As the curtain falls on 2023, our era stands at the precipice of profound transformation. In this changing landscape, the Algerian-French philosopher Jacques Derrida’s seminal work, “The Other Heading,” emerges as a guiding light. Amidst rapid globalization, evolving technologies, and the reconfiguration of traditional geopolitical power structures, Derrida’s call for a new way of thinking resonates with a renewed urgency.
Exploring the implications of Derrida’s prophetic imagination in the context of the Naga people, the central question arises: How can the Nagas evolve while preserving the essence of their identity in the face of dramatic socio-cultural-political changes? Rather than dismissing this question with suspicion or pessimism, we must address it with maturity and creative imagination. Indeed, we have an opportunity to find suitable roadmaps and solutions that fit the present-day socio-political reality without obliterating the core essence that is the historical and political rights of the Nagas.
Today, “collective consciousness” is gaining considerable momentum among the Naga people. Nagas are more resourceful, capable, and observant than in the past, and are increasingly in tune with the fact that plurality is an unavoidable reality in our globalized world. Nevertheless, there remains a broad sense that the historical and political paradigms of the Nagas have become stagnant and unsalvageable. Proportionately, the Naga political establishments have struggled to consistently demonstrate fresh, contemporary embodiments of the soul of nationalism. This struggle can be seen as a manifestation of a collective ailment, which is marked by the persistence of lofty and unrealistic expectations that hinder genuine progress and adaptation. So, gathering all hearts and minds together, we must determine to collectively transcend our common pitfalls in order to move forward.
To start, let us right away debunk one-dimensional “purist” ways of thinking that lead to speaking and writing in contempt of “others.”An ascendancy attitude is dangerously toxic because it assumes a moral and political superiority in the individual or the group.Today, a majority of the Naga people are critically aware of the prolonged circumstances of the past three decades and long to break free from a confined mindset. They are saying, “We are not seeking leaders who are flawless deities; rather, we are looking for leaders who are genuinely willing to declare ‘we want to work together.’”
Simply, we must stop being at war with ourselves. We all know that throughout our political history, actors—internal and external—have patronizingly domesticated home-grown personalities to focus on our differences. Regrettably, even today, our politics ends here. Ironically, those individuals who are victims of the “differences” become so bitter to the extent that they themselves contribute to this cycle of division.This negative human psychology must be freed from the self in order to allow Nagas to move forward.
Subsequently, we must be reminded about the rightful platform of the recent Indo-Naga political talks. Legally, the signatories to the talks are with “the largest democratic country in the world [India]” and the NSCN/GPRN and the NNPGs. This is the lawful foundation that the Naga political issue merits a political solution. Nevertheless, given its protracted political history, Nagas have difficult hurdles that they must gently navigate and uniquely position vis-à-vis the Government of India (GoI). In the official process of the political narrative, though there are inevitable ups and downs in temperament, we must ensure that our emotions never engulf the hard-earned trust built between GoI and the Nagas. In the sea of political negotiations, we are all on the same ship. Indeed, it is the rightful duty of everyone on board to protect the ship from crashing waves and ensure that all arrive to shore intact.
Nagas must understand and appreciate the key agents in the peace process. Diplomacy is never an easy undertaking. In times like these, we need to robustly exercise the discipline of refraining from blaming anyone that seemingly differs from us. By the same token, the Nagas must practice a diplomatic reciprocity of common history and belonging among ourselves. These are the basic necessities of our survival.
The fact that GoI has officially signed the Framework Agreement with the NSCN/GPRN and the Agreed Positions with the NNPGs, it will be self-annihilating for the political groups to attempt to undo the other, whether by one group seeking rightness over another, or accusing the other side as “traitors.” The current rhetoric coming out of the jurisdictional and national disputes is a dangerous distraction. Nagas will do well to listen to the age-old political principle that one cannot stand too long by standing on another’s misery. Attempting to “position” oneself only by targeting the other is no position at all. Anger, hate, and pride do not comprise a political position. The seventy years of Naga political narrative is replete with tragic stories of never-ending attacks at the other to no avail. Spectators either feel the loss in dismay, or applaud the failure. Should we continue losing, or should we build a stronger team? The latter is our only option. To build a team, all players, even the most talented, must adhere to collective principles and spirit. Otherwise, even the most talented players are in danger of ruining the team’s dynamics.
As we enter 2024, the immediate goal of the Naga people should be to realistically look forward and move ahead. We must honestly accept and acknowledge the sacrifices made and achievements ushered by the leaders of the Naga political movement; with a high note, we must remember the lives laid down for our tomorrow. The Naga public needs to conceptualize in context the difficulties the leaders of the NPGs face from all fronts. In this, let us guard and tame our lips and pens.
Along with the rest of the world, the Naga people must embark on a journey away from the confines of the Westphalian notion that has historically shaped and constrained our understanding of statehood and nationalism. Till today, starting from our far-seeing pioneers who launched the Nagas on their historic journey, the leaders of the Naga struggle have been the de facto carriers of the historical and political rights of the Naga people. As people alive, Nagas must now begin to visualize clearly the roadmap to how the different Naga houses will look like within the broad Naga Morung. This imagination involves looking at the dynamism of various geopolitical possibilities and the politics of economics and identity as the new language and framework of sovereignty in our postmodern world.
Now, as we embark on a journey beyond traditional notions of statehood and nationalism, the Naga people must actively involve broad sections of its population. Our collective destiny calls for collective action. Let us take a decisive step forward by empowering the Naga citizens—individuals, the civil bodies, student organizations, women groups, and the Church—to gather, define, and muster spiritual, intellectual, moral, and political ecology for our envisioned Naga nation.
(This article is entirely independent of any civil groups or political organizations and solely represents the views and opinions of the author.)