Views & Reviews
Are Nagas Ceasing to Be Nagas?
It has been said of the Jews that when times were difficult over many centuries, Jews remained Jews, but when times became easy in the modern world, Jews stopped being Jews and defected or were assimilated in record numbers. Words are indeed too cheap to even try to describe the amount of persecution Jews suffered in the course of history. The phrase “if there is a God, he will have to beg my forgiveness” (allegedly) carved on the wall of a concentration camp during the WWII by an unknown Jewish prisoner, the hopelessness depicted as painfully as it can be in the poem “where was God during the holocaust” and many others, hold a testament to their sufferings. Yet in the midst of all those horrors, they remained as Jews.
It is an injustice to compare Nagas adversity to that of the Jews. However, we find a certain similarity in the circumstances; each has gone through in history. We as Nagas have had our own share of struggle. It gives immeasurable pain to even think of what we have been subjected to in the past and now. Grouping, hiding in the thick and inhabitable forests, burning down of entire villages, granaries and forests, rape, killing and unthinkable violence of all forms being committed against, yet throughout these trials, we triumphed and remained as proud Nagas. The barrel of the gun, the draconian laws, demonic atrocities and the intellect voices of the oppressor were all too weak to put us down, it didn’t scare us neither did it stop us from being Nagas. Many lives were cut short yet like the Jews Nagas remained as Nagas. Honourable Indian Prime ministers Lt. Pt. Jawarhalla Nehru and Lt. Morarji Desai were both wrong; were too naïve and inhuman, when they commented, “..Will wipe out the Nagas within one week” and the later, “I will exterminate all the Nagas without any compunction”.
In the midst of such threat and adversity, Nagas sang their songs, danced on their music, and passed down their rich cultural knowledge and practices, struggles, victories and failures in the direst of circumstances. During the most dangerous time of Naga history, Nagas have remained as Nagas, but as good times set in, Nagas have begun to compromise and have assimilated in large numbers with the outside world. We’ve compromised to such extent where we have let our adversaries who tried to wipe us out become heroes, martyrs and patriots not anywhere but in our land itself and yet we have chosen to remain as silent spectators.
Surviving in nature as indigenous people, thriving in jungle hideouts because of forceful occupation of their homes by alien forces, Nagas were once known to be diligent in work, honest, brave, and trustworthy. Nagas valiant display of courage, empathy and life of integrity is amply found in their history and culture. “They guided our columns,” wrote Field Marshall Sir William Slims, “collected information, ambushed enemy patrols, carried our supplies, and brought in our wounded soldiers under heaviest gunfire and then being gentlemen they refused payment”. Perhaps it may be surreal for the modern Nagas to learn that our ancestors didn’t ask for anything even after putting their life in the war front. Such was the ideals and principles upon which Nagas stood once upon a time. But today, the essence of Naga is evaporating fast from the Nagas.
The 22 years of Indo-Naga ceasefire has allowed Naga parents to bring up, educate and mould their children in the so-called peaceful atmosphere (i.e. if peace is just the absence of war/killings). Thus, for the first time since Indian independence, a Naga generation has grown up without witnessing much violence, though the amount of fear psychosis and warlike environment created in their minds due to the presence of a large number of armed forces (both underground and overground) and their activities cannot be ignored. Children were/are sent to the best colleges and universities in India and abroad, most of them came back with their honourable degrees but in the process, many lost the Naga essence. Sometime somewhere parents were too scared to tell their children about the Naga struggle, history and culture or perhaps were too naïve to the threat of the modern force. Somewhere down the lane, we have traded our Naga virtue and values with monetary ones.
The period from ceasefire coupled with various factors such as the growth of academic book knowledge (not education), the onset of modernisation/globalisation, the outburst of technology era etc. has brought about a great paradigm shift amongst the Nagas (considered good times by many). This shift is clearly visible and felt in every aspect (from political, social, economic, cultural to religious belief) of our society today. Some may call this shift, “transition” and others may call it “evolving” but the shift is too destructive to call it just a transition or evolving process, for in this shift we are losing everything, be it cultural, physical or spiritual.
Society is torn apart, the chasm between the have and the have not’s ever-increasing, families are breaking away, relationships (political or social) too cheap to last for life, Culture a festival, Religion a Sunday affair, Law a mere piece of paper in black and white, Politics is all about money power and Individuals becoming panderers. Even so, we have developed a tendency to think that everything that is foreign is great. As a result, we have embraced the modern system of democracy and left behind arguably one of the oldest indigenous system of democratic governance (like the Putu Menden), have traded our sustainable and self-sustaining economic activities into unsustainable and totally dependent on others, have burrowed the lotus, palm, elephant, bicycle etc. and let it rule over us when we could have denied them.
In a world as dynamic, flexible and individualistic like never before, where our entire culture and life so relies on the gifts of the modern world that we feel less need to hold on to the history, culture, values, and ideals of the Indigenous Nagas (let alone trusting in God); if we continue to act deaf and dumb then the tomorrow will call this period as the declining period or the ceasing period of Nagas. Perhaps it is an opportune time for the Nagas to retract, reflect, retrospect, unite and once again be that Nagas which our foe was not able to suppress.