Views & Reviews
Degrees of Separation
I came across a post on Facebook by Ms. Zhekheli Zhimomi, in which she masterfully dissected and debunked a premise by a certain Mr. Mathew Ngaito Asah, of Myanmar, that the Sumis were not Nagas, but actually Chins. It was fortunate that my elder sister Mrs. Katoli Shohe happened to have a copy of the original premise by Mr. Asah. I was amused by his whole theory and curiosity led me to send him an email at the address provided at the end of his article, despite my sister assuring me that the address was invalid, which it turned out to be. Leaving aside Mr. Asah’s wild theory, which seems to be nothing more than an attempt by a person raised among strangers to identify himself as one of those around him (for I have no reason to disbelieve his claim to be a Sumi), I began to dwell on the issue of what separates men from men.
Whether you are a Creationist or an Evolutionist, you must admit that Mankind began from a single point of origin. Creationists believe that God created Adam, Eve and all of Humanity and that is the point of origin for them. Evolutionists believe that men evolved from monkeys; so there must have been a certain monkey which evolved into a humanoid and whose offspring subsequently evolved into the homo sapiens of today; and that is the point of origin for them.
Since then, humanity has been classified into three races; the Negroid/Australoid, the Caucasian and the Mongoloid races(though the last mentioned has fallen out of usage, to be replaced by Asians, due to political correctness and its usage to describe children suffering from Down’s Syndrome) based on physical characteristics shaped by nature. All other forms of classifications and separations are solely man-made. Whether it is religion, tradition, culture, tribe or caste, our degrees of separation are man-made.
The North-East of India has many people and tribes of Mongoloid stock. Whether we migrated from the South-East of Asia or the Tibetian Plateau, we all are Mongoloids. Apart from the Ahoms of Assam, who seemed to have come in a single wave, the rest of us came in successive waves. The length of interval between the waves of migration and the degree of isolation from others, have led to the development of our different languages, customs and tribes. The Sumis migrants from present day Pughoboto area developed a different dialect. People from Pughoboto can understand me, but I can’t understand them. To me, they sound as if they are speaking in Angami or Chakhesang. The Aos too, have two distinct dialects, Chungli and Mongsen (apart from slightly different village inflections). It is my belief that left alone and in isolation, the various Naga tribes would have further sub-divided into distinct and different Naga tribes.
I have seen how we separate ourselves according to our village, clan, religious denominations and areas within our tribes. In the context of the State of Nagaland, we divide ourselves into our various Tribes; outside Nagaland, we are Nagas against Manipur, Assam etc. and in India, we are North-Easterners against Mainland Indians.
So our degree of separation keeps on changing according to the context and circumstances we find ourselves in. It is for each and every person to choose his degree of separation from those around him. Do I overlook the sins and shortcomings of another just because he happens to be from my family, village, tribe, race, religion, state or country? Or do I have one standard by which I measure ALL of HUMANITY?
I have one standard by which I judge all people, and that standard is, “HONESTY”. I do not expect people to be perfect, but I require every person I meet to be honest. An honest person does not try to conceal his dirty deeds behind a cloak of hypocrisy; an honest person admits his faults, mistakes and shortcomings; and admittance is the first step towards atonement, forgiveness and, ultimately, perfection. I do not care if a person is a Sumi or not, as long as he is an honest person, I do not care if Sumis are Nagas or not, as long as we are an honest people; and I do not care if a person is a Naga or Non-Naga as long as he is honest. I have said it before and I reiterate it, “I prefer an honest Non-Naga to a lying Naga.” Choose your degree of separation from others and stand by your yardstick. For your shifting degrees of separation reveals your cowardice in the face of others.
God Save Our Nagaland
Kahuto Chishi Sumi
Akukau, Hevishe Village