“Diminishing Democracy”

“Diminishing Democracy”
By: U A Shimray

In Nagas society, leisure is entertained in the form of activities like hunting, fishing, Morung and gossip platform. Among these, gossip platform is considered important place where people debate and gossip [Gossip platform is a kind of open platform constructed by wooden logs and planks elevated at certain height with a large log placed for sitting]. In the morning and evening people sit in-group and indulge in all kind of gossip, and also discuss serious matters, sharing news and smoking pipe. In fact, the philosophy behind raising such platform was based on basic human instinct that one should meet others and talk and discuss and even quarrel when one fails to understand the viewpoint of the other. Even serious debates also take place, but informally. There is a saying, “those who do not go to platform are those who do not love wisdom.”

The ethics of gossip platform endorses that Nagas have a tradition of public debate and reasoning. And such system correctly alludes to the ubiquity and intensity of public discussion. Unfortunately, today the quality of our [Nagas] public debate is deteriorating lacking its essence and accountability. This composition attempts to examine briefly about the quality of our contemporary public discourse and the absence of a political and social culture of public reasoning in the premise of democratic domain.

When examine the present Naga public debate, I don’t see a great deal because the basic fundamental nature of healthy discussion, constructive discourse and criticism, opinion sharing and intellectual inputs find no space. Rather it is becoming one-sided view of deliberation and imposition. Such observation is more conspicuous in the current decade. For instance, time to time United Naga Council (UNC) came out certain declarations tagged with “Terms and Conditions.” Here, Manipur elections are favourable citable example. This time, UNC moved away from their traditional activism [“Naga Want Solution, Not Election,” “Expedite Peace Process”…] and involved directly the 9th Manipur General Election under the theme of “Lead Kindly Light.” UNC’s political reasoning is something to do with “National Interest” and to voice “Naga Integration” in Manipur Assembly. However, the query here is there any public debate and reasoning on this drastic political stand and paradigm shift?

Forgetting past policy and activities, now UNC finds so-called “consensus candidates” and formed an alliance, christened as “United Naga Democratic Front” (UNDF). This political front emphasis to work outside the house for “Common Identical Programme” and interest of the people… Is UNDF bears Nagas’ Mandate? Or the apex UNC shedding its grassroot activism and orient towards State politics. Moreover, the reasoning of the phrase “national-interest” fails to present competent explanation of what it translate for. Also, certain forceful apparatus were utilised to capitalise the so-called “national interest.”

Today, the trend of Nagas’ democracy has been overlap with a tactic of “imposition” apparatus [without given justification to the public]. Such tactics grossly violates one’s fundamental principle of respect for others. In recent Manipur election, UNC tactically “request” people to vote for their Independent Candidates [certain miscreant activities also witnessed]. Conscience and reasoning is not comprehensible…Is the political debate and Naga issue just submerge into the mere Indian electoral process? That also, to a mere 11 [Eleven] numbers of Manipur elections…[Do we have to skip the number 60 in Nagaland Assembly!]. But short listing out of 60 contenders [Is Naga women not important in Naga politics!] as “Blessed-One” is not democratic ethics but rather autocratic imposition manifesting civil hegemony. Democracy believes in principle, liberty and freedom not to “terms and conditions.”

The Editorial, The Sangai Express [9 February 2007] wrote: “It remains to be seen how effectively the UNC has been able to ‘influence’ the Naga people in choosing their elected representatives, but the message has already been rung out and that is, everyone should toe the line of what the UNC thinks is right and best for the people.” Now, one can question the “influence” and “accountability” of the civil organisations [suppose to be non-political organisation] in the society. In democracy, people carry the same value. Indeed, the briefest moment of reflection on our political debates will reveal a polarization based on prejudice masquerading as argument.

Baruah (2005: 19) writes “democratic elections take place and the press in the region is relatively free, many aspects of political life on the ground are rather distant from the substantive values associated with democracy. In terms of respect for basic freedom, the rule of law and principles of accountability and transparency, there is a significantly diminished form of democracy…[Durable Disorder. New Delhi: OUP]

Individual freedom, clan-communitarian participation and socialisation are the inherent principle of Naga socio-political setup. However, when there is “impose-democracy,” one’s freedom become unfreedom and such can breed socio-political unfreedom. The tradition of healthy debate, democratic set up, value system and its spirit is slowly diminishing. There is no wrong to say that Naga society is in the stage of labyrinth crossroad of socio-political dilemma. The dilemma includes how to tackle the political perception in the democratic domain. In other word, the beauty of Naga traditional values is at stake. Naga political attitude of tolerance, accommodation, principle, dignity and accountability is changing in the midst of “mistaken-democracy.” And such mistaken emerge due the influence of money culture, power and greed. Of course, the present money power and gun culture pose major detrimental factor to social and political development.

Indeed, the credibility of civil societies is essentially important in the democratic exercise. At the same time, the organisations should uphold its objectives and principles. Good politics strengthens democratic values and carry social harmony but when such essence is lost in the socio-political discourse would invite blunder. In fact, sense of politics as a collective enterprise, underpinned by the idea of a common good. Quality public debate is based on respect for others and followed from that, respect for their opinions. If respect is not possible or forthcoming, it requires at least tolerance as a minimum condition of the civic relationship. However, when the public discourse is “coup” then it would be difficult to asses the validity of democracy.


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