Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The Hornbill Festival and The Simpsons - Kvulo Lorin, Director-Administration

Nagaland has witnessed a lot of protests, bandhs and strikes in the past few days.  It is interesting to note the tools we have at our disposal ranging from online media, RTI and the press, which are allowing society to engage in governance more than ever before. We need to be cognizant of this new reality and the methods of dealing with it. Drawing parallels between the Hornbill Festival and an episode from the American TV sitcom, The Simpsons, Kvulo Lorin, the Director of Administration writes about governance in Nagaland and how democracy can be the ultimate winner.

The Hornbill Festival and The Simpsons

Last night I managed to catch an episode of the famous American sitcom (TV serial) “The Simpson’s” and could not help laughing when I saw the similarities between Nagaland and the people of that fictional cartoon show. In that particular episode, global warming made ‘Springfield’ (the fictional town of The Simpson’s) the only town in America experience snowfall that year. Next thing you know, because Springfield is the only town in America with snowfall, there is a huge influx of tourists coming to Springfield for the Christmas holidays. That realization makes the townsfolk giddy with excitement. They immediately realize the tourists will want to stay in their hotels, eat their food and use their hospitals, so they agree to welcome all the tourists with open arms… and then overcharge the hell out of the tourists. So what follows next? All the stores double and triple their prices, huge traffic jams crop up, normally free parking areas become charged, and ultimately even basic Christmas items run out of stock inspite of the excessive prices. I found it humorous because that fictional town could have been Nagaland during the Hornbill festival and it would not have been out of place, except that Nagaland is a dry state while Springfield is not. 

There has been a lot of debate on the pros and cons of “The Hornbill Festival” online, in the newspapers and probably even in church. Tetso College itself organized a debate on the topic “Is the Hornbill Festival effective in promoting the Nagas and their culture?” where a lot of interesting points were raised. During the debate, a lot of genuine concerns were raised about the negative aspects of the festival. Those who felt that Hornbill was having a detrimental effect on Naga society cited the festival as being one of the main reasons for promoting sexual immortality, drunken brawls, accidents and even causing financial ruin to some families. The positive aspects highlighted were about how the festival had placed Nagaland on the world map, the income and employment it generated and the promotion of all the Naga tribes with one common festival. Unfortunately, for the debate team who supported the motion that “Hornbill is effective in promoting the Nagas and their culture”, the roads in Dimapur had craters the size of football fields (a little exaggeration). Apart from the roads, the electricity came and went faster than a VIP escort overtaking every vehicle during a traffic jam. So, naturally the team stating “Hornbill is not effective in promoting Nagas and their culture” won the debate.

While I do understand that a college debate team winning a debate proving Hornbill is ineffective in promoting Nagas and their culture doesn’t mean squat; or a recently held Morung Express poll which depicted 51% disagreeing(26% Yes, 23% others) that “Hornbill festival is the best way of promoting Naga culture and way of living” may not officially prove anything. However, it would be nice to see our Government step up and address the naysayers and vocally take a stand on important key issues more frequently to quell our gossipy and murmuring society.  There needs to be enough governance to check the wrong and enough freedom so it does not stifle the idealists and the dreamers. The problem though is that issues like unemployment, economic disparity and the infrastructural bottle necks cannot be solved by shooting at the problem or through intimidation. It needs actual work and a mindset cognizant of this reality.

According to Thomas Friedman, “India has a weak central government but a really strong civil society, bubbling with elections and associations at every level. China has a muscular central government but a weak civil society, yet one that is clearly straining to express itself more. Egypt, alas, has a weak government and a very weak civil society, one that was suppressed for 50 years, denied real elections and, therefore, is easy prey to have its revolution diverted by the one group that could organize, the Muslim Brotherhood, in the one free space, the mosque.” I think Nagaland can fall into the same category of having a weak(?) government but a very strong civil society, bubbling with elections and associations at every level. Friedman states “But there is one thing all three have in common: gigantic youth bulges under the age of 30, increasingly connected by technology but very unevenly educated.”

It’s true of our society as well. We do have incredibly bright young minds, but let’s not kid ourselves, we also have a lot of mediocre unemployable graduates as well. The silver lining is if we can get our society moving in the right direction then we can become a powerhouse. It’s good our youth are getting educated but apart from only education, we need to provide people with the framework to apply their knowledge constructively with well paying jobs which are self sustainable or else the youth will continue to be frustrated, feel victimized and seethe with self-righteousness while lashing out at symbols of authority for what they interpret to be social injustice.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to make Nagaland work and stop the nepotism and free rides. We need a society that works and that has a future. Doing things the right way could ultimately produce our own Naga Einstein, Abraham Lincoln or even a Mahatma Gandhi. But, if we fail… then we should remember that it is usually the most deprived and marginalized regions (for example Pakistan and Afghanistan and many African nations) with the most violent politics and inequality in society. As Shashi Tharoor has aptly stated, “there is nothing worse than unemployable, frustrated youth.”

