Nagas at crossroads

By: Pamreihor Khashimwo, Doctoral Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

At the first glance, what does Nagas think about Naga? might seem a strange question. However, it is the one that many population of Naga as well as the Indian are increasingly asking themselves and understandably so. After so many years of the Indo-Naga political negotiation, India seems to have lost interest in it. The primacy that Naga issue once assumed in Indian domestic issues and foreign policy has gone. What do the Naga wants? What does Indian think about Indo-Naga peace negotiation? Is there any vision left?
From start, the ceasefire has rested on gamble. When Naga leaders opted for ceasefire with the government of India in 1997, they wagered that Naga’s could converge toward one another: Naga would adopt better social standards, social coherence, political consolidation, economical interdependent with all the different tribes demographically living in different states, would have become a little more like one, by accepting each other to form a consolidated Nagalim as a one common body. This did not occur. Now, with the Naga’s, politically, socially, economically in a mess, the true implications of this gamble are becoming clear. The struggle continues with no sign of political pact after more than a decade of negotiations and which led to vulnerability instead of freedom, indebtedness instead of autonomy, poverty instead of prosperity and a deep political, economic and spiritual crisis instead of hope, optimism and fraternity. And yet desired for freedom lived on.

James A. Barker III former US secretary of State once observed, “Almost every achievement contains within its success the seeds of a future problem.” The political and social mess of Naga provides a trenchant example of this phenomenon. When the long sought but uncertain implementation of cease-fire finally began, as a part of bundle of deals that produce Naga under one umbrella, it represents a significant accomplishment. The implementation of cease fire provided the necessary catalyst for all the success of that achievement, however is left behind fateful seeds which is sprouting. The mess resulted not only from the Government of India insincerity, lack of political vision and divide and rule policy but also from flaws in our leaders approach and long term decrease in interest in true Naga issues which the focused now on material accumulation for their selfish attainment of social status in the society. We are in muddling through period.

Over the past 16 years, the Naga leaders have done a remarkable job managing the short-term symptoms of the chaos, although the costs have been great and tragic. Yet the long-term challenge remains. For this to happen, Naga must align their trends in public political, social and economic discourse and other areas. Aligning the political and social behaviors will first require Naga to reject the common misdiagnoses of current mess. The problem is not primarily one of the profligate political arenas in the peripherals society. It is rather the result of a fundamental disequilibrium within the single political zone, which the current leaders applies a single political policy and single social discourse or formation to a diverse tribal group of the Naga society. Thus, presence leaders should trust in the essentially democratic nature of the Naga society, which will encourage them to distribute the cost of convergence more fairly within and among the tribes. The burden must be shifted from top down public policy to periphery social and economic activities of respective tribes who involves in the main stream of the Naga society. If this does not occur, then survival of the so called Nagalim will call into question and Naga will face a long-term social, economic and political catastrophic that could drain its political strength and social coherence for the rest of this decade and beyond.
The way forward

If Naga wants to continue to function, some damage limitation is needed. Our leaders must show constructive leadership which includes greater willingness to discuss people contribution to strengthening the nation formation as Nagalim demanded, as well as presentation of a vigorous case to the people, that saving the political aspiration and achievement the political aspiration lie at the heart of Naga national interest. Our current leaders have thus far reacted to this stunning loss of momentum by entering a holding pattern. The hope is to buy enough time for new leaders to emerge who will reclaim the Naga project. However, buying time may not be the best the leaders can do for now. The Naga needs a new generation of leaders who can breathe life into a project that is perilously close to expiring in this unthinking generation. For now, they are nowhere to be found.

Today history is knocking at our door. So what will determine whether the Naga stalls in its Naga projects or moves forward? The current political negotiation with government of India narrative is unsure, fragmented and does not provide the necessary political foundation for extensive institutional capacity building. For now, the lack of consensus about the correct political formula for Naga seriously compromises any further progress. Today we are witnessing a rise of political intolerance. The histories of the Naga show that crisis often-but not always lead to increased disintegration. Now is the time for Naga to produce constructive result from crisis with strong political will and creativity to respond with decisive innovation. There has been a striking lack of coordinated political leadership across the Naga area in the face of political pressure. Dialoguing is the best way to unlock misunderstanding.

Lesson to be learned
Look at the history of how the European Union (EU) came into exist, the essential point is not only that cooperation is possible but also that it is more importantly desirable to improve economic development, political stability and social well-being. The fact that the European countries that had been involved into two bloodied devastating wars were capable of cooperating under the umbrella of the EU and the euro has become extremely significance on contemporary politics. The EU has excellent record of recovering from crisis and moving ahead even stronger than before due to firm political will.

It is astounding that, the states of Europe so long used to deals with each other with bayonets and tanks are now tightly bound together within a series of interlocking laws and institutions. This degree of integration of sovereign nation-states is unprecedented in modern times and has formed the basis of the peace and prosperity of Europe. In pursuing their political integration through institutional and market means rather than warfare and territorial acquisition the EU has created a new type of political entity in the global system. As the EU’s experience demonstrates, historical reconciliation is a critical element in developing the necessary political will for cooperation. In stark contrast, there has been no such effort in our struggle. Thus, Naga requires a fresh breeze of air to get the Naga ship sailing again. Only together can we generate the policies and institutions. NPN

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