To Vote or to Sow

Abokali Jimomi

The months of May and June are for planting rice in terraced fields in colder and hilly regions of Nagaland. Majority of villagers work against a tight farm-work schedule and are generally pressed for time.


A time to plough fields with oxen, clean old water canals or dig newer ones and source water taking advantage of the onset of rains. Paddy planting activities have to be completed by June or the yield would be poor, therefore, farmers get into a frenzy rushing to meet the dateline.


Simultaneously, this is also the time for weeding Jhum fields: weed soya bean fields, maize, Jhum paddy and assortment of crops and vegetables. In most villages, people work in each other’s fields in a rotation sharing labour to ensure no person’s field is left untouched, moving in tandem with the agricultural season.


To take a full day off to stand in line and vote not only seems a great waste of time for many villagers but it would also break their work rotation. For many citizens, the Lok Sabha Bye-election perhaps isn’t as crucial as the last Legislative Assembly election after all you only have two candidates and there isn’t as much money or drama involved to speak of. Some are of the opinion as “what do I benefit anyway? Can’t afford to lose a day.”


Village Councils at least in some regions have unanimously agreed and opted for the “greater good’’—let respective agents or man of the house vote on behalf of their parties and families allowing the rest to go sow their rice this ‘busy’ season. For the LS Bye-election, the exodus from town to village for those voters registered in villages is dramatically reduced as compared to the NLA election but magically their votes are cast too, using some kind of non-existent remote voting technology for sure.


Towns like Dimapur don’t have people rushing off to dig water canals so the turn-out stats could be somewhat justified, but when reports throw out figures like 70% or 80% turn-out in total, for rural areas does it mean the number of times the EVM is punched by the same super-thumb? It’s a wonder who just ploughed the rice fields. As it is, voters hardly find any meaning in the voting process, disillusioned of ‘change’ talks. Not everything is as it seems but is it better for us to continue ‘eye-washing’ and ‘adjusting’?


At this age and time when humans like Elon Musk are about to colonize Mars, installing a finger-print identification system shouldn’t be that difficult.


While some sow rice this season, some try sowing racial discord: “the Ao tribe is united to vote for their own… blah, blah. Look at this post, that message, translate to English and you’ll know.” “Oh no! Look how Sumi tribe is supporting each other despite party differences blah and blah… forward this to all your clan and blood-ties.”


It is disheartening that these messages as petty as they may seem reflect our ignorance and the intention of those who want to manoeuvre every situation toward their own political gains. In the process they create new rifts and spill bitterness among citizens, especially young people who were otherwise unfazed by tribal politics.


When given an option whether to vote or to sow rice, the option that triggers the happiness for the greatest number of people seems to matter: every villager sowing rice now with the prospect of a good harvest looks more tangible, more utilitarian, than chasing the fantasy of dangling carrots of elections.