‘Naga society always had a habit of not allowing young people to speak up’
Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2017 said, “As the world changes with unprecedented speed, young people are proving to be invaluable partners who can advance meaningful solutions”.
Meanwhile, youths have been recognized as the ‘backbone’ of a nation across the world. However, youth in Naga society continues to be voiceless in making significant decisions about their future and their world.
Talking to Mokokchung Times, Convenor of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, Rev Dr Wati Aier said, “Our Naga society, particularly the Aos, always had a habit of not allowing young people to speak up. But only now I realized it was so wrong.”
He narrated how he apologized to the youths in one of his speeches at Clark Theological College last week for silencing the youths and never giving them an opportunity in the past to share their opinion to the elders. He viewed that youths today are more aware, educated and learned and that many youths wish to promote social justice, equality through unity and peace.
“It is time we elders need to swallow our pride and allow the young people to lead,” he said.
Er Moa Aier in his December 2015 article titled, “Role of youth in nation building – with special reference to Nagas” which was published on Mokokchung Salangtem Ward Youth 50th Anniversary Celebration Souvenir wrote:
“Today, we Nagas are like that retiring carpenter when it comes to Nation building. We are not sure whose nation we are trying to build, and under which government we are living. Consequently, we are half-hearted in our attempts. If we say, “Kuknalim” we are liable to be called anti-national by the Indian army and maybe arrested, tortured or even killed under AFSPA. If we say “Jai Hind”, we are again liable to be called anti-national by different Naga groups and harassed. So, what is “national” and what is “anti-national”? If we don’t know “which nation”, how can we build it with care? Such a situation has put tremendous psychological pressures upon our youth today that we are confused and end up doing nothing – at best, or become a liability to society.”
Therefore, he argued that the main role of the Naga youth today to contribute in nation building would be to firstly, identify where they stand. What they stand for. And how much they are willing to work, serve and sacrifice for it. Thirdly, he pointed out the need for a whole new generation of Naga youth entrepreneurs – entrepreneurs with knowledge, innovation and skills.
“To regain our sovereignty, we must first economically be able to stand on our own feet. To economically develop, we need entrepreneurs. A person that works hard. Not the present mad rush for government jobs,” he added and called out the Naga parents to free their children, and allow them to strive for what they aspire.
“Let the children do the things that they have the passion for. If they want to be a shoe maker, let them become the best shoe maker – like the father of Abraham Lincoln. If they want to be a hotelier, let them run the best hotel. Why should parents chain their children with the caveat that “they must try for a government job even if it is only a peon or a chowkidar”? This parental attitude is killing a whole generation of Naga youth today. Let the Naga youth break free from this chain, and work for their nation building in whatever capacity they can,” he added.
He then quotes Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, “If you want to know the future of any nation, take a look at what the youths are doing presently”. According to Er Moa, “An army of Naga innovative youth entrepreneurs can transform the land. It can then become a land where we can hold our heads high – with dignity and with pride”.
Eight years after this article, Dr Aniruddha Babar of Tetso College in his article titled, “Do you want a New Nagaland? Free your Youth First,” writes:
“Students of Nagaland want to write their own story. Let them write the way they want. They want to shout from the top of the mountain that “we too exist”- let them shout…”
He wrote, “We need schools, colleges and teachers who are visionary and courageous enough to trust their own students,” and then he continued, “My own experience in Nagaland taught me that the Naga students need help. They need help to be free from the prisons of their own world.”