a “spectacular event” powerfully demonstrating the “cultural diversity and civilizational unity of the people,” Singh eulogised, maintaining he was so “overwhelmed with the celebration last year” that he felt “compelled” to attend again this year.
“How each tribe is proudly unique, their cultural richness and yet there is an overwhelming sense of unity among all… At the Hornbill Festival I get a glimpse of the Indian spirit of happy peaceful coexistence of the multiplicities,” he maintained marvelling at it as in the true spirit of “Ek Bharat, Shrestha Bharat.”
Roughly translated as ‘One India, Best India,’ the slogan coined with reference to the BJP’s designated icon of national unity, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, could be taken as highly suggestive. Among others, it aims to celebrate “the Unity in Diversity of our Nation” and promote “the spirit of national integration through a deep and structured engagement between all Indian States and Union Territories through a year-long planned engagement…” Showcasing “the rich heritage and culture, customs and traditions of either State for enabling people to understand and appreciate the diversity that is India, thus fostering a sense of common identity,” is also a stated goal.
In another sphere, Singh talked about “the powerful forces of modern technology, economy and trade are shaping the new world and the new world order” where “old political ideas and beliefs are being given new meaning by these forces of change.”
“The main driver of this is our youth. Our challenge is to make them capable enough to be the master of our better tomorrow,” he said calling for creating conditions conducive for “rich future” while at the same time being “rightly proud of our rich and glorious past.”
The Minister thereafter pragmatically highlighted how the state is geographically located at a vantage point, which could serve as the gateway to South-East Asia and the North-East Region being the pivot to India’s ‘Act East’ policy.
“We are expected to be one of the top three economic powers of the world in the next 10-15 years… The Government of India has taken various initiatives to further accelerate the economic growth… Steps are also being taken for speedier development of North-Eastern Region, including Nagaland and growth will be written by the youths of the region,” he noted.
The “many great sons and daughters” of Naga society were also roundly acknowledged while maintaining that younger generations have emerged as some of the finest musicians, pianists and popular exponents in the field of art and culture both within the country and abroad.
Tactfully, Singh ended his address with a sense of empathy with ‘long-suffering’ Nagaland, matched with an equally ardent call, especially on the youth, to join the ‘mainstream’ and “take long strides for the rapid economic growth of the country as well as that of Nagaland and make all of us proud Indians to be contributors in making India a world power.”
Such earthy messages could be either taken as a sign of things to come or Singh’s own assessment of the Naga political issue while being conspicuously evasive about the matter.