Where To? A Highway of Common Hope

Wati Aier

Prologue

The common dream of the Naga people needs unmasking. For years, we have absorbed all sorts of myths and prejudiced claims about our existence and about each other. We are unable to fathom that we are pathetic victims of the past, and eventually we even fail to recognize our unpleasantness to each other. As a consequence, we are lost in the puzzle of “where to?” Where are we going? Which path should we take? As we attempt to answer these questions, we feel hopelessly limited and measurably suffocated. This is the ditch of annoyance in the highway of common hope.


There are many values that contribute to our common belonging—from the safe-guarding of one’s nation (tribe) to the advancement and development of human flourishing. Of these, the most valued, and accordingly the most at stake, is the aliveness of common hope. The truth of the matter is if Nagas are under threat, it is through the vibrancy of our common hope that we can solve the problems that we have created.


Under the shadow of “given importance” from “tamed trainers,” the Nagas are seemingly at a helpless point of “no exit,” where the axiom of “either/or” is no longer an option. “We are stuck” is the feeling of many Naga onlookers. It all boils down to “my righteousness and others’ unrighteousness.” Such programmed utterances only end up being rejected by the common woman and man. Simply, Naga people are completely fed up by self-righteous rhetoric, which essentially renders the Naga flag colorless and tattered beyond recognition. This rhetoric, and the impulses behind it, harmfully encapsulates the notion that there is no shared ethos of safe-guarding our common belonging, and neither is there any wisdom-driven cooperation that paves the highway of common hope.


Ultimately, Nagas are living in a caged society that is at war with itself. A symptom of such an environment is the prevalence of one-dimensional mindsets that leads to speaking and writing with an incredible contempt about the “other.” Unlike constructive criticism, contempt is dangerously toxic because it “assumes a moral superiority” in the writer or the speaker.


Today, the rhetoric coming out of the jurisdictional and national (tribal) disputes is a dangerous waste of time because of the relativity of interests. How then do we bring together our fragmented family without abandoning our aspirations and advancement? The deep longing, in context, is to accentuate the things that bind us together—our common belonging. Unfortunately, forces both internal and external have patronizingly domesticated some gullible iconoclasts to focus on our differences. Why are we focusing on how different we are from one another, and not on matters of common hope?

Action 2019: Unite to Take Common Action

The hallowed being of Nagahood has been organically sewn and nurtured by our Naga pioneers. This organic evolution of identity is different from one that is mechanically constructed through the forces of compulsive manipulation, coercion, and deception. The common political will of Naga sovereignty and independence as understood and practiced by our pioneers is, accordingly, our sacred trust and must be honored and upheld at all cost. Our saving grace is that we have not let go of what has been organically nurtured.


The year 2019 must be one in which we unite to take common action: creating a citizenry of common political will that affirms our historical reality and knows how to differentiate between idealistic nationalism and a frozen identity that has lost its relevancy.


Nagas must carefully move on without departing then. The Naga political quest must move away from the generalities of political science, which have mesmerized us to the point of immobility. Rather, politics should decisively be a question of context and situation. Is it a betrayal to think of revisiting the traditional definition of self-determination? Can Naga-Land (not to be confused with the Indian state of Nagaland) implore a constructive definition of “identity” in relation to other people’s identity, and discover a new way of thinking about identity itself, without being frozen in the past?


Likewise, can our neighbors, without being self-centric, think of the question of the Naga situation in a creative and humane manner? Nagas believe that our identity is empowered by our neighbors and conversely that Nagas empower our neighbors. The sooner that Nagas and our neighbors understand this political truth, the faster we open the ways to our posterity and the present generation towards a semblance of understanding in the fragmented, messy world of the Look East Policy. We all—Meiteis, Kukis, Assamese, people of Arunachal—must uphold the values of progressive democracy of respect and ensure the rights of all. An identity without responsibility for the “other” is a weak one, just as a radical “responsibility” minus respect for the “other” is utter fanaticism.


Action 2019: Embrace Our Common Political Will


Again, self-awareness leading to human aspirations of love and advancement should never replicate self-centeredness, and our spirituality must overtake narcissism, a disease of self-love. What Nagas can do in 2019 is to embrace our own common political will, without diminishing the aspirations of the east, west, north, south and central Naga-Land and say “We are one” and “We need each other.” Let us embrace this truth today.


In this, there is no room for suspicion of one another. This disposition of mind cannot be a paradigm for transformation and construction. The tool of communal “rightness” needs immediate reshaping under the anvil of transformation.


Shall Nagas, young and old, not say, “We have changed today”! The answer that seems so far away is indeed close enough for us to apprehend. We must not let it slip by. A Naga youngster said, “When the Naga world was going through an earthquake, it shook someone’s heart and this is what we need.” Shall we see a completely different approach of common hope today? Shall we do it? Yes!

(This article is a personal reflection and does not carry the mandate of any group or organization.)