“Oh Yea…. All our campaigns are organized, planned out and implemented online…Strictly cyber activism”, writes Yan Fo Kikon. Planned online, made real! Meet the new face of activism. Social networking can be this powerful! Talk about Egyptian and Tunisian cyber activism that launched revolutions? In a corner of India, there is a similar revolution happening in Nagaland. Cyber activism with a non-violent face; deeds of love and compassion extended to those in need! The Naga Blog (TNB), a popular platform for facebooking Nagas (as well as esteemed non-Nagas participants), stands out from any other group. It is not all about debates and discussions concerning every issue under the heavens that gives TNB this virtue. It is the humane gestures members of this group have initiated during hours of need when even the state administration did nothing. TNB’s humane gestures have extended beyond the realms of Nagaland too! What more? The Naga Blog has helped launch careers of some active participants too! It is indeed power to the people and a voice of the people. The impact it carries is positive and far reaching, and the mission continues with this humane vision.
The Arachneed is honored to have Yan Fo Kikon, the founder and administrator of The Naga Blog, share this extra-ordinary story.
The Arachneed: How TNB was created and what was the initial idea behind its creation?
Yan: The idea popped into my mind whilst I, my dad and mom were having our usual post-dinner discussion on Naga society, the killings, factionalism, corruption and everything that is consuming our society. I realized that there are hundreds of families all over Nagaland who discuss these issues and actually come up with great ideas too to improve our system. But I noticed that just as the smoke from the kitchen fire goes up the chimney and disappears into the atmosphere, so does our discussions and ideas – up in smokes. I am not going to let it happen again; I got up, logged into facebook and created the group, invited a few like-minded friends and thus our humble beginning.
The Arachneed: How far has it evolved from just being a forum to a more action-oriented group?
Yan: Once the platform came into being, people were pouring in with their grievances. The Naga Blog achieved a milestone when I approached two of the most popular newspapers in Nagaland with a new concept of printing the debates and discussions which take place in the blog. One of the news dailies did not reply whereas the other one liked the idea and the following week, I was consolidating the best discussions and ideas from the blog and channelizing it to the masses through the newspaper. After two months, the former newspaper also came up with its own version of The Naga Blog!
Unlike the traditional concept where only people who had good writing skills could have their concerns and grievances put across through long, boring articles which only the so called intellects could read and comprehend; now the common man on the street who had access to facebook could directly speak out his ideas and be read by millions of people .
Next step was to jump out from the virtual world onto the real world. On Sep 2011, our
neighboring state Sikkim was devastated by a deadly earthquake. People in Nagaland were angry and frustrated, because while people in Sikkim were going through a tough time, the Nagaland Government was organizing a mega concert to raise funds for the victims of the Tsunami in Japan. The critics in the blog challenged that while our Government is donating to one of the richest self-sufficient countries, we are doing nothing for our neighbors. That gave birth to our first charity drive– The Sikkim Earthquake Relief. We quickly created an online campaign in collaboration with N.O.O.B.S. (Nagaland.Open.Online.Barter or Sell) wherein every well-wisher could donate Rs. 100 only and not more than that. No donor will feel more privileged than the other because every single member will shoulder the same level of responsibility and power. Be it a Minister or a school student, a bus driver or a rich contractor, each of them donates only Rs 100/-. Everyone’s contribution to the cause is equal without a rich donor shadowing the rest. We raised Rs. Rs 1,59,455 in three days. The cheque of the relief fund and messages from contributors were handed over to captain of the Indian soccer team Bhaichung Bhutia who hails from Sikkim and was co-incidently in Kohima, Nagaland for an the exhibition match.
The Arachneed: Do you consider these charity works as a reaction against the state administration’s non-participation to respond to immediate social concerns?
When you log in to the blog and just observe the discussions, you will notice that almost all members are ranting and complaining about the system and the government. The fact is that the sample of members has a huge variation, coming from different backgrounds, cities, villages and profession. The significant observation is that they all speak in unison (Most of the time) concerning issues pertaining to the inefficiencies of the Government. Some of the biggest thread to the Naga society today are :
1. Factionalism – Where rival armed Naga Nationalist groups have resorted to killing amongst themselves by opening fire in public places, turning it into almost a war zone and killing civilians in most cases.
2. Corruption – So deeply rooted into our system, that you see luxury cars like land rovers and massive palatial buildings while there are hardly any major industries to build and sustain our economy. Almost everything is supported by Government funding through salaries, contracts, schemes etc. Basically the people have become over dependent on the Government that corruption has become inevitable.
3. Illegal Immigration – The influx of illegal immigration in Dimapur, Nagaland has reached dangerous levels due to over dependence of cheap labor in construction and petty jobs. Recently, the Naga society has been shaken by cases of gang rape and locals being beaten up by gangs of illegal immigrants.
