If at all the video of our Deputy Chief Minister, Y. Patton, allegedly violating code of conduct by wearing a party symbol scarf into the polling booth and casting multiple votes is “inauthentic and ill-intent” as claimed by him, someone must be awfully good at editing videos to be able to put the BJP scarf around our minister’s neck as well as the multiple voters slips handed to him in the video; but of course who can prove he voted multiple times. I know it is not fair to cite this incident alone when it is just one of the many things that happens in Nagaland. But for me, this video came at a time when I was pondering about how dictatorial regimes unfold in societies. I had just returned from a training conducted by the Asian Indigenous Peoples Pact in Chiangmai, Thailand; an opportunity made possible by the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights. In the training, an organization from the Philippines, during their presentation, mentioned how their elected representative, now the President, Rodrigo Duterte, became dictatorial abusing his powers and committing human rights violation. He is also known to have made misogynistic comments towards women rebels like “Shoot them in the vagina”. Yes, it’s absolutely appalling, but what concerned me more was how such situation came to being. The very people who had the power to elect their representatives to power were now completely deprived of the same against the oppression. Was it because people were not actually not educated of their rights? Was it because their institutions were weak? Was it because the people put all their hopes and responsibilities on “the savior”? Whatever it may be for the Philippines representatives who could not answer these questions of mine, they have had a history of empowered people ousting dictatorial regimes and I believe they will again if required. Imagining a dictatorial kind of regime to take over Nagaland will be laughed off by many who think I am way too pessimistic, but I do believe we are on the verge of heading towards such authoritarianism. The fact that a video clearly showing the Dy. CM walking into the polling station allegedly “wearing a party scarf and casting multiple votes” is followed by a rejoinder for the authentication of the same, and everyone, except the opposition party, is silent about it, tells us much about the kind of fear we live under.
I have speculated the various reactions that might have occurred when this video reached people. Most have been angry and argued it on social media, dinners would have had discussions about how the act was too much but concluded that it was nothing new, while some would have laughed off at how this politician always pulls off stunts like this and get away with it, and there would be people who would be just numb about it because they see no hope. I do appreciate the fact that this video went viral, but the question is, has it helped to make anything better? Will it? What kind of message does it give to our younger generation, our children who are being taught to aspire, to change, to be who they want to be, to be ethical? What does it tell struggling parents who sacrifice for their children’s better tomorrow? What hope does it leave to the elderly who can only watch our society wane as their bodies do? I have also wondered what was going on in the minds of those who were lined up behind our minister outside the polling station and the staff at work. Fear is not a characteristic of democracy; no human should live in fear.
Farida Nabourema, a Togolese activist, on TED Talks, notes four features that identify the potentiality of a society heading towards authoritarianism. The first being concentration of power in the hands of few. The second is the idea of leaders acting as “saviours” fighting an external force. The third is the instigation of fear. The fourth is human cruelty. I leave the contextualization to the readers for the first three markers. As for the fourth one, I pray we don’t reach such a situation. But while we have some freedom, we need to remember that someone paid for it and it would only continue if we as a people fight the forces that try to take away our freedom as human beings and enforce fear upon us. Nabourema reminds us that no country is destined to oppression as no country is also immune to the same. We don’t have to wait for some “leader” to comment something as vile as “Shoot them in the vagina!” we have to prevent it.
The Church that propagates for Clean Election should speak now, the civil societies that speak so much for our Naga Solution should begin with this, mothers who cry for women’s rights should mourn this fear that pervades among their children and families, and the elites who influence their thousands of followers from their exciting to mundane updates should oblige. I raise my ordinary voice with the belief on what Nabourema says, “It is the stories of resistance, the stories of defiance, and of resilience that inspire people to get involve; not the stories of abuse and killing and hurt. Because as humans it is only natural for us to get scared.” Let us rise above fear.
PhD candidate, JNU (On E-Mail)
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