I feel optimistic because our Nagas are intelligent, quick to adapt and sometimes stubbornly bold when needed. We are now seeing many Naga entrepreneurs setting up business’s, some large, some small but setting up something not just in Dimapur but in India’s largest cities. There are many involved in IT, apparel, franchises, restaurants, hostels and even more of our Nagas working in the corporate sector. Give us the environment to thrive and we will be able to do it.

If civil society and the government as a whole can do its part then the next time a debate is held regarding whether the Hornbill is positive for society, then those against the motion will not be able say, “Money should not be wasted on grand festivals when we have so many problems like bad roads, electricity,…” because those basic needs will already be there in Nagaland.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:” 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Gender Constructions -Thungdeno Humtsoe, Asst. Professor Sociology

In Naga tradition, males are usually associated with headhunting, wood-carving or stone-pulling whereas females ought to know how to weave, cook and perform other household activities. Although genders are not merely confined to these activities alone, individuals adapt to comfortably fit into these norms. People veering away from societies allocated typical role are sometimes called “tom-boy” (for girls who behave like boys) and “sissy” (for men who behave like girls). Hiding behind the guise of preserving culture and tradition, the roles can actually disrupt progress and be used as a tool to subjugate the other. We take a closer look at what acting like a man and being ladylike means in different societies.

Gender Constructions

Gender stereotypes prevail in all societies. The notion of gender is taught to us from the moment we are born. Family and upbringing, culture, peers, community, media, religion and others are some of the factors that shape our understanding of identity. Gender is another. It is a socially constructed concept, closely monitored by society. How we learn and interact with gender as a young child directly influences how we view the world today. Accepted gender roles and expectations are so entrenched in our culture and society that most people cannot imagine having it any other way.

Different cultures impose different expectations upon men and women who come from that particular society. Culture generally recognizes two basic gender roles - masculine and feminine. Socio-cultural expectations reveal what men and women are supposed to be like in a particular context. It highlights such expectations: “Men should be competitive; women are supposed to be cooperative. Men can be impatient; women must have boundless patience. Men are expected to express anger; women should never be angry or they should certainly never show it. There are also some common genders stereotypes like, ‘Men are insensitive’, ‘women are bad drivers’, ‘all men love sports and sex’, ‘all women love shopping and gossiping’. How often have we heard those comments in our culture? A woman like me may feel angry when gender based comments are made, while others may agree to the comments as genuine differences between the sexes or some others may just make light of this battle between the sexes and laugh it away.

Much of our behavior as men and women is subject to cultural definition. If we are male, our society bends conduct in one way; if we are female, it bends another way. But how much of this difference is due to nature, how much due to culture? This is the question which everyone should explore. Let’s examine what acting like a man and being ladylike means in our society and notions of gender stereotypes in our Naga culture.

“It’s a boy’’, says the nurse and from then on, subtle stereotyping begins. A conscious and unconscious motive of having the family blood continue through him brings joy. Guns and cars are bought for him, preferably black or blue and never pink! While growing up, if he cries he will be told ‘Don’t cry like a girl’. He perhaps learns to suppress his emotions as he thinks it is ‘girlish’ to express them. It’s likely that he would be encouraged to act strong or to act brave. He is likely to have lesser restrictions going out and coming home late. While choosing a career, he would be encouraged to be ambitious and discouraged from choosing careers like teaching, nursing, counseling or other similar professions. as they are seen to be ‘softer’ career opinions meant for a girl. The question of balancing home and family may not arise for him, as it is assumed that his gender defines his primary role as a bread earner. Contrary to this, good manners like talking and laughing gently, being submissive to elders, not ‘fighting like boys’, being sacrificial, caring etc. is most likely to be taught to the girls. She will most likely be encouraged to develop the ‘right female interests’ like cooking, tidying up the house or gardening. It is most often assumed that her gender defines her role and function at home to be primarily a homemaker and mother.

Perhaps gender stereotypes are a result of ‘nurture’ more than ‘nature’. Behavioral differences between the sexes are not hard-wired at birth but are the result of society’s expectations. There may be several men who are soft and gentle in their temperament, and several women who are naturally extroverted, brave and tough. Exaggerated differences between men and women (most of which are individual differences) are glorified and generalized as gender differences and this needs to be challenged since there are greater similarities than differences between men and women. They both have the same desires, wants, fears and dreams.

Based on anthropological studies or cross-cultural evidence, it also shows that gender traits of masculinity and femininity have no necessary connection to biological sex. Margaret Mead’s Study (1935) relating to three New Guinea tribes is worth mentioning here. In the Arapesh tribe, Mead found that both men and women conform to a personality type that we would consider “feminine”. Men and women were believed to have identical sex drives and both were responsible for child care. Next, is the tribe of Mundugumor.  Here men and women were expected to be violent and aggressive. Both men and women act in ways which we would predominantly call “masculine”. These women dread pregnancy and dislike nursing their children. Third is the Tchambuli Tribe, where the women are domineering and energetic. They are the major economic providers of the family. They manage and perform major tasks for the family. The men, on the other hand, are artistic, gossipy, and expressive and look after the children.

