Descent into Chaos
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e did it again in Nagaland … that is hit the lowest slumps mid- way into the year. This too exactly on cue on the last day of the sixth month of the year. This is in reference to the incidents that took place during the Naga Foothill Road Construction Committee ( NFHRCC ) sponsored bandh that turned violent in Dimapur on June 30 from 6am to 6pm. ( people were reportedly injured and 16 others held for acts of vandalism and aggression.
One has heard of political parties, labour unions, organisations and other mass based bodies resorting to bandhs to take up a cause or protest injustice. After the loss of one manday, no one is the wiser as to why the bandh was called. The most oft asked question of the day was how is a ‘Committee’ imposing a bandh in Dimapur, the commercial hub of the state.The opinion expressed by the motley Congressmen in the state on this issue have quite rightly criticised the state government for having so ‘empowered’ NGO’s and Associations that they now think they can hold the ‘system’ to ransom. That the NFHRCC and the Roads and Bridges department have been at loggerheads over contractual works of the Foothill Road (a project that has the heartiest support of all sections of people in the state) is not new. But the power play between the two entities as to who holds sway over the project is an unwelcome development. This amidst allegations of the concerned Minister asking for a commission from a contractor for the Mon sector of the project to the tune of Rs 30 lakh is itself a revelation. It goes to show that the smooth progress of the Foothill Road Project henceforth will depend on just how transparent the entire project can be. The road is estimated to measure over 300 kms and estimated at over Rs 1500 crores.
Worse still allegations that the bandh took on colours of ‘tribalism’ exposes all those for and against the bandh call. It showed that their motives were self centred and for personal ends, not to benefit the public in general.
The larger question also to debate is the tendency in Nagaland to resort to bandh calls a hitherto unbecoming characteristic trait of protests in the state. It is as alien as the case a couple of days of the burning of an effigy. With hundreds of committee and associations and tribal hoho’s existing in the state the bandh call by NFHRCC may have set a bad precedence for a bandh every other day when things don’t go their way.
The Foothill Road will when it is completed will serve as a highway to connect the people of the state. That such a road to integration and unity should take off on such a discordant start , is indeed a tragedy.
Finally bandhs have never been a measure to gauge support for or against the issue. So even when the entire town or city might appear like a ghost town … more likely than not its just a weary public staying off the streets to avoid coming home with a broken windscreen or an injury, Another reason why bandhs are avoidable is it invites strong resentment from those groups whose schedules have been disrupted and the marginalised who live hand to mouth with each new day.
In other words, bandhs in the 21st century are clearly out of sync and we had better not learn to latch on to practices that human civilization everywhere deems redundant.
Dialogue is the way and the NFHRCC and the R & B department more than any other group must surely know this. They only have to find the road to this place of conversation not confrontation.