To be, or not to be?

Aheli Moitra

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1

Shakespeare explored a wide range of politics, personal and public, when he wrote his ten tragedies. Hamlet is a classic weave of grief, treachery, conscientious thinking, death, entrapment, love and more—stuff of great drama. The existential question raised here, “to be, or not to be,” has become central to the lives of people in Nagaland, and, really, all Naga people, over the past few days.


At the newspaper office, for instance, an everyday crisis has come to be—to follow the Indian election model code of conduct, or the Naga moral code of conduct? The first lays basis for free and fair coverage of elections, while the latter calls for fair coverage of a call to justice. If the news is not seen to be giving leverage to one or the other, who will grab our necks first?


Given the dilemma, newspapers in Nagaland have been doing a commendable job of balancing the fire and the frying pan. Every night, every word is weighed and measured against the existential crisis the times have created. To be, or not to be?


Facing a bigger conundrum are young people who have grown up under a ceasefire. It is understandable that a college student from a struggling background is concerned about, say, her scholarship to study further—if it was not being paid by the Nagaland State Government despite money being made available by the Government of India, what would happen when the money is not even available when the economy slumps, or worse, if war resumes? All the stories of abuse and tyranny, as narrated by elders, could become real. Would they survive another war? Or would a political solution lay the foundation for a more ethical, freer, fairer, self-determining Naga society and polity? Should one fight or stay at home? Get requisitioned for solution or election? To be, or not to be?


What of the conundrum faced by those who have already invested—in terms of money, mobilizing, organizing, influencing, coercing—in the impending elections? Should they ask for a refund from voters? Which party should they switch to? On what lines must they design or continue campaigns? Should they sit back and wait for other parties not to file nominations? Should they follow the historically treacherous routes, or be once-bitten-twice-shy? To stand with the people or the party? To be, or not to be?


Imagine the bewilderment in the Government of India circles and the ruling party. The Naga side that is leading the campaign is quite clear that the long drawn out Indo-Naga issue must be resolved—but do they agree on the most apt method? Is the political dispensation any close to finding a solution? Will the Government of India lose grip by not conducting elections? Wouldn’t forcing elections on a territory under negotiation lead to inevitable violence? Should the AFSPA be removed as a step towards solidarity, or should the carrot-and-stick policy continue? What does the GoI’s conscience say? To be, or not to be?


Shakespeare’s Hamlet spends so long in the quicksand of this dilemma, it eventually leads to numerous deaths, including his own. Let us hope that over the next few days, no such tragedy befalls anyone in the Indo-Naga case.


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