Dialogue. It is a necessary process to arrive at solutions, identify shortcomings, negotiate and brainstorm ideas. For Nagas, talking about issues and expressing opinions, is often at the heart of every social gathering and meeting, sometimes going much beyond to the extent of even gossip and rumours. Our close knit community life in which everyone seems to know everyone could be one reason why we particularly enjoy interacting with one another so much, besides the fact that man is no doubt a social animal. There are also cultural implications to it as Nagas come from a very strong historical oral culture in which orality was once the dominant mode of keeping our tradition alive.
We Need Dialogue
In the present day, constructive dialogue and honest talk is considered a necessary step towards bringing about the first stirrings of change in society. It is needed to adopt the right mindset and approach for a progressive society, after which directed action can spring forth. Creating a space for dialogue suggests that there is room for ideas, differing views and opinions, and that sometimes there is no single solution to solving a problem, but requires many ideas to work together. After the March 5th lynching episode in Dimapur, Nagaland, I heard a lot of people complaining about the sudden barrage of articles and write ups that were being published, many of which attempted to analyse and assess the entire incident. Views and opinions, much to the chagrin of some, were being expressed both on print and in news media. I believe we learned a lesson from it all that we must be careful and wise about the propaganda we create, and also of which we are fed and eventually led to believe. It showed to us that we may not always be in control of the unpredicted directions in which dialogue and propaganda can go, and therefore increased the urgent need for a public that knows the importance of deciphering, negotiating, handling and understanding divergent views and opinions. While we may not always agree with each other’s opinions, it would be shallow to disregard what others have to say. We must be open to criticism, to feedback and suggestions in order to create a right thinking society.
On 14th March 2015, a panel discussion consisting of individuals from different sectors such as entertainment, administration, media and entrepreneurship came together at Tetso College to discuss on the topic “Opportunities and Issues in Nagaland”. The panelists were Aochuba Yaden, Director, Nagaland Post, Akuonuo Khezie, Managing Director of Northeast Institute of Arts and Performing Arts, Samuel Changkija- IFS, and Tomtsa Vinito, Programme Manager of YouthNet, and the session was moderated by Shonreichon Sareo, a Senior Analyst from Deloitte.
One of the reasons why the panel discussion stood out was its ability to deliberate on a broad range of issues plaguing Nagaland by the accomplished younger generation who are trying to make a difference in their own respective fields. The discussion was a revelation into the issues and challenges that hinder us today, while also looking at some of the brighter aspects of our Naga people. With students from approximately 15 colleges present at the panel discussion, the panelists gave insight, advice and answered the student queries.
It began with a look at the challenges of the growth of entrepreneurship in Nagaland. According to Tomtsa Vinito, one of the greatest challenges was the mindset of the local people. He stated that Nagas just do not want to work hard and instead want easy money. Re-affirming this view was Aochuba Yaden, who cited one of Nagaland’s problems to be the huge reliance on Government jobs through competitive exams such as UPSC and NPSC, which fail to promote work professionalism, and supplemented this with the classic example of the number of proxy teachers that exist in the Government schools in Nagaland. With a fixed salary and absence of a reliable evaluation system, government jobs encourage laxity. To change this, Samuel Changkija stressed on the need to have emphatic government officials with a clear conscience towards actually developing the society. He confessed that practically speaking, because of the prevalent challenges in the system it actually becomes difficult for visionaries to survive in the government sector. Further, Tomtsa Vinito believed that the inability in the Government sector to promote hardwork also lay in the lack of provisions of incentives for quality of work and a system in which people get paid without showing any credible output for it.
There are however, many ways in which the Government can help the State progress. Panelist Tomtsa Vinito, believed that one way of doing this was to help establish private-public partnerships that can benefit both the sectors. Samuel Changkija believed that the Government should just act as a facilitator, while Akuonuo Khezie was of the view that the Government should be a supporter, but not actually interfere in the running of private businesses as interference in the functioning of private industries often led to a subsidization in the market value of the products, which in turn negatively affects the private sector.
The discussion was an apparent indication of the current friction that existed between both the private and public, as they attempt to negotiate with the rising demands of the general public all the while working within diametrically opposing functioning systems.
On the brighter side, there were also many positive qualities that the panelists attributed to the Nagas. Samuel Changkija believed that Nagaland has a vast talent pool of Nagas in various fields. Akuonuo Khezie highlighted that Nagas are hardworking, honest and hospitable with a strong value system, as a result of which they tend to stand out in the hospitality sector. In addition, Nagas possess a unique culture that set them apart from the rest. Aochuba Yaden stated that Nagas, especially those working in the corporate sector were doing extremely well across India and abroad, adding that Nagas have a flair for the creative arts.
A very poignant message was sent across to the students after a question was raised during the question and hour round: “My parents always tell me to study, study, study. But isn’t there something more that students can do besides just studying? What roles can we play in our education process?”
To this, the panelists emphatically agreed with parents that if anyone wants to become successful the only way out of it was to actually study, study, study. Hardwork is key towards accomplishing any amount of success. Besides this, Samuel Changkija added that it was also about using time wisely, by which he stressed on the importance of studying smartly and knowing how to manage time well even while not studying. To supplement the wisdom of using time wisely, students were encouraged to participate in co-curricular activities, generate and approach their institutions with ideas and work together to initiate competitive events, formulate platforms where they can learn beyond the classroom too.
Discussion veered further towards the education scenario, in which it was agreed that students and parents also need to move beyond the shackles of a single field of study and explore the possibility of moving across disciplines in the Commerce, Science, Arts, Vocational streams etc., in order to find out what one is truly passionate about.
If there is anything more we can take from the panel discussion, as I saw the muted and rapt attention of the students who were glued to their seats during the entire session, it is that in a place like Nagaland, where there are as many challenges as well as opportunities, we still need more dialogue to help guide and produce right thinking citizens.
Article is reproduced from a Panel Discussion organized during Pow-woW 2015: Inter College Fest held at Tetso College on 14th March 2015.