Sunday, January 13, 2013

No future without forgiveness

First of all a tribute to the Mizos and their Chief Minister for being willing to get involved in the messy Naga problem and trying to help. From the reports in the news papers, as I write, it is not yet clear if he has actually taken on the responsibility of mediating between the Government of India and the NSCN (IM). What is clear is that things have moved considerably in that direction.

What the Mizoram Chief Minister is offering to do is an act of real Christian charity and kindness to us as a neighbour. From the way we have behaved and acted with all our neighbours, it cannot be that we have earned their respect and love. But few of our people ever look at things from perpective of others, or are willing to do so. We can only hold on tenaciously to our own points of view, no matter that others may see such an attitude as incredible. We have, like the proverbial ostrich, buried our head in the sand. Naturally, we do not see anything except what we want to see --- if your head is buried in the sand what you see can only be a mental projection and just as unreal. People may be seeing our shame, and nakedness, and have all kinds of reactions – of revulsions, outrage, anger, etc. But we remain blissfully ignorant, our heads still firmly buried in the sand. The imagery is unfortunate but still true.

Many of our neighbours, not without grounds, feel that our people have militarized their societies. This is not to say that there was no disgruntlement in their societies. Perhaps, the ground even ripe. But, if so, the fact still remains that our people exploited and took advantage of such disgruntlement. That is not a neighbourly thing to do. Many of them, today, feel bitter towards us. Several have been frank enough and kind, to express their feelings. But there are others who silently hold their grudges. The result is that while so many Nagas ‘boast’ of their ‘freedom struggle’, Naga society has been ringed with unfriendly neighbours. And till date, no Naga decleration has gone out, in friendship, to our neighbours. How cold and stone-hearted we have become. And how blind to what we are doing to others.

In the circumstances, if the Mizoram Chief Minister does get involved in the mediation efforts, one hopes the Naga people, and especially the NSCN (IM), will keep in mind that a neighbour is trying to help --- perhaps, the only neighbour willing to do so.

One question which has not been raised publicly as yet but which must, of necessity, be asked and discussed, is how serious we are in wanting to have the Naga problem settled once and for all. The same question could be asked of the Government of India. But we need to first settle the issue among our people. This may look ludicrous to some. But the sections of those in the forefront, and those who will play pivotal roles in deciding and settling the issue, speak otherwise. Each faction, loudly or softly, want to be recognised as the foremost, if not the only group, in the negotiations. Again, we speak of reconciliation and unity. But we want these only on our own term. If our terms are not met, then, in the name of the Naga people, we are willing to throw away, at one go, all the hard-earned gains made so far. Are these signs of our seriousness to solve the problem? Do we really have the good of our people at heart? Are we willing to make some concessions for the sake of our people even if these entail some sacrifice for our side? And willing to explore all possibilities? If not, we will be selling our people short, will not be using those who are trying to help, and taking both for a royal ride.

Archbishop Puncie said, "Those who do not wish to look at the past, or understand the past become easy victims of fatal lies and suspicions about other people in the present". Are we willing to look at or understand the past? Difficult to answer. But are we suspicious of each other? Have we been victims of the lies spread by vested interests? The answers, I am sure, are obvious to everyone.

How do we then heal history? Political initiatives can take us so far, but then the weight of history is often left largely unaddressed. A former Irish Republican activist wrote to Nicholas Frayling, author of ‘Pardon and Peace’, who I was privileged to meet in Liverpool about two weeks ago, "It is not present-day injustice which fuels the conflict in this land … The real trouble is Cromwell and King Billy, and nobody knows how to bury them". Much of present day decisions and actions have been forged on the anvil of feelings and attitudes, which have been formed in the past. The Bible also talks of the sins of the father visiting the sons. This, I think, is a fit case for comparison.

Therefore, history needs to be revisited, however, unpleasant and painful, and properly laid to rest so that it does not continue to come back to haunt us. If we do not do this in the right way, we can risk damning ourselves to only "tinker with consequences instead of addressing causes" and presenting a vicious cycle of hatred and revenge from which there is no escape. This was the whole point of the Truth and reconciliation Commission in South Africa. There is need to break the chain of hate and cause a paradigm shift.

In the circumstances, there is ‘no future without forgiveness" (the title of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book) in our situation. And as Michael Henderson, British author, says, "Neither forgiveness nor its inverse, repentence, will alone solve the world’s problems or bring peace. But without those two elements, it is hard to see how settlements will prevail overtime". Our people need so much to move from mutual life-renewing humility and contrition, and from blame to understanding. Reconciliation, and the restoring of relationships, is the only way forward. This also means a true give-and-take.

