Wednesday, January 20, 2021
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Monalisa Changkija

When a young housewife with little children finds herself unexpectedly widowed, what does she do? Moan and groan that it was the first time it happened to her and she has no precedent to go by? Or, pull herself up and do something to feed her little ones and send them to school? This was and is the reality of millions of women across the globe. There are millions of stories of widows who have looked at the reality they face, drew on their inner strength to rise above their most difficult situations, focused on solutions and have emerged winners. Winners do not waste time on problems and constraints but focus on solution. That is why I find it so juvenile when some people justify our state Government or any Government’s failure to handle the crises brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic as something, which is happening for the first time and is unprecedented.

History is full of “first times” and the “unprecedented”. For every individual or community too life is full of “first times” and “unprecedented”. Each moment brings the new and the novel, hitherto un-experienced, even unimagined. That is what makes life so interesting, exciting and challenging. That is what lends significance to the saying “when the going gets rough, the tough gets going”. And the tough needs no appreciations, gratitude and acknowledgement. The tough does what must be done and move on with life. Today, in Nagaland, we feel the need to publicly acknowledge, appreciate and convey gratitude even for what needs to be done and what we are morally and constitutionally obliged to do and paid to do. This is the servile colonial mindset that continues to imprison us and prevent us from owning the rights we are guaranteed by our Constitution as citizens of a democratic country. Yes, it is always good to acknowledge, appreciate and to be grateful but there is a time, a place and an occasion for that in a democratic nation because what the Constitution guarantees to us must not been perceived as a favour done to us by any Government. I will not elaborate further but just state that we must know our place and that of the Government’s, as clearly enunciated by the Preamble to our Constitution, which states:

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all FRATERNITY
assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this 26th day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

Never has a reminder to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution been more pertinent than at this time of the pandemic. We can live the rest of our lives acknowledging, appreciating and being grateful to our Government, any Government, for what they are morally and constitutionally obliged to do and live as subjects or demand and own our rights as citizens of a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic ~ because it is We, the People, that have solemnly resolved to constitute India as such, not any Government. The point here is that the people deserve the unambiguous best ~ not what the Government thinks is the best it can do/deliver. Therefore, there is no reason to acknowledge, appreciate and be grateful for what the Government thinks is the best it can do/deliver, which could be neither here nor there ~ and we can see that clearly. So, if we believe that we have elected the best to form the Government, we must also not short-charge ourselves from receiving the best from the Government. Ultimately, what matters most in any self-respecting democracy is for the people to be aware, educated and enlightened about our status in such a democratic dispensation. Otherwise, we will remain subjects in an imagined and ersatz democracy. And we can see that has happened in the past few decades. The Coronavirus pandemic has actually given us the opportunity to change our erroneous perceptions, perspectives and our reality. It has given us the opportunity to reclaim ourselves as citizens of a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic, not kow-towing subjects of a simulated political dispensation created by political parties, as also non-political organizations including non-state groups.

When Nagaland got statehood in 1963, it was also the “first time” for our pioneering bureaucracy, not least the then political class, who had no precedents to follow. But they rose to the occasion, making the best of what they had in terms of education, exposure, human and other resources and improvising as situations demanded. They just had the Constitution and their common sense to go by. These were the pioneers, who laid the foundations of the State of Nagaland we call home today. Their brief was clear and they found ways and means to get them done ~ simply because they focused on solutions, not on the problems and constraints. Since the pandemic and the lockdown thereof till now when our returnees are coming home, what we see is not only our Government’s shortcomings and failures but also its inability to confront the new challenges posed by the pandemic. In short, our Government has shown a marked incapability to be creative, innovative and experimental in the face of a situation that demands boldness and daring. Our Government seems to be quite incapable of understanding and appreciating how very much the pandemic has changed the canvas of the hitherto “normal” or the usual politicking and governance. Our Government, so far, is simply unable to rise up to the occasion. Our Government also seems not only quite unsure of its roles and responsibilities in a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic but also unable to read the mood of the people, who are not only full of fear and apprehensions ~ not surprisingly since the day our first COVID-19 patient was referred to Assam for treatment and what ensued thereafter till today ~ but also the disappointment and the sense of abandonment therefore the anger, the rage, building up in the people for having being short-changed so callously.

Perhaps someone thought it would be a brilliant idea to send returnees to their respective districts but this has only created more schisms in Naga society. This goes against the very grains of Naga unity. At the time of writing this, we have not heard a single word about this from our Government. The fact is that even politics will no longer be what it was pre-pandemic although our political parties may still harbor the illusion that that money alone will make people toe the line. The fact is too many people have suffered and suffering always creates new persons. In all likelihood, the experience of the 80 million or so migrants in India will change the political landscape of the country. The much touted “new normal” is fraught with all kinds of possibilities and probabilities. No political party or Government in India can take anything for granted any longer. And, history is evidence to the fact how presiding powers deal with “first time” and the “unprecedented” have always changed the directions and destinies of individuals, nations and certainly Governments. Right now, the numerical majority seems to be in an unassailable position of power but it takes minutes to change things in politics. And, today increasingly even in a state like Nagaland, the power of technology can go either way ~ with the winner being a surprise ~ a “first time” and “unprecedented”.

Indeed, if we live in fearsome times, we also live in interesting times. What will decide the winners will be common sense, creativity, imagination, improvisation, innovation, sensitivity, boldness, courage and bravery to do things hitherto not done, and most certainly not in the rule books, but necessary to steer a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular and Democratic Republic defy and defeat a threat that is so immediate, so real and so deadly. Only those who have risen up to “first times” and the “unprecedented” have survived all new normals ~ and there have been too many in the past.

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