We love Karbi vegetables

For an observer, one thing peace talks teach you is that men love rhetoric and women talk reality. Exceptions occur.

Take, for instance, the joint meeting of the Karbi Anglong Peace Forum, the Rengma Naga Students’ Union and the Naga Hoho held on January 14 at Diphu, Karbi Anglong. It started on a formal and courteous note with pleasantries and tokens of appreciation presented by the Karbi hosts to the visiting delegates from the Naga Hoho and allied Naga civil society. Guests and hosts were henceforth clearly marked, on two sides of the imaginary table.  

Messages from the Naga civil society had peace as their core content. Some of the messages given by men are as follows:

• We could not meet earlier for obvious reasons.
• We would like to do something for peace.
• This platform will be a beginning. We must continue to meet.
• Let us reconcile.
• Peace needs sincere efforts.
• We must think together for human development.
• How do we rehabilitate and secure displaced people?
• Let us support each other on political issues.
• There are things to do now (Cites specific problems and their possible solutions).

A very small percentage of the remarks made by men had any concrete substance, though loaded with peace rhetoric. Only two women (Naga) spoke at the joint meeting, and saw the only moments of breaking ice between the parties:

• We love Karbi vegetables! We are neighbours, a family and seven sisters.
• Let not our boundary be a warzone but a peace zone.
• When you came to Dimapur, we were so tensed about the situation and rushed to meet you at the Dimapur civil hospital. My stomach was growling but we did not have the opportunity to give you even a snack. When I went back home, my husband asked me what we served the Karbi delegation. With a thump on her head, she said, Aiyah! We completely forgot about food! Next time you come to Nagaland, we must prepare a feast for you.
• Leaders from both sides have to humble themselves to broach the topic of peace.
• If there are two versions of history, intervention must be sought.

It was the first sit-down informal peace talk between the Karbi and Naga people and though specific political issues could not have been discussed before returning the lives of the displaced to normalcy, there was need to thaw the frozen relationship between the two communities. Rhetoric is an essential at such meetings but more so is getting the two parties to share an honest laugh. Only then can the move to specifics be made. Beyond the historical and political make up of the relationship between two communities, there is the real space of vegetables, pork, roads and rice that people share. What happened to most people also boils down to reaffirming these real threads, especially when rebuilding ties. It is where the foundation lies, and women can strike that core less hesitantly than men. Their proximity to vegetables and pork, in passing from the Karbi hand to the Naga, is more; as is their proximity to destruction. Women need to stop being guests at the peace table—more of them should be pooled in to discuss honestly, introducing rhetoric of a different dimension. And to get things moving for the majority of those displaced—women and children.
Specific ideas on peace making may be forwarded to moitramail@yahoo.com