Interrogating Contemporary Naga Youth and Social Change

U A Shimray

Eminent Sociologist called M.N. Srinivas remarked that: the subject of social change is vast and complex. Indeed, social change is an inevitable and continuous phenomenon. It is a conventional methodology that new elements or the alteration of existing ‘order’ by some ‘other’ elements as to evaluate change, or in other words ‘social change.’ The concept of social change imply measurement of some characteristics of the group, society and individuals. Forces of social change as claimed include education, government/state, science and technology, political/movement and others. The term is usually applied to changes that are beneficial to society, it may also result in negative side-effects or eliminate existing ways of life.  Social Transition

The present century has witnessed sudden and drastic changes, and these, plus the more gradual changes which are occurring daily vis-à-vis the present age can be labeled an ‘age of transition.’ In recent years, Naga society has undergone tremendous changes that many salient features of Naga life have completely disappeared. Today there is no aspect for Naga life which has not been touched by change for whether we look at the Nagas economically, politically, culturally or socially, many transformations have been effected.

The transition of Naga social change began when the ‘world’ made contact with the Nagas during British colonial expansion. Introduction of western education and the Christian faith by the British rule produced radical and lasting change in the ‘Nagas way of life’ as well as belief system. These two doctrines came along with certain order, ideas, image and lifestyles. It was in a way, a turning point in the history where the Nagas confronted with the reality of a much bigger world. Eventually, but inevitably, Nagas could not ignore the circumstances and came close to embrace it. Subsequently the old Naga ‘way of life’ came to wear away in the process. 

With a rapid growth of education and Christianity there was a drastic shift in socio-cultural system. No doubt, education improved Naga livelihood, health status and diversified economic system. At the same time, spread of Christianity brought both positive as well as negative impacts on Naga society. The new religion based on church system brought radical changes in socio-cultural practices. Christianity re-modelled the Naga traditions by abolishing feast of merit, ceremonies and rituality. In other words, it changes include belief system, mindset and attitudes. 

Now, the question that one needs to ponder is the perception of social change in the light of modernisation. I observe that- in the Naga society, the level of modernity seems to measure in terms of materialism and money power. Money culture and market forces have now occupied centre stage which is inevitably eroding our social values. Undoubtedly, money culture is an outcome of the Naga political struggle and movement. Since the inception of full scale Indo-Naga conflict, the State machinery is systematically pumping massive sum of money into Naga society in order to facilitate sectarian politics. The systematic manipulation weans away section of the Naga people. This has resulted in rampant corruption, greed and individualism. Further the process eventually allows submissive response paving way to exogenous influence to play major role vis-à-vis controlled and directed.

Challenge of the Youth  
Indeed, youth presents a stage between old generation and new generation. Youth-hood is also the period where it can impart training, nurture, groom skills, and maintain good health and ability. Acquired ability developed through training [education] and deliberation. Youth role is crucial as they are the bearer of social transition and transformation of a society. Why youth is crucial in the society- a response is the great assets of youth, resilience, resourcefulness and perseverance. In other words, youth is the inevitable pillar of a society.  

Now I interrogate role of the youth in this contemporary social change keeping in mind of Naga political issue on the other hand many young Nagas moving away from home envisioning better opportunities. 

Political Awareness: Undoubtedly, Naga political movement is one important agent of social change in the Naga society. Today the changes in the Naga political field have been too numerous and complicated. Certainly, there is great deal of political awareness, not only among the ‘more’ educated section of the Nagas but also so-called ‘less’ educated. The phrase ‘political awareness’ cannot be read in the context of underground movement. 

As of now, the Naga political movement reached very crucial junction. So far there is no concrete political intervention from the present ceasefire and political talks. At the same time, olden generations were exhausted with lack of new ideas and deep into corrupt ideas and practices. Such unfortunate trends push many people away from the movement and keep aloof. Nonetheless, there is no doubt, cynicism among the people, particularly the youth, about the functioning of our political institution. Today, there is growing corruption, the political confrontation and culture of intolerance and violence creeping into the society. Such situation left some sections of our youth disillusioned and skeptical about the very efficacy of the movement.  

In such critical situation the contemporary youth role becomes crucial. Youth intervention is indispensable as mentioned youth is the bearer of old and new ideas. It is role of the youth to mend the broken chain and rejuvenate the wilted one. But when youth become alienated the movement would weaken and corrupt. Contrarily to my speculation among contemporary educated youth rather shy away from the Naga political movement. Now, my submission is how our role would be fitted? And this is important to deliberate at this juncture.

Migration [Globalisation]: Over the past few decades, political, economic, social and demographic changes in many parts of the region have uprooted many young people and stimulated migration to cities and abroad. More than ever, many young Naga youth move; contemporary Naga youth is changing and changing fast [but the direction of change is difficult to predict]. The dream of better opportunities sets many young people in motion. I presume that violence, poverty, unemployment also are contributing factors. As stated, the growing volume of trade, faster and cheaper transport, and easier communication have encouraged more youth to migrate within and across national borders.

Recently many Naga youth population started migrating to Indian Metropolitan cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Calcutta. The reasons are mainly related to education and employment guided by certain motivated factors. This indicates that youth cohort conform to the visible changes taking place, effected by Modernity, Globalism, Information Technology etc. While admittedly, change is taking place all the time, and there is no way of escaping all of them. 

Many Naga youth are moving away from home and experiencing ‘interim diaspora’ in alien culture. So in such situation, let us assume ourselves how to project our role in this contemporary social change…We are touched by the urban market, already part of metropolitan life, modernity and also consumer. For me, this pose great challenge and need to ponder in what direction can the youth tackle everyday life and social change. For instance, alienation from the Naga political movement, ignorance of tradition on other hand, move towards market. However, inspite of all these obstacles the most important thing is to weigh and measure them on the scales of the values of our cultures, our identity, our heritage and the legacies of our peoples. Modernity is more like a ‘fashion.’ The global market and modernity could destroy the basic tradition that we had inherited.

Concluding Remarks
To quote Bob Dylan everlasting song, “The Times They are a- Changing.” In this changing time, youth role is crucial and it is the youth to transmit, interpret and develop of all the cultural tradition of the society. The youth are not only preparing for roles that have political and economic significance but are also agents of social change. 

Nonetheless, the present political corruption needs to eradicate and discard old mindset that is prevailing now. Youth are here to mend the old ideas and new development that is happening now. The challenge that tag is how to contextualize modernisation process in our own tradition. But the basic objective here is to draw appropriate lessons from history, culture and value system. Present generation needs urgency in rediscovering the roots, the values, ethics and indigenous knowledge system. The recovery process needs to fill the vacuum, that is, the vacuum between Naga traditions and Christianity and modernity also, political unification.

[This is the abstract paper presented at Seminar on “Social Change” organised by Tangkhul Kharar Yar, Bangalore [TKYB] and Tangkhul Katamnao Long, Bangalore [TKLB] on 2nd February 2008 at United Theological College, Bangalore ]