Post Mortem

COVID-19 and Nagas

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 5/1/2020 1:00:13 PM IST

 The global pandemic COVID-19 has spared none and brought much chaos, disruptions, and tragedy across the globe. Powerful nations with the best of health-care infrastructure and with the most elite health/medical research teams on the planet have faced (and counting) inexplicable loss of lives. While the threat of the pandemic COVID-19 is global and it knows no boundaries of class, caste, gender, religions, regions and languages, the poor and migrants are made most vulnerable, facing the threat of the virulent virus as well as the perils of unemployment and consequent hunger, even survival. The grim reality of COVID-19 and its impact on the poor was poignantly captured in the statement, “hunger may kill us before coronavirus” by a migrant in north India. 

The surprise nationwide lockdown announced by the government at the end of March, left many migrants stranded in urban areas. Migrants trekking on the highways walking back to their villages are vividly distressing images. Others are taking the solitary route of cycling the distance between their city of work and home. On an emotional level, these stories of migrants setting off towards their homes in villages, knowing that home do not mean economic security, reiterate powerfully the call of home when life is uncertain amidst the raging dangers of a death-dealing virus. 

COVID-19 has disrupted life as we know as normal in every aspect: health, social, economic, environment, working culture, religious etc. Responses, reflections, re-orientations are already happening, marked equally by noble spirit of humanity and undeniable selfishness of human beings. Some serve on the frontline risking their lives, some hurry to make a fast profit. The virtues of generosity and compassion will linger on, beyond COVID-19 times. 

COVID-19 and its impacts on Nagas are observable at many levels. These disruptions invite reflections. Naga migrants apparently bear the most devastating impact of COVID-19 and the measure of lockdown. Particularly, migrants working in the urban areas in the mainland are experiencing grim uncertainties and many are struggling to shelter-in with bare minimum. The announced assistance by the state and the many charitable networks’ distribution of basic food are undoubtedly mighty help.

Yet, reflections we must, for living post COVID-19. Reflections bring up questions. Who are the Naga migrants? Why do Nagas migrate to the cities? What sort of employment are Nagas engaged in? In what conditions Naga migrants live in the cities? Is migration the only route to our progress and even survival? 

The reasons behind (push factor) young Nagas migrating to the mainland are central questions we as a people, especially as Indigenous people need to address. And address we must together as village, as community, as Indigenous people.

While there are economic diversities among the migrants, often categorized by the levels of education and the nature of employment, most migrants are unskilled or semi-skilled workers with little or no education. In short shrift, workers valued at most till their prime youth and replaced as the market is ever hungry for younger energy. The glittering glamour and convenient comfort of city-life are short-lived, and often come with the perils of insecurity as COVID-19 has revealed. To be sure, migration is not at fault. In fact, migration contributes to civilizations progress and provides opportunity to humanity to toil together towards shared common vision of mutual flourish. 

Migrants and their labours will continue to be needed for the economy. And Nagas must reflect, in relation to migration, and aspire to be better than we are now. If every young Naga can be assured a college education, we are not short of talents and potential, migration from our land will be not be a way out of poverty, and the lands where Naga live might be places where we will receive migrants. 

As we reflect towards a life post-COVID-19, a word to the church, since, Christianity and church enjoy a polite respect among the Nagas; moreover, a church that is true to its proclamation of the good news of liberation from the bondage of misery of selfishness and falsehood and hypocrisy – sin – teach the children now, the values that make the good life, as opposed to the glamour of riches of the world.

Dr. Atola Longkumer, Bengaluru

 

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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