A 2016 Wall Street Journal article titled “Terror, Brexit and the 2016 US Election” talks about the resurgence of the poet William Butler Yeats in our present times. The article quotes one of Yeats’ most famous poems, “The Second Coming.” “Things fall apart,” Yeats writes. “The Centre cannot hold; the blood dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the innocence is drowned; the best lack conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
Our immediate reality surrounding us today is filled with social, political, and religious spheres that are “full of passionate intensity” to the magnitude of unstoppable tsunamis. Of late, the contemporary psyche is constantly reminded of a centre that “cannot hold” against “the blood dimmed tide.” At the same time, a further inspection of Yeats’ words reveals the potential for transformation. For if the “best” can indeed be filled with conviction, can the “worst” of the empty hearts not be transformed?
The Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) stands for this transformation and embraces an inclusiveness where diverse people groups share a common humanity which respectfully honors and preserves their multicultural heritage, as well as their sacred beliefs. Our deep conviction, as articulated through this treatise, seeks a common humanity and a resilient co-existence to usher in a paradigm for a new harmonious and respectful human order in the world.
A New Human Order: On Matters of Faith
This treatise is a broad statement which is reaching out to everyone, and by no means intended to take issues with anyone per se. Through this the FNR acknowledges India’s mark in the globalized world of politics, and like other leading nations, India plays a critical role in global affairs through “economic liberalization and cultural globalization.” In the opinion of Dr. Tulasi Srinivas of the Institute for the Study of Economic Culture at Boston University in the United States, this is India’s “Tryst with Destiny.”
As such, with India’s vast population and diverse religious practices, converging on this dimension of India’s influence is essential. The interconnected and interactive relationship between religion and globalization is apparent as religions are within globalization and at the same time, globalization is within religion. As was the case with communist revolutions and planned economies controlled by authoritarian politics, history has demonstrated the State’s power to categorically deny people’s civic and religious rights. World history is filled with examples where people’s distinct political histories, religions, and cultures have been methodically wielded into “mergers of unity” in the name of utopian ideologies that exist at the expense of the “other.”
In our world, religions are at the core of people’s lives, but all too often religions contribute to global and regional conflicts. Through the centuries, world religions have been moral and spiritual agents of love, nonviolence, peace, tolerance, and human-hood. By the same token, embarrassingly, religions have been a potent source of conflict and violence around the world. In our time, the co-opting of socio-political agendas to religion has degenerated into a civil religion. This has become an expression of the dominant ideological doctrines of the present order. In this paradigm, religion is manipulated to serve the needs of power and to give a religious dimension and credibility to policy decisions shaped by the powerful. This civil religion results in the deadly equation of the religious, faith-inspired way of living with the way of life promoted by ideological doctrines.
Since the interplay of religion and conflict requires serious attention, the FNR’s position is that religions are an essential resource for transforming conflicts, not to arbitrate a case of who is right and who is wrong.
FNR recognizes that in the name of Christianity, Nagas have sanctioned an ideology that has resulted in violence which is contrary to what Jesus taught and how He lived. Not all Naga Christians are saints as they have carried prejudicial, superior, demonizing, punitive and dismissive attitudes towards persons from other religions and faith traditions. This needs to be addressed. The challenge is, in the process of regaining our humanity, we do not perpetuate any injustices. The Christian evangelical leader John Stott confesses that the:
“colonial expansion, territorial and spiritual conquest, politics and religion, gun and Bible, the flag and the cross, went hand in hand, and that representatives of the imperial power often developed attitudes of proud superiority towards those they ruled.”
And, Dr. Stott candidly admits that this is “certainly embarrassing.”
In the recent past, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has been lashing out at Christianity and the Nagas. The degree of idolatrous language used and the discontent hurled on Naga Christianity does not, in any manner reflect and represent the minds of Hindu believers whose religion, built on the harmonious voices of the Sanatana Dharma and the Bhagavad Gita, is thousands of years older than Christianity.
Nagas eagerly yearn for an olive branch and not a gun, honesty and not superficial framing, and a genuine embrace without calculations. Nagas yearn for sincere guidance and not patronizing lectures filled with superior attitudes. Nagas yearn for truth.
