Why delimitation matters for Nagaland
The recent poring of opinions, emotions and deliberate schemes to suppress the democratic rights of the less represented people in Nagaland by way of opposing the delimitation exercise on the ground of Naga solution is devoid of reality and without logic. When it comes to Naga struggle for self-determination, Lothas were also one among the Nagas who sacrificed their blood, toil, tears and sweat for the sake of the Naga posterity.
The very fact that the Naga National Council was established in Wokha in February 1946, speaks volumes about the Lothas‘ contribution towards the Naga cause. However, being naive as contrary to popular opinion, the Lothas remain steadfast towards the Naga cause. For this very reason, when Nagaland came into being, Wokha district was discriminated and sidelined. To add salt to injury, the number of seats to the NLA from Wokha was reduced from five to four.
All these developments happened when Lothas faced the brunt of military oppression for supporting the Naga movement. Now, the very same motive of “Naga solution” is being used to deprive the less represented communities, including the Lothas, of our rights and need to be fairly represented.
By favouring delimitation, Lothas are never against Naga solution. Rather we are one of the proud people who would like to see and reap the benefits of the sacrifices made by our forefathers. And we don’t need any lecture from anyone about Naga nationalism, because we are also one among the people who signed the historic memorandum to the Simon commission in 1929 that gave birth to Naga nationalism.
To us, delimitation is an economic and political tool to correct the socio-economic inequalities perpetuated by the mistakes of the past. To us, delimitation is a democratic means to secure our fundamental rights for equal opportunity and fair representation. To us, delimitation is an opportunity to redress past injustice and discrimination. And to us, delimitation is a political medium that enables the less represented people to be represented fairly in governance, and thus, progress as equal partners in the state.
Delimitation is not a matter of simple arithmetic calculations of who wins or who loses. We should be least concerned with that and be more rational to appreciate the merits of delimitation that ensures fair representation in politics and governance. Because democracy without fairness is absurd and incomplete.
So, when people who have been denied of equal and just representation for five decades gets an opportunity to be represented fairly, as equal partners, why should other oppose to that? We have not opposed the system of reservation and quota system that seeks to provide special kind of privileges to certain communities in the state. Because we believe in the spirit of accommodation, empathy and inclusive progress.
When we compare the economic condition of the people in the state, Lothas do deserve some kind of affirmative policies, if not in educational and employment, then certainly in economic areas. So many Lotha villages do not have roads connectivity and have to bypass the treacherous Assam border in order to climb to their villages.
Our health care facilities and educational systems are in precarious conditions. The recent HSLC pass percentages for government schools in Wokha district is 25% against the state average of 47.4%. Despite this glaring lack of development and backwardness, we are being artificially considered superior and advanced just so to deny us of our rights and entitlements.
Yet, we are not seeking for special privileges; yet, we do not blame others for our misfortunes. We admit the fact that the we could have managed our educational and health system in a better manner. We admit the fact the money spent for public welfare and economic infrastructures could have been utilized judiciously. We also admit that something is wrong with the quality of workmanship and management when it comes to development. We admit that, we as a society of people have failed collectively, because social progress is a social responsibility.
Yet, delimitation is not an affirmative policy, and we are not seeking for favour and mercy or commiseration. We are not even seeking for reparations, even though that might be justified. What we are asking is just an expression of our democratic and political rights granted upon the citizens by the constitution of India itself.
Therefore, we shall not succumb to any unfair means and pressure engineered to deny us of our fundamental right to equality, right to equal opportunity and right to constitutional remedies.
We are already in the final year of the second decade of the new millennium, and the people of the day cannot be represented by the census of 1971. One is because it is an outdated census and does not reflect the change in demography over the past 50 years or so. Second is because this and other past census were taken during crucial conflict period between Indian military and Naga freedom fighters.
There were campaigns initiated by the Naga national workers to dissuade Nagas from enrolling themselves in the census or participate in the electoral process. Hence, census undertaken during the conflict period could not reflect accurately the actual population of the time. Two census have been taken since the signing of the peace process between India and Naga national workers in 1997.
We have no problem whichever census year is chosen by the delimitation commission to be used as a parameter to readjust the assembly seats in the state. We certainly do not object even if headcount is to be taken today or at any time in the future. But we place our hope and confidence in the commission that it will fulfil its constitutional obligations without yielding to any concocted stories and excuses.
There is no justifiable argument or empirical evidences to support that fresh delimitation cannot be taken post Naga solution. Rather the current delimitation exercise will only make the matter easy for any future delimitation process by rectifying the past and current discrepancies in representation. Therefore, the delimitation process should be allowed to proceed without delay. Only then true justice shall prevail in Nagaland.
(The author is an educator, researcher and an analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com)