Porteus Shimray Research Student, DU
It will not be justifiable to paint the picture of Naga civil organization in a completely black and white manner as far as their role in Naga political movement is concern. Not all the organizations are either completely black, in the sense that they have worked against the political stand of Naga nationalist, or they are completely white, by which we can understand as standing alongside with the Naga political organizations in all the circumstances. By their very nature, being civil in terms of organization and approach, and as ‘standing-in– between’ the ‘state’ and ‘people’, civil organizations are supposed to take a neutral stand and also represent the people. Nonetheless, numerous Naga civil organizations have openly stated their support for the ‘cause’ of Naga political movement in varied occasions, which have become more explicit after the signing of ceasefire agreement between Naga political organizations and Indian government. In the political history of Nagas, there have also been some Naga civil organizations that have colluded with the rival agencies and orchestrated certain policies which have damaged the political movement. Of course, the explanation that every organization and social leader will give is: whatever they have done, including the destructive actions, was for the interest of the Nagas. Notably, every Naga civil organizations worth their name have proclaimed to be working for the benefit and interest of all the Nagas, no matter how their actions and demands have resulted into. One of the notable contributions that Naga civil organizations have made in recent time is the reduction of ‘factional conflicts’ between Naga political organizations, which had become endemic and self-destructive in the aftermath and emergence of new political groups during the cease- fire period and even before. The signing of ‘Naga Concordant’ few years back, and Latten Agreement in recent times, have paved a way forward for the Naga leaders in various camps to think beyond their differences and work for better future for the interest of all the Nagas. Though the Naga Reconciliation process have progressed in a snail pace manner, and it may have lacked the completeness as some of the major Naga political groups and also small splinter groups have stayed away from the process, it has achieved its purpose by stopping the internecine warfare to a great extent. However, to make a non-feasible demands that ‘all political groups should unite, before getting into negotiations’ may actually results in prolonging the Naga political settlement, rather than contributing towards such aims. If one has to be realistic, differences among the Naga leaders should be considered as un-avoidable, however the gaps among them could be lessen, in this aspect civil organizations’ contributions matter most. One of the main reasons which constraints the role of civil society, as often claimed by the leaders and activists, is that they are always wedged between two opposition forces: state agencies and rebels, or between the rebel groups. Therefore, any small mistake or misunderstanding by one party could boomerang into a full-fledged assault on the organization, and also the activists involved in the organization’s activities. There could be loop- holes and even grey areas in the activities of the civil organizations, as they have to work with all the agencies whenever the need arises. However, it became grave concern for the civil societies to function properly, if the ‘trust deficit’ became a factor in the nature of relationships that it shares with one group or the other. In the ceasefire period, the role of civil societies and its allegiance with one political group or the other have become some sort of jigsaw puzzle for the public and political groups. In this context it is apt to recall that Nagaland Government had officially declared that it will maintain ‘equal-distance’ to all the political groups operating in the state. Such positions had been necessitated as factionalism have often coupled with tribalism in Naga political movement, and if any form of favoritism or partisan attitude is shown to a particular group, there is a risk of being sidelined and ghettoized or accused of being bigoted. If we have to map the trajectories of steps being taken by Naga civil organizations before and after the commencement of Indo-Naga ceasefire, we would find that there have been drastic changes in their forms of activism. Before ceasefire came into place, the civil organizations were stronger in terms of its organizational structure and focus, and had been vociferously fighting against human rights violations by Indian paramilitary forces. It must be duly acknowledged that numerous Naga social activist have made huge sacrifices in the past, to the extent of giving their own life for the larger interest of Nagas, even if they were not armed combatants, nor part of the political groups. However, when ceasefire came into place, we find that instead of spearheading a strong call for ‘political solution’ for the Naga political struggle, which would not only mean ‘press releases’ and one day protest rally, the focus of civil societies have been shifted towards mitigating the internal problems in Naga political movements, and they are often plagued by divisions within their own organizations. The leaders heading various apex civil organizations have also been viewed as closely conniving with the leaders in Naga political groups, and not in a position to take critical stand on varied issues that common people are facing in everyday life. And, more often than not, it has happened that leaders in civil organizations have jumped into political fray by joining political parties and stood for elections. This has given the impression that Naga civil organizations have become a launch-pad for those individuals who are vying for political careers and coveted seats in state assembly. Therefore, in its functions and approach, the civil organizations in Naga society have been construed by the common people, which would not always be their actual objectives, as