Post Mortem

The anatomy of culture

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 12/5/2018 12:35:07 PM IST

 Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Penguin, 1996) present a new dynamics of conflict and balance of power that would shape world’s politics of 21st century. The focal point of Huntington’s thesis, which is west’s perspective of the world of post-cold era, identify “culture” as a new paradigm for conflict among the different ethnic group within the nations of the world. The conflict of the west/world shifted from ideological to an identity issue/conflict, giving rise to the idea of identity and ethnic consciousness, which he called it “Cultural conflicts”.

The fall of Soviet Union in 1991 and the subsequent culmination of the cold war in Europe marked an end of an era of nationalism on a large scale and make way for the emergence of ethnic consciousness among the different groups of people in Europe. The idea of Soviet Union built on the foundation of organized whole of national identity, created in 1917, was broken into a smaller cultural and ethnic entities in 1991. This political development in east Europe marked the beginning of the process of fragmentation in the understanding of the idea of “nation” and paves the way for the emergence of development of common political aspiration towards establishing a free nation among the smaller ethnic groups.

The rise of identity politics in the aftermath of the cold war means people no longer subscribed to a broad-based political ideology that could bind peoples of different ethnic groups. The concept of “nation” is now understand and define in term of ethnic, cultural and religious identity/s.

The immediate fallout of this fragmented political process of Europe based on identity politics is the rise of the consciousness of nationalistic fervor among smaller ethnic groups all over the region. The rebirth of German nationalism and the eventual reunification of the country, the disintegration of Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) into 15 independent states, the split of Czechoslovakia, the fall of Balkan state, and the idea of independent Scotland and Catalonia gained momentum among its people during this period of modern European history.

A notable reference in the book is the prospect of the emergence of Southeast Asia, where most of the ethnic groups of Northeast India shares their socio-cultural affinity with the people of this region, as a major economic superpower that could counter western hegemony over the world. A popular “medical metaphor” – “even a high fever in America will not make Asia cough” (Ibid pp 107) sum up the rise of the Asia’s influence in the world independent of the west.

An interesting feature in this Huntingtonian civilisational clash vis-à-vis the emergence of Southeast Asia is India’s interest in this particular region and how India’s politics of engagement in the region could impact Northeast India and its people, where the region has its own share of ethnic and identity consciousness and a quest for right to self determination based on ethnic lines that is popularly existed.

India initiates its own post-cold war foreign policy in the form of engaging with the Southeast Asian countries under Look East Policy (renamed as Act East Policy under NDA-2). This new policy of engagement was necessitated as she has to look for new reliable partners following the disintegration of Soviet Union, which India closely works with during the cold war days.

It is noteworthy to examine the picture of Northeast India within the scope of Look East Policy (hereafter LEP). India’s LEP promises to the North East region and its people a new development paradigm upon which it would take the region to the path of development as well as serve the interest of the people. Along with the development, it is aimed at setting the stage for a new phase of peace, progress and prosperity in the region. Long regarded as a region isolated from the mainstream pace of development in India, this policy offers to the region a kind of opportunity whereby the North East India’s region can become a gateway to the emerging third world countries specially the South East Asian countries. The LEP is based on the assumption that if India can successfully engage with these countries it would boost its economy and, at the same time, the region particularly would benefit immensely from it. 

While the immediate benefit that the region would receive through this initiative is always the talking point, the probable impact that in turn could affect the region seems to be ignored and sidelined. Considering the interest of the region is therefore very important as India moves forward to implement this grand project. While acknowledging that developmental activities in all aspect in North East region as a whole is the need of the hour, it should ensure that interest of the locals, especially, the common masses should be represented. 

The proposed India’s continental route to South East Asia through North East poses a great challenge to the region and the people in particular. While this grand proposal had, as is perceived, a lot to offer to the region, it can also be viewed as a threat to the region when the interest of the local populace can be ignored on the pretext of development. Caught in the middle of two different civilizations, this relatively backward region could turn into a state of chaos whereby the people of this region may face adversity in the midst of socio-economic imbalances and exploitation of resources. 

This New Delhi’s project of making an inroad to Southeast Asia via Northeast India would be disastrous for the region unless it circumspect and examine, both by the people of the region and the mainstream India, the perceived challenge faced by the region through this project and also how it would affect the economic and social life of the people. It need to discuss the need and necessities of the locals taking into account the present economic and social condition of the region, and require proper policy recommendation with the outlook that it would not only represent the interest of the common people but also serve the region that would be beneficial to all section of people. 

The grand promise of LEP for the people of Northeast is one thing. The rise of religious extremism and fundamentalism and the majoritarian communal politics had an adverse impact in the region. Fringe elements have started intruding and vitiating the peaceful atmosphere of the region as New Delhi’s divisive politics, resorting to divide and rule policy and pitting one ethnic community against another has badly affected the fine social equilibrium that had existed in the region for centuries. This region and the diverse tribal communities inhabiting here, so far, were never ever been exposed to such a politics of binaries and antagonism though the rampant disease has already affected other parts of the nation mostly.

Of late Northeast India become the most disturbed region in India not only because of insurgency problem but also internecine clashes taking place periodically between ethnic communities of the region with an alarmingly high frequency. In the recent past the state of Manipur witnessed series of ethnic conflict between Kukis and Meiteis, Meiteis and Nagas and Nagas and Kukis which led to loss of so many precious lives, and many were rendered homeless. Such type of conflict and bloodshed between indigenous ethnic communities marred the present social and political feature of Manipur as well as the rest of the states of the region. In effect, the movements for the right of the different ethnic communities have been degraded to hill-valley divide and ethnic warfare between ethnic communities of the region.

The tragic outcome of this prevailing reality in the region is that many youths from the states of the region poured out to other states of India in search of livelihood. At home there is no scope of job for the youths as the system that was supposed to create job was thoroughly mismanaged. A youth belonging to the region has to see various constraints when he chooses to stay back at home for job or studies or business purpose; first of all, he will have to see that being a member of a particular ethnic group, whether the place is safe or not for him and is inhabited by which ethnic group – whether inimical or friendly to his community. Ethnic animosity is the major threat to the peaceful co-existence of all indigenous communities here. Question of life and death arises even for a visit and short stay far less than doing an occupation in a place hostile to his ethnic group. 

It may be remembered during the Kuki-Naga clash in Manipur that went on for years there were a large number of internal migrations of both communities. In the later period when there were conflicts between Kukis and Meiteis, many Kuki colonies in Imphal valley were deserted by Kukis who fled to hills. Kuki-Paite clash, Kuki-Hmar clash, Meitei and Meitei-Pangal clash etc were not exception to the kind of phenomena. Too much internal displacements and migrations cutting across ethnic lines made Manipur a place where people don’t get options for occupational mobility. That is the reason why there is constant outpouring of the people of the land to other places. In such circumstances, the question of converting the region into a “land of opportunity” under any given project does not arise at all.

The hidden agenda of the perpetrators/conspirators for raising the propaganda such as inter ethnic conflicts in the regime, declaring it as “disturb area”, in order to legitimize its illegal occupation of the region, unleashed fear psychosis and instill fear to all ethnic groups through imposition of majoritarian communal politics making the life of the natives most vulnerable in their own land. Taking into consideration the realities of the issue, the “look east” or “act east policy”, whatever may be the name, would only be a political tool for exploitation of the people of the region and can never be free from the elements of deception under the authoritarian rule of New Delhi.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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