As people who believe in the religions of transcendence, we say no to any politics that undermines children, women and men because of ethnicity and religion! We respect our diversity including our faith traditions. In our context, if religion cannot contribute to human-hood, then the search for a politics of people’s identity is a contradiction—and one that is dangerously fatal to any resolution. We call on all women and men—and crucially, all leaders—to intelligently and vigilantly protect and safeguard the sanctity of people not like “us.”
A New Human Order: On Belonging and Identity
Our world is increasingly proving that the mechanistic view of politics is losing its energy. People are searching for new paradigms and approaches that nullify the political presumption that for every action there is an automatic outcome. Our world is increasingly proving that people groups possess common dreams and history, which is a force more intricate and formidable than the mechanism of cause and effect.
The non-assimilative given-ness and the primordial spirit of the Nagas as a people of common belonging enable us to retain our identity. History has taught both the Nagas and our neighbours that our identity cannot be pushed to the margins, erased or addressed merely on economic well-being and development.
FNR takes the position that the Naga political issue should be placed and addressed in consonance with the historical and political aspirations of the people. Furthermore, any politics from above must weigh from a contextual particularity of the Naga people’s unique and distinct identity. Without a doubt, this point is exigent not only in our context, but throughout the world today. As stated publicly and often, FNR takes to heart the distinctiveness of the Naga nation – its politics of identity and history. We have made it clear that the assertion of Naga identity should never be at the expense of others, such as our neighbours, whose identities are equally unique.
We believe that an identity is marked by a boundary and yet, our boundary must be passable. Our identity is defined only in relation to others and in the strict sense, without others we have no identity. Sadly, people of identities are sedated by colonial history, the European Westphalian State* tendencies and past colonial mindsets of boundaries. Consequently, today’s resultant effect is that of victims dwelling in the past without creative imagination. While Nagas and our neighbours are caged in fear and suspicion within our boxed-in boundaries, we are neglecting more important issues, such as the illegal flow of people groups crossing our borders. This issue is of greater magnitude which will eventually eclipse the fear and suspicion over political boundaries held by our neighbours.
FNR believes, as announced on Naga Day – 10 January, 2018 that Nagas need creative thinking to transcend the boundaries erected by the powers at hand. Naga Day belongs to all Nagas. Therefore, we realize that boundaries no longer confine or suffocate us. We have learned that the way to move forward and excel as a nation of people with an identity is to accept that boundaries do not limit us. The call for “Nagas Without Borders” is a call for a creative and transformative political model within reach, without dislodging anyone at the expense of our political and historical de facto.
Equally, FNR also emphasizes that Naga belonging and identity without our neighbours keeps us in isolation. Nagas cannot shape others through our own perception and image. Rather we need to value universal human-hood by building a robust and healthy community through social and cultural ecology. This will require imagination and camaraderie.
An identity always carries with it symbols. An identity without a symbol is a crisis of identity, as identity and symbolism are different sides of the same coin. To strip symbols from an identity is to deny its existence. In the case of the Nagas, symbolism is based on history. The recognition of Naga history by India, in turn becomes a powerful symbol of India, the largest democratic country in the world. Such a possibility is a transformative and self-determining arrangement born out of a magnanimous political will.
Albeit, as people increasingly become “citizens” within a citizenship, we continue to draw upon symbolism to understand and create new meaning for ourselves. As India faces globalism, identities and symbols remain significant facilitators for inspiration, respect, and sharing, which as social beings, people continually hunger for and relate to or connect with. The nation will always remain an important basis for identity and symbolism in the 21st century.
A New Human Order: On Walking the Naga Day
The Naga Day of 10 January, 2018 has been a testament that Nagas have walked from many winding paths to a highway of possibilities. Through our own journey, we realize that a relative worldview confined within the thick limits of a forest can be suffocating.
The Naga Day called on the Nagas to be consolidated into a culture of belonging. With the belief that scattering without a sense of belonging diminishes ourselves, the Naga Day was intended to be a convergence from hilly terrains onto a clear road of belonging. FNR imagines that “Walking the Naga Day” will create a robust identity through a shared socio-cultural collectivity of women and men. Walking the Naga Day is creating a new vocabulary, a socio-cultural speech of the people. It is also the birth of a civil and moral center, where a Naga pedagogy of who we are is explored and affirmed and a healthy connection with each “nation” (tribe) is built onto the highway of transformative socio-cultural power.
