Polarisation of Naga political culture: Where are we headed?

By Sira Kharay

Polarisation of Naga political culture appears increasingly pandemic. The voice of dissents and dissensions gets louder and bolder. Public disenchantment, disaffection, frustration and outrage against the perceived closed and insular system, cronyism, nepotism, egotism, greed, corruption and injustice are already out in the open streets. The traditional authority of the NSCNs and in particular the (I-M) has been put to open challenge for the first time and with it the smaller dissident groups and factions get more vociferous to lay a claim to legitimacy. The emerging assertive Naga public is determined to recast its sense of loyalty by fundamentally reinventing the notion of legitimacy and power in terms of popular will of the people as the repository of the ultimate political authority.

Now the public asserts its right to democratic participation in the negotiating process of the Indo-Naga peace dialogue. The emerging transformation appears decisive and dislodging. For better, or for worst, the voice of dissents cannot be silenced in a free society. A strong nation can only be built on the edifice of free choice of opinion and constructive dialogue. But the devils work best at times of confusion and while the nervousness of the nationalist leadership is palpable for this obvious reason, the academia and the political observers wait and watch in despair.

What is intrusively disturbing amidst this social metamorphosis is the dysfunctional presence of a small coterie of schismatic dissidents who attempt to “banalize” Naga nationalism into a dull project of development and governance issue within the state of geographical Nagaland by vivisecting the imagination of Nagaland away from the common consciousness of the term “Naga” as a “people” with history and right to self-determination. The senseless repetition of the rhetoric of the terms “outsider” and “insider” within the narrow trivialisation of the term “Naga” as “fragmentable” concept which stems from the confusion of the personal with the political has done more harm than good. The danger with such regressive parochialism is that it tends to brutalize the term “Naga” by further deepening the perceived animus of tribal antagonism among the Nagas.

However, the gullible masses in times of resentment and frustration are likely to flock even to such vagrant voices that openly challenge the existing authority sans political wisdom. For instance, an innocent villager confessed, “Harassment at the hands of our national workers has become unbearable and we even savoured the idea of Manipur Government’s recent attempt to permanently post IRBs and Commandos at Ukhrul town. It would be a relief if the IRBs and Commandos could arrest and lock them all up in jail.” The point is the perceived excesses of the nationalist workers have exposed the erstwhile patriotic Naga into such recalcitrant social behaviour to the extent of disowning the term “Naga” itself.

Alongside this challenge is the legalistic dialectics of ACAUT in articulating “One Government, One Tax” within the vocabulary of Indian legalism rather than Naga revolutionary jargon. It is true that there should be “One Government, One Tax”, but the narratives of articulating the issue within the narrow framework of Indian notion of “legality” and “illegality” as an end in itself rather than means to an end has the irreversible danger of domesticating the international Indo-Naga issue into some redundant municipal dispute. However, for reasons of senseless self-gratification and indulgence for too long, the tax payers feel betrayed and disillusioned. Nevertheless, ACAUT in order to remain true to Naga national commitment, its emphasis should shift more towards the modalities of achieving “One Government, One Tax” rather than on the emotive confrontation of defining what constitutes “extortion”.

It is true that the evocative fighting spirit and heroic sacrifices of the past do not condone the present sense of nationalist lethargy, but it is equally true that this legacy alone is the whole inheritance of Naga nationhood and the same cannot be disavowed for the perceived default of one. The point is before the Naga society takes all the patterns of a Hobbesian existence, where bitter strife, denial and killings become the order of the day, each sober Naga stakeholder must recognise the limits of the other by now.

The idea of “villain” and “hero” in the discourse of politics is a mere social construct which in itself is flawed and problematic. The demeaning practice of political mudslinging has no place in a civilised political setup. Politics must be rediscovered as an art of mediating the perceived differences without the necessity of appropriating the notion of truth to oneself. The adversarial political culture of projecting the other as the “villain” must give way to a more progressive political behaviour of constructive social and political dialogues.

In tandem with it, there is urgency for the nationalist organisations to exercise certain creative political imaginations to innovatively respond to the changing demands and perceptions of the people before the remnants of their organisational legitimacy evaporate into thin air in the eyes of the weary public. The public must at same time appreciate that it would be unrealistic on their part to expect total physical reconciliation of all the NPGs given the history of bitter factionalism and suffice would it be for the day if they could arrive at a principle-based emotional reconciliation in letter and spirit with a managing committee to steer ahead the Naga nation as one in different bodies.

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