Conditional reconciliation on the basis that "I will reconcile if you give in to my terms", or "only my terms", will not work. Forgiveness entails penitence and, to the extent possible, reparation. The basis must be that, before God, we have all sinned and fallen short; not a comparison with other human beings. To look for forgiveness, without repentence, is to look for reconciliation on the cheap. And true repentance, and forgiveness cannot be gained cheaply. It costs. "I am sorry" are the most difficult words in any language, to quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The time for statesmanship and to show greatness is upon us. Some encouraging signs have been witnessed in the last few months at the highest political levels, underground and overground, among our people. It is important that they do no explain these away or try to qualify them out of existence or meaninglessness, which sometimes do happen, especially with those politicians who think that unless they have clever explanations for every action, they put themselves on shaky ground. But ‘cleverness’ also has its limits. There comes a time when human intelligence alone becomes inadequate. And it is important that we accept our humanness with humility. We must learn to understand and be willing to make concessions. Archbishop Tutu says making concessions is a sign of strength, not weakness, because only a person who is strong can make concessions.

What the Naga situation requires is a real break-through somewhere. But the break-through is not coming because all the principal players are also contending parties without any real neutral force. Any potential neutral force emerging in society has been systematically dismantled or marginalised out of existence by the contending parties out of fear and suspicion. Once the neutral force has been disturbed, the contending parties can only go back to take up their old stagnated refraints as if there is no tomorrow. And history keeps repeating itself. Credit-seeking and blame-sharing are once more the games played out. The politics of brinkmanship once more rules. More lives get lost. More bitterness generated for the next generation.

How long can this continue? It is clear that if we are to break out and break free of the shackles of the past, there needs to be a clean break somewhere. Some will have to be willing to make concessions and to sacrifice. The silent majority must also be allowed to become vocal and to be heard. The Naga Church too must be willing to take on a greater role, and be in the vanguard of the fight for peace, not only because of its extensive influence among the Naga population but also because forgiveness and repentance are properly in the domain of religion and God, and Church leaders are rightly the trained specialists in the business.

The Bible talks about "If you say you love God and hate your neighbour, you are a liar’. Quite down to earth, don’t you think?

Uttarakhand Govt. prohibits women from working beyond 6 p.m.

Dehradun (Uttarakhand), Jan.12 (ANI): In a bizzare development, the Uttarakhand Government has passed an order that prohibits women from working beyond 6 p.m. in private and government jobs.

The step is being seen as too extreme to curb crimes against women.

The state government is being severly criticised for this regressive approach, and the opposition is objecting to the directive.

The Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna-led state government has reportedly taken the step in the wake of the gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi late last month. The woman was repeatedly raped inside a dark tinted glass moving bus, and suffered gruesome injuries. She had to be eventually flown out to Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital, but succumbed after a battle for survival of 13 days.

In the wake of the December 16 gang rape incident, there has been a flurry of media revelations regarding incidents of rape across the country.

The reports have prompted several state governments and the central government to fine tune the laws of the country regarding rape and other sexual crimes against women. Several commissions, headed by retired judges, have also been set up to discuss the problem threadbare and to come out with recommendations for change. The police is also under pressure to improve its responses to the general public on issues of law and order as well as crimes. (ANI)

Special pink roofed autos for women commuters in Gurgaon

Gurgaon, Jan 12 (ANI): Keeping in view the alarming increase in crime against women, the Gurgaon police sprang into action and launched a safety drive, which included introduction of special auto services for women.

About 22 pink roofed autos would ply in Gurgaon, ferrying only women passengers, the police said on Friday.

Last month''s rape of a physiotherapy student on a moving bus in the national capital New Delhi and her death in hospital have triggered unprecedented national outrage and demands for better safety measures in the country.

Gurgaon Traffic Police Inspector, Anil Kumar, said that the women are often victims of eve-teasing when they are travelling and this service will avert such incidents.

"We have launched this drive for the safety of the women. Women are often mistreated and eve-teased while travelling in an auto-rickshaw. But now they will have separate autos, only for women," he said.

As a part of this drive, police have identified 22 auto drivers and verified their identification documents, providing them with special identity cards.

"In order to control crime against women, the Haryana police have taken this step. If the administration helps, then this could prove to be very successful. The police have put 22 autos and they have thoroughly verified all of them. If the passenger feels that they are being mistreated by any of the drivers, then they can dial 100 and lodge a complaint," said Amit Kumar, auto driver.

Gurgaon has a poor public conveyance system and women, especially those without a personal vehicle find the newly introduced auto service a boon.

Ritu Singh, a passenger, said that the service will prove to be beneficial only when the auto drivers do not refuse to ferry the women passengers.

"It is a very good service and facilitates women who are coming from outside and who do not have their personal vehicles. However, the condition is that they should not refuse to take us to our destinations," she said. (ANI)

India celebrates 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda

New Delhi, Jan 12 (ANI): To commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda on Saturday, a number of functions are being held across the country.

President Pranab Mukherjee will inaugurate the anniversary celebrations at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi and release a set of commemorative coins and stamps.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi along with several Union Ministers will be present on the occasion.

A National Committee under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was constituted to consider policies, lay down guidelines for the anniversary commemoration and decide on the time frame for related activities.

Madhya Pradesh will observe Swami Vivekanand''s 150th birth anniversary year from January 12 by establishing Vivekananda Youth Centres at district and development block levels.

Swami Vivekananda born as Narendra Nath Datta was a key figure in the introduction of Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world.

He was also credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion in the late 19th century. (ANI)