This study makes it evident that gender roles are highly influenced by culture and are not necessarily universal. They can change as culture adapts to new environments and social conditions. Our intellects are not prisoners of our genders and those who believe so are conditioned by society’s tendency to stereotype genders. Every culture has different perceptions about what is appropriate for gender, and family members tend to unconsciously raise babies along the dictates of society’s gendered ways. Every parent who strives to achieve a “less gendered” parenting style unconsciously reinforces gender roles. There is so much gender variety in our society, beyond a strict, imagined born-male versus born-female dichotomy. There is always a tendency to conform to the cultural notions of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’. Stereotyping gender creates dangerous consequences that limit a person’s full potential and well being, forcing them to ignore their genuine personality traits, temperament and unique characteristics that make them who they actually are.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Rengma Ngada festival - Dr. P. S. Lorin, Principal Tetso College

Nagaland is a land of festivals with every tribe having their own celebrations at different times in the year. These festivals celebrate our heritage and remain significant even in today’s context. Just before the start of Nagaland’s Hornbill festival, the Rengma Nagas celebrated NGADA on 28th November.

Rengma NGADA festival

Ngada is not just a festival. It is the greatest Rengma festival of all other festivals. It is a post harvesting festival celebrated at the end of November or beginning of December depending on the position of the moon. It begins with a declaration made by the village high priest (Phensegü) who announces the beginning of the festival. Every citizen awaits eagerly for this declaration. By then, the last grain collected from the fields must reach home. It is taboo to bring home any more grain after the pronouncement. It is also known as a thanksgiving festival. It marks the end of the agricultural year and the dawning of a new year.

Ngada derives its meaning from Rengma. ‘Nga’ means festival and ‘da’ means big. It literally means the biggest festival of all. Ngada represents the totality of life that embraced the yearlong hard labour blessed with overflow of wealth.

In the past, Ngada[1] was celebrated for eight days. Each day has its own significance and specific task to be performed as follows:
The first day starts with preparation of rice bear. Everyone in the family will stay home and prepare rice beer together.
The second day is assigned for collection of banana leaves in the jungles.
The third day is for cleaning of graves by the womenfolk and placing of the rice beer wrapped in the banana leaf on the graves of the dead. This is a symbolic practice of sharing the rice beer with them. The day is set aside for drinking of the rice beer by the eldest member of the family, followed by other members. The whole village is cleansed on this day.   
The fourth day is reserved for dancing, eating, drinking rice beer, and visiting khels, Morungs dressed in full traditional attire. Women do not participate in the Morung feast.
The fifth day is for dancing, singing, eating, and sports like kicking, jumping, and making camp fire by male folk. The male members visit the houses on this day and each house offers something to show their appreciation.
The sixth day is a day meant for freely visiting house to house, khel to khel and clan to clan. Community feast is served with special rice beer.
The seventh day is allotted for collection of firewood, banana leaves, and vegetables for the grand feast on the next day.
The eighth day is the final day of the grand feast. The whole village population participates in the grand feast. The grand feast signals the departure of the souls/spirits of the dead, who have died the previous year, to go to the land of death. The conclusion of the festival marks three important things: a) agreement with fire to prevent future fire accidents b) agreement with rats to prevent destruction of crops or household goods c) rite to expel evil spirits.  

Ngada has been handed down from time immemorial by our forefathers who were first worshippers of nature and spirits. However, with the advent of Christianity, many traditional practices have undergone transformation. Although our traditional practices are not celebrated in their original form any longer, we, Rengma Nagas continue to honour the tradition of our forefathers by celebrating Ngada in November every year. Today, Ngada is celebrated for one day but with the same respect and honour we owe our forefathers. We celebrate our heritage today with great pride and joy because we owe our future to what the past has given us. Even as time moves on, we continue to move forward, always remembering where we first came from and never forgetting our roots. Ngada celebration is testimony to the belief in our past, a practice that continues to reflect in our lives even in today’s context. 


        i.            Religious: Ngada was celebrated by our ancestors as per their traditional religion of worshipping nature and spirits. This celebration was a form of reverence in order to appease the spirits. The appeasement of spirits was practiced in order that the evil spirits do not harm the people. In line with that, today, we receive and invoke God’s blessings as Christians. This is a day for us to worship the Lord with thanksgiving in our hearts and acknowledge the blessings he has provided throughout the year. In this way, we Christians celebrate Ngada, with a renewed sense of hope and joy in our hearts that God will continue to provide us with the blessings that we deserve.    

      ii.            Social: One accord, peace, unity and reconciliation were dominant qualities visible in the Ngada celebration. On this day, socially disadvantaged people are helped and taken care of. Our Naga way of being hospitable, I believe, emerges from our close-knit tribal community and values in the past. These qualities continue to exist till date.

