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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Do You Want A “New Nagaland”? Free Your ‘YOUTH’ First

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By: Dr. Aniruddha Babar

“The so-called education that goes on in the world prepares you only to earn bread. And Jesus says, ‘Man cannot live by bread alone.’ And that’s what your universities have been doing – they prepare you to earn bread in a better way, in an easier way, in a more comfortable way, with less effort, with less hardship. But all that they do is prepare you to earn your bread and butter. It is a very, very primitive kind of education: it does not prepare you for life.” ~ OSHO

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God has not only honoured me with an opportunity to serve in Nagaland but also gifted me with a huge number of friends of all ages and genders who became my guides, mentors, and teachers throughout my adventurous life in Nagaland. It is a well-acknowledged fact that most mainland Indians do not understand the soul of the Nagas, let alone the mysteries of Nagaland. There are a lot of misunderstandings, misconceptions, and confusions that exist about the Nagas and Nagaland due to a lack of communication, preconceived notions, and geographical distance. When I decided to settle here after accepting the ‘offer’ from Prof P.S. Lorin’s Tetso College, I realized the huge weight of responsibility that I was to shoulder. It was never about becoming just a teacher of students but was all about becoming their companion, friend, brother, mentor, and guru. I was to deal with those students who were from diverse and extremely complicated backgrounds. Even though I have always had powerful support from our society and leaders, especially my uncles, aunties, brothers, and sisters, I knew that the challenges and battles that I was going to face were to be a lonely struggle.

However, my students became my companions, my comrades, and my soldiers. The responses that I received in my classes introduced me to the ‘metal’ and ‘fire’ of my students. The decision to contribute something ‘constructive’ to society was taken. I was made to realize that I was not surrounded by ordinary kids but men and women of substance who were determined to take the initiative to ‘construct’ the “New Nagaland” with whatever little efforts they could make. In no time, my existence at my workplace turned into a ‘progressive movement’ which started with the formation of the ‘Critical Theorists Society.’ It was formed on 2nd October 2018 in a running car on the “Dimapur-Kohima highway.” Mosa Sangtam, Putionen Jamir, Keneisediu Mezhu, Ghukha Chophy, Panglem Konyak, Vemudozo Tetseo, Kuku Yepthomi, Hipito Arkha Achumi, Holonto Zhimomi, Hika Yepthomi became the initiators of the great ‘Dream’ which was later carried forward by many more.

What did the ‘Critical Theorists Society’ do? It produced thoughts, ideas, theories, views, and opinions, and fearlessly disseminated them primarily through the “Degree of Thought Column” – an initiative of Morung Express-Tetso College collaboration, of which I was the Co-Editor and continued to be one until August 2022. Members of the Critical Theorists Society produced a good amount of literature in the past four years in the public interest and also participated in debate competitions as well as national and international academic conferences while regularly contributing their ‘research’ to various newspapers in Nagaland, Assam, and Manipur. The seeds that members of the Critical Theorists Society sowed in the ‘cultivated’ soil of Naga society and Tetso College will bear fruit in the future.

The work that the “Critical Theorists Society” stubbornly started was further continued by Tetso Motorcycle Club and Tetso Mountaineering Club. The Critical Theorists Society was a large group of silent, dedicated scholars, whereas TMC 1 and TMC 2 are large groups of ‘action-oriented’ individuals who believe in taking bold initiatives to give new dimensions to the conscience of modern-day Naga society. Tetso Motorcycle Club (TMC 1) and Tetso Mountaineering Club (TMC 2) have been formed to help their members connect with society and become an engine for change and transformation, leading to active contributions to the nation-building process. TMC 1 and TMC 2, despite challenges, odds, and critical barriers, continued to serve society by generating a positive force in the state of Nagaland, building bridges of love, compassion, justice, unity, and nationalism. “We climb mountains, swim the rivers, and brave the dark jungles for the bright future of our people and our country. We are one nation, one people, and we shall always remain one,” Keakong T (Alex), former Commander-in-Chief of Tetso Mountaineering Club, quotes with pride.

