New Delhi, August 31 (MExN): Taking a cue from the recently published book, Discoursing the Shifts of the Naga Society in North-East India, which called for critical examination and interrogation of the various shifts taking place in Naga society, the Naga Scholars’ Association (NSA ) invited the core book team to its virtual roundtable on August 27.
With the book emphasizing that such actions are more urgent and pronounced, the NSA felt the need to amplify the relevant conversation to a wider audience and hosted the roundtable, an Association press release informed.
Moderating the conference, Monica Kanga Taruba, one of the editors and contributor to the book, noted that the main aims were to “engage in critical reflection on Naga society in contemporary times in relation to the past , the present and the future by bringing together scholars from various disciplines and schools from across the country.
The book is an outcome of a national seminar organized by the Naga Research Scholars’ Forum (NRSF) Hyderabad, in collaboration with the Center for Social Inclusion and Exclusion, Inclusive Policy of Hyderabad, in October 2016, Taruba informed.
During the roundtable, Riku Khutso, Additional Assistant Commissioner (EAC), Pfütsero, presenting a paper titled “Old Sensitivities and New Legitimacies in Naga Society: Understanding Institutional Formations, the Public Sphere and Identity Discourse” argued that the Institutionalization in Naga society saw new legitimacy through the interaction born of colonial forces and missionary intervention via the English language.
Opposing the tendency of scholars to adopt a Euro-centric approach while studying changes in Naga society, he observed that major changes occur not only as a result of external pressures, but also complex interactions of inside.
He called it “the interaction between the foreign and the local that generated new forms of consciousness and new collective institutions”.
Such social change was possible because ideological consolidation in the Naga Hills of the time was offered primarily through English education, among other auxiliary factors, Khutso said.
By the turn of the 20th century, many Naga were enrolled in mission schools and the excitement of education shaped a new mode of interactive discourse within the community and began to transform social, economic and political legitimacies, a he declared.
Vernacular democracy and the homogenization of the once heterogeneous social systems of different communities were mainly rationalized by the ideas that English education entailed.
Such consolidation of ideas resulted in the emergence of the public sphere represented by the first educated class of Naga society, he said.
Accordingly, whether in the religious or political sphere, as well as vernacular dialects, education in English has played an important role in defining the disjunction of the salient pragmatic tension between old practices and new emerging transformative institutions, he added.
Khutso further postulated that the rendering of the English language began to manifest itself in the political rhetoric of the Nagas and was very central in the collective representation of Naga society.
Rhelo Kenye, Visiting Professor, Center for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, and Research Fellow, Highland Institute, Kohima, in his presentation, “Reading Factions in Fiction: A Critical Appraisal of Select Literary Works on the Impact of Factional Violence in Society Naga” highlighted the absence of discourse on the impact of factional violence on the lives of ordinary people in Naga society, which could not be ignored in the political history of the Nagas.
Second, he based his argument on the idea that literature provided the space and platform to articulate the plight and lived experiences of those directly affected by factional violence.
To support his arguments, selected fiction by prolific writers such as Easterine Kire, Birendra Kumar Bhattacharya and Temsula Ao was studied analytically on the basis that “literature is not just what it is, but what what she does”.
Kenye projected his article as an engagement with literature not only in the ontological sense but also in its functional sense. Central to his argument was the question of “who are the legitimate stakeholders of the Naga National movement or Naga politics?” “.
Citing Kire’s remark that “something that started out as a noble cause but morphed into a mental game”, Kenye claimed there had been “a growing sense of selflessness and anxiety” mainly among the younger generation towards the national Naga movement.
Rongsenzulu Jamir, Maharishi Kanad Postdoctoral Fellow at Delhi School of Public Policy & Governance Institution of Eminence, University of Delhi, meanwhile explained on “Lore, Local Knowledge and Status: An Anthropological View on Ao Naga Land And Resources”.
In the article, Jamir analyzed how changing patterns of land ownership and new ways of managing land and resources affect changes in the notion of status in Naga society.
In particular, he explained that he used his discretion not to refer to Eurocentric terminologies such as “indigenous” and “indigenous knowledge” in his studies of the two villages by problematizing the terms as containing colonial connotative interpretations with “all the memories of power. and violation”. perpetrated on colonized subjects at the hands of colonized rulers, to destroy and exploit the former.