    iii.            Political: Recognition of leadership qualities in terms of village authority and administration was respected and acknowledged by all the members of the tribe. There was no room for exploitation. Our earlier healthy practices need to be retained or remodeled where necessary, so that there is no room for bribery, corruption, nepotism or unfair means. 

     iv.            Economic: Ngada was the time to reap the benefits of the hard labour practiced during the entire year in the fields. Therefore, in one way Ngada is also a celebration of economic prosperity. Everyone proudly rejoices for the year-end collection of grains and other crops. Even in today’s modern life, Ngada remains a day of thanksgiving for the harvest/work as we enter a new festive season. It is a day to remember the many blessings we have achieved through our hard work be it in the office, the home or the field.

We celebrate Ngada today as a colorful event, with great mirth and pride as we don our traditional attire and eat our local cuisine. Likewise, with the onset of the festive season and the ongoing Hornbill Festival, let us honour our past tradition, while also moving forward with a vision for a brighter future, one that believes in our past integrity, right values, good conduct, responsibility and sincerity to the purpose of our lives.

Thong, Joseph S. 1997. Head-Hunters Culture (Historic Culture of Nagas).Tseminyu: Nei-u Printing
Rengma, Nillo. 1999. The Rengma Customary Laws & Practices, VIP Quarter No. 3, Kohima
Rengma Ngada. Wikipedia. 26 November 2013. <>

[1] Ngada was sometimes celebrated for seven days or ten days

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Don’t Stop Dreaming - P. Patomi Yepthomi, Assistant Professor English

Have you ever dreamed of becoming a world leader, a singer, an actor, a lawyer, or a businessman? Everyone needs dreams to give them hope and the drive to go for it. While being realistic and setting achievable goals might seem like the smart thing to do, we also need dreams to helps us aspire for higher goals and bigger possibilities.

Don’t Stop Dreaming

Every single thing accomplished by human beings was once someone’s dream. Dreaming is a wonderful outlet. Dreaming is pregnant with creativity and imagination which enables manifestation. It is a gateway to discovering your passion. But dreaming alone won’t make a dream a reality. Once you dream big, then it’s time to do big things. Were it not for the dreamers, we would not have all the wonderful things that our present civilization needs. The television, telephone, flying machine, the automobile etc, all of these and other innumerable inventions were at one time only a dream in the minds of someone whom the world called a visionary.

Dreamers are inventors, innovators and the curator of hope and yet it appears that our society or the church offers minimum support to nurture the dreamer. Usually, we call them foolish and unrealistic. We tend to dismiss both the dream and the dreamer. This attitude of the world can be quite hard on the dreamers, but on the brighter side, it does not mean that they have failed. Dreams become reality eventually, even with the passage of time. It never grows old, instead dreaming and doing new things gives us strength and determination to control our reality. As Abdul Kalam says, “Great dreams of great dreamers are always transcended.”

Today, the world needs more daytime dreamers than ever before, dreamers who will do or die to achieve a dream and make it a reality. People who have the guts and persistence to go for their dreams and make things happen are like heroes to the rest of us. They are beacons of possibilities. What if we all went for our dreams like them? What would this world look like? Everyone would encourage each other and things would get done with unprecedented speed and creativity. Ideas tend to flow when people are open to them. If everyone was encouraged to dream and to create, many of today’s problems could be solved and inventions could soar to an all time high.

What the world truly needs today is peace  in all areas. The only wish of the world is to bring an end to war, violence and hatred. Every dreamer has this yearning to make a difference. But on the contrary, there is so much turmoil and unhappiness in the world today. What are our goals, dreams and ambitions, our hopes and fears? It is time to imagine a future dominated by love, peace and harmony, and therefore we need dreamers who will sit back and focus on changing the paradigm, dreamers who are willing not just to think out of the box, but to jump out of it and envision a higher expression of humanity. Every individual passionately believes in making it a better world for us and others.

On 28th August 1963, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. presented one of the greatest speeches in the history of mankind. He said:

 I dream of a better world.
A world in which we can all live together in peace.
A world in which we celebrate each other’s uniqueness.
A world in which we co-operate and overcome the most severe challenges ever faced by our race.
A world in which our children no longer die of starvation.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for America is powerful and inspiring: “I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.’”

Martin Luther King Jr. was a dreamer who made his dreams into a reality.
Another inspiring saying about dreamers is by John Lennon in his eternal song – Imagine all the people living life in peace. The lyric reads:
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.” - John Lennon
All it takes to dramatically improve our world today is a few committed people who really believe in their dreams and who’ll do whatever it takes to make those lofty dreams come true. We are moving into a turbulent phase in which there is a risk that events could overtake us. Now is the time to sit back and really look at what is going on with the world and ponder. Now is the time to focus with complete honesty and clarity on what your spirit and soul desire. Your thoughts create your reality and so once you control your thoughts, then you control your reality.

