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Citizens before Groups

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  20 Jan 2016 12:00 AM GMT

The Union government has done well to bring about a major policy change whereby it has decided not to go for any political and administrative set-up on the basis of ethnicity or community. In other words, the focus has rightly shifted from groups to citizens and stockholders of democracy. It is unfortute that this logical approach to administration should have taken almost seven decades after Independence to emerge as the keystone of administrative and political decisions, but one cannot afford to overlook the fact that 69 years is not a very long period in the history of a tion for the crystallization of sane and ratiol policy decisions. The Union government must have realized at long last that political and administrative decisions taken on demands made by particular communities and ethnic groups have a way of perpetuating injustice to citizens not belonging to those communities who are nevertheless residents of the same district, region or State. In other words, what is sauce for the goose need not necessarily be sauce for the gander as well. In the past, there has been no dearth of political and administrative decisions taken by the government on strong demands made by a single community or ethnic group. Such partisan decisions have had the effect of going against the wishes and aspirations other citizens of the same district, region or State. What has often been lost sight of is that policy decisions aimed at satisfying one community or ethnic group have a way of antagonizing other citizens not belonging to that community or ethnic group who are nevertheless stakeholders of the same democratic system. It is a case of the rights of one community or ethnic group coming in the way of other communities and ethnic groups exercising their legitimate rights. That is precisely why the focus for policy decisions in a democracy ought to be on the citizens (without consideration of their community or ethnic identity) so that the rights and aspirations of other citizens are not jeopardized in any way. For this to be the normal and ratiol way of functioning for any government, there has to be a sense of accommodation and acceptance of the rights of others among citizens in a democracy. For this to happen, there has to be the desired emphasis on respect for the rights of others before people clamour for their own rights merely because the community of the ethnic group doing so feels that it is large enough to have the ‘privilege’ of trampling on the rights of others. Unfortutely, even a close look at the curriculum for the entire span of secondary education does not reveal any concerted effort directed at creating the right kind of mindset among students for the liberalism and the generosity needed to respect the rights of others with as much fervour as one evinces for defending one’s own rights.

A case in point is the policy of earlier governments of carrying on talks only with the NSCN(I-M) to the exclusion of other groups of galand. This policy underwent a change immediately after the present government took over at the Centre and the decision was taken to go for an “inclusive solution”. Efforts have now been made to engage all these stockholders, including the civil society groups, elected representatives and other organizations of galand in the process since they should all have a say in the fil solution of the political issues. Efforts have also been made now to understand the genuine grievances of the people of galand before reaching a fil settlement with the NSCN(I-M) alone. This shift of the focus from specific communities and ethnic groups to all citizens and stakeholders is a laudable change in attitudes that one hopes will be sustained despite all political moves of vested interests to return to the earlier mode of pampering specific communities and ethnic groups to the exclusion of other citizens and stakeholders.

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