Winter of Discontent

Nagaland would be the undisputed champion of agitation, Nagaland H&FW Minister recently quipped, the irony of his riposte obscured in his typical gaudy rhetoric. While the Minister has a point, he conspicuously hushed the raison d’être behind such actions – the ineptness and failure of a government to provide a decent state of affairs to its citizens.


The argument can be substantiated with numerous evidences. The month of November, so far has witnessed over half a dozen agitations, protests and bandhs. More agitations appear to be in the offing.


The curtain raiser was the ‘sit-in protest’ by one camp of Naga People’s Front, against the Speaker and the Governor – a reflection of perpetual infighting and struggle for leadership in the political arena.


Away from the battle for political supremacy, the chief rationale for any form of agitation is the expression of citizens’ angst against the government for abdicating its obligation on good governance and polity. From crumbling infrastructure or lack of it, to non-reimbursement of monthly salaries, be it unfulfilled commitments, name it, and the concern makes all the way through for agitations.


The phase wise agitation by a students’ federation for scholarship, a public union stir over BDO building, a truckers’ association bandh against bad roads, and a health workers association demanding its long-awaited salary – all point towards the government’s failure. The demand for an independent institution to check and monitor the endemic and systematic corruption in Nagaland was also the foremost demand of the 3-day sit-in protest by ACAUT Nagaland and PSAN, under the banner of Public Coordination Committee (PCC) in the 2nd half of November. The Nagaland Government brokered a temporary respite from the agitation with a ‘gentlemanly assurance’ to introduce the Lokayukta bill in the upcoming State Assembly session in December.


Joining the band wagon of taking up protests as means to finding solution to the problem, the Confederation of All Nagaland State Services Employees’ Association (CANSSEA) had also undertaken two forms of protest this November. While the Cabinet cajoled the association in late October by appointing a sub-committee to look into the induction of its member in existing vacant post for IAS, it sits over the issue for nearly a month leading to another cycle of protest.


Local dailies, any given day, are interspersed with memorandums, ultimatums, and demands, from various quarters, mostly related with the state government’s inability to perform its duty. The only protest Nagaland has not witnessed so far is a protest against politicians.


The citizens have all the right to protest against anomalies as enshrined in the Constitution of India. While peaceful protest and non-violent expression of citizen’s angst is inherent in the society, such culture also hampers the basic rights of citizens’ movement and growth of the state beside economic losses.


Sadly, frequency and multiplicity of such actions suggest that it is the sole weapon for the citizens to get a response from an impassive and indifferent government.


In Shakespeare’s Richard III, ‘Winter of Discontent’ was expressed with a ray of hope. While tragic state of affairs of Shakespearean proportions unfolds in Nagaland, the protagonist here does not offer any respite. Notwithstanding a misplaced comic relief from a Minister.