Violence Begets Violence

Being Naga

Aheli Moitra

Being Naga and belonging to this socio-cultural-political group far precedes the violent conflict that has subsumed the Naga people for the past near-century.

What is being Naga? Among thousands of other things, it is relaying to a grandchild the story of how the tiger's spirit sensed upcoming danger, and developed the art of self defense; of how the bird sings every evening the time for families to go home from fields. It is in supporting the old, infirm or child incapable of growing food-it is in laboring together to produce together; to own it collectively, to celebrate produce, to respect the spirit of all life forms. To be with each other in death, with even those who might not have, or have lost, their immediate family. It is in discussing, from each family up, how many mithuns should inhabit which parts of the forests during which part of the year, or which piece of land is up for the next round of jhumming—it is in making a collective decision as a community body, or a body of communities. Being Naga is to have a small collective that is a drone of voices emanating from its body. Its future is strengthened through the practice of related ethics, strengthening forests, the soil, spiritual bonding, the longevity of generations, etc.

For the Nagas, the political administration of these ethics is necessary to aspire towards a desired future, which does not necessarily resonate with other immediate-profit based political entities with little desire of longevity of flora, fauna or human life. When a large political entity that would like to classify the Naga lands as its own lands without really connecting with its sub structures finds it important to destroy these social, economic, political structures through the use of violence, it is natural to expect the Naga to respond in a similar manner, each and collectively, strengthening its social, cultural and political mechanisms. Become more Naga. Solidifying instead of growing in cultural form and space, in law and justice. Faced with violence introduced and embedded by a separate political entity that threatens to destroy, Naganess turns on itself-it refuses to let women and children aspire to a new world through evolution. Inflicted with violence, it looks to respond only with violence.

A new paper published in the Asian Journal of Social Psychology, while studying the effect of conflict and subsequent fear on (Naga) social identification, juxtapositions the violence of the Indian army with that inflicted by various Naga political groups. It begins the Naga journey from Nagaland's statehood. Both these premises are misinterpretations of Naga history, and undermine the nature of oppression. It suggests that the deliberate fear injected into the Nagas (through violence and parallel destructive policies) by a foreign polity to destroy a sense of Naganess is comparable to the fallout of violent politics of division and abuse among the Nagas. A conflict at the level of ideas, one entity's rejection of an alternate form of governance to be independently executed, spiraled into violent rejection and the rest was action in preserving Naga identity (which was being taken ever since the British incursions began). There is Naga moral mandate here-its defense against colonization. Conflict created in the Naga lands, thus, needs to be put in context; simplistic juxtapositions only further the injustice already piled up on the polity.

The study's conclusion that Naga identification provided protection during conflict through social support is helpful—in unifying violence, it helps people imagine more conclusions : like, violence of any kind has polarized more than integrated, inhibited cultural growth, and, ironically, not had its desired effect. If leaders from both sides do not see this, it will continue to destroy opportunities to imagine community-driven structures/mechanisms that celebrate the spirit of life and togetherness.

Vol. 47, No. 20, Nov 23 - 29, 2014