“All men who have achieved great things have been great dreamers.”- Orison Swett Marden.

Every measure of success we have ever known emanated from a dream. Sometimes the only obstacle between you and your goal is you. Every individual has greatness within ourselves and we shouldn’t be afraid to realize it. If you have a dream and believe in it, you will do anything to make it a reality.

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.”-Sarah Ban Breathnach.

We should take inspiration from these sayings which give us hope that the dreams we have do not end up in vain. To stop dreaming would be to stop living. We owe ourselves the opportunity to experiment with our dreams and we may even fail at times, but this also creates the opportunity to learn how to wildly succeed. Let’s dream big - our world needs dreamers.

“The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of Tetso College. Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Purposeful Living - Kahor Raleng, Head of Department of English

What kind of future do we envision for Nagaland? One of the keys to a prosperous future is our children. An important question we must ask ourselves today is if we, as parents, educators and elders, are equipping our children with the right information, guidance, skills and maturity necessary for positive growth and development in order to lead a purpose driven life.

Purposeful Living

Observing my students in the classroom today, it struck my mind that they are so easy to impress. The young confused minds can grab each and every word we utter and it can leave an impact on them. With thoughts running through my mind, I started questioning myself: ‘Are we preparing them to face their future? Are we guiding them to choose the right path in life? Are we moulding them to be better citizens?’

Youngsters today are smart enough to know and perceive everything we say, yet confused enough to misinterpret it. Sadly, we are living in an age where there is no distinction between truth and lies, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. We are willing to compromise as long as we gain something. There are times where confusion reigns and honestly we, the older generation, are the makers of it.

We, the Nagas are very fortunate as our people are not infested with psychological problems faced by people in other places, where incidents like shooting in schools, killing of teachers or classmates occur frequently. Before we are touched by this evil, we should prevent it as prevention is better than cure. This is where the need for mentoring and guidance and counselling arises. It is extremely essential and it should be realised at the earliest.

Producing good results should not be the sole purpose of institutions nor of education. Education means the overall development of a child. If institutions cannot produce exemplary citizens, than the purpose of education is not fulfilled.

Through some interactive sessions with my students, I have gathered some important facts. They are confused about the system, about their beliefs, about certain treatments, about social and family issues and most importantly about who they want to become in life.

Here are some comments made by students:
Student 1: ‘I study because I am forced to, out of compulsion and there is no actual learning. Compulsion to score well and pass.’
Student 2: ‘I don’t have a specific aim, I just want to try out everything that comes my way.’
Student 3: ‘Music gives me pleasure and peace of mind. It makes me creative and expressive. But music is not a career option.’
When asked what they want to become in life, some simply replied ‘no idea’, ‘don’t know’, ‘confused’. Remember, they are college students, a stage when they should have some idea about what they want out of life.

Youngsters today are confused with the direction that their life is heading towards. Choosing the right path has become complex and frightening. As parents/guardians and teachers, do we take time to talk to them, clarify their doubts and guide them, or are we in our ways contributing to their confusion?

To mould a child does not solely lie in the hands of institutions or teachers. Parents play a huge role in shaping a child for a better future. Parents/guardians should equip themselves with necessary information. Some questions parents can ask themselves are: Do you carry out research work before admitting your child to a new school? Or do you simply admit them because it is a prestigious school, or it is convenient or because somebody says that it is good? Find out the facts before sending your child to a new environment. Parents should also be aware of scholarships and the possibilities they offer. Even a class seven student can study in Singapore through scholarships. There are even instances where a rickshaw puller or peon’s son or daughter has become a doctor, an engineer, or an IAS office by securing through scholarships. And now with the implementation of RTE act, many doors have opened for those who are smart enough to look for greater opportunities.

As for the institutions, they should make it mandatory to assign mentors for every student. Seminars on career guidance and counselling should be conducted regularly. Every institute must make it a priority to have a guidance and counselling cell with trained counsellors.

Workshops and seminars should be conducted for teachers. Educationist should regularly reinforce their knowledge by attending refreshers courses. They should be well informed and knowledgeable. But most importantly, they should be inspirational and motivators.

I wonder, is it too much to ask to give a little bit of effort for the future of our children? Aren’t they the future that we dream? I believe every parent or teacher has a dream for their children or students. Let us help them live that dream. Let us guide them live a purpose driven life.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

True Democracy? - Zuchano Khuvung, Asst Professor Political Science

"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." – Winston Churchill.

Winston Churchill stated this quote in 1945 after losing the elections. Even though he was responsible for guiding Britain to victory in World War II he still lost the elections. Naturally, he was bitter with the ungrateful British public when they voted against him. Fortunately, he took it like a gentleman and wryly remarked, “They have a perfect right to kick me out. That is democracy.” The system of Government in India and Nagaland is democratic so that the leaders who are elected are the representatives of the people. Our experiences with democracy have not been perfect. Democracy as an ideal form of government has complex demands but it also requires the protection of liberties and freedom, respect for legal entitlements, and the guaranteeing of free discussion and fair comment. When this happens, the right people can say the right things and the right people come to power. Churchill recontested in 1951 and came back to power.

