Dialogue  April - June, 2004 , Volume 5  No. 4


How we See from our Perspective


Niketu Iralu


This is not an article with the kind of data and facts that are found in papers that come out in learned journals like “Dialogue”. It conveys only what this writer can manage to put together at the moment in response to the editor’s request to contribute something on governance in Nagaland and the Northeast region. No subject can be more important for the whole region than governance at this juncture. But the writer regrets the subject, its scope and research for details called for are beyond his competence. What follows says nothing about the rest of the region and virtually nothing about governance. It seeks to clarify some points about one of the conflicts that have created complicated obstacles to governance and development in the whole region. We’ll get to governance one day; it is hoped before it is too late!

The struggle of the Nagas for their aspirations started when they simply, naturally stated and defended what they believed was the right course for them to take when the British started to leave the subcontinent. It was their decision to continue on the path they were already on in their history. It was a daring decision to seize an opportunity. Their assertion of their position indicated the extent to which their consciousness of themselves as a people had grown. The seed had germinated and become a sapling. Although not yet a tree it had, so to speak, decided to be one. The struggle of the Nagas represents their determination to grow according to a perceived identity.

Nagas knew the cost of their assertion of their identity as they had come to understand it could well be beyond their reach. However, it was out of the question to count the cost as their growth depends so much on the meaning of the identity they have evolved together. They have tried to firmly point out to India, their neighbour, where the property fence line is, convinced that failure to be truthful due to fear, greed or casualness would be a serious error that would bring harm to both sides. There may be insufficient wisdom in the decision. But it was not an act with hostile intention or a treasonous crime. It is most important for their own healthy growth that Nagas know they did the right, honourable thing, in the circumstances in which they found themselves, when they boldly stated their deepest beliefs about themselves and fought all-out to defend it. Is it not equally important for India’s soul that this desperately held conviction is understood and respected? I believe India will understand what is meant here.

 There seems to be increasing recognition in Delhi and by Indian civil society that the Naga position for sovereignty does have legal, historical and political validity. The recognition of the “uniqueness” of the Naga case that Atal Behari Vajpayee expressed in Kohima last November as Prime Minister of India indicated the kind of thinking that has now gone into the Naga question.

Nagas on their part have understood that India, needing to consolidate herself, is not in a position to handle the sovereignty issue, and will not be for a long time to come. “Most of the time a poor man’s fiercest resistance and fight to defend his claim over his tiny property ends in failure if his rich and powerful neighbour ignores his desperately maintained fencing and starts to develop the tiny patch of land to secure his position in the whole neighbourhood. The powerful neighbour tells the poor neighbour not to be misguided, hostile and anti him by insisting on recognition of something so trivial as a fence, and instead become part of the “developmental bonanza” transforming the whole area. Force and more development are used to overwhelm the dispute. It is so much like a cat resisting an elephant that has trespassed into its garden ignoring and breaking the fence. The cat has failed to push the elephant out. But there is more than meets the eye when it comes to an elephant’s capacity to discern what’s going on, after all, the animal most used to serving temples. There are clear signs that the elephant has understood the cat’s anxiety and why it is so worked up about it. Mutual understanding is surfacing. So if the settlement recognizes the facts it will be an honourable one and should work.” This is the thinking that is gaining ground. A sense of some confidence is growing that an honourable, workable settlement should now be possible given the refinement in thinking on both sides.

The half-century long Naga crisis has shown that the core meaning of the struggle is vitally important for the development of our people. But it has also tested us and revealed our serious shortcomings. If we do not rectify them now we will be destroyed by our addiction to our emotional slogans, meaning our unwillingness to pay the mental, spiritual and moral price of change which all peoples have to pay to succeed in the world.

For all Nagas, whether we have been in the “overground” State Government or the “underground” political struggle, a common lesson has emerged from the past decades of conflict. It is this: our attitudes and aims of life have to change drastically if our society is to succeed, whatever the settlement may be. Where have most of the generous amounts transferred over the years from Delhi to Kohima for development gone? It cannot stand close scrutiny. An auditor examining the records would have observed, “Never was so much wasted and embezzled by so few at the expense of so many”, echoing Churchill. Some are known to be sincere and honourable, the painfully small exception. They do and give their best despite our chaotic crisis.

