Morung Express Editorial
The Nagas’ fight for that thing called ‘freedom’ is as long as the lifespan of an average Naga. But it doesn’t seem that ‘absolute freedom’ which we also call as ‘political sovereignty’ will be possible in our time or anybody’s life time. But in this many, many years of freedom struggle, how many of us ponder on ‘what does it mean to be free?’ How do we define a free person or people? Besides the political and economic rearrangements, how will that freedom taste like to the individual?
In our present set-up, who do we think is the freest person? In the WordWeb dictionary, ‘freedom’ is defined as ‘the condition of being free; the power to act, speak or think without externally imposed restraints’. To go by this definition, none of us experience complete freedom because we all suffer from restraints. Even the chief minister or the governor of our State cannot act, speak, or think freely all the time. We often have the misconception that only if we go higher in social or economic strata, we will become our own boss. But there is circularity in the social hierarchy that the ones at the top are subject to the masses, as in the case of politicians. Some may be of the opinion that a thinker, an artist, a free lancer, or a university professor is freer than other government officers because of freedom of thought and speech. There is truth in that and is a good point to ponder when one chooses a career path. But each has his/her restraint, for example, to act out his ideas for societal change beyond the four walls of the university campus becomes a restraint in the professor’s freedom.
Most Nagas who fight for political freedom also profess another kind of freedom which makes the two strange bedfellows. We often see the rainbow flag and the cross of Christ side by side (sometimes, amusingly we also see the flag of Israel with the Naga flag). The cross is a symbol we use as a legitimizing factor and an impetus for our freedom struggle. But the symbolism gets discomforting that the cross is used as a symbol of freedom. The message of the cross is one of liberation. But the pathway to freedom is where the two doesn’t seem to match. The cross is a symbol of defeat. The hero of that freedom died the death of a criminal and hung outside the city walls some 2000 years ago. It is a freedom which comes from submission and surrendering. The message of the cross has political ramifications. But it is a freedom which does not come by overthrowing a political enemy by hook or crook but by winning them over. The means to achieving that freedom is as important as the end of having achieved it.
National freedom wasn’t a foreign thought to the people among who the message of the cross came. Good News meant in the minds of the people, freedom from foreign occupation. Messianic expectation of all things included kicking out the Romans, rebuilding the temple, and return of YHWH to Zion. And when Jesus talked of Kingdom, people must be filled with hope. But Jesus would turn this expectation upside down. Instead of focusing on the Romans, he asked the people to give up their way of being Israel and trust the kingdom he was bringing. The characteristics of the new kingdom were so distasteful to the people that they hanged him, collaborating with their foreign oppressors. We Nagas have created a very dangerous mix of pseudo-religion and nationalism where we use the former to legitimize the later. But true freedom will come when we give up ‘our way’ of attaining that freedom and surrender ourselves (personally and corporately) to the character of the cross.
Dr. Sao Tunyi works as an Epidemiologist at Directorate of Health and Family Welfare, Kohima. Feedback can be sent to email@example.com, or visit his blog www.thatchhouse.blogspot.in