 True Democracy?

When we look back at what happened in the twentieth century, we encounter many events and developments – the downfall of the European empires, rise and fall of Fascism and Nazism, rise of Communism and its fall, and we even witnessed two terrifying world wars. However, we cannot deny giving primacy to the ‘rise of democracy’ as the most preeminent development in the twentieth century. No doubt the idea of democracy originated in ancient Greece and was seriously put to practice, though on a limited scale, before it collapsed and was replaced by more authoritarian forms of government. We might as well find its traces in the contributions made by the contractualists like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Rousseau in the 17th and 18th centuries. The basic assumption of their theory was that, the existence of political authority must be based on the consent or will of the people. This reflects the contemporary concept of democracy. Thereafter, democracy emerged gradually and it was in the twentieth century that the idea of democracy became established as the ‘normal’ form of government to which any nation is entitled.

We are all aware of the fact that India adopted a democratic system of government. So, the question here is what really the implications of democratic government are? When we try to analyse that, I want the rational faculty to relate it with India in general and Nagaland in particular. How well have we adapted to this system. The basic implications underlying democracy is popular sovereignty which implies popular opinion is sovereign or the basis of government authority is the will of the people. Popular sovereignty and representative government are the terms that we use synonymously for democracy. Can we say that “Popular opinion is sovereign in our society” and “We have a government that represents our thoughts, opinions and our values”? Whatever means the governing authority adopts, the end must ultimately be “welfare of the people.”

Equality is another important implication of democracy. It is a principle that a democratic government will always uphold. Taking political equality in particular, it implies the equal distribution of political rights. The citizens must enjoy their political rights like the right to vote, the right to participate in public deliberations, right to public offices etc., on equal basis. If the citizen of a state has access to all these rights, then, we may comfortably say that that particular state has achieved one of its fundamental democratic ideals. Democracy as an ideal form of government has complex demands, which certainly include voting and respect for election results, but it also requires the protection of liberties and freedoms, respect for legal entitlements, and the guaranteeing of free discussion and fair comment. Even elections can be deeply defective, if they occur without the different sides getting an adequate opportunity to present their respective cases, or without the electorate enjoying the freedom to obtain news and to consider the views of the competing protagonists.
Thus, we have the following different ways in which democracy can enrich the lives of the citizen. First, political freedom is a part of human freedom in general, and exercising civil and political rights is a crucial part of good lives of individuals as social beings. Therefore, to be prevented from participation in the political life of the community is a major deprivation. Democracy also has to act as an important instrumental value in enriching the people’s expression and support their claims to political attention. The practice of democracy in any state must give the citizens an opportunity to learn from one another and help society to form its values and priorities. Even the idea of needs, whether it is economic or social needs, requires public discussion and exchange of information, views and analysis.

Our society has not been able to achieve all these requirements. We can always find a common answer to this i.e, inequality of opportunities and resources. In states where decentralised market economies are not sufficiently regulated, they will eventually produce large inequalities in economic and social resources, from wealth and income and education to social status. Generally, what happens is those with greater resources tend to use them to influence the political system to their advantage and the existence of such inequalities constitute a persistent obstacle to the achievement of a satisfactory level of political equality.
Social justice is another inevitable feature of democracy. It simply implies the balance between individual’s rights and social control ensuring the fulfilment of the legitimate expectations of the individuals under one existing law. Therefore, if a state is professing social justice, it must be efficient enough to maintain the balance between the distribution of individual’s rights and the obligations laid on them. But unfortunately, in a society like ours, the latter is weighing us down. In addition, social justice also relates to the eradication of social evils like unemployment, poverty, diseases, etc., which have their stigmatic expression on the face of the developing countries.

Having analysed the implications of a democracy or what it takes to be a democratic set up, we may undoubtedly mention that we do have a democratic system but it is related to the elitist notion of democracy. Expressions like “voice of the people” or “rule of the general will” are discarded and instead we have a democracy that stands for “the rule of the chosen few”, implying minority rule. We are now left to decide what kind of democracy we want and need – a democratic government which represents the privileged minority or the one that will represent the toiling majority. It is high time to stop the blame game and start acting positively, as responsible citizens. We are gifted with the power of reasoning and this is what should determine our decisions, even on political issues. What we should be asking ourselves is whether we are pushing hard enough to bring about positive change in our society. In the light of these challenges, amongst some countries that have made the transition to democracy, the new democratic institutions will probably remain weak and fragile, and others might even lose their democratic governments and revert to some form of authoritarian rule. Therefore, if we are to survive in this system of governance, first, we have to fulfil every requirement of having a democratic system and second, we must equip ourselves to meet the challenges, both old and new.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Naga Literature: An ignored Shangri-la - Anjan Behera, Asst. Professor English

They say the pen is mightier than the sword.  However, the pen can only be mightier than sword if people read what has been written by the pen. 
Nagaland has a lot of literature that not only tells us of our past but also pulls us into their worlds of sorrow, happiness and love. 

