Friday, February 23, 2024

Owner’s Pride

Sixty years ago, the first day of December heralded a new dawn and charted a new path for us when the State of Nagaland was created based on the 16-Point Agreement, which was incorporated in the Constitution of India in the form of Article 371 (A). Not all of us favoured this development in our history but differences, disagreements and dissent are integral to the growth of democracy ~ and there for the Grace of God, we survived to see our Diamond Jubilee today and have gained the status of ‘senior’. Article 371 (A) is not perfect, if we look at it from where we stand today, especially in terms of human development index ~ particularly for women ~ but sixty years ago was a different time, unrecognizable today, hence the attitudes, mindset, thinking, values and the ethos were also different. The 1960s were also a time when across the globe societies were throwing off the colonial yoke, which not only disrupted our histories but also destroyed our customs, cultures and traditions, terming them as uncivilized and unchristian. So, the thinking of the authors of the 16-Point Agreement, which resulted in Article 371 (A), was very much in conformity with local, regional, national and global cries for freedom and sovereignty. Sixty years ago, the 16-Point Agreement and later Article 371 (A) was actually ground-breaking and a great achievement ~ much envied by our neighbours even today. If we minutely scrutinize Article 371 (A) today, we can see that it was a pact much ahead of its time, which has secured us in terms of our personhood, customs, cultures, traditions, land and its resources, as well as advantaged us with privileges, rights and freedoms, which indigenous peoples across India are still denied and deprived. No, Article 371 (A) is not perfect but because it is not etched in stone, it is still not too late to amend and enhance it. In fact, after sixty years, it is high time to take a second look at said Article and see where and how it could be more advantageous, constructive and beneficial for the people of Nagaland. If we don’t learn from the years and the decades that we have been blessed with, what good is time to us? All progress in societies and states are a consequence of learning, gaining knowledge and wisdom and acting on them ~ so, unless laws and conventions are made dynamic, society and state stagnates. And, we don’t want our society and state to stagnate, do we? The State of Nagaland is indeed blessed in incomparable ways ~ while we enjoy the rights and liberties of modern democracy under the Constitution of India we also enjoy the unhampered freedom to exercise the values and practices of our customs, cultures and traditions under Article 371 (A). This may be anathema to some, who have a totally different vision of and for Nagaland, but this State has kindled their imagination to aspire for ownership of Nagaland. Clearly, Nagaland’s context, contents and characteristics are such that everyone wants a piece of our State ~ as they say, owner’s pride, neighbour’s envy. The architects of the State of Nagaland deserve all accolades and there is no time better than today. All things considered, everyone, even a lot of people from outside the State, has benefitted from what Nagaland offers ~ and if some haven’t benefitted, it is because they have not recognized and appreciated Nagaland’s worth. Unfortunately, it is only in the later decades of our statehood, we remembered Article 371 (A) and more unfortunately very often we disparaged it more than appreciated it. However imperfect, let us resolve to never forget that said Article is our ‘land patta’, unambiguously establishing our proprietary rights to our home. Our home may not be a palace, but we need to defend, protect, secure and nurture it at all cost. This would mean that politically, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally, we need to change our detrimental ways and re-vitalize Nagaland by eschewing everything damaging to our State’s growth. The architects of our State envisaged Nagaland from their times and trends, now we need to envisage Nagaland from ours. This is where Nagaland’s leadership would need to roll up its sleeves, taking the people with it, to envisage a Nagaland that would contemporize India’s 16th State with the changing national and global milieu.