Views & Reviews
A comparative analysis of Naga and Indian democracies and its effect on Naga culture
Naga democracy was not based on any political ideology formulated by an individual. On the contrary, Naga Democracy was based on the collective decision of a people who were all independent minded. At the foundation level of Naga society, there was a classless society that was not influenced by any religious book or political ideology. Naga democracy was therefore the collective thoughts of a people who were guided by the law of the human conscience alone. (This law of conscience as stated in the Bible is written into the hearts of every man and woman irrespective of race or nationality. Rom.2:14, 15). What these Naga “conscience led people” ultimately produced was a classless society with a democracy that recognized the equality of every individual person, clan and village. In turn, all these collective developments resulted in a political system where every village was a Sovereign Democratic Republic with its own laws governing the administration of every individual village. Land ownership rights that these village democracies produced were also based on equal distribution and equal ownership of lands. The Laws governing the administration of all these Village Republics and the various systems of land ownership, inter-village and inter-tribal disputes were all based on unwritten customs and conventions. For over two thousand years in ancient history, Nagas lived in their mountain top Republics seemingly forgotten by the rest of the world. This isolation was more so because no ancient major trade routes like the Silk Route ever came anywhere close to their mountainous habitats. Therefore, their presence was known only to their immediate neighbor Kingdoms like the Meteis, the Ahoms and perhaps to some extends, the Burmese Kingdom. With these neighbor Kingdoms, the Nagas, for many centuries fought many fierce battles defending their territories until the dawn of British Colonial era in the early 19th century.
It is also worth noting here, that this classless Naga political system was already in existence for thousands of years long before Karl Marx or any of his followers like Lenin, Stalin or Mao Zedong formulated the idea of a modern nation state based on a classless society in the later part of the 19th century. In fact, when the British entered our lands in 1832, they discovered to their amazement that the Nagas were practicing a democracy which was far superior to their own form of Democracy. (Captain Butler, the British anthropologist had written many comments on this fact in many of his writings).Ultimately when the time came for modern nation states to be born after the Colonial era ended, Nagas also established a modern nation state called the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) on March 22, 1956. The Naga National Council (NNC) which is the only political institution of the Nagas, incorporated all these Naga democratic conventions into a written Constitution called The Yehzabo of Nagaland.
In diametrical contrast to Naga democracy, pre –colonial India or ancient India- particularly Hindu India, which forms 80 % of India-does not have any democracy at all. (Muslims and other minority groups are not included in this assessment). For this ancient and pre-colonial Indians, the Vedas teach that in the beginning God created a perfect social order called Varnashram Dharma. In this Dharma, a strict caste system is set up in the social order where an individual is forever condemned to be enslaved in the caste that God had foreordained him to be. Consequently, preservation of that social order extrudes (squeeze out) the recognition of any individual, clan or village’s freedom and liberty. In such a system of “religion based political system”, the individual only exists for the preservation of the social order. Thus, the freedom of the individual is completely undermined and denied. This is how ancient India existed prior to the coming of the Europeans and the surrender of Bombay to the British in 1668 which led to the British colonization of India.
No doubt, India has a great ancient past, but that past as well as their present would have been far greater and grander had it not been (in my personal opinion) for the curse of the caste system which has throttled individual initiative and creativity. After all, a caste system with the high caste divinely deputed to rule the low castes forever can never give birth to a democracy of equality and fraternity.
As for the modern nation state of India that was born on August 15, 1947, the democracy that they presently have has been imported from the west and particularly Britain. Great Britain’s democracy is also mostly based on conventions and customs prior to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. However ancient British system of governance being one of Monarchy, a form of feudal and landlord “class system of democracy” has inevitably crept into the system of British Democracy. The present Indian democracy being imported from Britain therefore is plagued with both a combination of a class based and caste based form of democracy.
This class based and caste based democracy that has been, in turn, imported into Nagaland through the 16 Point Agreement of 1960 is doing terrible damage to the Naga form of “Pure Democracy” .
THE NEGATIVE DAMAGES OF THE PRESENT INDIAN DEMOCRACY ON NAGA DEMOCRACY
1. The pouring in of Indian money which came with the creation of an Indian state under the 16 Point Agreement has now created a class system within the present Naga society. These classes that have emerged in present Naga society are the filthy rich class that has actively collaborated with the Indian government in Nagaland. The other class is the Naga masses that are still mostly living in their villages. (Though quite a good number of villagers have also migrated into the towns and cities as wage earners, the overwhelming majority of Nagas still live in their villages). Today, whether in the urban areas or the rural areas of Nagaland, going into the compounds and residences of those who have actively collaborated with the Indian Government is like stepping into the compounds of a rich European millionaire. The experience is almost like going to a foreign country altogether! Almost gone forever are the simple houses and compounds of our childhood days when in every colony, everyone lived in more or less similar quality houses and compounds. Then there are those foreign cars and Indian cars lining up lengthy parking spaces in these rich Naga houses which makes one wonder whether those cars are meant not just for the family members but even for their many servants! As for their multi layered compound walls and massive steel gates-my God, I think even mighty battle tanks cannot smash through them!
2. Some of these rich people have even purchased so much lands in so many places that they are today the equals of yesterday’s European Feudal Lords and Landlords connected with Royalty. The teak forests and fishery ponds they have in these lands must be worth sufficient wealth to feed successive generations of their offspring’s. No wonder these rich people can even travel to foreign countries for their monthly medical check ups. In turn, ordinary people who are connected to these filthy rich people through election related campaigns are also becoming unearned and undeserved leaders in their village and communities. Some of them are even being addressed as “Kepethau” (Angami word for Sir) because of their wealth and political connections and power.
3. Meanwhile, the ordinary villager, like everyone else, also having to pay for their children’s education, buy their sugar and meat etc for their physical sustenance are beginning to sell even their private lands and fields at throw away prices to the rich and richer. The list of social evil that has crept into Naga society and democracy and are in turn destroying our culture and values can go on and on. But for today, I will stop with this few examples.
In conclusion, the whole tragic thing is that the importation of a foreign government with its many flawed democratic principles is fast eroding and replacing our beautiful indigenous Naga democracy that has ruled Naga society for all the past generations of Naga history.