Naga Literature: An Ignored Shangri-la

It was the summer of 2010, and I was in the Kolkata airport, waiting to board my flight to Dimapur. A delay of 3 hours prompted me to pull out a copy of Easterine Kire’s Mari from my backpack. Totally engrossed in the book, I was almost taken aback when a voice asked me what had I been reading. Turns out he was an English Lecturer who had belonged to the state, and yet, had never heard, or read of Kire. The remaining two hours of waiting time was thus spent in telling him all about the wonderful works of Kire. However, my surprise continued even later when I moved back to Dimapur. It was a struggle to find anyone who had read novels and literary works from our own state. People are blissfully unaware of the rich and diverse literature that our state has begun to produce.

There are a couple of factors that have been behind this. Easterine Kire in her interview with CNN-IBN stated, “About thirty years ago, there wasn’t much literary production from the Northeast in the sense that we were not getting published, we had very little translated literature in English and whatever was available was poetry and writings by anthropologists on the region. So, the mainland universities cannot be blamed for ignoring literary input from the Northeast. Things have changed drastically in recent years and more Naga authors have been published. But Naga Literature, still being a fairly new phenomenon, remains largely unknown to the readership population. Needless to say, the westernised mindset also plays a role here, where in local works are deemed biasedly as inferior.  

It is true that Mainland-Indian academia has ignored literary work from the state in the past. But how is it that most of the universities still do not have any literature from Nagaland in their syllabus? Nagaland has produced several notable works like A Terrible Matriarchy, The Gift of the Sand Castle, These Hills Called Home, and Monsoon Mourning. Passing off works by Assamese writers as ‘Literature from the Northeast’ is a brutal attempt to wrongly equalise the diverse literary tradition of the eight states. Novels from Nagaland usually have a very subtle anti-Indian stance. Could this be the reason that Mainland-India has ignored the literary tradition of Nagaland? Probably. But in a democracy, shouldn’t everyone be allowed to express their views and opinions? If controversial works of Ismat Chughtai and Taslima Nasreen are welcomed in academic circles, why aren’t works from Nagaland? Although this does not explain the scrawny popularity of these works in Nagaland itself.

Whatever the reasons maybe, one cannot deny the fact that these literary works are art, art which should be judged on its aesthetic appeal. Literature is the reflection of the society that is written about. Hence, these works cease to be just works of fiction, but transcend into becoming a record of the glorious culture and society. A general characteristic of fiction from Nagaland is the harking back to the past, and presenting the deep impact and importance of the days gone by. The past has taught us valuable lessons, and these works remind us of the struggles our society has undergone; from the World War, to the forceful occupation of the terrain by Indian forces, and from alcoholism, to the changes in culture and religion. How can we then ignore these faithful representations of our heritage and our past?
Naga writing in English is still a relatively new phenomenon, but we do have many works in local dialects. Kongshir Ken by S. Longkumer, is a wonderful fictional work in Ao, but has a limited readership since they have been composed in the Ao dialect. To make sure these works have a larger readership, and a stronger influence, they should be translated into English as soon as possible. I realise translated works lose their originality to an extent, but well, something is always better than nothing at all. The writers and publishers need to promote their works better so more people come to know of it. More of these works need to be included in academic courses around the country. Enough of the ignorance! Kudos to the Department of English, Nagaland University for including many works from the state in their syllabus for the Bachelors Degree courses. We live in a society where people are losing touch with their roots and traditions, their customs and its values. These literary works are all that remain that have the power to tie us back to the magnificent past.

The literary works of Nagaland is something that should be read by all people of the state. The budding writers need encouragement, and an increase in readership would encourage the evolution of a rich and powerful Naga Literature. It would also ensure the past is always cherished and treasured, and the sacrifices made by the ancestors of this land is remembered. In times when people are more familiar with Korean culture than Naga culture, these literary works can be a Shangri-La for the legacy of the days gone by, as well as provide wonderful insight to outsiders about the evolving culture of the state.

So the next time you want to read something, skip the Vogue and the Sidney Sheldon, and instead, pick up works by Easterine Kire, Aaron Kikon, Monalisa Changija, and Temsula Ao.

Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. “The views expressed are not a reflection of the opinion of Tetso College. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Do we need Prohibition of Liquor in Nagaland - P. Jonglio Khiamniungan, B.A. 3rd Year

There are many times we turn a blind eye – for example, when a family member uses unfair means to get a job or we condone corrupt practices which directly benefit us. Likewise, we continue to uphold the law on prohibition while ignoring the abundance of alcohol in functions, wedding parties, or even in some paan shops. The hypocrisy has led to many articles and debate topics on the issue since it was first enforced and has brought about many different viewpoints. 

