Dr. Asangba Tzüdir
The divide between the rich and the poor was part of Naga traditional culture, so was head hunting and slavery. The culture of maintaining a certain ‘class’ evolved over time and has taken a new elitist turn – a ‘showy’ culture coupled with what can be popularly known as ‘maintaining’ a standard.
The drift of this wave has affected many who cannot afford, while over the ‘neglected horizon,’ the ‘other’ Nagas continue the real struggle for life, not for a qualified life and living but for the bare necessities to exist.
On the other hand, Nagas inherited the head-hunting legacy and have turned to head-hunters of a more violent kind, a fact expounded even by the current political gimmick. Worst of all is, head-hunting has taken prominence in tribal colour giving rise to the many forms of ‘isms,’ hatred and violence.
The traditional practice of slavery is unknown to many today, but it has taken a more exploitative modern form where many are being oppressed by converting ‘them’ into “anthropological machines.”
The effects of this evolutionary process is the crippling aspects – where popularity and recognition are pursued; selfishness and ‘isms’ marring development and progress; loyalty and trust deficits; where the language of truth becomes dangerous in the face of lies and such lies becoming ‘truth,’ and nobody wants to show or admit vulnerability.
Today, Nagaland is fighting a larger battle where corruption is only the symptom of many unknown diseases, and the level of resurging reaction, though much heightened, seems to be only temporal where the problems are threatening to become permanent.
In short, Nagas are going through a phase of ‘misplaced culture and identity’ and is artificially or ignorantly living on the edge of a “mistaken modernity.”
Within this reality, the confronting battle is – Nagas are in danger of losing the meaning of being a Naga. It is a tragedy not to know the battle we are fighting. It is time to redefine the Naga battle to reclaim what Nagas can truly and proudly own – the ‘Naga identity.’ The concept of Identity is ever evolving which makes it such a contentious term, but in context the various layers of identity can be overwhelming. It is an enlightening concept but sadly the encompassing beauty of identity finds lost to tribal colour.
Nagas seem to be shackled within the shallow understanding of an entity called ‘tribe’ wherein one is comfortably nestled in a tribal belongingness within the umbrella term called Naga. Nagas need to go beyond this premise and study the various facets of identity, so also the predicament that makes one a Naga. This begins by revisiting the ‘place’ we come from, and by acknowledging the many truths and also the ‘will’ to speak the truth.
Riddled within a crisis of ‘identity,’ Nagas ‘ought’ to transcend beyond the tiny ‘potholes’ and search the true ‘Naga self’ because it is the seat of realising the larger battle of reclaiming Nagaland. For now, it remains unknown and unrealised.
(Dr. Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)