The Caravan

The Kenyan political writer Ali Mazrui uses the illustration of the Caravan of Culture to help us understand the struggles and dilemmas of colonized peoples and nations. In Mazrui’s metaphoric caravan of culture, a caravan is meandering towards its own destination under the stars of history.

However, during its journey a major interruption takes place in the form of colonialism. This caravan had not seen strangers from this other caravan approaching. Eventually, a struggle follows, and the caravan is overcome, captured, and diverted from its original path. And, for generations, the caravan is steered to a new destination, which is strange yet in some ways alluring. Some of those in the caravan want to recover their freedom through peaceful means, retrace their steps to the point of diversion, and continue its original journey. While others want to further explore the new path.

The people now stand at a new intersection faced with the same old dilemma. Should the caravan: Continue on the path of diversion? Relocate to the point of diversion in search of their original route? Or chart a new path of their choosing – a third path which is neither to continue on the same path of diversion, nor to relocate to the point of diversion?

Mazrui’s caravan resonates deeply with many indigenous peoples around the world. The Naga historical experience too identifies with Mazrui’s illustration. In fact, present day Nagas seem to be stuck at the intersection, which poses the same dilemmas. The Nagas have become deeply entrenched and divided over perceived and real positions, as well as on the approach meant for reaching the destination. The present Naga reality is characterized as one of doubt and uncertainty caused by multiple factors, each interacting with the other.

Our inability to constructively make peace with history is ever present in daily life. Most divisions have been defined by past grievances. Unfortunately, for some it is easier to feed uncertainties, doubts, and remain steadfastly attached to differences, blaming others. We have a collective responsibility to reconnect, become whole, reweave relationships, and share a common vision where we live in harmony.

Currently, the Nagas are engaged in a struggle against fear. We cannot regress to a painful and violent past. While the Naga caravan remains in the present state of paralysis, a crisis is cracking its foundation. 

Truth is many sided, particularly within the context of protracted conflict like the Nagas. This reality impedes our ability to heal and live with harmony. A part of truth exists within each entity and the whole truth begins to emerge only when all the entities are revealed. So, our diversity and sense of belonging are essential for returning to wholeness. Dialogue, empathy, and trust are vital during the ongoing process of returning to wholeness, reweaving, reconnecting, and rebuilding.   

Now, in the third decade of the 21st century, Nagas continue contemplating how to move forward in a world that is out of balance with seemingly new, more complex challenges. We need to shed the burdens of the past while relying on our collective wisdom and vision. Shall we, as Arundhati Roy writes, “. . . walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks, and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us?” Or shall we seek to learn from our history and begin anew? Finding common ground, solidarity and accepting our diversity are essential to new beginnings where we leave the ‘carcasses of our prejudices and hatred’ . . . behind!

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