Today’s Nagas Don’t Know How to be Angry Anymore

A political revolution is about a forcible overthrow of an established government or social order by the governed. Of course, it is not enough to break an old political machine. It is also necessary to create a new state of affairs based on a new ideology and for it to be guided by an entirely new leadership. In other words, revolution is about bringing in a complete and pervasive transformation of an entire socio-political system.  

The revolutions in France in the latter half of the 1700s are often cited as examples for political revolutions. In those days, the king had no significant plan for reform and the National Assembly manned by nobles deteriorated into petty squabbles over power, thereby leaving the common people to suffer from lack of basic necessities. The authorities failed to provide bread, control inflation, improve working conditions, and create new jobs. Under these depressing circumstances, the people could not tolerate the unresponsiveness of their political leaders anymore. Eventually, the commoners or working-class began to rebel. An incident in April 1789, termed by some as the first significant outbreak of the French Revolution, triggered off an uncontrollable public anger. Hundreds of half-starved, angry people gathered in Bastille. Then the mob, swelling in numbers, went on a two-day rampage, sacking shops and houses, standing up to the guards under direct fire and fighting back despite heavy losses. Leaders had simply risen spontaneously in the crowd as it mobilized in the streets and became catalysts to the action of others. As a result, the political leaders, driven by the fear of the growing rebellion, finally made some compromises: they promised to abolish the system of nobility, provide some exemption from taxation, reorganize local government, and open all employment in public service to all. But the sad truth of the Revolution was this: The leaders lost control and became puppets of the crowd so they were unable to create a new political system or develop any political ideology that could potentially put the common people to be in control of everything affecting their own lives.  

The Russian Revolution, in contrast, was neither without ideology nor crowd-led. Of course, the working class in Russia in the early 1900s wanted a kind of economic and social freedom because they were suppressed by the powerful czar, the corrupt nobles and the wealthy landowners. But these ordinary citizens could not act as a class on their own, or constitute themselves into a viable political party, to oppose the ruling class. And they couldn’t organize themselves to be a revolutionary group either. It was at such a time Nicolai Lenin, an intellectual, stepped in to mobilize the helpless masses and directed them for political action. The new ideology he offered was Marxist Communism which had to do with crushing capitalism and replacing it with a common ownership system. He showed genuine concern for the poor in the early years. But in the end, his actions revealed that he was not doing all these because he really cared for the common people or wanted to share power with them or to give them real land ownership. He acted like a dictator and along with his closest colleagues controlled the new political system, and they gave themselves the freedom to use the so-called “common properties” according to their own wishes.  

In the case of the American Revolution which took place between 1765 and 1783, there was no one-man leadership. The Thirteen American Colonies revolted against the British rule and thus theirs was a collective leadership. They also applied their best minds and fought for their independence in the name of certain universal principles such as rule of law, constitutional rights, and popular sovereignty. After their victory, they put together the various governmental institutions in place so as to support their revolutionary aspirations and values to be able to survive for generations to come.  

In regards to the Naga people, we had our political revolution between the 1940s and the 1960s. This revolution was for Naga Independence, which was declared on August 14, 1947 and was publicly reconfirmed in the form of a voluntary plebiscite on May 16, 1951. But unfortunately, our revolutionary movement has been unable to come to a successful conclusion till today. Instead, our revolutionary spirit has been time after time compromised by surrender on the part of certain groups or by the willingness of some others to accept a “shared-sovereignty” deal under the Indian Constitution. As such, many so-called Naga revolutionaries of today are possibly not worth their name because their actions often betray their high-sounding words.  

Now, what about our response towards our unresponsive state government? Frankly, we seem to be least concerned even if our government does nothing good for our suffering citizens. As a people, we have become accustomed to living in our miserable condition. Our conscience is undisturbed by all sorts of corruption taking place all around us. We seem perfectly content living with no good roads, frequent power cuts, no reliable water supply, no job opportunities, and crumbling school buildings. We don’t even care if the poor are getting poorer while the rich, richer. We are not bothered if our poor are suffering or we are being deprived of all the good things other people enjoy elsewhere. Indeed, we have become a conscienceless people who don’t know how to be angry anymore… which implies that we may no longer possess any revolutionary spirit within us.  

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not wishing for a people’s uprising against our unresponsive government and its corrupt leaders. That must be avoided if possible, because a revolution is a revolution, an act of violence whereby one class shatters the authority of another. But if our current pathetic state of affairs goes on much longer under their watch, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if the young generation loses their patience and finally explodes in a bloody revolution. In such a case, who, then, is to be blamed?