Tuesday, 10 October 2017

“I was Denied the Right to Vote” - Thungdeno Humtsoe, HOD of Sociology





NBCC’s call for Clean Elections is for all citizens of Nagaland to come together and voice out the need to vote and contest conscientiously and consciously in the Nagaland Legislative Elections  2018. Because voting is not just an individual right, it is a collective responsibility to choose and be represented by a leader who is capable and also deeply concerned about Nagaland’s present, and its future vision. But it is very, very hard to do it all alone. 


                    

                   “I was Denied the Right to Vote”



I grew up learning that the right to vote is a human right of every citizen. In truth, the very foundation of democracy is the right to vote. Although this right comes with a bonus called ‘responsibility’. By qualifying myself as a voter, I bear an enormous responsibility in determining the fate of the leaders that I will choose, the outcome of which has an enormous impact both on me and the society. One should be cautious and thoughtful in choosing a leader to avoid any unwelcome mishaps.  Make a wrong move and you are doomed for five long years. Yet, to get a taste of this so called responsibility, one should be given the freedom to choose whoever his/her heart desires.


The population of Nagaland has been affected by the widespread disease of corruption in one way or the other. And unless each and every responsible individual takes the lead in finding a remedy for it, every one of us will be digging our own graves. Come election, we forget our own selves for selfish pursuits. The truth is, it is us who run after corruption, and not vice versa. 


I would like to share a simple narration in relation to the practices and conduct of election in my homeland, which, I suppose, happen to many unfortunate citizens who are denied the right, power or privilege of making a choice.


It is alarming to witness the whole of Wokha getting split up into two equal halves during elections - the areas to the right of Police Point, controlled by Village 1, and the areas to its left, controlled by Village 2. The population residing in between these two big villages get caught up in a whirlpool of unutterable anguish and terror. There’s no other way but to remain submissive because that’s where force and threat make their grand entry. It is disheartening, but the fact will always lie bare that a huge population of the enrolled voters do not even make it to the polling station, let alone choose a leader.


Carefully tucking my newly laminated voter ID into my shirt pocket, I took the path to the polling station. Halfway down to the polling station, I saw a large group of people, consisting of aged persons, men and women, being held up by another group belonging to a particular village.  They appeared to be taking control of the timorous crowd. It was apparent that whatever was going on there was not good news.  I saw that everyone in the assembled group was giving away their voter IDs, as demanded.


As I observed those group of people, I wished they could realise that the way they were conducting themselves was not democratic at all. I wished that they could understand what electing a representative meant, and that there was no such thing as ‘my candidate’ or ‘your candidate’.  It’s that simple to understand that by voting we’re actually deciding the fate of the rulers and the collective fate of the ruled.  An ugly and degrading performance such as this was happening right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t decide which of the two angered me more - the frightened group who were too afraid to voice out their rights or the other group who amassed authority in their own hands, denying fellow citizens to exercise their sole rights.


“You are an offender! Booth capturing is a punishable offence under section 135A of the Representation of the People’s Act. Just because you took money from the candidate or you let him promise you in securing a smooth future for your sons and daughters, or even for yourself doesn’t give you the right to take the matter into your own hands and deprive other’s rights. You might not be aware but there are still a bunch of people who want change, a real change, and who are interested in the greater good of the society unlike you.  You cannot take away a fellow human’s basic right and you also cannot deny us representation. We live on the same soil as you are, we breathe the same air as you are, and we toil the same as you are. How then can you exclude us from exercising the equally given right in choosing a leader who is to govern the society as a whole? Are we not part of the fabric of the society?”


