A path to justice, equality, liberty and fraternity
Dr Aniruddha Babar
“WHOEVER FIGHTS monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
My article titled “Frontier Nagaland-A Land of Unique History, Identity and Destiny” was published on September 22 2022 in Degree of Thought column of Morung Express newspaper. Though widely appreciated, the same gave rise to the public debate which fueled a meteoric rise to a very prominent question as to “WHETHER the Formation of Frontier Nagaland will ‘truly’ give justice to the suffering of the Naga people of the East who have been victimized for decades due to the ‘apathy’ of the Government of Nagaland. WHETHER ‘Frontier Nagaland’ would be able to solve a problem of ‘Failed Governance and positively develop a system different from currently prevailing fractured system of Governance in Nagaland to address genuine concerns and problems of the Backward Tribes.”
While appreciating the encouragement, wisdom and concerns of my learned readers, I am going to systematically address this important issue.
Let us first understand some basics regarding the concepts of Government and Governance. Oxford Dictionary defines Government as the “Group of people who are responsible for controlling a country or a state”. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary says that, Government is the “system of government of a town or an area by elected representatives of the people who live there.” According to ‘Legal Information Institute’ of Cornell Law School “A government can be defined as the body, entity, invested with the power to manage a political unit, organization or more often, a State”. The governing body is oftentimes constituted by officials, ministers forming an active agency invested with the executive power and responsible for the direction and supervision of public affairs. Furthermore, our etymological understanding of the term ‘Governance’ makes us understand that it is the act or process of governing or overseeing the control and direction of something (such as a country or an organization). International Bureau of Education (UNESCO) has been defined Governance to refer to “structures and processes that are designed to ensure accountability, transparency, responsiveness, rule of law, stability, equity and inclusiveness, empowerment, and broad-based participation”. The 2009 Global Monitoring Report sees governance as ‘power relationships,’ ‘formal and informal processes of formulating policies and allocating resources,’ ‘processes of decision-making’ and ‘mechanisms for holding governments accountable.’
Hence, in short, governance is about the culture and institutional environment in which citizens and stakeholders interact among themselves and participate in public affairs and in this exact context we have to understand all the debates surrounding the question of “Frontier Nagaland”.
The Government is primarily an abstract concept unless we realize that it is the human beings who are the nuts and bolts of the system which has been formed to deliver a ‘quality governance’. In the context of the state of Nagaland, State executive consists of Governor and Council of Ministers with Chief Minister as its head. We also have Legislature whos membership is given to all the elected representatives of the people- The MLAs. These are the people who makes decisions in the state assembly on behalf of “We the people of Nagaland”. In Nagaland state assembly we follow 20:40 Formula wherein 20 seats have been allotted to the Eastern region of Nagaland.
The equation is clear. There have been seats allotted to the Eastern region by virtue of which it has limited representation in the state government, which also means that the MLAs and Ministers representing the people of Eastern Nagaland also have to bear share in the success as well as failure of the Government of Nagaland. When we say the ‘apathy’ of the Government, we also understand it in terms of ‘apathy’ exhibited by the REPRESENTATIVES in the government and those were not ‘all’ in entirety from the Forward Tribes. Hence, the people’s representatives / MLAs from Eastern region of Nagaland who appeared on the political horizon of Nagaland State Assembly from time to time too cannot be absolved from their responsibility in throwing the people of Eastern Nagaland in the state of darkness.
Political Powerhouse is a dangerous playground- especially in the context of Nagaland where head of the council of Ministers is abundantly powerful holding important portfolios and political ‘strings’. Therefore, intra cabinet equation also need to be examined in order to explore organic condition in which ‘source’ of Nagaland state policies exist.
It is a naked fact that the Eastern Naga people have been systematically deprived of their rightful share in the development for decades. For instance (as per various sources), under PMJVK (2022-23), the eastern districts were allocated just Rs 11.95 crore out of Rs 279.72 crore. As per the data, Kiphire and Longleng did not have a single project under this scheme. The PMJVK is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme implemented by the Union Ministry of Minority Affairs aimed at developing community infrastructure “in the identified areas with development deficits for socio-economic development of the said areas.” In the priority list of projects under the NEC (2022-23), out of 30 projects for Nagaland, only one project amounting to Rs 3.50 crore was earmarked for the eastern districts. Under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs’ Special Assistance to Tribal Sub-Scheme (2020-21), out of total of Rs 9,09,30,000 for 17 projects, only Rs 1.5 crore was allocated for the eastern districts.
