Nagaland has witnessed a lot of protests, bandhs and strikes in the past few days. It is interesting to note the tools we have at our disposal ranging from online media, RTI and the press, which are allowing society to engage in governance more than ever before. We need to be cognizant of this new reality and the methods of dealing with it. Drawing parallels between the Hornbill Festival and an episode from the American TV sitcom, The Simpsons, Kvulo Lorin, the Director of Administration writes about governance in Nagaland and how democracy can be the ultimate winner.
The Hornbill Festival and The Simpsons
Last night I managed to catch an episode of the famous American sitcom (TV serial) “The Simpson’s” and could not help laughing when I saw the similarities between Nagaland and the people of that fictional cartoon show. In that particular episode, global warming made ‘Springfield’ (the fictional town of The Simpson’s) the only town in America experience snowfall that year. Next thing you know, because Springfield is the only town in America with snowfall, there is a huge influx of tourists coming to Springfield for the Christmas holidays. That realization makes the townsfolk giddy with excitement. They immediately realize the tourists will want to stay in their hotels, eat their food and use their hospitals, so they agree to welcome all the tourists with open arms… and then overcharge the hell out of the tourists. So what follows next? All the stores double and triple their prices, huge traffic jams crop up, normally free parking areas become charged, and ultimately even basic Christmas items run out of stock inspite of the excessive prices. I found it humorous because that fictional town could have been Nagaland during the Hornbill festival and it would not have been out of place, except that Nagaland is a dry state while Springfield is not.
There has been a lot of debate on the pros and cons of “The Hornbill Festival” online, in the newspapers and probably even in church. Tetso College itself organized a debate on the topic “Is the Hornbill Festival effective in promoting the Nagas and their culture?” where a lot of interesting points were raised. During the debate, a lot of genuine concerns were raised about the negative aspects of the festival. Those who felt that Hornbill was having a detrimental effect on Naga society cited the festival as being one of the main reasons for promoting sexual immortality, drunken brawls, accidents and even causing financial ruin to some families. The positive aspects highlighted were about how the festival had placed Nagaland on the world map, the income and employment it generated and the promotion of all the Naga tribes with one common festival. Unfortunately, for the debate team who supported the motion that “Hornbill is effective in promoting the Nagas and their culture”, the roads in Dimapur had craters the size of football fields (a little exaggeration). Apart from the roads, the electricity came and went faster than a VIP escort overtaking every vehicle during a traffic jam. So, naturally the team stating “Hornbill is not effective in promoting Nagas and their culture” won the debate.
While I do understand that a college debate team winning a debate proving Hornbill is ineffective in promoting Nagas and their culture doesn’t mean squat; or a recently held Morung Express poll which depicted 51% disagreeing(26% Yes, 23% others) that “Hornbill festival is the best way of promoting Naga culture and way of living” may not officially prove anything. However, it would be nice to see our Government step up and address the naysayers and vocally take a stand on important key issues more frequently to quell our gossipy and murmuring society. There needs to be enough governance to check the wrong and enough freedom so it does not stifle the idealists and the dreamers. The problem though is that issues like unemployment, economic disparity and the infrastructural bottle necks cannot be solved by shooting at the problem or through intimidation. It needs actual work and a mindset cognizant of this reality.
According to Thomas Friedman, “India has a weak central government but a really strong civil society, bubbling with elections and associations at every level. China has a muscular central government but a weak civil society, yet one that is clearly straining to express itself more. Egypt, alas, has a weak government and a very weak civil society, one that was suppressed for 50 years, denied real elections and, therefore, is easy prey to have its revolution diverted by the one group that could organize, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the one free space, the mosque.” I think Nagaland can fall into the same category of having a weak(?) government but a very strong civil society, bubbling with elections and associations at every level. Friedman states “But there is one thing all three have in common: gigantic youth bulges under the age of 30, increasingly connected by technology but very unevenly educated.”
It’s true of our society as well. We do have incredibly bright young minds, but let’s not kid ourselves, we also have a lot of mediocre unemployable graduates as well. The silver lining is if we can get our society moving in the right direction then we can become a powerhouse. It’s good our youth are getting educated but apart from only education, we need to provide people with the framework to apply their knowledge constructively with well paying jobs which are self sustainable or else the youth will continue to be frustrated, feel victimized and seethe with self-righteousness while lashing out at symbols of authority for what they interpret to be social injustice.
It’s everyone’s responsibility to make Nagaland work and stop the nepotism and free rides. We need a society that works and that has a future. Doing things the right way could ultimately produce our own Naga Einstein, Abraham Lincoln or even a Mahatma Gandhi. But, if we fail… then we should remember that it is usually the most deprived and marginalized regions (for example Pakistan and Afghanistan and many African nations) with the most violent politics and inequality in society. As Shashi Tharoor has aptly stated, “there is nothing worse than unemployable, frustrated youth.”
I feel optimistic because our Nagas are intelligent, quick to adapt and sometimes stubbornly bold when needed. We are now seeing many Naga entrepreneurs setting up business’s, some large, some small but setting up something not just in Dimapur but in India’s largest cities. There are many involved in IT, apparel, franchises, restaurants, hostels and even more of our Nagas working in the corporate sector. Give us the environment to thrive and we will be able to do it.
If civil society and the government as a whole can do its part then the next time a debate is held regarding whether the Hornbill is positive for society, then those against the motion will not be able say, “Money should not be wasted on grand festivals when we have so many problems like bad roads, electricity,…” because those basic needs will already be there in Nagaland.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org”