Those were the exact words I had in mind, but I was too afraid to speak up, or simply didn’t have the courage to deal with the consequences of my just action. I wished I was bold enough to fight back or things could have been different. That was me back then, an 18 year old who happened to have just a bookish knowledge, but unsure of how to apply that knowledge in the real world. Knowing one’s right is not enough, the fact of the matter is how far we put that knowledge to practice. As my turn came to submit my voter card, I murmured to myself, “Vote or no vote, I’m not giving you my voter card”, but I meekly handed the same to the man in charge. 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
At a time when one is almost running out of hope, taking into account the recent incidents which happened in some parts of Nagaland, the efforts being made by the NBCC seem like a soft refreshing breeze in the scorching summer heat. The NBCC’s endeavour in making ‘Clean Election’ a reality is laudable. It’s time you and I as distinct individuals come together and unbound ourselves from the shackles of corruption. 




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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Knowing Right From Wrong - Zujanbeni M Lotha, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology







Moral uprightness - is the epitome that every society strives to attain. But it is also very subjective sometimes, as it has been observed that societies have constructed different degrees of moral uprightness for reasons best defined by them. In Nagaland, the local news regularly talks about crime, racketeering, embezzlement, backdoor appointments and more which are accounts of dishonoring moral values. We have conveniently created different categories of corruption and bribery in which ‘less’ is somehow okay and ‘more’ is absolutely condemnable; there are ‘consideration’ and ‘special consideration’ categories to make exceptions for certain individuals or groups, which are appreciated and applauded on ‘humanitarian’ and ‘compassionate grounds’. All of this prevails, while the silent unaddressed question hangs in the air - have we been made to compromise on some of our moral values and uprightness while doing so?




                        Knowing Right From Wrong



It is a believed notion that: A dead branch cannot support a falling tree. Whether one will agree with me or not, ‘morality’ is to be considered as the base of our social entity to consider right from wrong. From the formative age of human development, morality was viewed as a basic element of human relationship and interaction, and that one’s action impacts fellow beings in society. An individual cannot live and excel alone and one’s thoughts and actions are carried out in regard to others. In the absence of morality, social life and peaceful co-existence are impossible. Moral consciousness tends to be higher when we are in a social group, but once away from the group one does not feel the moral constraints, since members in society are directly or indirectly connected to us. We face moral issues everyday and our reaction depends on the degree of our morality.


Any moral conduct is not less or more as they contribute to the quality of our life. Negligence of moral decision by anyone causes people around us to suffer; as such, being mindful of others is an attainment of social solidarity. Rules and pressures from society are one way for the development of morality but it is best when individuals have their own moral choice of action.


Moral obligation is also indispensable in our spiritual life. It creates a sense of what will happen to one’s soul after death as a final consequence. Dwelling in the lust of flesh and boasting on what we senselessly do, drift us away from the eternal reward. It is what we do with the physical form that will decide one’s destination. We are warned that every deed, good and bad, will be judged by God. Are we working for salvation or damnation?


What I feel about our present society is that it needs morality more than ever before and every individual is responsible for it. The distinction of desirable and undesirable, good and bad is slowly and seemingly becoming dimmer. The local news regularly talks about crime, racketeering, embezzlement, backdoor appointments etc., which are accounts of dishonoring moral values. With changing times, new customs and new standards come along, as such, the level of morality too changes, but one should always be reminded of what our root faith is.


When our society was young, undefiled, morality co-existed that can be evidenced from age old stories of our ancestors although branded as savages. As years and decades flipped by, people’s behaviors become lighter and casual and the problems become thicker. Individualism, micro-interaction are ousting out morality due to want of power and to take the highest seat in the society. We are replacing our responsibilities for our rights, expecting others to treat us in a rightful way while we shun sets of moral conduct. In a period of continuous progress, rapid rise of new ideas and beliefs, the core value of moral conduct is slowly weaning and eclipsing from our society. Prevalence of moral codes are missing in many realities, hence no proper conclusion and many social problems remain unexplained. A good moral soil is needed to connect different roots of social dilemmas for a stronger human entity. There should be no question whether alone or in a group; morality should be one’s footing ground. Morality cannot only be seen as a religious principle, it is also a behavior. There is no gain for me if my selfish wants lead to other’s misfortune.


