For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
For Want of A Nail: If Democracy Worked Like It Should
Four days have passed since elections were conducted in Nagaland on 23rd February 2013. Before that we were treated to a torrent of news about arms,alcohol and cash seizures, violence, proxy voting and booth capturing. This was Nagalands’ first election after social media like facebook became much more widespread. According to national media, the elections in Nagaland were conducted peacefully with a high voter turnout. However, social media, local newspapers and our favorite type of news service, “gossip”, reveal a different picture.
Rampant proxy voting, intimidation and vote buying seemed to be the norm in many closely fought constituencies. Desperate politicians promised their supporters the moon and distributed easy cash and alcohol, only to see the same people visiting the rival camp again. On the flipside we also see voters almost literally extorting money from candidates to the extent of stating “we don’t want development, electricity etc, we just want money”. Unfortunately, this only reveals the limited exposure of these spokesmen, proving that they have very little idea about how fast or how much the world is changing beyond Nagaland. Short-term gains for long-term suffering. There were also many reports of mobs using intimidation tactics to scare rivals, to the extent of even beating rivals into submission. Amidst all this, I also recall seeing some gullible and ignorant under voter-age teenagers uploading photos of their five fingers with the indelible voter ink mark and proudly proclaiming “Five times” as they triumphantly showed off their feat of proxy voting to the entire social media world. I am assuming their next social media update will be about their new phone, shoes or about how much proxy voting money they lost gambling.
After the elections there always is a lot of finger pointing which usually goes along the lines of (i) Party A started the violence/booth capturing etc and Party B is innocent and (ii) Party B started the violence/booth capturing etc and Party A is innocent. This might go on for another five years with more and more masala added to the story by each party/clan/village
This ridiculous state of affairs has many people lamenting the failure of democracy in Nagaland with some even stating dictatorship would be better. Democracy in Nagaland does seem to have its share of flaws. I quote the famous British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.” Logically, Democracy probably is far more preferable than other forms of government. Let us keep in mind that around the world, people are actually dying and fighting to have a semblance of the freedom to even vote. Many African countries are not democracies; Pakistan has barely been able to hold on to their democracy, China continues to flirt with the one party system while denying their own citizens the right to access social media sites like facebook (its banned in china). According to BJD MP Jay Panda, “the problem with democracy in India is inadequate democracy.” What he means by this is that democracy is not being practiced in the true spirit. And that is probably what ails us today. Can we really say that we have democracy in Nagaland if the village leaders are voting on your behalf, the elders in your clan are pushing the EVM button on your behalf or your rival candidate’s family members are saving you the trouble of even stepping out from your home to vote?
I think there is very little innocence in our Naga society today. We blatantly lie to ourselves regarding prohibition; we have accepted corruption as a way of life and often shamelessly send our naughtiest youth towards theological studies.
Our proclamations of unity – in terms of being a Naga, a tribe, a village or a clan breaks down when we are unable to accept the fact that there are usually differences of opinion in every family and try to ram our viewpoint down the opponents’ throat. It’s time to realize that the days when people will blindly accept the dictates of an elder, village leader, or someone considered to be in a position of authority or respect will slowly fade away. People are bombarded with so much information and news that it is making them question more and more.
Our leaders need to understand this new curiosity to question and challenge their decisions. It is time that leaders stop assuming that their idea is the best and people will obey them without question. Today, leaders also need to sell their ideas to the Naga masses. A new class of leaders either needs to step in or existing ones should change their tactics. Trying to be a leader through tyranny, fear or even money power cannot last forever and will eventually backfire. Leaders like Fidel Castro and Saddam Hussein have shown us that. The educated younger generations have grown up listening to leaders like Obama and now want leaders as such. Voters are craving to trust politics again. Our leaders need to take hold of what little trust there is left and prove the doubters wrong.
Our leader’s biggest failure will be if Nagaland churns out a generation of young adults hooked on to easy money, alcohol and crime. We have a complex history and story of our own. It is time to use and not languish in the past, to plan for the future. We must not create room for our youth to grow up believing that society rewards people who are neither educationally qualified nor ethically upright because of their experiences in the 2013 Nagaland Assembly elections.
“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 Commerce and Arts College accredited by NAAC and recognized by the UGC. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org”