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“We do not just ride, but we ride for a social cause, and we look for opportunities to carry the message of hope, justice, and unity. Tetso Motorcycle Club is not just any other regular Biker’s club, but a group of socially awakened students who are ever ready to serve anywhere in our country wherever and whenever we are required. Tetso Motorcycle Club is a social movement,” Benisha R. Jishing, former Vice President of Tetso Motorcycle Club, often expresses these sentiments through her writings and speeches about Tetso Motorcycle Club. TMC 1 has been heavily involved in social initiatives, from tackling Covid-19 to advocating for the rights of people, exploring new lands and cultures, connecting people, and contributing to national integration and the nation-building process. Tetso Motorcycle Club has also been felicitated by the Assam Rifles and appreciated by many other government agencies and civil society organizations.

TMC 1 and TMC 2, both clubs, have a close association with the Assam Rifles/Indian Army because of the common bond of adventure, a sense of belongingness to the nation, and a common zeal and enthusiasm to serve India in whatever capacity the members of the club can. The Assam Rifles bestowed a great honour upon Tetso Motorcycle Club by permitting and granting an opportunity to receive and escort the Army Riders from the Army Medical Corps who visited Nagaland as part of their expedition to their destination at the Army Base in Rangapahar, Dimapur. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment to witness TMC (Tetso Motorcycle Club) and AMC (Army Medical Corps) riding together, “Wheel-to-Wheel” – an ideal example of how civilians and the forces can join hands together to achieve common goals: adventure, brotherhood, peace, and glory. Moreover, the recently concluded Mt. Khelia Expedition wrote an altogether new chapter in the history of Nagaland. It happened for the first time in the history of Nagaland that a civilian Mountaineering Squad (Tetso Mountaineering Club) climbed a relatively unknown, dangerous mountain located deep in the jungles of the Indo-Burma Border with Mountaineers of the Assam Rifles.

What does it all indicate? The hundreds of students who have contributed and continue to contribute to Nagaland and the nation through the Critical Theorists Society (CTS), Tetso Motorcycle Club (TMC 1), and Tetso Mountaineering Club (TMC 2) have derived immense pride through their actions, which have created a far-reaching impact on Nagaland and the nation. These initiatives were not ordinary. Through thoughts and actions, my Naga students single-handedly built bridges of humanity, truth, and unbreakable unity – which the founders of our great nation have envisaged.

My Riders and Mountaineers are the carriers and messengers of the pain and suffering of ‘invisible’ people living in the remotest regions of Nagaland. They tell the stories of ‘those’ strange lands, mysterious mountains, and Naga people of the East, who are ‘unknown’ not only to the people from mainland India but also ‘unknown’ to the Nagas of “mainland Nagaland.”

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My Scholars, Riders, and Mountaineers are carriers of a message – a message of change, a message of justice. They are carriers of “THE GOOD NEWS” – the news about the possibility of a new world, a possibility of a better Nagaland, a new Nagaland – where there will be no or less corruption, where the rule of law will prevail, where there will be no exploitation of poor and helpless Nagas by the rich, educated, resourceful Nagas, where there will be self-respect, where the community will not imprison or control the independent free will of an individual, where justice, equality, liberty, and fraternity will prevail, and where schools and colleges will align their vision, mission, and functioning approach with the needs of Naga students and society without getting influenced by profit-motivated Western business models or mainland Indian business models in the education sector.

Students of Nagaland want to write their own stories. Let them write the way they want. They want to shout from the top of the mountain that “WE TOO EXIST” – let them shout, and let their voice reach every citizen of this country.

We need schools, colleges, and teachers who are visionary and courageous enough to trust their students. We need not make similar mistakes in the name of education that have been made elsewhere in the world. At Tetso College, I think I was never a teacher, but I have always been a student, and my students have been my ‘Teachers’ who unconditionally help me, support me, educate me, motivate me, and transform me.

How many teachers, schools, and colleges/educational institutions are willing to freely allow themselves to be changed, transformed by their students?

My own experience in Nagaland taught me that Naga students need help. They need help to be free from the prisons of their world. Only a free, courageous man can construct a free, new world. Only free schools, free colleges, and free teachers/educators can construct a free man of tomorrow. (The author is an academician at Tetso College, Nagaland)

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