Social web survives on moral codes yet we seldom give space to it. Leaders are to choose the path of integrity and virtuousness as a manner of leading because the condition of society highly depends on leadership. Let not the coming generation curse us for our actions today. The involvement and guidance of older generation in reviving morality and explaining why certain things are immoral amongst the younger generation is needed and in the process, the latter should give a heart of acceptance. This will someday produce a society that honors virtue. When our society is on the verge of falling apart, strengthening and advocating moral codes will help solve varied social ills and create a bit of heaven. We are living in such a time where those who are false within, and honorable on the outside are very common. If one is to take pride at all, it should be of morality and not to act wise when we are not.


Let not our selfish evil desires pollute the society we are living in and make it easy prey for an outsider. We are much more modernized in almost every aspect as compared to our ancestors, but we are not even at par with their moral codes, which were so pure and rare. For a change of future, it starts now with you and I. Pressing ahead, I urge everyone to be more watchful of one’s steps and action, and be more meaningful and considerate towards one another. I dread how eligible citizens will be using their birthright for the crucial days coming in a few months from now. As people who regard God in the highest, do not be blinded to the truth which alone is the rescuer and the answer. Though the everyday challenges may be tough and temptations surround us, let what is true and honourable prevail. Let more of “we” and less of “I” be seen in our actions and let us work selflessly for common good. What we think may not always be right, but let our actions be harmless to humanity.





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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

The Ugly Monster Called Greed- - Zuchano Khuvung, Assistant Professor Political Science






The Bible classifies the seven deadly sins – greed, envy, sloth, wrath, gluttony, pride and lust – as the characteristics of people which will lead to unhappiness. Of all the vices that humans possess, greed could be said to be the most disturbing. A pernicious evil that pervades our lives in both conscious and unconscious ways, will it help to overcome this vice if we each ask ourselves everyday - What are the things that really matter to me in life?




The Ugly Monster Called Greed


“Greed is not a trend, greed is greed; it existed as long as there have been human beings I suppose.” -Joseph Akrotirianakis.
The society that we live in today is being gripped by one of the strongest delinquencies, which is an integral component of human nature – greed. We have spent our fair share of time pondering on the consequences, and the evil results confronting us in our daily lives, when we should be dwelling on the very nature of what causes all these tribulations in our society. It is therefore imperative for us to ask ourselves now, the reason for anything wrong done by us, however minimal. It will trace back to just one and the only viable reason which is GREED.


A deeper understanding of greed can help us to see that it is not only material goods that we desire for, but also the security and independence that wealth can bring. Wealth is not a bad thing, in and of itself. It can help us meet our needs as well as provide luxuries which can make life a lot better. However, greed is an excessive love or desire for money or any other possession. Greed happens when people pursue their own agenda at the expense of others leading to selfish or spiteful behaviour. It could also serve as the gateway to moral bankruptcy and the trigger for devastation. What drives our thirst for more, what is its impact on our personal sense of peace and the state of the world, and is it a behaviour that can ever be unlearned?


Everybody sings corruption, dishonesty, fraud and all other sorts of vices. Ask the high and the low and they will pour out their disgust for it. Many intelligent and well placed citizens have suggested measures and have also created institutions to combat and eliminate social and political ills within our society. Unfortunately, all kinds of corruption and anti-human manifestations sit on top of all the labour put in so far.  No matter how rich you are, you can always imagine being infinitely richer, and the greater your imagination exceeds, the more corrupt you are likely to get. It seems that shame itself has vanished from our civilization, and nobody seems responsible for anything anymore.


Misdeed or transgression seldom strides into our lives announcing its hostile intentions; rather it prefers stealth, camouflage, or even better, to appear friendly. As rightly pointed out by Thomas Aquinas, when we do evil we always tend to act “under the aspect of good”. It typically cloaks itself in rationalization that mitigates or hides our wrong doing from ourselves. We need to have a good grasp on the actual nature of evil and vices. It is necessarily related to standards, and varies from individual to individual, organization to organization and institution to institution. There is always a benchmark in all human activities largely expressed in norms, codes, rules, regulations and laws governing all endeavours, and hence if we are to delineate wrong, misconduct or corruption in a given society, it is a reduction or fall in the standard application, implementation or execution of any or all of these. Many of us are certainly not wise enough to realize this and our inability to realize and locate all misdemeanour at all levels is ignorance.


