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Mahmood Mamdani, Ugandan scholar and political commentator, in his book Define and Rule pinpoints that in the late 19th century the British colonial statecraft introduced a “new idea of governance, as the definition and management of difference” between the “conqueror and conquered.” This revealing insight into colonial project is crucial for struggling people’s understanding in their search for justpeace and freedom. And more significantly, it provides the grounding to engage critically with the ideas of governance and good governance, since in today’s context they are being constantly presented and branded as the solution to the world’s problems.
Let us for example take the Indian State which is a construct of colonial statecraft. Even after independence India continues to uphold a system that is largely inherited from the departing colonial forces, and it remains as the dominant governance model for the entire sub-continent. One needs to question whether India’s governance model is aimed to remove differences between the ruling elites and the public, between different castes, and between the various religious groups; or whether its purpose is to manage their differences within the existing unjust status quo. Clearly, India’s system of governance sustains a status quo in which the structures are inherently designed to serve the interests of the powers that be.
Within these historical and current realities it is paramount to judiciously examine the governance system in Nagaland State, a formulation of the India State. This is of absolute necessity especially considering the nature and circumstances under which Nagaland State came into being. We need to ask if the ‘Nagaland State’ system of governance is endowed with creative powers in order to fully address the peoples’ basic needs and aspirations.
Or, can one safely conclude that the governance model in Nagaland State has been intentionally designed to manage the contesting aspirations between ‘Nationalist’ and ‘Unionist,’ to pacify and control people’s rights, to ‘define, divide and rule’ along identities, to protect the interests of the powers that be, all which ultimately serve the political interest of Delhi. All of these are bound up in the exchange for power and impunity.
Unless the foundational values, intentions of the governance model and the power structures in Nagaland State are identified and engaged with, addressing the Naga people’s basic human needs, honoring their fundamental human rights and the genuine pursuit of inclusive human development remains nothing more than an empty slogan and failed promises!
The real question is whether Nagas are going to allow themselves to continue living in less than acceptable conditions where their way of life is compromised and they are not accorded the power, respect and dignity which is essential for every human being to experience the fullness of life.