Modern Politics and Naga Indigenous Democracy In Nagaland

Dr Zavise Rume 

Traditionally, every Naga village was an independent village-state. The village was the highest and best institution. It can be compared to that of a Greek city-state. No village had supremacy over another village. Each village, big or small had its own sovereign power over its own village. The village was the basis of Naga polity in which the people’s opinions and decisions concerning the community’s welfare were taken from within the village. There was no foreign rule politically dominating the Naga traditional villages. Nagas were totally free and completely independent. However, today, with the emergence of modern politics, Nagaland is now ruled by India’s party politics. 

Communities and individuals inseparable
A Naga village community was the custodian of an individual’s security. The community belonged to the individuals and the individuals belonged to the community. They were inseparable.

Practitioners of purest democracy and republic system
The Nagas were the practitioners of purest democracy and republic system of civil administration. The village administration originated from the voice of the people. We were the practitioners of ‘Direct Democracy’ where the policy decisions were directly made by the people themselves. Contrary to the Naga's glorious past, today the entire system of governance entirely depends on the leadership of elected representatives. All the policy decisions are made by the leaders themselves.

Mandate and voice of the people supreme 
In the past, every decision concerning the community needed the mandate and voice of the people. Every clan in the village was responsible to choose their own representative for the village council or assembly. The wisest men among the clan members were chosen to be their representatives. People themselves were the lawmakers who made their own laws to implement them directly. No leader could do anything without the people's mandate. However today, the people's representatives themselves frame policies, take decisions and ask people to implement them. 

Classless society
Naga society was a classless society. There were no party system in Naga society. Party system and groupism were strange cultures to Naga society. But today, every Naga political leader is doing his or her best with all available resources to promote the Indian political party system and groupism which in turn has damaged Naga’s unique social, cultural and political values. 

No designation in Naga traditional democracy
There was no chairman or secretary or assistant in the Naga traditional Republic democracy. There was no distinction among clan representatives. All the clan’s representatives were equals in the decision making process were guided by the wisdom of the members. Today, this tradition of equality needs to be promoted in the government and village administration by avoiding too many hierarchies and strict protocols among the people’s representatives. 

Naga polity unites whereas Indian politics always divides 
In the past, every clan in the village was called to come together and discuss everything needed for the welfare of their village community and so every adult citizen would gather and discuss everything needed for the village community. The village democracy was guided by a philosophy of “The welfare of the people first”. Today, Indian party politics calls for firmness with his or her own political party and not to compromise with the party interest for the sake of his or her own community interest. 

Naga traditional polity always bound people together into one community to live together in unity whereas modern Indian party politics tends to divide people into parties. The Naga political philosophy was deeply rooted in the idea of "Elders First" in all matters especially in the selection of leadership. 

Losing the actual meaning of ‘democratic republic’ 
In the present parliamentary system of government, the elected representatives become the sole voice and authority to make or unmake laws. Common people in general have no voice in the law making body. It is in this type of government where the general people may not fully know what their own representatives are doing for them (people). While trying to set up a democratic republic state, we have lost the actual meaning of the term ‘democratic republic’. 

We make ourselves voiceless
As a tradition, every Naga adult citizen would participate in the village policy policy-decision making process and therefore every member of a village community would have a lot of voice to form common opinions of a village. We enjoyed life with a lot of informal interactions and discussions in society. However, today, social interactions are formalized into NGOs and civil societies in the contemporary Naga society. We impose restrictions on us in the process making ourselves voiceless. 

Naga traditions and indigenous knowledge marginalised and isolated 
During the British colonial regime, the Naga indigenous knowledge and traditional administration were systematically marginalized and isolated from the mainstream academic world.

Naga indigenous polity and modern politics must essentially coexist
Now that our indigenous practices of village administration alone are found to be incapable of meeting the fast changing world, modern political systems should be used to improvise and strengthen the Naga indigenous polity. The Naga indigenous polity and modern political system must essentially coexist to strengthen one another wherever necessary. There is an emerging need to integrate the Naga polity’ practised by the Nagas since time immemorial and Naga indigenous political values into the practice of modern politics in Nagaland.