Thursday, August 18, 2022

Our Belonging: Realism and acting in hope

There is no doubt that the current discourse around Naga political rights has led many to despair. For idealists and purists, historicists, and common observers alike, this despair is a cause for—and a result of—our sense of feeling trapped and overwhelmed by our present circumstances.
Such despair, in whichever way it manifests itself, is ultimately volatile. There is only so much we can bottle up, including decades of internalized wounds and anger, before the sweaty rhetoric of war chants and primal disposition are unleashed. Spurred onby highly managed maneuverings—ranging from idolatry of words to conspiracy theories to post-truth narratives—instigated by powers that are difficult to be named, our daily situation is one in which hope and clarity is overshadowed by hopelessness and subjectivism.
In our political talks in Delhi, at home,and among the inner circle of individual groups, we are not saying nor seeing anything new about the approaching harvest of the Nagas, the rightful owners of the “rice fields” that have sustained us throughout our history. In truth, the Naga political groups (NPGs) are allowing others to script the Naga political rights.
It is no surprise that at a time when we are easily stirred by strong personal feelings, we have become instinctivelyinsecure, defensive, and retaliative.Inspiring a more secure,proactive, and constructive imagination vis-à-vis the essence of Naga political rights sometimes seems like a daunting, if not impossible, task.But, what choice do we have if we are tosuccessfully discern between what is realistic, and therefore attainable, and what is just an unachievable fantasy?
In our context, pursuing a constructive imagination, and subsequently a hopeful and attainable reality, should start with reflection on who we are and how we came to where we are. It should include a careful examination of how we act and interactamong ourselves and with others. First, starting with the NPGs: Theymust keep in mind their positions as national leaders, and should think and act as leaders of such stature. Simply said, they must not allow themselves to be used as tokensby others, either for individual positioning or political leverage. They must possess the awareness and foresight to prevent the Naga people from losing hard-fought gains vis-à-vis our collective identity.
Second, today, civil organizations and individuals within the Naga society have become “entities” to be studied and deployed by political analysts and policy makers. Granted, Naga organizations and individuals are not a homogenous group with the same aims, and in fact, the reality is that there exist many opposing viewpoints and agendas. It is critical then that we becomemore aware of our positions and how our intentions and actions, however small or large, will impact the larger picture now and in the future. What has been achieved by the nonstop circulation of statementsand exhortations? In this age of ever-presentmedia speculation and noise, acting with wisdom, restraint, and integrity will go a long way.
Third, I consider myself of the older generation, and it must be said with sincerity that I am ashamed of myself (and the older generation) for teaching the young Naga minds to hate others and to make statements like “we have not made mistakes,” “they are wrong,” “never utter that we are at fault.”These false constructs by the Naga elders have situated contemporary Naga minds in the past. We elders, including NPG and civil society leaders, can undo this negative way of thinking by ensuring that we never entertain or certify the entrusting of Naga political rights to the stock market of wheeling and dealing. We must revisit who we are in an act of self-reflection. Are we not self-righteous individuals? Are our souls not guilt-ridden? Have we genuinely reconciled with the past?
The act of mustering radical honesty to be true to each other may seem foolish, but takes real courage. Let us listen to the voice of our conscience without letting the warrior instinct in us deploy the usual “defensive syndrome” of arrogance and the “who cares” attitude of apathy. History is a living soul—alive—and to be alive is to hear and listen, and change and reconstruct.
We must act right away. There is a vast power vacuum and forces not suited for us are waiting to fill it. It is indeed very doubtful for the Naga nation if its leaders refuse to set their hearts and minds to sit and talk. A nation is “worn out” and “tired” when its leaders retreat to bunkers. I use the word “nation” willfully and intentionally to affirm our given-ness. We are called to imagine how to practice and exist as a nation, to live out our given-ness. Currently, the state of this imagined nation in the history of the present Naga people is in distress. It is clouded by idealism on one side and a cult of exclusivism, domesticated by a master trainer and passed on to any takers, on the other side. This present Naga political culture of division is tearing the nation apart.
Nevertheless, I am beginning to sense a shift among the Nagas in general, from North to South, East to West, all the way to the Center. Is this simply naïve optimism on my part? No, not at all. Today the younger generations are coming of age. They are much more informed than previous generations and are both inductive and deductive in their ideas and actions. There are signs of something new happening.
Take this to heart: The younger generations are angry with the older generation—of which I am a part—for teaching them that black is white and vise versa. They are angry for how we sold the Naga right for personal gain. They are angry at our continual insistence on historical purity. These young generations are determined to transcend divides and debunk narrow political narratives of hate, anger, and self-righteousness.
With my sincere respect to all who have commented on the present state of Naga affairs, ranging from senior politicians, bureaucrats, village chiefs, women bodies, community organizations, student institutions, and recognized and unrecognized voices, I humbly and boldly write this personal statement to the Naga people. I implore you all to take a chance immediately. It is absolutely futile to keep on censoring each other through our usual rhetoric of exclusivity and divisiveness. If we are really serious of our destiny, it is a total waste of time to criminalize others from a distance. Let us instead sincerely re-imagine unity. It is time for a more “understood difficult unity” that acknowledges the reality of our group differences.
Wati Aier
(This article is an individual opinion and does reflect any organization)

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