On conflict and the resultant consequences and solutions

Meren Pongener 

The recent communal flare ups in Kohima and Dimapur has once again demonstrated to the world how fragile Naga society is, divided and fractured along tribal line. Yes, we are a tribal race, which is our identity. Each and everyone identified first by the tribe we belong to, in the absence of which we cannot have the Naga identity. Then again I believe I reiterate here what is often said that we no longer live within a village republic but each a citizen in a democratic state within a global world that is becoming smaller and being globalized not everyday but every hour. Hence it is pertinent that every citizen must see beyond this myopic vision blurred by the tribal colour and be sensitive to other’s sentiments and ethos. Maybe if Jesus of Nazareth were to walk in Nagaland he very well might have said ‘’dearly beloved, do unto others from another tribe as you would have them do unto you and your tribe’’! The question been asked is, was the recent ugly incident avoidable? The answer is an emphatic yes. This then begs the next question, how? To precisely answer this question a committee has been constituted to probe the matter and to recommend mechanisms to prevent such incident in the near future. Much of the answers will come after deliberating on the commissions or omissions, as the case may be, of the administrative decisions during the genesis of the incident in Kohima and the sequence of incidents and culmination in Dimapur.

While deliberating on these questions we must acknowledge that the bitter after-taste will linger in the collective memory for some time after the dust subsides. Hence, whatever recommendations are hammered out by the committee, it must be beyond just a face saving exercise but strong recommendations should be made so that those in authority will not be caught napping in the face of such sensitive issues pertaining to individual life, liberty, property and public safety. That, loss to life and property occurred out of an avoidable incident within the hearth of the district headquarters leaves much to be said and desired on the caliber and competency of those responsible for maintaining law and order. Scratching below the surface it has once again been highlighted that people tend to take law into their hands when they lost faith in an ineffectual judiciary; a system that does not process any prosecution worth the while, unless or until a hue and cry is made by pressure groups in the street and with a chronic tendency to release any accused at the flash of the right amount of bail money. This lackadaisical approach to important public institution, nay, the very pillars of society, must be done away with. God forbid if people should totally lost faith in the institution of justice for if it comes to that, then we can only say that the land and the society is vile.

There are no hard and fast rules or yardstick to measure how competently or incompetently a person, establishment or organization have handled a crisis. One can only remark that we do not wait for a kitchen fire to engulf the whole house when it can be doused with a bucket of water. Sometimes, anecdotes or a story can drive home the point better than a hundred explanations. Here, I recollect a story as narrated by S.C.Dev in his memoir, who served as a young administrative officer in Nagaland during its formative years and later as commissioner for seven years before retiring as joint secretary to the Govt of India, ministry of home affairs. While he was serving as an assistant commissioner in a district in Nagaland, it so happened that a certain man while trying to protect himself and his family  accidentally killed someone from another tribe and so he came to the officer’s house to surrender as well as for safety. Sensing how volatile the situation could become, in a flurry of action he set about trying to diffuse the situation. Though it was almost  ten at night he immediately took the person to the assam rifles post to be kept under their safe custody. without wasting a minute he called the dobhasis and telephoned a captain of the assam rifles requesting him to come immediately with thirty jawans. In the rain, and on foot the young officer went about searching for the other members of the family of the man under their custody to save them from any retaliation. By the time they reached the house a crowd of around two hundred men had gathered demanding revenge. Pointing to his escorts he yelled that the jawans each had thirty rounds of ammunition, enough to kill nine hundred people should anybody tried to harm anyone in his presence. the threat worked and the crowd broke up. Though he candidly admits till the very last moment, he was not clear in his mind whether he could really have carried out his threat to open fire. That night he was able to save the mother and her three little children who were hiding in a small toilet as the crowd outside were shouting for revenge. By this time it was almost morning so a dawn to dusk curfew order was issued. Later that night a telephone call was received informing him that there was no more room in the lock up which was filled with curfew violators. He rushed there, to his surprise he discovered they all belonged to a nearby village, all innocent-looking but bewildered. When he questioned them one of them replied in nagamese ‘’ami hunise townte curfew ahise curfew ketiabe dekhanai, amikan boste para sabule ahise aru sepaikan dhuri se’’ (we have heard that curfew has come to town and since we had never seen curfew before, we came to see it, but the soldiers arrested us and brought us here). Everyone present burst into laughter and when the meaning of curfew was explained to the villagers they too understood the unconscious humour of the situation and had a good laugh at themselves. The case in point here is that due to the undoubted courage, unflinching dedication to duty and deft handling of a critical situation by a person in authority a major disaster was averted.

It is true that conflicts arise in any society anywhere around the world. The wisdom lies not only in findings ways to mitigate the conflict to the satisfaction of the contending parties, but in the ability to diffuse and preventing the conflict from happening in the first place. This demands a fine display of tact and skill on the part of those in the helms of public affairs and community leaders. It also depends largely on the sense of propriety and restraint on the part of the citizens.