By Oken Jeet Sandham
Someone whose life has been devoted to the cause of a political party and mostly living with the grassroots till the age of 83 might find some uncomfortable to do a job which restricts him from freely interacting with the masses. A man who remained loyal to his political party almost his lifetime without expecting much in return is quite rare and also any person from the mainland India willing to spend almost his entire lifetime in the northeastern part of India is also worth appreciating while imagining as to how he would have negotiated many unseen or seen situations socially, politically or otherwise.
Today, the people of Nagaland are lucky to have a Governor who had been working as politician in their State for nearly 50 years. He is 83 today. That means, most of his prime life has been in Nagaland and during his pretty long years, he has been involved in various activities promoting cultural, educational and tribal values and exposing them to the rest of the country, while being instrumental in making the BJP inroads into every nook and corner of the region.
This Governor is none other than Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya, popularly known as PB Acharya. He was sworn in as the 19th Governor of Nagaland on July 19, 2014. In fact, he would not have become the Governor of Nagaland had then Mizoram Governor Vakkom B Purushothaman accepted the transfer order from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to become the Governor of Nagaland. Acharya was destined to become the Governor of Nagaland.
Purushothaman resigned as Governor of Mizoram when he was transferred to Nagaland to become the Nagaland Governor saying the he was shifted “without consulting.” In fact, after the Narendra Modi Government was installed at the Center, there had been spate of resignations across the country by serving Governors who were appointed by the previous Congress-led UPA Government at the Center.
It was not accidental that at a felicitation program of the Northeast BJP and NDA legislators, MPs held on June 28, 2014 at Niathu Resort, Dimapur, where some of us in press while congratulating Acharya, who was also present there, told him that he would become the Governor of Nagaland soon. He looked emotional and speechless but was seen his inner joy and tacitly acknowledged our words because he knew very well some us in media who had almost 20 years of association with him in Nagaland. He knew we could not be wrong and we knew that.
In his first interaction with the members of the Kohima Press Club (KPC) on August 16, 2014 at his Kohima Raj Bhavan residence, we reminded him what we had predicted for him at Niathu Resort, Dimapur. He held our hands tightly while giving his inimitable smiles without uttering a single word. He looked thrilled and overjoyed seeing every one of us in his Kohima Raj Bhavan residence. He showed us his keen desire to strengthen people-to-people relationship not only in the State but also region’s people with the rest of the country through his rare, innovative and motivational educational programs. His enthusiasm to learn tribal dialects starting with Tenyidie shown during our interaction was a positive start towards his mission.
Acharya’s idea of promoting Naga languages through various renowned Universities based in other major cities and states of India is praiseworthy. His idea is to let the mainland people learn the unique tribal languages and cultures. This way, many mainland Indians will come to know the importance and values of the lifestyles, cultures and languages of the northeast tribals. Introducing such innovative ideas in other Universities is unique for the fact that many Naga people already living in the major cities serving in various companies, industries or offices will be approached to spare their times and impart their respective dialects in the Universities.
This is still not everything. The octogenarian Governor has also deep concern for the fading educational system and also the chronic shortage of science and math teachers in Nagaland. 70 per cent of government teachers’ alleged absence in their schools has shocked him questioning, “Where will our poor students go if teachers are not willing to teach? No society can progress without proper education.” This unusual development might have pushed him to adopt one government school in Kohima where his wife Kavita Acharya would attend twice a week and teach around four subjects a day. This will definitely send a strong message to the people particularly the teaching community in Nagaland.
It is laudable that the Governor has already in discussion with the University authorities in major cities at least to send some of their faculty members to impart science and math in Nagaland and this way, he said, the faculty members would not only be giving services to the people of Nagaland but also experiencing values which they had not experienced earlier. This unique concept of educational exchange programs, he believes, will definitely reduce lot of gaps between the region and the rest of the country and, in the process it will also strengthen the national integration.
Governor Acharya seems to be not interested remaining in the comforts of the Raj Bhavan. He wants to mingle with the people and is hardly bothered with his gubernatorial protocols. In his first interaction with the members of Kohima Press Club, he made it very clear that he wanted to meet with the press people as much as possible and wanted to keep the kind of relationship as he had before. In fact, his second meeting with the media fraternity that came less than a month on September 11, 2014 at his Kohima Raj Bhavan residence was unprecedented and massive.
His second interaction with the local media persons became the most memorable one for the simple fact that he was talking all politics which any serving Governors of Nagaland rarely did in the past. He was firm and clear in his mind. He was so categorical while justifying his points that the 17 year long Naga peace process was quite long and the Naga people had suffered enough. “Enough is enough,” he rued adding time had come to solve the Naga political issue once and for all and Naga people wanted it. His ardent appeal to Nagas to accept the appointment of retired Special Director of Intelligence Bureau RN Ravi as new interlocutor for resumption of Center-NSCN (IM) talks manifests his resolve for settlement of the Naga issue.
His disappointment on the prevailing pathetic financial problems facing the state could be seen while talking to the press at his Raj Bhavan residence and did not mince any words saying that corrupt officials should not be spared and urged the people to rise up against scourge of venalities. He, however, strongly believes that Nagaland can become one of the riches states in the country if its abundant natural resources are properly taped and utilized.
It’s the first time a serving Governor throwing a massive lunch for the media in his second meeting with them and it was heartening to see that media fraternity used Governor’s Kohima Raj Bhavan residence as theirs. Before the media fraternity left his magnificent Raj Bhavan residence, Acharya again politely told them that “I want to meet you again next month and if possible, every month.”
He has shown the Kohima Raj Bhavan as a creative center, a place of warmth, and it has truly become a people’s place and a place to gather.
Governor Acharya lives a humble and simple life as usual and always wants to be with the people. This makes him quickly a people’s Governor.