Likewise, in the political arena as well, political corruption cannot take place without the knowledge of the state administrators and the people. However, the silence only widens and deepens the inequalities and undermines good governance. It creates a culture of corruption that diverts public resources from social services and productive investment to personal wealth. This is not only immoral but it also provides an atmosphere ripe for political corruption.  It becomes extremely difficult, therefore, to know who are the major exponents and engineers of corrupt practices. When a man of means misappropriates resources he is entrusted with, there is no doubt that he is under the spell of an agent of corruption known as GREED. It is certainly insatiable and is not really an obvious trend; rather it is more of a psychological propensity. Such individuals will go on to seek more, take advantage of the poor and ignorant mass, encroaching into the little available to them and appropriating it. They will continue to accumulate things they barely need for the sake of amassing wealth.


In our society today, greed has become a principal evil, operating in the lives of the low and the high, dwelling in the religious and secular, in the traditional and the modern,  strengthening itself day after day. Many of the times, it is so subtle that even the victims hardly comprehend they are under its pressure. This is one major reason the battle against corruption has been elusive.


It is true that we have very little control over the choices being made by the self-serving individuals or institutions, but are we in control of our own choices too? As individuals we can choose the higher ground and set an example to others. Some may say that there is no room in the real world for idealism, but the world has never been in greater need of higher ideals and positive people willing to reject greed and take a stand for compassion. The things that really matter, family, love, compassion and harmony, transcend the notion of power and status, it is through them that we can achieve true peace and contentment.




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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.





Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Mixed Martial Arts in Nagaland - Hivika Shohe, Class XII (Arts)




The world of fitness is flexing its muscle and within it Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is becoming a rapidly growing sport. Conor McGregor, Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz are some of the champions in the mixed martial arts world. This is against the backdrop of an unknown and derided Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC, a premier MMA organization) a decade ago. Today its value is over $4 billion. Hivika Shohe, a budding MMA fighter shares his thoughts on this combat sport. 


Mixed Martial Arts in Nagaland



Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a full contact combat sport that allows both striking and grappling, both standing and on the ground, using techniques from other combat sports and martial arts like Wrestling, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai, kick-boxing and so on. 


I came to know about MMA through some of my close friends from DPSD back in 2014. They would talk about it all day long in class, which sounded great to me and I finally started practicing it in 2015. I don’t distinctly remember my first class. I just introduced myself to some of my instructors and gym mates. The first day of class is always boring but because I had a huge interest and desire to learn this art, it wasn’t so for me. The first thing I learned is that inside the gym, everyone is equal and so our instructors and coach denied us to address them as “Sir”. They were like, “There are no sirs here, you can call me coach or by my name.” Because MMA is a combat sport, I always thought they’d be arrogant and bossy but it turned out to be completely the opposite. They were actually one of the nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met. I mean they were animals inside the cage (the arena for MMA sport) but I tell you, they are very humble, calm, composed and kind outside the cage.


I learnt tons of things from MMA. The place where I used to train is TCAN (The Combat Academy-Nagaland) Dimapur, and in that gym, martial arts like Boxing, Muay Thai, Wrestling, BJJ( Brazilian jiu-jitsu) are taught and I’ve learnt very well the basic techniques of those martial arts. Boxing is all about your punches and footwork, meaning how you move while you are engaged in that sport. Muay Thai is mainly the use of knees and elbows like the fights from the infamous movie Ong Bak. Wrestling is all about taking down your opponent to the ground. And BJJ is about submitting your opponent by giving him a submission. In simple terms, BJJ is all about hurting your opponent and making him tap (Quit). Striking is not allowed in this sport.
In TCAN, I’m known as a good BJJ artist, and I actually am better at it compared to those other arts probably because I have long limbs and most of the time I  dominate the game. Maybe the reason why I’m better at it is because I’m taught not to hit people. But the truth is I sometimes slacked off during other form of martial arts training days, because I was more into BJJ.  The other thing I learned is how MMA can never run out of things to teach you. You don’t graduate from MMA! So, people who really love MMA are very lucky because they will always learn new things to apply in their MMA journey and in their daily lives which is even more important.