mostly working for the interest and on the behest of the ‘high’ and ‘mighty’ in Naga political groups and state government. The impacts of caricatured image of civil societies in the eye of the public have led to serious ramifications in varied spheres. The immediate fall out is: loss of connections and trust of the people with their own civil organizations. And, in the aftermath of that, what we find is rise of situations where people have taken law into their own hands. There have been numerous occasions in Nagaland as well as in Manipur, where public anger over certain horrific incidents has led to complete chaos and mob violence against Naga political groups have occurred on regular basis. It may be easy to put the blame on ‘public’ or those culprits who have acted irresponsibly, but where have the civil organizations gone in such instances? And, even if the civil organizations have tried all their best to mitigate the boiling situation, why have they miser- ably failed and people are not ready to heed any of their advice? This calls for serious introspections on the part of civil organizations and all the leaders who are supposed to represent their respective communities. In the first place, they need to realize that there is a chasm that may have arose between the people and civil organizations, whereas they are supposed to represents the people’s desires and pain in every circumstance. When people are not connected with the civil organizations, a vacuum is created, whereby people began to represent on their own, and act on their own behalf and do what they feel is best for their community. Furthermore, what we have seen in last few years is the rise new civil organizations that does not have any community affinities, but purely based on certain issues that have plagued the common men. Examples of such new civil organizations are: ACAUT and NTC in Nagaland state. Whether Naga nationalists and political groups may like it or not, or may not even want to recognized their existence, but these organizations have come to represent certain aspects of what people want and their desires for better society. Once again, it is the lack of concerns that civil organizations have for the day-to-day difficulties that common people face, irrespective of their tribal affiliations, that has given space for the emergence of new agencies to represent the ‘people’ and stand up for common cause society. Now, it is interesting to observe that ACAUT, which has been formed as people’s movement against taxation by Naga political groups, has started to speak up for early political solution to the new government in New Delhi, whereas our apex civil organizations are remaining silent, which is indeed an irony but sadly our social leaders may not even realized this reality. On the part of Naga civil organizations, it may not be a necessity and not even possible to be swayed by what the common feels all the time, but the authority that they carry needs to be maintained, and also have the ability to guide the people out of confusion and emotional outburst. But, fundamentally, the connections that civil society has with the people needs to be strengthened, as it seems to be eroding with the passage of time. In peacetime, when the role of armed cadres have been diminished and made irreverent to a large extent, the face of civil organizations in political struggle needs to come to the forefront. It has also been made distinctly clear by the Indian government that the opinion of Naga civil organizations will also be taken into account for the final settlement. However, more than just submitting memorandums, the civil organizations may be needed to take extreme steps to make their stand and demand succinctly clear before the Indian state. In the last decade, we have hardly come across any massive mass movement for the political cause of the Na- gas that has been led and initiated by the civil organizations. This does not mean to imply that civil organizations are not doing their job, or that there are no constraints on them, but if some tangible political pressure has be made to the ‘entities’ that are in the ‘negotiating table’ civil organizations may have to act more bluntly, and also take the opportunity to be heard. Whether civil organizations may like it or not, during ceasefire period when political negotiations are going on, they have are a ‘factor’ that has a role to play in solving the current impasse in Indo-Naga political problems, as they are also representative of Naga people’s voice. Therefore, it is pertinent that leaders of various Naga civil organizations realized this fact as early as they can, and start to take constructive initiative for bringing concrete changes in political negotiations, instead of playing the waiting and watching game. Whether they are a party to be invited at the negotiating table or not, or for that matter whether their opinion has been sought or not, does not mat- ter. They can always speak for the people and raise their voices on the streets, or in any form of civil disobedience movement they choose, which will not be ignored by any agency. Political movements across the nations and continents have been taken forward by mass participations and people’s voice, it is a power that have been tried and tested. In the case of Nagas, instead of using such people’s power to further the political cause, we find the target of people’s wrath have being directed towards our own political groups. However, the big question is: are all the Naga civil organizations, inclusive of all the tribes and affinities or even majority of them, ready to take up mammoth mass movement for the political cause of the Nagas? There can be numerous excuses and constraints, but the question will still remain the same for years to come, lest they may come to realized the opportunity that they have now after fifty years as some sort of ‘historical repetition’ that has happened in the past, which we may say again is ‘typical Naga style of political brinkmanship’. If this actually happens then, taking Marx’s famous dictum, we may not just call it as ‘tragedy’ but a ‘farce’.