Riding into the Election Abyss

Dr A Sentiyula

Nagaland is revelling in another festival. The Election Festival seems to be the most popular one till now. Many households in urban areas have seen the exodus of their house helps and drivers to their villages. People who have not visited their families even during marriages and funerals suddenly seem motivated to go weeks ahead and help elect a new ‘leader.’ We witness human pragmatism in action and do not see anything wrong with it. I consider myself apolitical but the last couple of months I have been pondering over some thoughts and seem unable to come to a conclusion. As a famously Christian state, we are expected to exhibit certain behaviour that befits the children of God. We, however, seem to conveniently leave this identity behind when election time comes. Suddenly, our other identities such as our tribal identity and our political identity surface with such force that we can’t help but be swept away. Our beliefs and convictions waver in the face of easy money, attachment to one’s community and the fear of being sidelined. Firstly, as a society, we are in general, economically poor. We are also, unfortunately, fond of high living. Therefore, easy money is seen as a blessing. Rather, we are encouraged to accept election money because it belonged to us in the first place.  Secondly, our loyalty to our tribe-village-family is so strong that even when we know that the opposing candidate is more deserving, we will support otherwise. We are afraid of being ostracised by our peers. Who knows one day we may need their help? It is but a give and take. Besides, we have often taken individual decisions under the guise of organisations and groups formed to further our personal agendas. This tactic, in particular, seems to be a crowd favourite, taking into consideration the bourgeoning list of social organisations. Can we call it our own unique brand of ‘micro-patriotism’ with benefits? Thirdly, when we see the rise of certain communities or individuals, we become afraid of being sidelined. Having seen for decades that meritocracy barely exists in Nagaland, we want to be attached in some way with the powers that be, whoever they may be. Many parents indulge themselves in politicking in the hopes that their children will get some kind of employment or means of livelihood. Many young people work sacrificially, some even to the point of death, in the hopes of getting a job. Malcontents who have no hopes of employment want to pocket some cash and create trouble in general.

 And therefore, when such genuine human needs and desires undeniably exist, it only seems right that we forget that we are Christians for the time being, right? We could always repent later. The Bible teaches us how to behave in the world, with the end goal that we reach heaven. It teaches us how to live excellent moral lives. This push and pull of earthly living with a heavenly destination in mind is perhaps the Christian’s biggest dilemma. How to we deal with human problems while keeping a divine perspective? It is indeed not easy. We often like to blame politicians for all of society’s problems. True, politicians have often divided mankind into tools and enemies. It’s a strategy they employ to stay in power. But today, I would like us to reflect on the individual’s role in this sorry scenario. 

Despite having celebrated 150 years of Christianity in Nagaland, I am afraid our understanding of scriptural teachings is still skin deep. Maybe we have not evolved enough despite our clothes, makeup, cars and mansions. What we profess to be and what we practice is not in sync. Our sense of community, which is laudable, has been misused and misinterpreted. We have diluted and polluted it. Our moral character has been sacrificed at the altar of convenience. And this is the culture of our times. These are accepted social practices. But where is this leading us? Twenty five years down the line, where do we see ourselves? Where do we see our children? Let us remember that no one will live forever. Our children will judge us by what we do today. After casting his vote this time, a senior citizen revealed that he voted for the same party that he had always voted for, even though he had no idea who the candidate was. No matter how the political winds have changed, he has remained constant and true to his conviction for the last forty years or so.

Elections are a good time to reflect.  We need to be a people of conviction, sure of who we are and our identity. The Daniel of the Bible is a prime example of someone who had the conviction to go against the culture of the times. He was so confident in his primary identity as a child of God that other considerations became secondary. How many of us are willing to suffer for our convictions?  The weft and warp of our social fabric is bound to tear if we refuse to walk the narrow road because, if we continue hurtling down the path that we are taking now, I can see only an abyss.

This is a guest editorial by Dr A Sentiyula. The writer is the Head of Department of English in Dimapur Government College. She can be reached at [email protected]