Memoirs of a Student Leader

Dr. P.S. Lorin, Principal

“We should stick and stand up for each other but we should not overdo it, such that we alienate ourselves from students of other communities. For those living in the metros or even in towns like Dimapur and Kohima, you have to grow up quicker and be street smart to survive and succeed. You are not studying with only another Naga or tribal, you are actually studying with some of the brightest, strongest and self-driven people in the world.”
– Musings from a former
student leader

I shudder at times when I recall how I finally landed up in Delhi in the 70’s. I was young, had only `500 in my pocket and did not know a soul in Delhi. My train arrived early and I went straight to the University to take admission, without a clue about where I would be staying in Delhi. I would have been in big trouble, if I had not met a fellow Naga student named Luingam Luithui, who took me in and helped me get set on my feet. I am forever grateful to him for that act of kindness

I believe this is an example of how we Nagas took care of each other in the early days. Nagas who came to Delhi were always welcomed and treated as family by other Nagas. During this period (1974-78), the political situation in Nagaland was still stormy and Naga patriotism was also vibrant and clearly visible. It was also a time when it was easy to meet Naga politicians, top bureaucrats and businessmen who came to the capital for work. This served a boon to the Naga Students Union Delhi, as the Union played a crucial role those days. In retrospect, this leverage probably influenced a lot of decisions and even helped to formulate them.

One year after arriving in Delhi, I was chosen as the consensus candidate to be the President of Naga Students Union Delhi in 1975. We had a good team and worked hard. While there were certainly shortcomings on our part, I would like to think that we also had many accomplishments. Of these accomplishments, we were able to achieve them only because of the unity, cooperation and discipline of the hardworking members.

Undoubtedly, globalisation has made the world a smaller place today, changing outlooks and mindsets. However, I will also not be surprised if some of you feel a sense of familiarity even today with my observations on the scenario during those days. Naga students in Delhi and some other parts of India were commonly mistaken to be foreigners because of our mongoloid features. The Nagas also had a social and cultural life quite different from the mainland Indians and therefore, we perceived each other differently, even as we lived on different levels of conservatism and broadmindedness all in the same breath. It was very rare to find an Indian who had heard of Nagaland, let alone know where it was located. As we struggled to establish our identity in a city of millions, we were regularly bombarded with disturbing news from Nagaland. News of clashes between the Indian army and members of the Naga Political Movement and sometimes atrocities against civilians were a regular occurrence. These incidents always elicited anger and deep frustration against the Indian Government. Filled with Naga patriotism, many of the students boycotted UPSC civil service competitive exams, idealistically opting to wait and sit for the future Naga National Public Service (NNPS) competitive examinations once Nagaland supposedly attained its independence.

Against this backdrop of political turmoil and our search for a Naga identity the NSUD helped form the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR). The NPMHR worked to specifically tackle Armed Forces Special powers Act of 1958 and other draconian laws prevailing in Naga Areas.

It was an uphill task to organize ourselves in the absence of mobile phones, and landlines which sometimes failed to work. Just like any organization, there were differences of opinion and minute feelings of tribalism rearing its ugly head. Today, looking back at where we are now, I cannot say we were successful in everything we did. But I do know we were able to highlight a lot of our problems to many mainland student leaders. Some of them were Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, student leaders during our time who are now members of the Communist Party of India.

I hope to see our Naga student bodies continue to promote and celebrate our success as a people in the many dynamic cities and locations they are located. In my opinion, one very important role for a lot of the student bodies in the cities and the towns is to build ties and create friendship with non-Nagas, particularly with mainland Indians. Many of the student leaders in the capital or the colleges you are studying in may be the future leaders of the country and building these bridges now would surely pay dividends in the future. We should stick and stand up for each other but we should not overdo it, such that we alienate ourselves from students of other communities. As a student body you function with constraints. You should remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch and that any organisation is accountable to the people it represents. I wish to see every one of you to hold impeccable integrity so that you earn respect, trust and the confidence of others.

Today, we live in a different era. There are more options for employment than just the government, access to information and communication that has been unprecedented and widespread education to help surpass anything that the earlier Nagas had achieved. My message is for each and every student. You have many more advantages than your fathers ever did. For those living in the metros or even in towns like Dimapur and Kohima, you have to grow up quicker and be street smart to survive and succeed. You are not studying with only another Naga or tribal, you are actually studying with some of the brightest, strongest and self-driven people in the world. Do not let us, your parents and yourself down. MExN

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