Today, 10th January 2018, Nagaland observes Naga Day in a courageous call out for renewed hope and reconciliation for the Naga people. A day that will be recorded in our Naga history, we take a painful look at, what in the views of some, our society has become or is gradually turning into – A society where social mobility no longer exists because the right to equality of opportunity and the right to live a dignified life have been curtailed by the already privileged class is no longer a healthy society. That society reflects a caste structure, and such a society in Nagaland is doomed for decay.
The Reckoning of ‘Naga’ Day
The present Naga society is in a tectonic transition. Stark inequality of class division intensified with nepotism cannot co-exist with the idea of a free society and democracy. A social environment where everyone can thrive based on their labour, where there is freedom of opportunity and the right to live a dignified life can be brought about only if the society is built on the principle of justice and equality. The present Naga society however reflects these principles poorly.
Hoarding of wealth by the elites and leaders of the society has created a Brahmin like caste in the state where social mobility is literally impossible for a certain section of people in the society. The evergreen Naga saying, ”study hard if you want to make it big in life”, no longer includes people coming from the rural and sub-urban areas as education in the government institutions are in a sorry state of affairs, while the good institutions are too costly for everyone to afford. It looks like right to (proper) education is a privilege and not a claim anymore, reserved only for the well off sections in the society. The spillover of this privilege extends far beyond even to job opportunities. From reservation to backdoor appointment, opportunities are reaped by the Naga Brahmins. It is also a harsh reality that the reservation system for the backward tribe has benefited only the creamy layer of the said tribes, simply flushing the goal of affirmative action and social justice into the toilet. And if that is not enough, backdoor appointments are also hijacked and bought in wholesale by our Brahmins for their sons and daughters (job security…. they say) until they clear the NPSC or start their own parents financed hi-fi imported business. No wonder we have a lot of government teachers and LDAs who move around in their own SUVs with private drivers. Justice and equality of opportunity in Nagaland has become like our tribal church announcement, “I would like to apologise if there is any non Lotha speaking friends, as we will be conducting the rest of our service in our own dialect”; an acknowledgement with an indifferent ease. The bottom line is, if you want to become, you have to belong.
While the whole society today talks about employment in the private sector, the harsh reality is, very few private firms are paying their employees enough to support a family. The rest of them either underpay their employees or exploit their labour to the fullest, and if that is not enough, some hospitals and educational institutions even cease the documents of their employees to prevent them from unceremoniously leaving their employer. It is slavery wearing the mask of employment. The idea here is not the abolition of private sector but unregulated minimum wage giving birth to a huge inequality in income artificially inflated because of greed and status quo. The impact of such denial and discrimination is not one generational, but inter-generational disability. In such a scenario, the sons and daughters of the low earning parents who cannot afford to send them to good educational institutions because the private institutions are too costly to afford, and the affordable government ones are rotting, will become the servants and employees of the privileged outside the state educated children of the emerging upper cast.
A cancer that is already growing in our society are the egoistic, pseudo guardian tribal bodies and clan organizations who would walk the extra miles of summoning and excommunicating anyone that challenges its status quo. The irony here is most of these bodies are controlled by the existing and retired bureaucrats and politicians sitting in their once upon a time government reserved land turned Beverly Hills like mansion, trying to shape the destiny of their community and tribe according to their own convenience. But what is even more dangerous is the forceful suppression of ideas, opinions and the right to dissent. Liberty has no meaning unless it means the liberty to go against the opinion of those in power and against an already established and accepted idea.
It is the right to conscience that gives meaning to civil and political rights and thus economic rights. In fact, the only real property that a person possesses is his right to exclusive control of his ideas and beliefs, and when this right is taken away, the human is stripped out of the being. In such a state the person is easily manipulated, controlled and used as a commodity. Such is the plight in our society today, which is further intensified by economic dependency on the elites by the poorer unfortunate sections. The unfortunate, whose decisions are dictated by the elites, can be seen during all elections (both general and village council); a mockery to democracy and a convenient dismissal to the idea of a clean election campaign. When basic rights such as this are robbed by the people in power, how do you expect the right to opportunity and right to live a dignified life from the same people?
“Revolution” is what is needed. Revolution not to overthrow the government or abolish the private sector as both are essential and imperative for the growth and prosperity of the state, but a revolution that strengthens the idea of a true social welfare state to protect and empower its citizens and a revolution challenging the existing status quo where few are thriving by enslaving the many. The problem however is not the lack of thoughts and ideas but courage.
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 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, Nungchim Christopher, Seyiesilie Vupru, Vikono Krose and Kvulo Lorin. Portrait photographer: Rhilo Mero. For feedback or comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.