Dr Eyingbeni Hümtsoe-Nienu
I have neither an official association with Naga Mother’s Association (NMA) nor am I personally known to any of its officers, but by virtue of being a mother and a Naga, I deem myself to be a member of NMA by default. Hence, this brief article in defense of NMA.
The recent imbroglio concerning 33% quota for Naga women in ULBs has adversely affected NMA, a very respectable body in Nagaland and beyond. Through its bold initiative, political unrest resulting in bloodshed in the name of nationalism has been conspicuously lessened over the years. Through its motherly love in action, many unhealthy social habits leading to untimely deaths have been arrested to a commendable extent. Through its visionary leadership, our land, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters have been experiencing rays of hope for new beginnings.
As a Naga woman, when the now dissolved JACWR decided to take legal recourse as a last resort to seek for their constitutional right, my heart leaped for joy at the prospect of seeing my mothers, aunts and sisters at the same table of decision making with my fathers, uncles and sons. This was one special move by NMA specifically aimed at the uplift of women’s status in the Naga (urban) society. Alas! The table has returned to status quo. Only time will tell how and which collective Naga body will again pursue the issue of women’s fair participation in decision making platforms. However, I trust NMA will not feel defeated by the recent outcome in their fight for gender justice but continue to keep its passion for gender and social activism alive.
Needless to say, NMA is perhaps at the moment at its most vulnerable in all of its nearly four decades of existence; though it’s primarily caused by external factors. To make it worse, it is unkind of male tribe bodies to pressurize their respective women bodies to “disassociate” from NMA; as if to illogically decide their loyalty between their tribe and gender. Such pressure-tactic on women groups reminds us of our ancient days of headhunting when the defeated rival was further decapitated to not only prove the victor’s manhood but also to deny the slightest possibility of the rival’s survival. It would be dreadful to relive such a past, no matter how remotely close. For civil bodies and individuals to even reprimand NMA with discriminatory languages contradicts Naga custom of filial piety, given that NMA represents mothers from whom everyone originates. Even in the midst of intense displeasure for whatever reason, there is no honor and justification in disrespecting a body comprising of their mothers – directly or by the reality of our common origin, and calling for its dissolution via tribe women’s withdrawal or dissolving the central Body itself.
So far a couple of tribe women bodies have publicly withdrawn themselves from NMA. I pray they will take time to introspect and soon rejoin to strengthen the voice and presence of Naga women. I also pray that no other Naga women group would abandon their “Mother” in her lows as much as they would have stood by her and celebrated her highs. She needs the non-judgmental support of fellow women/mothers from all Naga tribes at this point in time more than ever. The words of Mordecai to Queen Esther (paraphrased) should send a strong message to Naga women to stand together with NMA: “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to (mother’s) dignity for such a time as this” (cf., Esth 4: 14b).
The works of NMA has and will go beyond the demand of women’s rightful place in decision-making bodies. Its existence is an asset to Naga society as a nationally acclaimed NGO; indispensable for the welfare of girls, boys, women, and men; essential for safeguarding peaceful relationships between nationalists, politicians and civilians and; a strong pillar for preserving civic sense and moral duties. Through all the unprecedented experiences in recent time, may NMA, in the favor of God, arise, sooner than later, in its finest, wisest and strongest!