Nagaland's organisational tryst

Moa Jamir

Nagaland, touted as the 'Land of Festivals,' not only boasts a vibrant cultural tapestry but also teems with a plethora of organisations.  Ranging from professional to institutional, social to religious, and even penetrating the most intimate familial bonds, these entities, often grumbled about, paradoxically become havens in times of adversity.

While citizens might bemoan their existence, they inevitably find themselves affiliated with one or several of these entities, either by default or through other associations. 
Furthermore, existence of such numerous organisations is attributed to be contributing factor to proliferation of regionalism and a strong proclivity towards 'tribalism,' a term paradoxically disliked by the Nagas. This inclination serves as a stumbling block to achieving the unity that the Nagas aspire to but seems elusive, despite aspirations voiced by all.

In light of this context, the recent controversy surrounding the potential formation of a new entity, the 'Nagaland Tribal Apex Body,' warrants scrutiny. Although a meeting convened in Kohima on November 21 reportedly concluded without a concrete resolution, it appears to have set the stage for the establishment of a tribal body exclusive to Nagaland State. 

Notable figures, including Deputy Chief Ministers, Ministers, Advisors, and former Ministers, addressed the occasion. Following prolonged discussions, the decision was made not to hastily resolve the matter, emphasising that the formation of such a significant Naga tribal body requires careful consideration, it was informed. 

Subsequently, the Nagaland Tribes Council (NTC) raised concerns via a press statement on November 24, insinuating the involvement of the State Government and alluding to “hidden agendas” related to population migration without territorial integration. The NTC, presenting itself as a civil and non-political organization, has purportedly represented the 'Tribal Apex Body for the Nagas of Nagaland' for the past eleven years since its formation in 2013. In response, the Advisor to the Chief Minister denied state involvement, characterizing it as a personal venture.

Amidst this controversy, a critical question emerges: is it democratically healthy for elected legislators to actively engage in the formation of tribal and civil society organisations? Notably, 60% of respondents in a poll by The Morung Express last week rejected such involvement. Concerns were voiced about the potential contamination of the political process, emphasising the incompatibility of politics with civil society.

“While the government's intentions may be noble, allowing a government official to lead such efforts risks contaminating the political process geared towards social and political ends…,” goes one response, while another noted that “Politics is antithetical to civil society.”

Beyond this, broader concerns loom and need more retrospection: Have most organisations in Nagaland already been co-opted by those in power-that-be? Hence, would Nagaland's organisational tryst with creation of yet another organisation offer serves as a panacea to all problems existing challenges?

Equally important is the inquiry into the nature of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the state — are they truly independent entities representing diverse interests, or do they function merely as interest groups? By definition, CSOs is suppose to be “non-State, not-for-profit, voluntary entities formed by people in the social sphere” representing a wide range of interests and ties and separate from the State and the market. 

Accordingly, a clear demarcation is sacrosanct.

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