“Listening to Calvary’s Whisper” was a song dedicated to my longtime friend Rev. Dr. VK Nuh, with whom I traversed many paths in the Naga peace and reconciliation journey. Similarly, in the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR), I am most fortunate to be graced by another elder, Uncle Niketu, whose testimony remains a chronicle of peace and justice amid human finitude. From these elders, as well as the young men and women invested in our journey of common hope, I gain strength and inspiration. This latter group, in particular, has introduced me to a new generation of Nagas who have set their sights beyond the arrogance of cultural hegemonic preservation.
A word to my peers (that is, to the elders): Let us learn some lessons from this young Naga generation. We cannot continue to suppress our future by the guilt-ridden weight of the past. Our future must be liberative. In my personal life, I must confess that I am guilty of storing up anger and hatred against people with whom I differed, especially on the matter of Naga political and historical rights. What followed within me, as a consequence, was a hurting heart behind all my rhetoric and actions. Now, in my older days, I am increasingly called to listen to Calvary’s whisper. The result is that what my heart speaks, my intellect does not object. I experience a growing freedom to confess that my past judgments towards those I’ve differed with have been stained by ill will. I confess to embodying states of self-righteous indignation over the seemingly disgraceful words and behaviors of other people. I realize that my one-dimensional political vocabulary was absolutized and I became suspicious of different lexicons, no matter how constructive they may have been. I made decisions without knowing why, and in the process such decisions exerted itself through psychological inertia, making it hard to change though it was the right thing to do.
At the moment, there is so much anger and hate in the form of rejoinders on the speeches of the 58th anniversary of Nagaland statehood. In the first place, what less should the participants of the statehood celebration done? Exonerate Naga nationalism or follow the governmental protocols of State function? The occasion necessitated an order under the Government of India and thus, the occasion was a status quo function of the state of Nagaland under India. The occasion also provided historical retrieval of the Naga People’s convention (NPC) and the justification of the becoming of the state of Nagaland. The lone person as living testimony to the NPC is Uncle SC Jamir. Uncle Jamir knows how many years we have not met, and I also know that I differ with him on the matter of Naga nationalism, as antagonistic as that makes me to him. As an honest reflection of listening to Calvary’s whisper, I have made an attempt to change my attitude and my perspective: A person in time, Uncle Jamir as a young lawyer was doing what was a plausible thing to do back then, as his peers thought, though the antithesis remains to this day. What the NPC members resolved was done through limited resources and modes of communication-nothing comparable to the convenience, speed, and collective information at our disposal today. In perspective, the emergence of the State of Nagaland must be placed in its proper historical order. What has happened cannot be undone, but can be built upon to reach the mark. Just as the 16 Point Agreement was not the final answer for the Nagas, it is perfectly honorable to accept the fact of the Government of India signing the Framework Agreement with the NSCN (IM) and the Agreed Positions with the NNPG. Narratives cannot deconstruct the fact and rationale behind the signing of the agreements. Justifying false innocence and attempting to maintain dignity that is already fractured will not work.
In our daily affairs, we have seen friends turn to foes and vice versa. Such a change in tempo can be dangerously toxic, both for the foes and friends alike, precisely because each is directed by the basic human instinct of survival. Sadly, this cause and effect can lead to permanent entanglements. I sincerely believe that Nagas still have a chance to put matters in the right perspective by being creatively imaginative.
Firstly, we must locate and interpret the words and actions of our “turned enemy” seriously as a fallout of political negotiation. In any strategic negotiations resolving an issue takes time. The impending frustration has often led to the demonization of one another. It takes only an emotional outburst to undo the gains of an entire political process. The late President of Egypt Anwar Sadat and the late Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin endlessly demonized each other until US President Jimmy Carter invited both of them to the Camp David Summit.
In this connection, allow me to be more personal. Mr. RN Ravi, to whom I have not talked nor met since his appointment as the Governor of Nagaland state, needs our honest understanding. What changed the interlocutor, who once even said “Kuknalim” to the Naga people? The negative tipping point was the moment whent various parties began demonizing each other, which has led to the present state of affairs. If Mr. RN Ravi was hailed during the initial Framework Agreement and thereafter, what could be the fallout now?
I, as a Naga, call upon my fellows Nagas to reconsider the exposition of our experiences to be determinative of the historical and political rights of the Nagas. Without a doubt, the NSCN (IM) has been at the forefront of the Naga historical and political rights. Nagas will not remain blind to such an accomplishment that has an abiding significance. As befitting a frontal political organization, Nagas expect a leadership that is based on sacrifice, where leaders can accept failures and act with a conviction that is both diplomatic and far-sighted.
Secondly, let us all accept that we have made mistakes in our moments of weakness. In many ways, our “factional” situation is our creation. The currency of hegemonic politics and the currency of “Nagas of Nagaland” have no value in the market of the political destiny of the Nagas. I believe that we can rekindle our camaraderie again. Leaders understand this delicate matter, but the human element remains obstinate. The sooner the players dispose of their false innocence and reclaim dignity, the sooner we can chart a future whose outcome will yield dividends for the Nagas and the GoI.
Finally, the GoI and the Naga political groups must revisit the agreements signed for a comprehensive solution. Equally, the two Naga political Groups must agree to sit at the table without any preconditions. By accepting our differences, unity and reconciliation is far from superfluous. What evolves out of our agreement to accept our differences will be a net-positive social and political transformation, crucially built upon the principle of cooperation. In this regard, Nagas must understand that cooperation is nationalism begun. Nationalism is cooperation at its best.
December 7, 2020
(This message is a personal reflection and does not represent any organization)
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