Naga Day has also announced that Nagas are Without Borders and that we are part of Naga history. To Walk the Naga Day is to locate our place and to offer everyone the chance to participate in this transformation by finding a common strength to remake our world. In order for the Nagas to nurture this spirit of belonging, in 2018, FNR will explore three basic intrinsic values of Confidence, Competence and, Community known as the “Three Cs.”
Confidence: A nation composed of women and men who are bound to their limits and their complexes require being able to recognize the red between the black and white feathers of the hornbill. Thus far, the Naga world has devastatingly reinforced our dismal worldview in most fronts—from education to politics, from nationalism to idealism, from our cultural past to modernism.
Our feelings of limitation come out of an absence of clear and authentic information and the ever-untapped potential inherent in the self and the community. Can we build confidence in the self? We need to find an opening—a hope! Hope requires clarity: seeing ourselves, having imagination, and looking beyond the current Naga worldview to what might be.
Competence: We need to be competent in who we are and what we can do. The possibility of “to be” is to create alternate social possibilities. Both the old and young Naga generations should begin to coalesce, take affirmative changes and appreciate their wisdom and attributes which can benefit each other. Such a process is being intentionally introduced through seminars, workshops, art and cultural exchanges, as well as through publishing and access to songs, poems, and discourses.
Community: We need to be a community—a value intrinsic to human vibrancy and flourishing. Walking the Naga Day is to empower community. By finding deep connection with other individuals and “nations” we discover the power to resist obsolete ethos and recover our wisdom how to move forward and to recognize what positively contributes to our growth. Our socio-cultural center will be akin to the Civil Rights movement where our systems will be found to be unimaginative, outdated, and at times, intolerable. When a community understands this, change follows.
Certain essential aspects and events of recent happenings have taught us that we have historical memories—and therein lies hope. Today, the Naga people and other humanity dwelling in Naga-Land present intriguing possibilities for people groups living in transition to move towards a transformative and alternative government of co-existence. Our case can be a revered story for the modern world.
In the event of any political outcome to the Indo-Naga-Burma issue, the Nagas long to see that the walls of separation are not destroyed by shells and guns, but by respecting and honoring agreements. While holding on to our ideals, Nagas need to be pragmatic in our approach and get rid of any idea in-breaking into our history by different external entities. Let us remain sincere and hopeful. We believe India and Burma will reciprocate our sincerity and authenticity. Let us participate actively in Walking the Naga Day and in the rebuilding of our lives into a society of peaceful co-existence.
Issued by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation
* The Westphalian State can be said to find itself at the center of the traditional European culture which does not seek self-determination, but dominance at the cost of all other cultures and institutions. “Westphalia” is simultaneously used to identify an event, an idea, a process and a normative sheet. As an event, Westphalia refers to the peace settlement negotiated at the end of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). As an idea, Westphalia refers to the state-centric character of world order premised on full participatory membership being accorded exclusively to territorially based sovereign States. As a process, Westphalia refers to the changing character of the State and statecraft as it has evolved during more than 350 years since the treaties were negotiated, with crucial developments as both colonialism and decolonization, the advent of weaponry of mass destruction, the establishment of international institutions, the rise of global market forces, and the emergence of global civil society. Finally, as a normative score sheet, Westphalia refers to the strengths and weaknesses, as conditioned by historical circumstances, of such a sovereignty based system, shielding oppressive States from accountability, and exposing weak and economically disadvantaged States to intervention and severe forms of material deprivation. Falk continues to assert that, “this foundation for world order, besides being implicitly and operationally Eurocentric, also generated a sharp contrast in identity between the civilized “we” and the barbaric “them,” which became formalized much later in the colonial era. Richard Falk, Revisiting Westphalia, Discovering Post-Westphalia (The Journal of Ethics, ISSN 1382-4554, 2002, Volume 6, Issue 4) pp. 312-313.