NEW DELHI, JULY 22: It is always the most difficult thing to assess the contributions of Naga politicians of the ’60s and ’70.
It is certainly more complex a business when one tries to analyse the life and career of a Chakhesang Naga politician. I think, by nature, Chakhesangs have unique mannerisms and styles.
Late Vejoi Vero, who breathed his last on Friday, July 22, was the one who epitomized the mood of the ’70s and even the subsequent decade. He was elected thrice in 1977, 1982 and 1987.
In today’s assessment, they could be easily called ‘the failure of earlier values’.
My first meeting with him, if memory serves right, was in the presence of veteran Vizol at the latter’s house. After Vizol introduced Vejoi Sahab to me, the former legislator from Phek started in a lighter vein: “I was a Minister and Vizol a Chief Minister, but at times I was ‘almost’ more powerful than him.”
Vizol was smiling in his own style shyly. Late Vero continued, “You journalists will never understand the power of the word ‘almost’. I will say, almost all Nagas tribes are highly democratic.”
I was really puzzled and so I asked, “Why ‘almost’?”
He laughed out loud. Then Vejoi Vero said: “This is your problem. As a journalist working in Nagaland, you must know the power of the word ‘almost’. A day will come, you will realise what I am stating.”
Circa 2022, as I got the message of his death, the first thought that came to my mind was his remarks about the word ‘almost’.
Lost in thought for a while, I realised perhaps he was right. We are really at a crossroads. We are ‘almost’ at peace, yet maybe very far off. As a nation, maybe we have ‘almost’ settled most problems in this country and are marching ahead, but again we realise we are ‘almost’ stuck with something silly.
Politicians and journalists easily make strange and uneasy bedfellows. We two categories of people could be on the same boat ~ ‘almost’, but yet again we could be diametrically opposite to each other.
Both ~ the neta class and we journalists are generally ‘almost anarchists’ ~ whereas our life would demand us to be disciplined, responsible and dutiful.
True, Vejoi Vero was too right.
A former Law student from Mumbai, Vejoi had a good grasp over rural politics.
I remember referring to him once again sometime later on the word ‘almost’ and why he said Naga tribes are ‘almost’ democratic. Did he mean there would be certain exceptions?
He had clarified, “As individuals, Nagas are male chauvinists. Apuni maiki asey naaki (Are you all women here), we say such a thing very casually to anyone who would suggest calmness or reconsideration for certain decisions.”
Yes, he perhaps really understood the Naga mindset very well. Many people of his era would understand that.
But more remarkably, he understood the concept of rural politics and powers of institutes like Gaon Burahs very well.
Once I wanted to understand the ‘real’ difference between the concept of Dobashis and Gaon Burrahs.
Vejoi Vero explained that so well and stated that Dobashis were more powerful because they had judicial powers although the original purpose of creating ‘Dobashis (people who knew two languages) was translating the language of villagers to the British officers.
He had explained that Gaon Burrahs became ‘more popular’ and they “almost ran village administrations”, but had no judicial powers.
Vejoi Vero further said it is Gaon Burrahs who later popularised certain practices such as “settling property or even petty criminal disputes by paying or giving away a cow or a pig”.
It was much later, he had argued that cash flow came into the system and that legitimized the corruption menace.
His diagnosis of Naga political problem was also unique; but these ought to be taken more on philosophical context.
“I think, we have almost solved the Naga problem. But then at times we develop hesitation ~ etu Koribo lagey, na nae. But this hesitation generally comes with our inexperience. The absence of decision was never the main challenge”, he had said so beautifully.
Maybe he was right. Once he asked me, “When did you visit Phek last time?”
I said, “I was there during wrestling championship with Mr Vamuzo.”
Vejoi Sahab was at his best ~ “The Chief Minister (Vamuzo) is making a good house in Phek, wrestling was just an excuse.”
Well, it is difficult to share more things of humour on the day he has left us for heavenly abode.
People like Vejoi Vero would always make one believe that a political life is one of selflessness. My homage to the departed soul.