Now, the Question is under what “Policy Wisdom” such allegedly biased allocation have been made? Here, the role and official stand of MLAs/Ministers representing our Eastern people also needed to be questioned. We know that Nagaland is a corrupt state, nothing is hidden here. However, let us also understand that the impact of corrupt practices over Naga people is not at all homogenous. Mal practices/Corruption/ corrupt policies causes more damage to the Eastern Nagas than the Western Nagas. Are the leaders of the Eastern people holding positions in the government aware of this fact? Eastern people and every sensible, public spirited citizen of Nagaland wants to know.
The crux of the problem lies in the fact that powerful became more powerful and the fire of the power have made them all blind and insensitive to the needs of masses who elected them, however; at the same time these powerful people thrown common people under the influence of sedative called “Money” so that they will remain in amnesia and will not utter a single word against such a gross political injustice.
This observation now worries me more. The demand of Frontier Nagaland have been made by the people who have lost so much over the decades, they have sincere belief and hope that the formation of Frontier Nagaland will bring new light, new world- just, fair, egalitarian world-which will be free from ALL kinds of discrimination. Will the Leaders of the East make this dream, vision and aspiration possible? Will the new dynamics and power equations bring justice at the doorstep of common man of Eastern Nagaland? Since ‘Frontier Nagaland’ is a great possibility, Leaders of the East must prepare themselves to answer the questions raised here.
People often asks me as to why do I believe in Frontier Nagaland. I tell them, I believe in Frontier Nagaland because I know nook and corner of Eastern Nagaland more than anybody else in the Western Nagaland, I lived there and I know that the system has completely failed to deliver justice to the region and the people living therein. I believe in the need to form Frontier Nagaland because ‘Political Demography’ dominated by the Western Tribes and Tribal dynamics is something that has become a permanent “Structural reality” of modern day Nagaland which transformed the entire ‘Naga Polity’ into a kind of a tall building without staircase where both the entities i.e. the Easterners and Westerners will remain where they are (unless and until some Messiah arrives on top of the ivory tower of Power, which of course is rare occurrence IN TODAYS WORLD OF SINNERS.)
Formation of Frontier Nagaland is a clarion call given by the forgotten people of the East. It is a demand of the people whose children are working as domestic laborers in the posh houses of influential people in towns like Dimapur, Kohima, Mokokchung (and occasionally also became victims of Domestic abuses/violence) etc. For decades, Eastern region of Nagaland has felt stifled or alienated by Nagaland Government’s decision-making apparatus, which is centred at Kohima. Having secured an institutionalized support for research and preservation of Tenyidie language Government of Nagaland (here Nagaland University to be precise) has ignored the languages of the people of the East- who will set up research centers to preserve Tikhir, Khiamniungan, Sangtam languages which are equally or more endangered in comparison to Tenyidie? There is an important, valuable case of Makury Nagas- they are in minority, but that does not mean they do not have voice. They do not have recognition in Nagaland but considered as a sub-tribe of Yimkhuing Nagas, who will study and preserve their language and culture? Is Makury language not endangered enough? When will the languages of the East find their rightful place in the mainstream academic discourse?
During my Travels to the East I got opportunities to deliver Legal awareness seminars (with the help of translators) at different villages in Tuensang- that is Chungtor and Angangba, Noklak Village in Noklak and also, Khongjiri Village, Kiphire. One old Sangtam Uncle came to me, while appreciating my efforts he said, “Son, what will villagers know about LAW when Constitution of India and other Laws are not available in the spoken language of the people, how will they know their rights? Educated people, who know English can read Law, they easily take advantage of our people because our people CANNOT read Law”. This is the painful reality of the East (situation is similar all over Nagaland as Law Books are not available in local languages but as I mentioned before, the impact of such ‘omissions’ is absolutely fatal over Eastern Naga people in comparison to the Western Nagas or Forward Nagas.).
The responsibility to construct a new world to secure JUSTICE, EQUALITY, LIBERTY AND FRATERNITY for the Eastern people rests in the hands of their leaders. History will keep a watch on them. People believe in their leaders and they whole heartedly support them. Let us understand that, corruption is the only real enemy we have in our Naga society. We do not have any other enemy. People of the East, if they want to build a new world, should remove corruption from the scene, should keep a good watch on their so called political representatives, should learn to have self-respect and refrain from “AUCTIONING” their votes/political support-otherwise they will get to see the clone of Fractured Nagaland rising in the form of FRONTIER NAGALAND.
“ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE EQUAL BUT WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT SOME HUMAN BEINGS SHOULD NOT BE MADE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.”
(Dr Aniruddha Babar is a Professor of Political Science & International Law at Tetso College in Dimapur, Nagaland)
October 02 2022