BY PATRICIA MUKHIM
The people of Nagaland have been through a protracted conflict that is as long as India ‘s independence. The younger generation of Nagas were born in the conflict and were told narratives by their elders about the cruelty of the Indian state in trying to contain what it saw as a secessionist movement. Many decades down the line the contours of the conflict have changed and different vested interests have developed who want the conflict to continue because conflict has itself spawned an economy of its own – the smuggled arms economy being just one of them.
India’s greatest statesman in post independence India – a man with a vision larger than his Party- AB Vajpayee, started the peace talks with the NSCN (IM) in 1997 because this was the group that appeared to consolidate the Naga aspirations of both Nagaland and Manipur and also seemed to have a sort of unstated consensus to take forward the peace talks.
The talks dragged on for 17 long years and meanwhile the younger generations of Nagas, have to my mind, begun the journey of integration with the larger Indian mindspace, because of the pursuit of education in institutions across the country (considering that educational institutions in Nagaland and Manipur have been allowed to decay on account of the conflict). This young generation are already resigned to the fact that they are Indians inasmuch as the Khasis or Mizos or Bodos are who were little independent republics when the British arrived to administer this territory which until then had not known what the term Indian actually implies.
Post 1947 history for us was rewritten. We became Indians for better or for worse and moved on. The Nagas hold a part of their past as a sacred trust. But times have changed and the changes demand so much from us as a nation. It’s time to think like Dr Kalam did of the country and it’s larger interests while not giving up our democratic spaces to demand what is just and due from those who are elected to deliver governance. It would be a great step forward for the Nagas to add their indigenous wisdom in strengthening the threads of this peace process which more than ever before requires collective wisdom. Women have to redefine their roles in this new dispensation and not allow tradition to reinforce patriarchal mindsets and values. This is a modern, progressive Nagaland we are looking at, not a Nagaland stuck in a time warp. The recent signing of an accord is only the first step. The Naga people, known for their deep understanding of politics and society and economy will have to play that larger role now and the Naga diaspora and scholars must give direction to this process. We who have been friends, neighbours and well-wishers of the Naga people wish them the best as they undertake this new journey into a future that beckons especially the younger generation of Nagas to rebuild Nagaland and make it a place where hopes and dreams will find fulfilment.
For us in the media who have long been trained to report conflict it will now be another journey. Reporting peace is a subject that is new to us. We need to give our pens a new direction. For scholars who have dissected conflict for decades it is now time to reformat the lenses. These are challenges that must be overcome.
It is easy to become a spoiler for peace. It is a tougher call to build peace.
(Patricia Mukhim is editor, The Shillong Times)