Palm Oil in Nagaland: A treacherous mirage of prosperity, an unforgivable legacy of desolation

James Pochury
Dwarka, New Delhi

The allure of the palm oil industry, once painted as a panacea for economic salvation, has revealed itself as nothing less than a malignant Trojan horse preying on indigenous communities across the globe, including the land of Nagas. What appeared as a beacon of hope has metamorphosed into a nightmare. The devastation is not a mere scar on the landscape; it's a savage attack on our identity, our very soul.

The time to face these dark and unpalatable truths is not tomorrow; it is now.

In the lands of Indonesia and Malaysia, where palm oil was once hailed as a harbinger of development, lie the grim remnants of a cruel betrayal. Forests, the very heart and soul of indigenous existence, have been butchered to clear space for soulless plantations. The Dayak people, stewards of an ecological treasure, are left with the desecrated remnants of their heritage. Rivers once teeming with life are choked with pollution, ancient traditions are ridiculed, and voices raised in protest are smothered into silence.

And now, Nagaland teeters on the brink of this same abyss. The tantalizing promise of investments, of jobs, has ensnared many into championing this false god of palm oil. But let us not be naive; for whom are these so-called investments? For the common Naga, or for a select few whose pockets are already lined with gold? Who will reap the rewards, and who will suffer the loss?

The assault on the land is an assault on our very being. Our connection to the land is not mere sentiment; it is the fabric of our culture, the essence of our identity, the wellspring of our dignity. To destroy the land is to tear at the very sinews of our existence. The shiny baubles of short-term gain are a facade, masking the horror of a long-term devastation that threatens to engulf us.

Look to Latin America, where the expansion of this cursed industry has birthed violent conflicts, snuffed out livelihoods, and orchestrated gross human rights violations. The voices of the Guaraní and Kaiowá peoples are met with brutality, their cries for justice answered with violence.

The story repeats itself across the globe. Borneo, where the sacred forests of the Dayak are replaced by the cold sterility of plantations. Honduras, where the Garifuna people's resistance is met with terror. Colombia, where the Nasa people's land is stolen, their rights trampled, their voices crushed—all in the twisted name of progress.

Is this the path we dare to tread for Nagaland? Shall we sell our heritage, our very essence, for the elusive mirage of prosperity? Shall we become but a tragic echo of those who have lost everything? We must see the palm oil narrative for what it is: a siren's song leading us to betrayal, oppression, and irreversible loss.

Nagaland stands at a crossroads, and the lessons of the past scream for our attention. They are etched in the ravaged landscapes, in the broken communities that litter the globe. Shall we heed them, or shall we fall victim to the same tragedy? 

Six harrowing decades of statehood have passed, and the dream of prosperity remains a phantom. A wealth intended for all has been hoarded by a rapacious few. As of 2021, the grim reality of rural Nagaland is a poverty rate that clings stubbornly at 21.2%. Let us not be blinded by the false promise of palm oil; the real battles—the struggle for sustenance, equality, the war against poverty—are yet to be won.

The time is now to shift our gaze from hollow promises to real solutions. Let us forge a Nagaland where prosperity is a right, not a privilege. Let us reclaim our destiny, shape it with our own hands, and stand resolute in our convictions.

Let us say no to the insidious allure of an industry that cares only for profit, that would see our soul sold for a lie. Let us choose life over profit, integrity over exploitation, and dignity over deception.

Let us rise and choose a future, a Nagaland that we can be proud of. Let us say no to palm oil. The decision is ours, and the time to act is now.