I would say the prospect of MMA in Nagaland is pretty good. Ever since the establishment of TCAN in 2014, the first gym for MMA in Nagaland, the state has successfully hosted three Yoddha Fighting Championship (YFC) - a pan Indian Mixed Martial Arts promotion for amateur fighters. The first was in Dimapur (2014) the second in Mokokchung (2015) and the latest edition in Kohima (April 2017). In all these, we have seen a number of promising Naga fighters participating. At the grand finale of the YFC 2017, Imkong Jamir, a Naga lad from TCAN emerged as the champion in featherweight (61-66 kg) category.  Even the number of spectators that showed up to watch these fights is amazing. They are more than the spectators in other sports like football or badminton. Naga people are prepared to shell out cash to watch a fight. But having said that, MMA isn’t flourishing right now here in Nagaland and the reason, in my opinion, is because the fighters don’t consider MMA as a serious career option. To excel as a fighter, one must concentrate on the training, work hard and particularly focus on it, and not just go about playing all sports. Strict discipline and consistency both in training and diet are essential, which we Nagas often find hard to maintain. This goes for all the sports and not just MMA.


My personal experience with the struggle to become an MMA fighter wasn’t that severe. Yes, I did suffer to become one but it wasn’t so much that I have to write about it. Being an MMA fighter is tough though, and that is coming from a guy who only fought once. To compete in an MMA tournament, you have to train hard for months or even up to a year, maintain diet and all this just to fight for just 3 or 5 rounds. In an amateur tournament, 3 minutes are given for each round and 5 rounds are fought for the championship belt, so, you can do the math. The fight will be over if either one is submitted or knocked out. You train hard for a long period of time and if you don’t even go the distance (completing all the rounds without getting submitted or knocked out) then all the blood, sweat and tears that you put in goes to waste.




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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.










Wednesday, 13 September 2017

My Trip to Molungkimong village - Nentile Kath Rengma, BA 5th Semester (History Honours)





The story of E.W. Clark’s arrival at Molungkimong village in 1872 and the subsequent foundation of the first Naga Church are fairly documented in literature. Reading about it is informative, yet, seeing the village first-hand, talking personally to the villagers, and being able to view actual relics associated with Rev. Clark and other pioneer missionaries is altogether a different experience. On 29th July 2017, the History Department travelled to Molungkimong village for this first-hand experience -                                                      Nentile Kath tells us more about it. 


                 My  Trip to Molungkimong village


“Travelling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta

Travelling has always been a passion for me but it has always felt like a distant dream due to typical problems like not having enough time or money. But recently I had an opportunity to visit a village in Mokokchung district, Nagaland and I realised that travelling need not always be to those extravagant faraway places. As long as you have an open mind and if you learn something from going to a new place which we had never been, it counts as travelling.


On a recent trip organised by the History Department, we got to travel to Molungkimong Village, Nagaland, the first village to accept Christianity in Nagaland on 22nd December 1872, through an American missionary Rev. Edwin Winter Clark. The trip made me realise how ignorant I had been about the history of my own land. I consider myself lucky for getting to know one of the most important events in the History of Nagaland, which brought about a lightening change in Naga society.


The sole purpose of the trip was to learn about how Christianity came into being in the Naga Hills, based on our academic syllabus. Apart from the purpose we also got the opportunity to learn about the sacrifices that the missionaries made, the stories, the valour of the unsung heroes and the root history of this important village.


