Below is the text of replies to a set of questions from the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) on issues relating to Naga struggle for independence, sovereignty, Indo-Naga peace process, etc.
1) What do you think on the issue of the relevance of nationalism in the era of globalisation?
Nationalism remains relevant today; nations still exist; and till nations exist, they will need the ideology and the spirit of nationalism. Yet the matter is not so simple. Nations can exist without the nationalist ideology being supreme, or nations can be subsumed or be part of a different type of politics, which can be popular, federal, etc. “Nations before nationalism” can be now invoked with “nations after the demise of nationalism as ideology”. Globalisation in many cases has made local conditions acute, thus it may seem that the relevance of nationalism in the era of globalisation is more than ever. But we cannot be sure of this too. First all particularistic ideologies are not nationalist ideologies; there can be other ideals and ideologies. Second, more than the national response to globalisation there can be other forms of response, emergences of spaces of other types. Third, with so much mixture of blood, religion, ethnicity, statism, and other elect ideologies, where are nations and their ideology of nationalism? This is not so say that nationalism has ceased to exist, but we have to be careful in not painting everything with the brush of the nation. I am thus suggesting that not all autonomies are national autonomies. For instance, between the global and the local, the region is emerging as a critical space; likewise, local, horizontal, and vertical autonomies are emerging, and these autonomies are demanding of the nation and the nation state the same space that nations had earlier demanded of great powers and the globe, and now refuse to give it to others. Thus the question – why not below the nation? Why not above the nation? Why be fully satisfied with the nation form when we know that nation is equally intolerant of autonomies? More fundamentally, nation cannot solve the paradox of sovereignty; we have to evolve other forms of political society also towards sharing of sovereignty. I am not a believer in the full virtues of nationalism; I believe in anti-colonialism. But the two cannot be conflated.
2) What is your perspective on the Indo-Naga peace Process?
The peace process has to continue, because its significance for wider democratic politics is immense. I am aware of the difficulties, but at the outset of whatever I say, the significance must be acknowledged. If it fails, it will mean that nations cannot live in peace, that bloodshed will be the main form of not only inter-nation relations but inter-people also, and that the task of conducting peace politics proved too much for leaders of national emancipation movements than conducting war politics. Those who put faith in nations and nationalism must demonstrate now that they can put these pacific forms of politics in terms of the good of the people. However the problems are immense: (a) the balance of power is extremely uneven – between a small force and a large power, with all attending asymmetries; (b) incapacity to innovate new proposals and a new agenda, particularly ways to escape the stalling tactics of the adversary; (c) the difficulties in connecting peace issue with democracy; (d) the immensely difficult nature of the border/boundary question, also the respective hard stands on that; (e) finally, the unwillingness or the incapacity to think along new lines in sharing sovereignty – both as a principle of internal organisation of a political society, and as a principle of Indo-Naga relations. But I should not be misunderstood. I still think, peace process is the only way out. The Naga leadership has proved wiser than many others in similar situations. They are more principled. All I desire is that they become more attuned and sensitive to the complexities of democratic politics in India. That is the road to success. They must take the politics in form of peace as serious as politics in form of war, and must not take it as a mere occasion for negotiations.
3) What is your insight on India's response to the demand on Right to Self Determination?
India’s response is typical of any nation’s response towards the demand – that is response based on expediency, self-interest, and an imperial view. Nations are imperial in many ways – this is one case. Thus India supported the struggle in Sikkim, in Palestine, South Africa, or Namibia; on the other hand it has opposed many others on grounds of territorial integrity. That is why we have to think of possible non-nation forms of political society, though admittedly the nation form is one of the most widespread ones. Yet the truth is that, the volt face of the nation is historic and global. Therefore, I think that the reason has to be searched deeper or elsewhere. This is not the occasion for such reflection, but I would like to throw back some questions: Why is there in the national self-determination so much ethic fratricide? Why so much bloodshed, so much lack of democracy? Why is national self-determination to be understood in terms of “homeland” and hence expulsions of other communities? The politics of autonomy and sharing of sovereignty must expand democracy than is available, and thus must give rise to thoughts of other possible forms of political societies.
4) Whether India in the last 20 years has become more a democratic or militaristic state?
It is difficult to answer that question, also I do not like its frame. Clearly, some of the contemporary features show that the state of India is becoming more “securitised”, hence it is more conscious of its physical tasks of rule, suppression of dissent etc. Extra-ordinary powers are retained with zeal. Parliament’s dignity and legitimacy are at an all time low. Party system is proving less and less representative of popular politics and wishes. Militarism is an expression and result of all these. The generals and the lobby of the armed forces form part of a system. The state is not only governmentalised it is also increasingly securitised. Yet, against this deficit allowed by democracy, democracy’s other elements are on the rise. Popular politics shows new energy and new forms. The rights revolution shows no fatigue, with right to food breaking new frontiers in the rights campaign. The peasants are against land grab, special economic zones, etc. If militarism increases, popular will also takes new resolve. Possibly we are waiting for the climactic moment of the upsurge…Politics is after all only the other name of war. Therefore I would not like India to be labelled as one undifferentiated entity. If there is power, there is resistance too. Their India is there, but our India too is also not absent.
5) How do you see the future of peoples struggle for right to self determination and other peoples struggle in India?
Clearly new forms of struggle with new visions of society are emerging. The right to self-determination in the classic sense has not much future today. Old colonialism is gone, so is gone the old style of anti-colony and anti-empire. The right to self-determination must give rise to and thought of new ways. For instance, what is this elf we are speaking of? What about other selves besides the ethnic and nation, for instance the self of the women? Of the aliens and immigrants, of other non-citizens, or other borderline people? Popular struggles are advancing towards a federal vision of politics. A new politics of friendship is on the agenda. This vision is the mark of the future. Once again, transformation is on the agenda of radical politics.