The Challenging And Changing Face Of The Nagas

The Challenging And Changing Face Of The Nagas
By: L Kameih *

We the Nagas were once known for the good qualities we possessed. Self-reliance, honesty, straight forwardness, bravery etc, were some of the adjectives used for describing our characteristics.

We, the Nagas were a freedom loving people and known by the high standard moral principles we maintained. Our culture as reflected in the folk dances and folklores, customs and costumes, all bear this testimony. However, if we look at our society today, it is disheartening to see these qualities fast-dwindling from our ways of life.

Our society has changed tremendously since the advent of the British on our soil. The contact with the British brought mixed blessings to our society. Along with the establishment of administrative posts in various areas, modern education and a new religion – Christianity, the menace of head hunting was put under control.

However, with the coming of the British our independent existence was for the first time threatened by following the notorious policy of divide and rule.

The British divided the Nagas and put them under different administrative units to suit their colonial interests. The encroachment of our land took place as a result of British imperialistic design despite the stiff resistance offered by our people.

Nagas could never be reconciled with their losses and Naga leaders made it clear before the Simon Commission when it visited Kohima in 1929, that Nagas should be left alone in case, the British thought of leaving India. The British did recognize the Nagas as a separate and independent people, different from Indians.

However, as events turned out the British had to leave India earlier than expected. Thus by time the British left, they had bequeathed the legacy of unsettled questions and problems of integration of Nagas and territorial boundary to the question of Naga political sovereignty.

Taking the advantage of the situation, the newly formed independent Government of India had asked Nagas to join the Indian Union.

Negotiations between the Nagas and the Indian Government were held and various proposals were made by the Indian Government. However when the Naga refused, to accept anything less than independent status as declared in their 1947 ultimatum, the Indian army forcible occupied our land.

More than five decades have passed since our struggle began, against the aggressive policy of India. Many precious lives have been lost while many were disabled and degraded as result of indiscriminate killing and brutality by the Indian Army.

The torturing and suffering of our people continues even today. Should we forget our rights? Where do we stand now? It is time for every one of us – Nagas to realise our predicament.

Since from the very day of India’s freedom from British yoke, we have witnessed dramatical changes in our society. Under the successive plan period, some development have taken place in the field of education, health, housing, transport and communication, etc.

But the big question that still remain unanswered are: have we really progressed? Have we changed for the better or worse? What price are we paying for all these development? Today if we look at the social, political and economic set up our society, it is ridden with maladies.

Our social fabric has changed and its equilibrium disrupted. Some people managed to get rich overnight.

When the majority of our people still live on subsistence level, the few rich people can afford to buy the latest electronic gadgets, vehicles, build palatial buildings and other things which are fast becoming symbols of social status and powers. Today as a result of easy money many of our people are living with false consciousness and in a fool’s paradise.

At the political front, our politicians are well known for their lack of scruples and full of corruption. Nepotism and favouritism have become rampant. Floor crossing and in-fighting among our MLAs to get minister-ship is a common phenomenon.

As a Minister, their first priority is to get rich quickly by accumulating public money into there coffer. At the administrative level, bureaucratic red-tapism, inefficiency and irregularities are the order of the day. Misappropriation of public funds and our bureaucrats and politicians involving in scandalous deal commonly occur.

In effect, corruption has become the accepted norm in our society. A special type of crime of modern days known as the white collared crime is also not a new thing in our society.

Economically, we are still very backward. We do not have any industries worth mentioning. Our economy is largely sustained by grant-in-aids from the centre and by importing manufactured goods from outside.

In the rural areas, our farmers continue to use the same technology and the age-old mode of production. Despite the various Rural Development programmes being launched, the rural economy remains as backward as before. It has failed, because the fund allocated for the rural developments do not reach the farmers in the villages.

Today, we pride ourselves in becoming more modernized that our outlook and attitude has broadened. Thanks to the influence of modern education. But, in reality, if we look at our society as a whole the degree of modernization that has taken place is still very superficial.

Our material set up, despite a marked change still remain poor and backward. Besides, our willingness to forgo the traditional values and beliefs, we have not been able to assimilate modern values into our social ethos. Neither too, the values and ethics of Christianity, notwithstanding our harping of ‘the followers of Jesus Christ’ and ‘Nagaland for Christ’.

Thus, we are faced with a lack of consistency in our social and moral values. Thereby causing the degeneration of moral standards in our society. Non conformity to social norms and juvenile delinquency (for instances drug abuse, sexual immorality, drop-outs etc) has become a matter of concern in our society.

We Nagas were exposed rather suddenly to the various cultures of the world. This suddenness has shaken our indigenous cultural pattern. While we are very prompt in adopting western culture, we are forgetting our own culture, whereas we are well acquainted with the coke and jeans cultures that is latest western rock music and fashions, we are neglecting our own folk songs and dances.

However, it should be realized that our identity depends much on the preservation of our culture. Therefore, it is extremely imperative that we preserve the good values of our indigenous culture, while importing the good elements from outside.

It is high time for every concerned Naga to re-examine them and work for the restoration and preservation of the good qualities of the past.

We must learn from our historical experiences and whatever mistakes we have committed should not be repeated so that what we Nagas were once known for, fought for, are not lost, and the sacrifices made by our people is not in vain.

In the end, I quote the words of Milton, ‘Awake, arise or we will be for ever damn‘.


L Kameih wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on March 15th, 2007 .

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