On Mao and Rongmei Tribes recognition?

By: N Janbemo Humtsoe, janbemolotha@gmail.com


The recent move by the state government to recognize Rongmei and Mao tribe has triggered a new wave of debates among different sections of the society with the youngsters in the social networking sites taking the lead role. Though the apex civil organizations like the Naga Hoho or the NSF are yet to give a definitive statement but are rather on a ‘wait and watch’ techniques, the severity of the matter gets debunked when several Naga civil organizations met to discuss the issue outside the Naga Hoho platform.

Unlike the yesteryears, policy decisions of the government that affects the wellbeing of the people directly or indirectly are now subjected to public scrutiny. This phenomenon has been compounded by the information technology and communication revolution and the growing interest and participation of the commoners towards politics and democratic governance. A phenomenon that could improve and refine decision making process if policy makers initiate healthy debates and incorporate constructive opinions into the policy provided that the public also participated in the discourse to better such legislation without having any prejudices or vested agendas. In the event of both the parties abusing their democratic rights and failing to come at logical understanding could only result in deadlocks and dead laws making everyone worse off.

In the recent years we are seeing more of the later phenomenon where legislations are not defeated inside the house but outside the assembly whereby a tussle between the government and the public spearheaded by the civil organizations has prevented the laws to survive and implemented in its true intent. This may calls for a change in the mindset of the public and also the need to review the policy approach of the government as policies which are not Pareto optimal are likely to be resisted in a democratic setup.

A respectable social activist confided in me that some Naga civil organizations, top level bureaucrats and political cronies are not in a position to openly express their opinion as opposing the recognition may attract the ire of the government or from the groups who holds different opinion or could even be branded as anti- Naga integration. Moreover, people who are in favor of the recognition cannot openly support as their own communities and allies may not keep them in their good books.

Well, the abundance of such people in the system might be responsible for legislations being protested outside and rejected by the public as the government may not be receiving the right input from those who are supposed to offer frank and candid advice based on sound judgment and accurate information and not just fine obsequiousness.

Though the opposition from the Zeliang Public Organisation (ZPO) on the move to recognize the Rongmei tribes were articulated based on historical facts and records that the Rongmeis were not an indigenous settlers of the present state of Nagaland, the decision of the Eastern Naga Peoples’ Organisation (ENPO) to oppose the recognition of Mao and Rongmei tribes contains certain political connotations and ironies. The statement of the ENPO opposing recognition of the two tribes but welcoming the integration of the Nagas along with “land and its people” imply that integration cannot be successful without integrating the geographical territories of the Nagas.

Secondly, the ENPO is evidently offended, as echoed by some intellectuals from that community, by the vertical alignment of state government policies towards the Southern Nagas and neglecting the long demands and needs of the eastern Nagas. One Konyak fellow even went on to remark that the NPF went to election saying that more tribes from the eastern Nagas shall be recognized and after election they decided to recognize two tribes from southern Nagas. This shows that we are again outplayed and victimized, asserts that person. However, the very own principle of the ENPO about integration along with ‘land and its people’ may act as a deterrent in recognizing tribes from eastern Nagas as geographical integration with the Nagas living in Myanmar or Arunachal Pradesh has to suffer the same fate as Nagas living in Manipur.

The principal argument against the recognition of the two tribes by the youths of Nagaland, as observed from the comments on social networking sites, is why the Nagas of Manipur be allow to enjoy dual benefits from the governments of Nagaland and Manipur? The government contention is that benefits shall be eligible only to the original settlers of Nagaland and not to the Mao’s or Rongmeis of Manipur. But again, the youngsters are of the view that slowly and gradually everybody shall become indigenous settlers as indigenous certificates can be bought by an amount less than 100 rupees given the fact that even illegal immigrants acquire proper documents by shedding few hundreds of money.

Some analysts are in the opinion that the move was a part of NPF strategy to expand its presence in the Naga dominated areas of Manipur while others are speculating it as the first step towards emotional integration. Some hard core nationalists believe that Rio is just trying to fulfill the dreams of the Nagas to live under one political umbrella. Few others are of the view that the recognition was to annoy O Ibobi Singh and other Naga detractors. Some could be true, some are funny and some could be just wild imaginations as no one really knows what Rio and his cabinet has in mind.

Yet, the most scathing and unrealistic attack on the move was to argue that the recognition comes because Rio’s wife belongs to Mao community. Such cheap assumption, that so and so spouse belongs to this or that community, does not come from sound politics or issue centric assessment hence belittles the mind which harbors such ill thoughts. Nurturing such imaginations may equate us with Haman in the book of Esther, for the villain was not the queen but Haman himself.

On the other hand, to plea for recognition just because some of our forefathers resided in certain parts of Nagaland, or that a certain community has a village in Dimapur does not sound convincing either. For if basing on such criteria recognition were to be accorded, the Nepalese could be the best contenders. Or maybe the Adivasis or the Mians may start demanding such status in the near future.

Looking from the perspective of having one Naga nation state, the bold steps initiated by the state government could be the foundation towards realizing such aspirations. Yet, if the issue blows out of proportions, it could inject seeds of animosity and division among members of the Naga community. Watching and waiting for the issue to burn may ruin past efforts for unity and oneness. This calls for responsible leadership; for if we have that, we have everything.


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