Naga culture is beautiful because of the array of cultural practices and customs that are practiced by the many Naga tribes, numbering to more than 17, that live in Nagaland. But sometimes beautiful can become ugly when it hampers the overall unity, prosperity and well-being of a society, owing to bias, partiality or corrupt practices. In a State like Nagaland, tribalism is notably prevalent all around us, both in conscious and unconscious ways. Recognizing this is important, so we can refrain from the negative impact it bears on the future of our society.
Tribalism: A Menace to Naga Society
What is tribalism? Ism has more evils in its message. It is an exclusive attitude of a person making him feel proud of whom she/he is in the given society. It can also be termed as a social evil and vice that destroys human cordiality and relationship in the society.
In the Naga context, tribalism is rooted in ones’ identity-based egoism. It is considered to be the pride of a person to be a member of the community they belong to. Nagas are a people with different tribal distinctions based mainly on the variation of languages, yet culturally and traditionally identical. In the perspective of mainland Indians, the Nagas are a hill tribe, but, to the Nagas, they are of a nationality. This mixed feeling of Indian treatment and Nagas’ identity has opened and created a curiosity to know who they really are. They further find differences and distinctions among themselves and discover their identity apart from the common ‘Naganess’. Interestingly, the Nagas living outside their homeland are viewed as a whole identity, but the reality is that in our homeland, vast hierarchy is prevalent.
The problem lies in the foolish pride of exalting one’s own tribal identity. From the common Naga brotherhood which was evident in the days following the Indian Independence, which I am going to term as ‘Naganess’, there is now a shift in the mentality: tribal hierarchy. Naga tribalism has thus subsequently weakened the concept of Naga Nationalism. Nagas today are being posed with two kinds of identity crises - tribalism and nationalism.
This fact is a menace posing on the Naga society as a whole, and the remedy is yet to be initiated. This contending conflict between tribalism and nationalism within the Naga society has to be resolved through the peoples’ choices and decisions. If the Nagas allow tribalism to continue, Naga Nationalism may suffer a fatal blow, similar to the fall of the Soviet Union, or how I sometimes visualize it as, the fall of Humpty Dumpty. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put the Naga nation back together again.
The sad reality is that we Nagas are enslaving ourselves to this dominating spirit of one tribe over another on tribal lines. The present social scenario is that the major tribes, or the so-called forward tribes, receive more benefits and opportunities - politically, socially, and economically, and along with the growth of infringing elements that override conventional probity and moral values. We Nagas are contending against each other for power and position corrupt ways and thus poisoning our own society. This foolish greed will lead to a falling into an abysmal pitch and eternal lost. The remedy may be transformation of Nagas’ mentality from an illusory tribal pride and glory, to a national sentiment based on morality.
The well-being of a society depends as much on the independence of the individuals composing it, as on their close political cohesion. History tells us that Greco-European-American culture, and its brilliant flowering in the Italian Renaissance, put an end to the stagnation of Medieval Europe. This was based on the liberal thinking and equitable humanity. Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of felt needs and the assuagement of pain.
We must live up to the standard of being fully humane, as designed and created. We must get rid of all pride, greed and selfish tendency to exploit the right of the other individual or people. When we survey our own lives, we observe that our actions and desires are connected with the existence of other human beings, and we are interdependent as social beings. Therefore, we must live with respect to other fellow humans and recognize his/her person on equal footing. A man's value to the community depends on how far his/her feelings, thoughts, and actions are directed towards promoting the good of his fellows. The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he/she has attained liberation from the self-inflicting vices.
We Nagas need to be self-analytical and self-critical and know who we are, and where we are going from here. To me, we (Nagas) are one racial group designed and purposed for a common vision and destination. We are in a battle to prove ourselves a nation, and journey towards a common destiny envisioned as the Naga National homeland, to be a nation among nations on the face of the earth.
There can be neither progress nor achievement without a sacrifice, and in order to go forward, it is essential to give up what is holding us back; human greed and the negative inflated pride of tribalism. The higher a man lifts his thought, the more blessed and enduring will be his achievements. The universe does not favor the greedy, the dishonest, and the vicious but the honest, the magnanimous and the virtuous. The measure of our sacrifice will determine our triumph. The vision we glorify in our minds, and the ideal we cherish and enthrone in our hearts will be rewarded. Let us cherish a lofty ideal of humanity and someday all the human vices will hopefully vanish from our world.
“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought delves into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. The views expressed here do not reflect the opinion of the institution. Tetso College is a NAAC Accredited UGC recognised Commerce and Arts College. The editors are Dr. Hewasa Lorin, Anjan Behera, Nivibo Yiki, and Kvulo Lorin. For feedback or comments please email: email@example.com”.