Nagaland takes Modi’s speech in right earnest

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Kohima, Dec 3: “Come, let us together build a new, resurgent, stronger and more prosperous India, as well as our Nagaland,” cooed Narendra Modi on his maiden visit to Nagaland. Cleverly manoeuvring around complex political issues, and making a detour from the practice of announcing economic packages followed by his predecessors, this Prime Minister seemed to have done his homework well before embarking on his North East tour.

Refraining from uttering a single political message, he cajoled the Nagas by carefully highlighting their strengths and showing his concern. Giving his reaction to the Modi’s speech, veteran peace activist Niketu Iralu stated, “Modi has done his homework well. He studied the problem of previous governments well and made a careful assessment. He was sensitive to the issues because he knows our weaknesses well instead of only us knowing our weaknesses. His message clearly seems to be, I want to meet your needs.”

“We must learn to appreciate what we have achieved instead of blaming whatever we have failed to achieve,” Iralu added. K. Yingphe Konyak, a lawyer with the United Nations Development Programme, echoed the observation. “An update on Indo-Naga political dialogue would have been good, but it seems little unreal for him to conclude or commit, lest he end up with no outcome after talking so much.”

According to Dr. Rosemary Dzuvichu, advisor to Naga Mothers’ Association and faculty at Nagaland University, “He is probably our first State guest who hasn’t fallen for the feather dances and the songs but wants the State to revisit its achievements and failures which is encouraging.” As for the ongoing peace talks, “I think he expects mass based organisations to have their say too which is important for women, and gender justice, in any political solution,” she said.

Personally I felt he avoided mentioning the political issue because as an outsider, he did not want to interfere in a ‘family feud’ and polarise the issue, maintained Yanpvuo Kikon, youth activist and founder of The Naga Blog. “We have to get our house in order first.”

However, some argue his message had enough political connotation tacitly covered in euphemism. “The political issue is there but cunningly disguised. By not mentioning it, he made a statement that the Naga political issue is not a threat to national security at the moment,” argued Tiainla Medem, Assistant Professor of English at Delhi University. The more worrying threat is the promise of incorporation and inclusion of our youth into the police or armed forces, she added posing, “Are we good only to police or be policed?”

Neingulo Krome, Secretary General of the Naga Peoples’ Movements for Human Rights (NPMHR), said, “He was smart and must be well informed about the political issue, and probably didn’t want to create unnecessary speculation by announcing something grandiose.”

Reacting to his economic initiative, Neichute Doulo, CEO of Entrepreneurs Associates, said, “The visit of the PM has set the right tone for future dialogue and charted the path of economic opportunities. The PM’s sharing on the inherent and innate potentials through Natural Economic Zones reiterates the reality that our future lies in our backyard and not in the corridors of Delhi.”

Lack of a political statement from him, noted Doulo, reflected his conviction that it is better to take concrete and deliverable decisions rather than give flashing statements on a vexed and complex issue. Seriously, what were we expecting? wondered Tiainla. “The nation knows Modi’s position on corruption and he is not a fool to give Nagas another chance at it. His pat on the back of chief minister of Tripura as ‘the most honest CM in India’ shows him leaving aside ideological differences.”

Dr. Asangba Tzudir, while lauding the challenge made by Modi to tap natural resources towards economic resurgence, argued that it should not come at the exploitation and infringement of the inalienable rights of the Nagas. Nagas need long term clear-cut plans or policies and “not some hand to mouth short term policy.”

Targeting common development, and not individual, was the smartest decision because he is targeting mass development and upliftment, said K. Yingphe Konyak. Nagaland’s potential was seen by a first timer, then why is it overlooked by local leaders, asked Konyak.

There were misses too. “He was ill informed on women’s issues going by his public speech on gender equality of the Nagas. A misconception created by the State to outsiders,” maintained Dr. Dzuvichu. The reality, however, is gender based violence, discrimination, economic disparity and poverty, and little visibility of women in decision making, she added. “Was he making such a serious conclusion based on visibility of well dressed women participants of the festival?”

Overall, his announcement was about “capacity building,” said Yanpvuo Kikon, giving a clear message to the Nagas that you have to stand on your own feet, concluded Kikon. Generally, however, his message was well received. Complimenting Nagas on good command over English and to enhance it further to our advantages was a clear departure from his earlier rhetoric (on Hindi), noted Iralu.

Again, his utterance of Kuknalim thrice holds great significance, concluded Iralu, implying that New Delhi is telling Naga political groups that they will directly interact with the people. That, “My people will bring Kuknalim to you.”

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