Monday, June 21, 2021
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A Call for an Introspective and Measured Politics

In the Pensées, the philosopher Pascal urges women and men to consider an unavoidable fact of humanity: that to be human is to fall. At the same time, the philosopher declares that to be an imperfect human is more desirable than to pretend to be an angel. The more we accept our imperfections, according to Pascal, the quicker our humanity will be salvaged. And yet, our human instincts drive us to a stubborn avoidance of confronting our own limitations and vulnerabilities.
Through the course of the Indo-Naga situation, these instincts have hardened into ingrained prejudices and unending games of politics passed down from one generation to the next. Is this instinctual slip a reason for recent circumstances in the Naga political saga?
Once again, it is clear that the too-familiar Naga reflex of “my rightness” is not doing us any good and does nothing to reveal the path forward in our collective journey. In fact, to say “I am wrong” has become a taboo-which in turn has led us to evade honest but painstaking introspection about the world and our place in it, further leading us astray from our moral and historical bearings. In our political context, spirituality without meaningful historical engagement (and vise versa) means that we end up with a kind of naïve and inadequate idealism.
At the center of the Indo-Naga peace process, Nagas must accept the hard fact that political idealism without a foundation in, and recognition of, its historical setting will remain only a subjective concept. Reasonably, the Indo-Naga political talks need to be identified and named in its de facto platform. India, the largest democratic country in the world, has admitted time and again that the issue and history of the Naga freedom movement merits a political solution. This is the unique signature of the Indo-Naga situation. Nevertheless, a protracted political history such as the Naga political issue will have difficult hurdles, which we need to gently wedge and position vis-à-vis the Government of India (GoI).
It is indeed a historical milestone that GoI has initiated an official peace process (i.e., political talks) with the NSCN/GPRN and the seven Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs), represented by the Working Group (WG) under a sole Interlocutor. In this context, it will be absolutely futile for the Naga political groups to undo each other and keep on mustering the Naga primordial instinct of rightness over the other.
In the process of the political negotiations, human temperament and emotions, which at times surges, must never be permitted to engulf the hard-earned and distinctive trust between GoI and the Nagas. We must abide by the moral and ethical dimensions of common humanity amidst differences. In the billowing sea of political negotiations, we are all on the same boat-and it is our collective and rightful duty to protect each other at all costs and to prevent the boat from sinking.
The Naga public needs to understand and appreciate the key agents and actions in the peace process. The hard-hitting practice of diplomacy is mentally and emotionally draining for all concerned. In times like these, the discipline of keeping from blaming anyone that seemingly differs from our position needs to be robustly exhibited. This is a sign of political maturity. On the other hand, the pursuit of political capital through realpolitik, such as the persistent issuance of contradictory statements, is counterproductive. Among the Nagas, a diplomatic reciprocity of common history and belonging are basic necessities to our survival.
Nagas will do well to listen to the age-old principle that one cannot stand too long by standing on another’s misery. Attempting to position oneself only by targeting the other is no position at all. It is, in fact, an act of self-negation. Anger and hate are not political positions, but signs of serious disorder.
The seventy years of the Naga political narrative is replete with the destructive game of never-ending, back-and-forth accusations hurled by one group to the other, which has resulted in spectators either feeling dismayed at the spectacle or applauding its futility. Should we continue losing, or should we start building a stronger team? The latter is the only viable option. To build a team, even the most talented player must adhere to the principles and spirit of the group, or risk damaging the dynamics of the team.
The parties in talks with the GoI must be cautious about even attempting to deploy political tools that are counterproductive, manipulative, and divisionary. We should understand that Nagas are already sick of such methods that dig at unnecessary fault lines. Can we not discover a better way of dealing with each other? The 1980s and 1990s are over. In fact, two decades have passed since the turn of the new century. NSCN/GPRN and the seven NNPGs are in a political engagement with the GoI. This is not insignificant by any means.
What stops us, therefore, from moving forward? First, there is the issue of boundaries. Essentially, the Naga political groups have built boundaries that are not permeable. The Naga political groups need to come to an understanding that the other “faction” is a functioning government in its locus. In this, each “faction” has its own political ecology of power and procedures, and if pushed to the corner, will have nothing to lose by resorting to protect its boundaries. In this sense, while each group constitutes a boundary with agencies and interests, having a boundary that is not permeable compels one to live in isolation. We must avoid this state of isolation.
Second, Nagas are living in a caged society at war with itself. Consequently, what takes root are one-dimensional mindsets that lead to discourse, whether through the media or in everyday conversation, that is incredibly contemptuous of the “other.” Unlike genuine, constructive criticism, contempt is harmful because it assumes the moral superiority of individuals or groups. The rhetoric coming out of the jurisdictional and national disputes is a dangerous distraction that diverts attention away from the real work at hand.
Third, we all know that throughout our political history, actors, both internal and external, have patronizingly domesticated some gullible homegrown personalities to focus on our differences. Till today, our politics simply ends here. Ironically, those individuals who are themselves victims of the “differences” are so bitter about it that they have ended up becoming another “difference.” This negative psychological tendency must be released from the self in order to be whole.
All being said, we can still transcend the present context of the Naga political process vis-à-vis GoI. Why are we focusing on how different we are from one another, and not on matters of common hope? Let us sit together and listen to one another, and to think critically before we listen to the sophistry of others and swallow them gullibly. Our leaders have been devoutly ritualistic in front of others on countless encounters, but they had not made the moral, responsible decision to come together to sit and talk since the peace process began in 2015.
Freedom is not free in any sense of the word. Freedom unequivocally implies a high degree of responsibility. Minus the latter, freedom will never exist. Our imagination needs the horizon of the world to measure up to the realism of nationalism. Why don’t we pause for a moment to think along the lines of a constructive nationalism?
Lastly, let us not repeat our failures of the last three years. With a spirit of hope and faith bestowed upon us by God, let us keep constructing. Let us focus our thoughts not on destructive tactics, but on proactive and courageous frames of mind. Let us reflect on how we have allowed our ingrained instincts and bad habits to become an undesirable, yet inseparable, part of our politics. Let us give a chance to bigger, more hopeful possibilities. You will not be asked to surrender what you have today nor coerced to agree. The least we can do is agree to disagree in a gentle way. Shall we not take up this urgent task first?
Wati Aier
(The views of this article does not represent any organization)

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