Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Dream and reality

Nagaland will be 59 years on December 1,2022 and the journey has been nothing short of historic. Statehood was birthed in the blood and tears of thousands. On December 1,1963, people in the sleepy town of Kohima, the scene of the famous ‘Battle of Kohima’, woke up to clear blue sky on that bright sunny Sunday morning to make their tryst with destiny as citizens of the 16th state under the Indian union. There was excitement and at the same time apprehension on that day, when the second President of India Dr.S.Radhakrishnan came to formally inaugurate the new state which came about after signing of the 16 Point Agreement in 1960 between the Naga People’s Convention(NPC) and the government of India. The excitement was about the attainment of Nagaland statehood, the second state in the region carved out of Assam, opened wide the dreams of its pioneers and doors of opportunity to the people. To guarantee the deal, the government of India also provided constitutional protection to the Naga way of life in the form of Article 371A. The apprehension was that the Naga National Council(NNC) which had rejected statehood and reaffirmed Naga political sovereignty, would continue with opposition to statehood which was described as a “sell out”. Thus the occasion was a mixed celebration between exhilaration and apprehension among the public. People of in the then Naga Hills and Tuensang Frontier Division, went through a horrifying experience during the highs and lows of the political movement which since the late 40s saw the spread of Naga nationalism across the erstwhile Naga Hills District and Tuensang Frontier Division. Statehood came after years of untiring efforts put in by the leaders of the Naga People’s Convention(NPC) to find a way out of the horrors of undeclared war in Naga hills and the atrocities committed on the people by armed police and security forces. Statehood day on December 1, 2022 will also unveil the annual Hornbill Festival which has evolved as a carnival of sorts which has earned both national and international acclaim. Hornbill this year will be celebrated with some disappointment since the seven tribes from eastern Nagaland –Changs, Konyaks, Khiamniungans, Phoms, Yimkhiungs, Tikhirs and Sangtams- have decided to abstain from participating in the cultural programme. The Eastern Nagaland People’s Organisation(ENPO), the apex organisation of the seven tribes, resolved that none of its tribe affiliates will participate at the Hornbill 2022 in support of the demand for a separate Frontier Nagaland State comprising of six of the 16 districts. It is unfortunate that nearly 60 years of statehood borne through unity in difficult times, today has turned inwards. The celebration of Nagaland statehood besides the Hornbill entertainment mania, does not hide the fact that the progress of the 16th state is being bogged down by various issues that have not been handled wisely because the later generation of leaders, after the 70s, have made governance a low priority. The emphasis on Naga culture, tradition and uniqueness has been reduced to show casing and seminars or speeches or organizing programmes for prayers within the four walls. Culture and tradition needs to be relevant to the need of the day-imbibing the best of the past to meet the needs of the present.

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