The Naga youths have been raising their voice for the above and dozens of other issues and the government’s “inaction” on these problems which is ultimately hampering growth and development in our state.
The Arachneed: On TNB’s ‘Walk the talk’?
Yan: The Naga Blog has made sure that we don’t just ‘talk the talk’ but also ‘walk the talk’. Whenever we see people posting complaints, we encourage the members not just to rant and discuss about it but also be proactive and find a solution to the issue. For example, recently a member posted pictures of the Civil Hospital in Dimapur which were filthy, clogged toilets and the peeling, dirty, grimy rooms of Dimapur Civil Hospital’s “health” sections – particularly the sections associated with child-delivery and baby care sections. We decided that rather than complaining about the Government’s inefficiency, we the people rather do something about it. So we started another campaign led by our admins Kevin and Vikeduo, donations started pouring in from all over through online transfers and contact points – businesses and shops where people can drop in to donate cash. We could raise around Rs 1.5 lakh. On 14th April, about a hundred Naga Bloggers led by the administrators turned up to renovate the hospital. Interestingly, some members even came all the way from Mokokchung and Kohima just for the social work while some Naga organizations even brought in their own volunteers to help in the work.
From the funds raised – contributions of members and well-wishers from Nagaland and
outside – the youths cleaned the entire pre-natal section and painted the entire interiors. On Saturday, the eager youths put in long hours scrubbing and thoroughly cleaning them with chemicals. Later, the toilet sections were also painted. Further, as part of the work, the already-broken, rusted or decaying windows were gouged out and new window panes were installed in place by wielders. The new window rigs were then draped with new, clean curtains and ring holders. Young professionals of the group brought in their expertise and equipments such as molders and welding equipment while those in the electrical business brought in their bit to weld new metal windows and nets or install new fans. A number of new fans and fluorescent electrical bulbs were put into place in the pre-natal and post-natal sections. Dozens of new waste bins, both wooden and plastic, were also placed in the sections and outside.
The Arachneed: How diverse is TNB? But how united is it for the causes that TNB stands for?
Yan:Unlike mainland India where class/caste system is still pretty much prevalent till today where you rarely see a farmer and a corporate coming together to help renovate a government hospital; in Nagaland since we belong to a tribal society, we have a very closely knit society where people from varied backgrounds come together and openly debate on any issue and work together as a unit. We also have Government officials, Kilonsers(Ministers) and officials of Naga Nationalist groups, farmers, students, writers and professionals from Nagaland and all around the world who come under one single platform to raise our voices and be heard.
The Arachneed: About the team?
Yan: The team comprises of 12,000+ members growing at the rate of about 500 new members added each week, TNB members come from diverse backgrounds and places. We are an adventurous and passionate bunch when it comes to helping the needy, especially the admins Peter Rutsa, Kevin Naga, VikeduoLinyu, Al Ngullie, WapongLonkumer, Sinlo Kemp and AlemPenshy. For example, in December 2011, I
overheard on the radio that two remote villages in Mon near the international border between India and Burma were ravaged by fire. I called up our admins and other members if we could collect some cash, relief materials and head out for Mon. We hurriedly started a campaign and in three days members poured in with huge bags of clothes, utensils and other relief materials along with fuel and cash amounting to Rs. 70,000. The day after Christmas we started on our two day journey to the extreme remote corner of Nagaland,
me in a truck with the relief materials and other members led by ‘Captain Dynamo’ Peter Rutsa and Imna Longkumer in their 4 x4. We were glad, we could travel to one of the remotest corners of the State which have long been neglected by the Government where the smiles are pure and being able to help those in our little ways was the greatest joy one can ever experience.
The Arachneed: Any message to the global readers on what they can learn and put into action from TNB experience?
Yan:We are truly humbled being from one of the least known States in India and getting featured in your global magazine. We still have a lot to learn in order grow to catch up with the rest of the country and the world.
But if there is one thing which we can all learn from our TNB experience is that no authority or government should ever underestimate the power of the people. When people come together to make a difference and work for a good cause, we can literally see all the positive energy multiplying and washing over the pessimism surrounding us. And yes from my personal experience, reading and writing is in indeed important but what matters the most is if we are able to Walk the Talk.
As communicated to The Arachneed.
Yan Fo Kikon, Founder and Administrator of THE NAGA BLOG is an electronics engineer and working as a business analyst in a software firm based in Pune, India. He is also a singer! He performs four nights a week at a well-known pub in Pune but his passion and vision lies in doing everything he can in helping his people and bringing change to his society. He affirms that simple and humble acts of love and compassion can help one contribute in our own ways to the country and the world.
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