This week, generation “Y” has a say

Do we need Prohibition of Liquor in Nagaland?

Prohibition of liquor is the legal Act of prohibiting the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol and alcoholic beverages. In Nagaland, I believe we need prohibition of liquor as it has become like a disease; bearing numerous ill effects. It does not only poison one’s life but affects the political, social, economic, spiritual, moral and educational standards of a society. Nagaland is one of the states in India where liquor or alcohol is legally banned. The government of Nagaland passed the liquor prohibition in 1989. The prohibition bill has in some ways helped in removing the glittering liquor shops from our towns and the drunken brawls that were noisily located in busy streets and the Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) has also taken the initiative in upholding the prohibition Act. However, the prohibition has not fully succeeded in preventing our people from drinking alcohol and the debate is now whether it should be lifted  from the land or not .
Alcohol or liquor consumption has become a disease in the Naga society where the victims include both genders of all ages. I would like to highlight the disadvantages of alcohol and liquor consumption.

1.      Alcohol hinders the spiritual life of a person. Nagaland as we know is a Christian state but the inhabitants consume liquor in abundance, which strongly contradicts the Bible. Alcohol is one of the greatest enemies of man and destroys the family.
1st Corinthians 6:10 says, “No drunkards shall enter the kingdom of Heaven. No thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists shall inherit the kingdom of God”.

The Bible condemns liquor drinking: 
Leviticus 10:9 “Do not drink wine nor strong drink”.
Proverbs 20:21 “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging”.
Proverbs 23:21 “The drunkards shall come to poverty’.

Thus, from the spiritual point of view it clearly indicates that one should avoid drinking alcohol to inherit the kingdom of god.

2.      Political: From the political point of view, it leads to all sorts of corruption, especially during election. Voters are being bought by a bottle of liquor by the candidates and allies.
3.   Economic: Alcohol consumption leads to low standards of living as the father or the bread earner in the family succumbs to this evil vice. Ultimately, it obstructs development in the society as it leads to less contribution from the members towards the society. 
4.   Health problems: It is a slow poison where the consumer suffers from multiple health problems such as – kidney failure, damaged cerebellum, liver and eventually kills the victim. It leads to severe asthmatic attacks, high blood pressure problems, heart attacks, cancer and other chronic ailments in the long run. Consumption of alcohol is not only harmful for one’s health but also the entire environment. There are millions suffering from alcohol abuse in the world and they are increasing in numbers day by day. One may get temporary pleasure out of it, but it gradually leads to mental and physical dependency on alcohol and addiction.
5.      Social Problems - It leads to many social problems like divorce, infidelity, rape, different forms of abuse, molestation, verbal and physical abuse etc.
Especially among students, it hampers academic achievement. Students are unable to concentrate on their studies and other related activities which affects their academic performance.

Unless the policy makers and law enforcers are serious and committed to the Bill, it will never succeed. However, in the present scenario, we find that many of them also actively consume alcohol. Despite being the lawmakers, they seem to have no intention of abiding by it themselves.

Sometimes in life we have to relentlessly pursue our objectives regardless of failure simply because doing them is right. All of this is possible only when the world comes together for a common cause. I believe the government organizations need to put in a greater concerted effort to eliminate this dirty habit from the root.
Steps should be taken up by the government organization or leaders of the state to bring discipline in the society and peace and order in our state. The society cannot progress in an undisciplined environment. There will be chaos and confusion in the society if things are not organized in a proper way. It is with the implementation of laws that the animal instinct in human beings is controlled. It is essential to impart knowledge of laws.

So far, due to the lack of implementation of laws in our society, we witness corruption in every nook and corner of our state.  Nagaland, as a Christian state needs to be controlled and disciplined. According to the act, dry state should be strictly prohibited. Despite our motto of Nagaland for Christ, every morning in newspaper we read so many IMFL cases. It is illegal in Nagaland, yet many exploit the alcoholic by smuggling in alcohol and selling them at exorbitant rates. While they may become rich, these alcohol dealers are abetting slow death among users, besides putting their families in untold misery. These black alcohol dealers are indeed some of the worst criminals in our society who are destroying people’s life as long as they get their money. The idea of revoking the total prohibition is unthinkable. It will instead provoke people to fall into graver situations.

In conclusion, I would like to cite that a growing and developing state like Nagaland needs to prohibit liquor in every possible way in order to improve our life in particular and our development in general. Let us commit ourselves to freeing our homes, streets, markets, offices, work place, villages and towns from the evils of liquor.

Winning Essay of the Degree Level Essay Competition held during Tetso Autumn Fest 2013

“The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of Tetso College. Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email:

The Missing Principles in Naga Society - Zuchano Khuvung, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science

Moral and ethical values as social categories are crucial for generating a sound culture in any given society. However, people tend t...