The journey to our destination was not the most comfortable one, all thanks to the dreadful unforgiving roads of Nagaland and the constant rain as its accomplice.  The trip via the Assam road, however, proved a luxury for some few hours before hitting back to the not-so-merciful Nagaland roads again. If I were a tourist here, I might have already fled from the first feet of this nightmare, but alas I am still a daughter of this land.


With my prejudice, initially, I thought this village would be a typical one, which we town folks often tend to look down on. But how wrong was I! It proved to be completely contrary to my narrow presumption.


Jaded and tired from the nearly 7-8 hours journey I was ready to call it a day, but just as we reached the village I was enchanted by its beauty and the serene environment. The scenery, the mountain air and the amazing weather felt as though nature itself was welcoming us, and the smiles of the people made us feel at home instantly.


The villagers were very warm and hospitable making our sojourn very comfortable and satisfying. The most amazing thing I noticed, which set this village apart from Dimapur was their sense of cleanliness and discipline. It was a typical Naga village with a touch of elegance, which I couldn’t help but admire.


The village pastor and his colleagues were kind enough to handle all the responsibility of not only sharing the rich history of Molungkimong village and giving us a tour of the village, but also provided us the guest house, delicious meals throughout our stay, and every luxury to make our trip a pleasant one. Furthermore, they arranged a group of learned men from the village to help us gather the information that we came for. The church too welcomed us at the Saturday and Sunday devotional service, to share and sing for the congregation. The experience not only enlightened us spiritually, but also helped our department come closer as a family.


Our group went around the village and admired everything in it, however we also learnt that it was not always like this. Prior to the coming of Christianity, the villagers were mostly pagans and the village was often visited by epidemics, famines, crop failures and other natural calamities. The over burdening troubles made them seek alternatives, and it appeared in the guise of Christianity through the American Missionaries. With their coming, knowledge and health care followed which swiftly transformed their living styles and their narrow superstitious outlooks were done away with. The barbaric practice of head-hunting came to an end. Today, when we look at the village we find that it is now one of the forerunners of education and the harbingers of Christianity in Nagaland.


This incredible experience in this little haven has opened up my eyes and attitude towards the value of every Naga village and tribe. It has broadened my outlook towards our History and the rich legacy that every village holds. The very warm and hospitable people of this village portrayed the true value and characteristics of how a true Christian should be. Their love and kindness towards us has made me become emotionally attached to the village, making me wish to pay another visit to this lovely place.


We always think that the grass is greener on the other side but it may or may not always be so. It is high time we start appreciating what we are blessed with, instead of complaining about what we lack. This trip will remain to me, one of the best memorable trips and experiences of my life.




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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

India: A Tried and True Democracy? - Nungchim Christopher, Assistant Professor, Department of History

image source- velivada.com






Gandhi gave a call for Quit India in 1942, against imperialism. Today we can give the same call of quit India to intolerance, discrimination, injustice, and communalism with a sense of commitment and not just mere rhetoric. How tried and true is our democracy of ‘justice, equality, liberty and fraternity’?




India: A Tried and True Democracy?


“In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master. It is to join a struggle for such democracy that I invite you today” was the call that Mahatma Gandhi made at the Gowalia Tank Maidan of Bombay (Mumbai) to launch the ‘Quit India’ movement in 1942, which is considered as one of the most pivotal and significant milestones in the country’s freedom movement. This was perhaps the strongest and vociferous appeal, the one rebel call that pushed India towards its ultimate freedom.

Recently, the Central Government and, of course, all the State Governments commemorated the 75th anniversary of this great movement. While commemorating and paying our due obeisance to the freedom fighters, it will also be fitting to ponder on the vision that Gandhi had then – an ‘inclusive, democratic and just India’ where everybody is equal – vis-a-vis the atmosphere and situations unfolding today. It is astonishing that he made some prophetic remarks in his ‘Quit India’ speech when he said that free India could be ‘placed in the hands of the Parsis’(Rajiv Gandhi was a Parsi) or ‘some others whose names are not heard in the congress today’ (Isn’t the ruling party in the centre today having no association with the Indian National Movement and so too with Quit India movement? In fact, the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS were against this very movement.)

