A Flight of the Hornbill- Educate, Agitate, Organise
Dr Aniruddha Babar
“There is in this world, no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained”, – WEB Du Bois.
Today’s Nagaland is no longer a Nagaland of the past. Since its formation it has undergone great transformation. The pioneering western tribes of Naga society greatly benefitted due to the formation of the state and those in the houses of who even the ‘sunshine’ could not entered remained where they were.
Historically Ignored during British Raj by London since 1832, Disregarded by Delhi since 1947, Oppressed by Kohima since 1963, our Eastern people left to be rotten in the slush of the systematically imposed misery and suffering for at least close to two centuries. Eastern Naga people have never had any political savior in the political history of Nagaland. Congress ruled New Delhi for more than seventy years. Kohima was ruled by Nagaland Nationalist Organization, United Democratic Front, Naga National Democratic Party, United Democratic Front- Progressive, Indian National Congress, Nagaland People’s council, Naga People’s Front, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party throughout the last sixty years. Nothing changed in the life of Eastern Naga People. Central Government of the past never bothered to take a look at the events were unfolding in the Nagaland nor did the ruling party and its government ever have any real interest in addressing the issues of ‘FORGOTTEN’ people of the Eastern region of the state. Kohima’s administrative apparatus continuously developed and implemented ‘discriminatory policies’ against Eastern Naga people, Central Government in those days sitting mute at the center remained just a spectator. WHY? Only the wise men know.
Roads, Bridges, Smart city, Hospitals, Shopping complexes, Trade centers, Restaurants, University, Quality communication network, systematic transportation system etc. have been built in West but East remained as thirsty and deprived as ever. Financial assistance that comes from the center to address the infrastructural issues and economic disparity in the eastern region never reached to them. MLAs representing the region of Eastern Nagaland have perpetually been thrown at the mercy of their forty strong counterparts from western region due to tactfully played number game (20/40 legislative assembly seat formula) that is blatantly biased in favor of the western Nagas. Reservation policy that was introduced in 1977 for backward tribes in the eastern region failed to address the core of the principles of social justice. Major towns like Tuensang which once was a center of the power have been systematically thrown in the corner without giving any due ‘Policy Attention’. Despite suffering from the long list of systematically ‘politically imposed odds’, discriminatory practices and discriminatory policy initiatives Tikhir, Khiamniungan, Chang, Yimkhiung, Phom, Sangtam, Konyak continued to participate in HORNBILL FESTIVAL since its beginning in the year 2000 without fail. They never said NO.
The direction of wind in Nagaland has now been changed. Eastern Naga people have become educated. They started reading ‘Constitution of India’, they started learning about their rights as ‘people’, they started discovering that nobody bothers about them-the mainstream Naga intelligentsia, academicians/researchers (Kohima, Dimapur, Mokokchung fame), poets, writers, armchair Naga theorists, people from creative circles, Naga nationalist ideologues/thinkers/activists; nobody is interested in them, they started discovering as to how unjust and brutally their kids- who are being used as domestic servants in the houses of rich people in the western region are being treated, they started discovering their insufficient representation in the legislative assembly as well as government service sector, they started realizing as to how their rights as the free citizens of free India has been systematically violated by the state machinery, they reached to the realization as to how Kohima has been continuously using them as nothing else but just a ‘CASH COW’ and ‘POLITICAL PAWNS’.
The naked truth of modern day politics of Nagaland which Eastern people courageously allowed themselves to witness with naked eyes-made them severely agitated and through that burning agitation, helplessness, cold anger and iron determination born the great organized, democratic, constitutional revolt in the modern political history of the state of Nagaland- the historic movement for “Frontier Nagaland”-a constituent state in the Union of India which is of the people, by the people, for the people.
The epic boycott of Hornbill Festival is nothing but a democratic protest of all the Eastern people through their organizations to claim their constitutional rights which have been violated in the last sixty years; through the separate State of Frontier Nagaland. The constitution of India gives right to the people and their organizations to initiate peaceful protest through democratic means to achieve political victory.
It is truly surprising to see as to how the state government of Nagaland has been continuously trying direct-indirect methods to get the Eastern Tribes participate in the Hornbill Festival. In India right to make a choice do exist. Individuals and their organizations have a valid right to choose to say ‘NO’ to the request for participation in the Hornbill Festival.
Boycott of internationally acclaimed, highly prestigious ‘event’ like Hornbill Festival has created a history. It has become national and international news. The generations of the Nagas and also the entire India will remember the ‘courageous stand’ of the awakened Eastern Nagas. What can be more important than restoration of human values, claiming the lost rights and resurrecting the dead human hopes to live in the better, humane world?
Hornbill Festival instantly loses its meaning for the Eastern Naga people in the context of the resurrection of the ‘Frontier Nagaland”. Let us not forget, the state of Nagaland was possible only because of Eastern region (erstwhile ‘Tuensang Frontier Division’, a distinct, independent administrative entity)-which in the passage of time became ‘Backyard’ of the state.
As I am writing this piece at 2 am in the morning, ENPO leaders and the convener of the talk team must be eagerly waiting for the morning to catch their flight to the New Delhi to argue the historic case of ‘Frontier Nagaland’ before the Home Minister.
ENPO is holding a historic responsibility. The heavy burden of history is on their shoulders. The outcome of their stand and actions will be permanently recorded in the history. The men fighting for the cause of ‘broken, forgotten world’ will forever are evaluated by the time and the history.
As a regular traveler (Road farer) to the East, I have witnessed the suffering of the Eastern Nagas with my own eyes. I have lived in the region. I suffered myself too during my ‘travels’ to the east and the ‘stay’ there on different occasions and circumstances. I have climbed Mt Saramati (multiple times) and almost unknown Mt Khelia king as well, explored dense forests and the dangerous mountain ranges of Indo-Myanmar Border that one can seldom imagine, I think, hopefully, I understand Eastern Nagaland and Eastern Nagas much better than any non-Naga or a western Naga (except may be handful of government officials, who knows).
I believe I have discovered my own ‘truth’ in the ‘suffering’ of Eastern Nagaland which helped me discover the aims of my life as well.
Nagas are one, there is nothing that can really separate the Nagas, however let the Eastern people have their breathing space-they have been suffocating since ages due to now pathetic, irreparable Nagaland state machinery, perpetual apathy of Kohima and the unhealed damage it caused to them. Naga unity is not based on false ideas of political/geographical boundaries but founded on the rock solid foundation of ‘Divine principle’, how can that divine principle be shattered? We all are one, shall remain one, our destiny is one-our real strength lies in our diversity and also the differences that we freely share. Frontier Nagaland, once become a reality, will strengthen Naga Unity.
Frontier Nagaland Movement is not just a movement of Eastern Nagas but I think it is a movement of all those who believe in ‘Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity’. In this dead world, where man is forever condemned to run behind hollow ideals of sex, money, power and wealth- let us, for a change, have courage to stop-and stand for human values too.
I often imagine Eastern Nagaland as a Hornbill Bird which has been kept caged in amnesia for ages. Now the Hornbill has awakened. He is still weak but very much alive and kicking. He is ready to take his maiden flight- waiting eagerly to break open the ‘prison’ and fly in the ‘Blue’ Sky-freely, unafraid- right under the ‘beak’ of evil ‘Hawks’.
(Dr Aniruddha Babar is a Professor of Political Science & International Law at Tetso College in Dimapur, Nagaland)
December 02 2022