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Are Nagas really ‘honest people’?

Lieutenant General Gopal R., the GOC of 3 Corps commended that Nagaland is ‘the abode of honest and most hospitable people’ in his address to the gathering at Kisama which appeared in local papers on the 10th December, 2018. I would have accepted the comment silently if the word ‘Honest” is not included in his speech, and when so, that would not have caused embarrassment. I am not honest both in the sight of God and man, and as such I feel much embarrassed and uncomfortable. Or else,had the GOC said that Nagas were honest would have been realistic. And yet, I have no right to question the GOC why did he say that. It is the liberty of the GOC or for anyone to say whatever one likes to comment. Nagaland is not totally bereft of honest people contemporarily speaking as much as Sodom and Gomorrah except that the shortage of the requisite figure of honest people living in the latter cities provoked God to extirpate the cities. Indeed, it is for the Nagas to introspect ourselves as to whether our integrity commensurate what was stated. It is a challenge to Naga community leaders in particular.
As for Naga hospitability, it may be true to great extent although we may not be the best host. By culture we do not allow a stranger to become host-less for the night particularly at rural villages. We have learnt more of the need of hospitability from Christian culture. Moreover, the GOC, being the Chief Guest, was perhaps showered with Naga niceties as a chief guest deserves. I am not very fond of festivals after festivals led by thin creamy layer in the State against the backdrop where majority of its citizens do not have sufficiency to make both ends meet, and therefore, I seldom take interest. Therefore, I do lack personal experience of how hospitable the hosts of the ordinary visitors are at Kisama or at night carnivals. Whereas, there is another story of hospitability running parallel as I overheard from local visitors that the rates of both eatables or any item on sale are less reasonable. Should the inspiration of greed take over the better of the hosts, the Naga hospitability faces minus point. Yet, should there be any misdemeanour this time, it is not the end of the road. We have chance to make improvement with better rationality in future.
As for Naga honesty, the past tense is true. Nagas in the past were honest. Not only honest but they were very, very simple, humble, hardworking and brave. One of the best examples of Naga honesty and simplicity is what I do not forget a story relayed to me by a fellow friend in lighter moment of sharing jokes. During the British rule in India, a Naga was serving the jail term in a prison in Assam for what crime I do not know. During summer, when the cultivators had to cultivate their fields and failing which the family will go hungry in the next year, the prisoner felt the urge to go home and attend to his fields. The Naga prisoner therefore applied for leave for a certain period of time with the promise that he would rejoin the prison on expiry of the leave period. Though there was no such permissible rule, perhaps, to test the integrity of the Naga prisoner, leave was granted. The prisoner went home, completed his field works and exactly as promised, he returned to complete his jail term. This is one specimen of Naga honesty. I, myself, was a witness to Naga bravery in late 1968 where one of the villagers groupings under the force of Indian army that took place at my village. In an intensive combing operation, a temporary jungle camp of Naga army was found where substantial amount of fresh pork was found in the camp. In the evening grouping, the commander of Indian army insisted to identify the donor of the pig and in the process several young male youth were bashed up. The total scene became frightful and painful and that forced a 60 plus old man to voluntarily face the wrath of intoxicated army cadres by standing in the crowd to be the donor of the pig. Whereas, he was never the owner of the animal, but it was part of the ration given by the Village to Naga army. Instantly, he was segregated and assaulted black and blue. This is the Naga simplicity and bravery. I am therefore proud of those cherish-able memories.
Yet, one is saddened to observe the contemporary Nagas as to how we manage our affairs and how we treat one another. If Nagas are honest, could Nagaland become the most expensive State in its Assembly elections? If Nagas are honest, can our roads remain the worst in the country? (At the very moment, repairs of few roads in Kohima is appreciable). If Nagas are honest, can the release of salaries of Govt. employees be held up for months together? If Nagas are honest, how a Govt. Directorate dared to spend Rs. 40 lakh for a retirement farewell meeting? If Nagas are honest, how the responsible authorities gave loans to their staff at the expense of students scholarships? If Nagas are honest, how public health centres and Govt. schools are not manned effectively by manpower whereas the Directorates and Secretariat are overcrowded with excess staff? If Nagas are honest, how the officers posted in the Capital possess brand new vehicles and those posted to interior areas are given rotten second hand vehicles? If Nagas are honest, how the governance of today dichotomised the citizens of Nagaland into employable clan and unemployable clan? If Nagas are honest, how people in power, bothpoliticians and bureaucrats, are too conscious of personal benefits and determinedly unconscious of common welfare to the extent of privatising the post one holds? Etc., etc.
The overall Naga situation is grim because we do not have people of today taking the right initiatives for reformative measures. With these ground realities at heart, when we are rated better than what exactly we are, one is made to blush under the weight of probable sarcasm rather than delight due to our own fault.
Z. Lohe