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By Moa Jamir
Once again the state of affairs in Nagaland exploded, literally and figuratively, exposing the fragility and the inherent contradictions in our society. The ‘deconstruction’ of the society where the political, socio-economic and democratic process were again found wanting. A sense of dejavu prevails as another “genuine movement” confronts the Nagas with pertinent questions, with answers buried along with the tragedy and fire that ensued.
While the intransigent position of social organisations coming into direct confrontation with the position taken by the ruling dispensation was the immediate trigger, a preliminary analysis of the event would suggest the writing was clearly on the wall which the latter failed to perceive. Years of political ineptitude of the ruling dispensation leading the general dissonance culminated into the social unrest with dramatic repercussions. Does it reaffirm a stereotyping of our society by others? Yes and No. But the undercurrents for such an event have been simmering for a long time.
The event was preceded by everyone claiming the ultimate truth, but none sagacious or magnanimous enough, to detour from monologue to genuine dialogue. But the Church precariously managed to generate a pact. While careful observers had expressed concerns over the ambiguity of the ‘January 30th Statement,’ everyone heaved a sigh a relief that things were finally turning from monologue assertion to a process of dialogue.
At ground level, the atmosphere was cordial and one could sense a feeling that the monologue was suddenly giving a way to dialogue and consultation. For by that juncture, the discourse had dramatically shifted from the issue of women reservation to many contentious areas which could only be sorted by genuine dialogue, and not an adamant stance. However, it was not to be. The next day, the state government decided to go ahead with the Urban Local Body elections, after agreeing ‘in principle’ to postpone it for two months, purportedly citing a High Court ruling.
The issue escalated thereafter. In a sort of diabolical masterstroke, the government singularly managed to infuriate the radicals, disgust the moderates, shame the progressives, and put the general populace in a quagmire; even the Church was made ill at ease.
In 1997, political commentator Fareed Zakaria wrote in Foreign Affairs that, “Democratically elected regimes, often ones that have been reelected or reaffirmed through referenda, are routinely ignoring constitutional limits on their power and depriving their citizens of basic rights and freedoms.” He termed the same as ‘illiberal democracy’ which was contrary to liberal democracy which consists of two distinct aspects – free and fair elections (democracy), and the rule of law, separation of powers and the protection of fundamental freedoms (constitutional liberalism). It can lead to erosion of liberty, the abuse of power, ethnic divisions, and even war and cast a shadow on democratic governance, he prophesied.
Was the event in Nagaland a case of illiberal democracy in confrontation with inherent contradictions in the society that the state of affairs spiraled out of control with tragic repercussion? Conspiracy theories and conjectures are making rounds. But What is the road ahead for progressive politics in the State which currently remains hijacked by the events happening around us? The answers lie in genuine introspection for each stakeholder. This also calls for wide ranging consultation at all levels.
A drive towards an egalitarian society is a continuous process molded through time. Can we ensure equality with justice? This is the question every Naga must ponder.