How Long Will It Take?

Charles Chasie

“...How many years can some people exist,
Before they’re allowed to be free?
And how many times can 
a man turn his head,
And pretend that he first didn’t see?...”
“And how many ears must one man have,
Before he can hear people cry?
And how many deaths will 
it take till we know;
That too many people have died...”
“The answer, my friend, is 
blowing in the wind...”

The above words in the famous song by Bob Dylan was sung on December 20, 2001, by Mr Labu Sakhrie, son of late Mr T. Sakhrie, on the occasion of the Naga Reconciliation Combined Inaugural Function, at the Kohima Local Ground, with the theme “To heal and rebuild the Naga Family with the Prince of Peace” in which over 35 Naga tribes and sub-tribes participated. He was at first hesitant but he came and sang this song for the sake of the Naga people and to support their attempt to come back together and be healed as a nation. Like many, he grew up without the support and presence of a father when he needed his father most. He is not bitter and he wished the best for Naga people.

There are so many Nagas who had been and still are in such or similar situations. Almost all have willingly, and consciously, decided to give up their personal grievances and hurts for the sake of the larger Naga society. And what have they received in return? Factions and factional killings, sometimes, spilling over into clan and family relations. This is not what Naga people bargained for. 

If the various factions cannot come together let them acknowledge that fact and openly tell the Naga people and ask for their help. But this is not happening. What is happening is that all factions are claiming they are the true representatives of the Naga people and other factions are “traitors”, and the reason for not being able to come together. And woe to those who say otherwise! But all of them are happily collecting “taxes”. On many occasions the different factions almost literally seat together and collect the “taxes”, one group after the other, even right in front of the state police. Here there is apparently no factional difficulty and no factional clash or, God forbid, killings! Have they together decided that collecting ”taxes” is equivalent to the Naga Independence they proclaim they are fighting for and that factional differences that otherwise exist are simply a way of furthering the Cause so long as it does not disturb their profitable business which some call “industry”?! This is a harsh comment, no doubt, but one that is not far from the reality many face. Leaders of factions must seriously ponder the goings on. They will also know that, during Christmas and New Year, many Naga contractors and suppliers either left their homes and families for mainland India or went into hiding to avoid the “donations” wanted by the factions! What a Christmas for them and what a commentary for those who fight in the name of Naga Nationalism! 

So many years of “negotiations” with GoI have not resulted in a final workable settlement of the Naga Issue. Sure, the Government of India is often to be blamed for insincerity, even falsehood. What Nagas must, however, be more concerned about is how far the Nagas have worked out their own differences and come together in order to be able to speak with one voice. As often said, if Nagas can speak with one united voice, the Government of India will have little choice but to respond in a proper manner. India will then have to be “magnanimous” because without generosity, India will cut a sorry figure before the entire world. The trouble is the Naga people are not creating that chance for themselves by coming together. It must also be remembered that loss of time is not just about delay but also of lost opportunities which may not come again. But this is a lesson that has come the way of the Naga people so many times and needs little or no reminder!        

What one prays for, despite disappointments, is that Nagas may one day soon begin to play their God-given role with healing of their own nation, becoming united and helping India to also play her true role in the world. We live in a fragmented world that seems to excel in threatening its own survival at every turn! India is a great nation and could become a very powerful wheel in the events and direction humankind takes. But, often it seems to lose its way?! Are Nagas meant to find their God-given role through helping India to play her true role in the world? India may be mighty but even big vehicles move on small “cogs”! Because of the attitudes we have nurtured for many decades, so often fed by Government of India’s own actions, some Nagas may not like such a proposition. But this will be a fit challenge for true Naga greatness and Christianity. Helping India to play her true role also means Nagas playing a world role. It is worth a thought. I am not a soothsayer; I am only sharing what is in my heart. To me, to be able to do that to the best of my ability and knowledge is patriotism. For different people it will mean different things. 

Sadly, the fundamentals toward solving the Naga Issue have not moved/shifted at all. They have only metamorphosed, changed forms and got complicated. At the time when Mr Muivah and Mr Isaac Swu were about to come to India for negotiations with Government of India, this writer wrote in a Calcutta based national daily that “integration” would become the “crucial issue”. This still remains the main issue from all indications. The only ways to dealing with this was/is Naga unity, especially of the factions, and the goodwill of neighbouring communities. Naga unity has not happened and we have managed to fritter away the goodwill of our neighbours. 

This Christmas season was also spoiled by factional killings and injuring civilians. One wonders what God must be thinking when we keep shouting “Nagaland for Christ?!” The primary “mission field” for Nagas is here! Let us heal ourselves first and then think about the missions outside/abroad?! In so many years of conflict we have all become wounded and handicapped people. Let us allow God to perform His miracles (to/on us mainly!) instead of always trying to arrogate to ourselves the right to perform `miracles’ on others in His name!    

A long repeated sms message in Nagaland, over some years, is that the pigs in Nagaland fear Christmas season the most! And all owners of dogs are most careful in guarding their pets during this season as they keep `disappearing’ all the time! And when intra-Naga fighting and killings keep taking place in broad daylight even during Christmas what kind of a society can we imagine, far less build, for our children?! Can we even dare to imagine a future of our people?

Our factional leaders must know that Naga people are becoming (have become?) fed up with the goings on. Many now feel that they fear/dislike the Naga factions more than the Indian Army. The leaders must find out whether such feelings are just from a few disaffected people, and temporary, or it has become rampant and pervasive in society. Having spent all their lives for the Naga Cause, will the Underground/National leaders now settle for a factional cause or would they rise up beyond factional interests and cause to happen something that will not only heal the Naga Nation but also propel Naga people forward after so many years? People are no longer interested in their blame games. The choice primarily is theirs. Others like us can support and help to the extent possible.

The Naga nationalists and all Naga leaders must realize that their people are more important than their ambitions and/or personal viewpoints. How they act will show the extent of their patriotism. Our society has reached a point where words no longer convince and good intentions become easily suspect. This is a very dangerous situation for the future of our people. 
I end with the words of another song:

“How long will it take to 
(build the Naga Nation)
Where everyman has his place;
How long will it take,
To find the wisdom of the ages;
The Future of our children cannot wait ...”

It is up to each one of us.