Democracy – A Paradox?

There seems to be an ironic paradox in the way democracy is practiced in ‘Nagaland state.’ While there has been steps made to make distinctions between the prospects of democracy as a vision, and the mechanisms required for achieving them; it must be said that the distinction between democracy as a fundamental right and an instrumental right has not been adequately distinguished. The lack of distinction between these two faces of democracy has affectively negated the viability of democracy. The usage of democracy in ‘Nagaland state’ has been limited to its component as an instrumental right. 

In essence, the instrumental right to vote empowers a people to elect a government, and has been designed so as to enable a people to achieve its fundamental right of government and self-governance. Therefore, instrumental right has been put in place to facilitate the realization and achievement of the fundamental aspirations of democracy. Instrumental right and fundamental rights are re-enforcing and interdependent elements, which together secure democracy in its full form. However, the usage of democracy in its instrumental form is not democracy itself. 

Ironically, in ‘Nagaland state’ much focus has been made on democracy as an instrumental right, while neglecting the substantive form of democracy as a fundamental right. While much emphasis has been given around the instrumental right to elections, there has been little or no regard shown on how the fundamental right is to be exercised. Consequently, the goals of democracy are usurped and are quickly exploited by the arrogance of power to ensure that issues surrounding the fundamental rights of democracy are forgotten, until the next elections. 

In this atmosphere of arrogance, it is pertinent to distinguish between democracy as a means and democracy as a goal. This distinction is crucial to Naga people’s ability to regain the values and principles of democracy in the functioning and structuring of its affairs. Mazrui reminds us that “The most fundamental of the goals of democracy are probably four in number. Firstly, to make the rulers accountable and answerable for their actions and policies. Secondly to make the citizens effective participants in choosing those rulers and in regulating their actions.  Thirdly, to make the society as open and the economy as transparent as possible; and fourthly to make the social order fundamentally just and equitable to the greatest number possible.”

Subsequently, the four fundamental ends of democracy are accountable governments, actively participating citizens, open society and social justice. 

After examination of ground realities, it is fair to say that democracy in Nagaland state has evolved into a paradoxical form, which has effectively negated the culture of indigenous democracy and egalitarian values. It would be essential for Nagas to revisit the questions around fundamental democracy if prevailing instruments of so-called democracy in ‘Nagaland state’ is to be transformed into something more meaningful for the people.