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Monday, January 22, 2018

“A new civil literature”

Tuesday, 23 February 2016 12:56
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- Monalisa Changkija


On the occasion of the National Press Day on November 16, 2015, I said: “But there comes a time in the life of an individual, as much as in the life of a society when we must do or die, or die doing, because only a few of us are blessed with the courage of conviction to live beyond and above our own selves”. Today, I rephrase that: “But there comes a time in the life of an individual, as much as in the life of a society when we must speak up or die, or die speaking, because only a few of us are blessed with the courage of conviction to live beyond and above our own selves”.

And so today we must speak up about things that are happening in the country that should have never happened in the world’s largest democracy, in an ancient civilization such as ours and in an aspiring and emergent India, which is counted as one of the foremost leaders of the Knowledge Era. What we have been witness to across the country, in the form of biases, prejudices, intolerance, racism, communalism, corruption, nepotism, injustice, discriminations, etc., are things that have no place in a democracy but nobody thinks of them as unpatriotic, anti-national and against humanity. Today, these have become our culture, eclipsing the essence, the ethos and the values of democracy. It is time to speak up against this culture that goes against the very grain of humanity.         

Having said that, let us also be unambiguous that none of us here condone any anti-national slogans, much less anti-national activities. So, if there are some who think, believe or misconstrue that we are gathered here today in support of the alleged anti-national sloganeering allegedly by JNU students, let me assert that that is not the case. I don’t need to tell you what has been happening at Delhi since February 9 and I consider it a privilege to be here with you today to stand up and speak out against the damage that is being done to the country in the name of caste, colour, creed, culture, traditions and religion. I also consider it my privilege to stand up and speak out against the deliberate insidious ways in which the essence, the ethos and the values of democracy have been eroded, which have resonated in and have adversely affected almost all our democratic institutions paralyzing democracy and making governance impotent to the point that our farmers are committing suicide, our students are targeted as Fifth Columns, our women and children raped and murdered ~ the list is not exhausted. Mind you, if today our political and economic life stands stagnate, it is because of the not-so-subtle subversion of democracy and democratic values, to which we have all contributed to by our silence. Dark forces that seek to denigrate and destroy are not powerful but we make them powerful by our silence. Today, let us resolve to break our silence thereby break the back of dark forces that seek to shackle us with their agenda, policies and programmes of oppression, suppression and repression by subverting the rule of law. 

Have no doubts that these dark forces are also very alive, alert and active in Nagaland too. Look at the state of our structural and development infrastructure, including institutions, particularly in the field of education. Look at the way the space for dissent and debate has been narrowed in our state Assembly. Look at the way our women are suppressed and repressed ~ all in the name of culture, customs, traditions and religion; and don’t forget the impunity with which crimes against women and children are committed. Look at the way our society and state have made our physically and mentally-Disabled, and our politically, economically, socially and culturally Displaced invisible. Look at the way political ideologies and politics have silenced contrarian views and negated differing narratives in an attempt to shove down the so-called mainstream narrative down everyone’s throat ~ even silencing dissent, disagreements and differences in the name of “unity”, sometimes through violence that has cost lives and limbs.    

You know, it is so pathetic that here in Nagaland we do not hear about our Central and other Universities being the seat of learning, much less temple of ideas and ideating. They are more like production units churning out graduates and post-graduates, who have shown great propensity to reiterate past thinking. And then, nothing can be more wretched than the state of primary and secondary education in Nagaland. What saddens me more is the silence of our so-called intellectuals, thinkers, writers and poets, who should have analyzed what is happening to JNU as a microcosm of what is happening across the country, particularly what is happening in Nagaland thereby directing our people to logicality. I wish that today our intellectuals, thinkers, writers and poets had led the HCU and JNU Alumni and the students here in this Solidarity Walk and Sit-In programme to direct Naga society and state to write a “new civil literature”, to borrow a phrase from Kekhrie Yhome.

But you see what is happening in the rest of the country, which is now being played out in HCU, JNU and other universities earlier, is exactly what has been happening in Nagaland too ~ even if under different guises. But we, who have had the privilege to have our minds open in universities across the country, however reviled we were and still continue to be, in our tribal, culture, tradition and customary-bound society and state, stand with Rohith Vemula, who had no choice but to speak with the price of his life; we stand with Kanhaiya Kumar, who reportedly said: “Real democracy, real freedom, everyone’s freedom is what we want to establish in this country. That freedom will come and it will come with the Constitution, Parliament and democracy... We have to safeguard our freedom of expression, our Constitution, our country. We have to stay united to keep the country together, to counter the divisive forces …” And of course, to stand with the thousands of students, men and women, who are sacrificing and suffering and have even died safeguarding the same ideals. That is basically why we are gathered here ~ and the hope that what is happening across the country today, not least in Nagaland, will make us mull over issues of patriotism, nationalism, democracy, freedoms, liberty, justice and fraternity to enable us to write “a new civil literature”. 

Once again, let us remind ourselves of this prayer:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world had not been broken up into fragments

by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches it arms 

towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way

into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening

thought and action – 

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, 

let my country awake.

Thank You. 

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