Consciously positioning his approach from an insider’s perspective, Jamir employed an opposing term “knowledge system” instead of the problematic terms, which distinctly qualified his signifier as originating locally in itself.
The meaning of this knowledge derived from the “natural understanding” of conceptualizing the surrounding world as the inhabitants saw it; while the simultaneous ordering of this perceived world around them was to be endowed with coded meanings corollary to the formation and maintenance of their social and political relations during such organic coexistence.
His article highlighted the significant role of the conscious act of returning to the ground, the point of origin. Intentional local knowledge functioned as an educational tool that was “a deeply woven ritual” that also extended to understanding the topography and the institution, of which people are intrinsically a part.
Towing along this trajectory, the Village and Regional Councils of Nagaland Acts of 1978 have been closely referred to with particular emphasis on administrative power and duties devolved to the local level, such as the republican system of the elected council, cultural institutions, land ownership (clan land and private land), etc.
The fieldwork led to an analytical deciphering of the territory with both “cheap and powerful” associations, which were translated into the oral tradition in the form of myths, memory, custom, even morality; he also guided people on how to behave with each other and with nature. Therefore, under such a perceived notion, “the landscape had turned into ancestral tracks that tied down history, sacred sites, mythical topographic map” where the land permeated as “a repository of the history of the people group and individuals”.
The change, according to Jamir, is evident in the changing understanding of his status, which was summed up profoundly by one of his informants: “Grans are useless, education is important”.
Amihe Swu, while focusing on the identity construction of the Naga people as part of his doctoral work, recounted his childhood experience of never questioning the idea/notion of his Naganess or the idea of Naga people as historically or sociologically inaccurate.
Considering the current scenario, he believes that the identity of the Nagas is changing apart from the socio-politico-economic challenges that the society is facing.
Following the development of the identity of the Naga people from pre-colonial village republics to the supra-tribal Naga identity, Swu identified the term “Naga” as something out of reference: an external orientation.
The Naga people do not have a separate term to define themselves etymologically, he said.
Swu also explained the coercive intervention of the British attempt to consolidate frontier territories, which invariably impacted his interactions with the Naga people, pushing them into urban space and replacing their traditional power with new derivatives of power. colonial authority.
This resulted in an antagonistic relationship between the colonizer and the colonized, he claimed.
Swu further observed that the blatant rhetoric in glorifying the reduction of the rich Naga culture and customs to a homogeneous modern society, or as a society seen in a positive movement, was a detrimental force that eroded much of Naga culture and identity, notwithstanding some of the benefits given to the people.
He also poignantly saw that descriptions of the Naga people in “colonial documents evolved from descriptions to an evolution towards the construction of Naga identity”.
Swu’s article aptly examined the construction of Naga identity and heavily emphasized colonial texts as a point of reference to fit his argument.
He highlighted the view that the literature written by Naga authors had “consciously or inadvertently advanced the paradigm shift”, based on an optimistic view of the possibility of incremental changes that may occur due to literary exercises.
Sharing his view, KB Veio Pou, Writer and Associate Professor of English Literature, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi, expressed his concern over how young Nagas are accepting the dominant narratives fed to them with spirits. uncritical and called for “demystifying them”. ”
The winner of the 2021 Gordon Graham Prize for Naga Literature for his debut novel, Waiting for the Dust to Settle, also expressed concern about how young naga are accepting mainstream narratives provided to them with uncritical minds.
To this end, he called on academics to engage with them while demystifying them.
One such dominant narrative, identified by Pou, was the assumption that a political solution will end all ills in our society.
He drew attention to other pressing issues that need urgent attention and called on scholars to move from intellectual engagement to identifying pathways for contribution.
The interview was followed by a question-and-answer session and ended with a vote of thanks from NSA co-secretary Tumchopemo E. Tsanglao, according to the statement. Thejalhoukho Casavi, doctor. The researcher from the Center for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi was the rapporteur for the round table.
Priced at Rs 500, the book classified in six sections with 14 chapters, was published by Heritage Publishing House, Dimapur, Nagaland.