Many of the “underground” people too have forfeited their moral authority to talk grandly and dismissively of the “Puppet State” by the way they too have ruthlessly and shamelessly sucked on the same State by exploiting the name of the Naga struggle. By their thoughtlessness and selfishness they have done immense harm to the prestige of their people’s struggle and their spirit.

Because of the death of conscience and resultant decadence, “overground” and “underground”, the State and the struggle have inevitably started to destroy themselves and the people for whom both were supposedly launched.

Of course how much of the money from Delhi went to Indian contractor-collaborators and Delhi bureaucrats with long sticky fingers is known only to the Naga politicians and bureaucrats and their Indian collaborators and God. There has been much efficient mutual cooperation and give and take between Nagas, who have shown they are not all that simple-minded when it comes to self-development, and alert mainstream Indians who are world class in certain things having practised their skills for centuries!

A frustrated Naga recently said, “If I have the skill of an artist the picture I will paint to portray Nagaland today is a living body collapsing to the ground, sucked pale by leeches of all kinds, - Nagas who make loud claims of their Christianity, and Hindus from India and illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh who must be praising Allah the open spaces of Nagaland and Northeast India are inhabited by people who think work of any kind except drawing salaries at the end of each month is below their dignity as sons of the soil!”

Today in Nagaland the most prominent publicity boards are assigned to “creating awareness” about HIV/AIDS. We can be grateful we know a lot about this terrible medical menace. But there is another HIV/AIDS whose destructive impact on our society is surely much more threatening but it is virtually ignored. Is it not the Honesty Impairing/Impeding Virus which starts to grow inside us after entering our systems and destroying the protective barriers, the same way Human Immunodeficiency Virus does with our protective blood cells? This virus has invaded deep and far into us and devastated our most sensitive, vital faculties of discerning right and wrong, good and evil, caring and greed, divine grace and human ego and pride. The faculties that decide whether we are human beings, capable of truthfulness and change, or beastly beings capable only of instant gratification. One fully agrees with the educationist and church leader in Kohima who says this virus is producing Acute Integrity Deficiency Syndrome in epidemic proportions in Nagaland!

If the right kind of governance is to be achieved in the strife-torn North East region where the chaotic conditions can be blamed for every embezzlement, or in resource rich Delhi, where every scam of kickbacks or plain transfers of raw cash are explained away by highly paid lawyers who live by their mastery of legal loopholes, we have to learn to fear and hate this other HIV/AIDS.

What else explains such scandals as Bofors and Coffins in Delhi, Animal Feed in Patna, Diesel stealing in Guwahati, Massive lottery manipulation and extortion rackets of all kinds by all groups in Nagaland, etc, etc, but the triumph of this other HIV in the land? “The law is a strange spider web in which the small flies are caught but the big ones pass through easily”! Laurence Cockcroft, Chair of UK chapter of Transparency International, recently observed that corporate behaviour would “only change markedly when there are a couple of high-profile prosecutions”. (Financial Times). How many wait for some high profile prosecutions in any sector to at least establish that scams are not airy nothings, they do have something to do with crooks.

My own experience is that if the first signs of the virus entering me are tolerated by me I acquire the deadly thing in no time and it becomes the fifth column within me. The good news is that the enemy virus can be effectively defeated if I am serious about its potential. The battle line is, “The lie may come into the world and even dominate it, but not through me”, according to Solzhenitsyn. For Gandhiji it was, “The only tyrant to whom I bend my knees is the still small voice”. Dependable tips for all who want to try.

With another quotation I end this rambling sharing of anxious thoughts, an observation by Blaise Pascal,

“Truth is so obscured nowadays and lies so well established that unless we love the truth we shall never recognize it”.


 Dialogue A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati

Astha Bharati