Contrary to the vision of Gandhi, we seem to be encircled by rising intolerance - religious or otherwise and politics of hatred today. Isn’t our sense of nationhood welded in multi-religious, multi-cultural plurality? This vibrant plurality is actually the cement that is bonding our country together thus far. But in the recent times, the Hindu right wing organisations (parties) seem to be working to thwart this very plurality of India. The bigotry remarks of some senior politicians, that too with distressing frequency, are perpetually fanning the embers of a fear that the government is subscribing to make the country ‘Hindu-Rashtra’. The issues of Ram Temple, Love Jihad, Ghar Wapasi and of course the ban on Holy Cow (beef) consumption are what can be seen as a target to the minorities. The holy cow  issue (banning the sale of cows for slaughter) not just hurts the religious sentiments of Muslims and Christians but also lower-caste Hindus, who work in leather industries, and farmers because they will be deprived of a traditional source of income from selling non-milch and ageing cattle. More worrying than hurting religious sentiments is the violent manifestation of intolerance associated with this cow issue. It has led to the incitement of mass hysteria leading to lynching after lynching. Rowdy vigilante bands (gau-rakshaks) seem to have unleashed a reign of terror in different parts of India, which further accentuates animosity amongst different groups.

 
We also have witnessed the alarming increase in violence against the dalits in the past few years.  These acts of violence have risen not just in terms of numbers, but also in intensity. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), crime against dalits – ranging from rape, murder, beatings, and violence related to land matters – is alarmingly on the rise and going by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the Prevention of Atrocities against Scheduled Castes, a crime is committed against a dalit every 18 minutes. This situation clearly defies the core ideology and spirit of the 1942 movement and it also strongly points that justice, equality, liberty and fraternity – the four basic tenets promised in our constitution’s preamble is not available to all but rampant oppression and discrimination continue unabated.


Gandhi’s dream of a democracy where there will be equal freedom for all, where everybody will be his own master seems to be under a big threat today. The rights of the citizens are not being honoured nor respected, the cultural diversity is not being accommodated and celebrated and there is a constant fear among the people to freely express their thoughts. The right to free expression, a crucial pillar of a democratic edifice, is eroding swiftly. Journalists, writers, scholars and artists are being persecuted, banned, imprisoned, forced into exile or had their works desecrated. In recent times the murder of journalists from Hindustan daily, Taza TV, Aaj Tak, threats and violence on media personnel and, of course, the government’s ban for a day on NDTV and News Time Assam are attacks on free expression. The same fate befalls on the rationalist writers and progressive artists who dare to challenge the narrow conservatism of the Hindu right wing organisations or criticize their bigotry. 


This intolerant atmosphere and shrinking free expression are permeating into educational campuses and threatening the very idea of what the universities are meant to be – free enquiry and open debate. We all are too aware of the incidences that had unfolded at JNU, Hyderabad University, Ramjas College, Jai Narain Vyas University, Kirori Mal College etc. These incidences are not just one-off episodes but, lately, have become new norms in Indian universities. These are attacks on what universities stand for. Understood, freedom of expression is to be exercised with reasonable restrictions but what we see today is the hijacking of this ‘reasonableness’ by the brand of neo-nationalism that the Hindu right wing is projecting. But, sadly, this invocation of ultra-nationalism appears to be mere excuse to justify the deliberate targeting of minorities.


75 years have lapsed since Gandhi gave the ‘Do or Die’ slogan to fight imperialism, for equality, democracy with non-violence. The relevance of this cry is very much vital even today when we seem to be just seeing a facade; a veneer of democracy imprisoned by narrow, divisive and conservative mindsets.



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. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr Hewasa Lorin, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: dot@tetsocollege.org.



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