The Interregnum 

‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born’

It is more than a month since the Nagaland state election results were declared on March 2. A government has been installed and the ordinary has returned. But there is a pressing fundamental need to revisit the election process in order to explore ways forward. 

The Nagaland state elections in which the mocking interplay of ‘power of the powerful’ with ‘powerlessness of the public’ triumphed in public display amply demonstrated the ever-spiraling crisis Naga people find themselves. Like the frog in the well, it is difficult to fully understand and comprehend the situation from the inside. While many different analytical tools can be used to understand the Naga crisis, this editorial suggests applying Antonio Gramsci’s concept of crisis as one analytical framework to the current Naga dilemma.  

Antonio Gramsci, an Italian philosopher, journalist and politician, made an observation in Prison Notebooks of his society that, ‘The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’

The Naga people have been situated in a culture of flux ever since the rude interruption by colonial forces into Naga territories, including the missionizing project. This continual state of flux was further expanded by the undeclared war, social and territorial fragmentation, and the intentional cultural assimilation, and economic dependency by post-colonial forces. These twin experiences with colonial and post-colonial forces have been dehumanizing and reduced the Naga condition to Frantz Fanon’s the wretched of the earth and Colin Johnson’s ‘A Captured Nation.’

In this way the Nagas have been living within a culture of perpetual flux which is eroding the core foundational values and worldviews of life and co-existence. Consequently, Nagas are living in an interregnum where their culture and world are not defined and determined by themselves and for their own purposes, but by others. This present crisis is driven by the fact that the old, although dying, still exists while the new, while struggling, has not been born yet. And, in this interregnum many unhealthy symptoms are appearing as outgrowth from the old dying away. 

These symptoms are appearing through a number of phenomena, such as, loss of spirituality, breakdown of relationships with nature and the land, the wanton use of economic power, chronic systemic and structural corruption, growing impunity, emerging forms of tribalism, exclusivism, evolution of economic classes, fragmentation of collective identity, the idea of the common good usurped by individualism and selfishness, and so on. While these symptoms are clearly shaping and driving the present crisis, they are not sustainable and cannot be an option for the future. But perhaps the most important observation is, while this crisis is an outgrowth of the old, they cannot be solved within the templates and limits of the old framework.  

Nonetheless, a crisis is also a moment, an opportunity, for reconstruction, rebuilding and resolution. Therefore, rather than withdrawing to a state of cynicism, complacency and acute pessimism, or conversely becoming arrogantly self-righteousness and dismissive, it is fundamental to begin a reflective process of identifying and publicly naming the morbid symptoms that have appeared in the interregnum. This implies the recovery of life-giving values, such as truth-telling with love, compassion, grace, trust-building, patience, authenticity, creativity, solidarity, justice, integrity, collective good, accountability, and so on. These and more will form the foundation for a new societal framework that responds to shared values. These values are not just theory, they have practical application in everyday living. 

These life-giving values are a means of creating the space for the new to be born. Here are two suggestions: First, elected representatives can dedicate a specified period of time to live in their respective constituencies, rather than flocking in Kohima, the capital city. This means making themselves available to the people, listening and understanding their problems and aspirations and developing solutions together. Human experience informs us that people tend to invest and develop where they live. So, if all the elected legislators live in the capital city, this implies infrastructural development will not always reach the constituencies. 

Second, hold quarterly public audits in each constituency where all public projects and undertaking are made transparent and available for public scrutiny and accountability in the presence of the public elected legislator, government officials, contractors and the public. Putting these two suggestions in place will lead to more necessary steps being taken with time. 

To arrest what seems like an unending interregnum, everyone has a social responsibility to proactively engage with the old and create conditions for the new to be born. This requires taking small, practical and concrete steps together which can be effectively implemented to persuade change.