Freedom of expression in Nagaland
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Ao Senden’s recent 2014 Ban on Changkija’s Book of ‘Cogitating for a Better Deal’ poignantly brings to the forefront of all educated Nagas an Issue of universal importance for progress, prosperity and enlightenment of the Human Society.
The Aos are -one of the first, -one of the best and -one of the most educated Tribes of Nagaland: it is so because they, as in other Naga Tribes, allow its members, the Freedom to decide the Religion a Man or a Woman likes; even unmarried young Boys and Girls in the care of their Parents have this Freedom.
It is because of this Freedom of Choice that Man and Woman, Boys and Girls took to Education that came with Christianity. The Aos were the first among the Naga Tribes to accept them.Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Choice and Freedom of Expression are too precious a matter in the life of civilized Human Societies that the United Nations declared these among the Fundamental Human Rights and all Democracies of the World allow this to its Citizens. This is Universal Human Rights. This FREEDOM of EXPRESSION is so important to Human Civilization, Progress and Prosperity that the Power to Ban it is kept only with the Government of the STATE.
Very fortunately, for the Nagas Society, this precious FREEDOM comes Naturally, Customarily, Traditionally and Inherently. Nobody can deny a Bird its right to be a Bird. It is in its Nature. The Bird acquired its name from its Creator and no Man has the power to declare Bird an Animal. Rights acquired naturally and inherently are not denied except by the Giver.
Now, a very pertinent question in Nagaland context is:
Do a Naga tribal Hoho or Senden (gathering or conference) has the legal Authority to deny a Naga his or her traditional customary and inherent possessions the Hoho had no hand in its provision?
This is an Issue of tremendous consequences to all of us educated Nagas and let us has a little wider awareness and considerations on the matter.
The Indian Government allows considerable FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION to its Citizens and the important Issue is encoded in the sanctity of its Constitution; surprisingly and amazingly, India occupies only a low position among democratic Nations of the World on the Issue of Freedom of Expression.
Arundhati Roy was hounded for expressing her view that Kashmir has a right to decide its own destiny; the world renowned Writer Rushdie was not allowed to participate in a World Literary Conference in India, his book ‘Satanic Verses’ is banned in India.
The Bangladeshi Writer Taslima carries a Muslim religious Fatwa against her by the Muslim Clerics of her Native Bangaladesh. She ran away from her country and would like to stay in India; she is denied permanent Residence in India.
Recently, the World Famous Rupert Publishing Company was forced to withdraw the publication of a Book on Hinduism by a foreigner who teaches Hinduism in a foreign University, for allegedly containing materials that ‘outrage the majority sentiments of people of India’.
Experts say Indian Law makes it illegal to “outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”. The danger in this Law is that it gives the Complainant more weight against the Defendant and anybody can complain against any other alleging outrage of Religious Sentiment of a Community; on the basis which, the Police can arrest the alleged and put him or her in Jail for years. It is said the Law is relic of colonial legislation and have a long history of abuse.
In Nagaland, the NGOs and the Hohos have certain anomalies: NGO is a Common Name only of a voluntary non government Organization. An NGO must have a Specific Name, a stated and recorded AIMS & OBJECTS and a record of its Members.
One of the oddest things observed in the Student Organizations in Nagaland is that the Office Bearers mostly are not STUDENTS. This is a fundamental flaw. Non-Students cannot be Members of a Student Organization otherwise Meat Sellers and Fishermen or the many Extinguished Politicians may become the Presidents and General Secretaries of the Student Bodies. When a fundamental principle is Miss-used in an Organization, many other collateral things go wrong.
Most often, the Student Bodies in Nagaland take the Name of the Tribe. Now, when a Student Body takes the name of a Tribe; it presumes the civil power of the Tribe -be it Angami, Ao, Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan and Konyak or Phom etc- and the mother of difficulties begins!
The Student Body has no holding on Non-Student Matters accept with the approval of the Legislative Body, the Government, the Tribe or importantly, the Village Council –the legal Authorities under Article 371A of the Constitution of India allowing Traditional Customary Practices of Nagaland-.
The KONYAK ANGH has the traditional customary legal Authority on his Village or on any vassal Village under him; in the stratified SÜMIS, the legal traditional customary Authority rest with the Village CHIEF; the Aos have the traditional customary Authority of the Village in its PUTU MENDEN; the Angami traditional customary Authority resides in various places: -in the Village Phichüu and Liedepfü on Religious matters, -with Terhüba and Thinuo on matters of Warfare, -in Chhienuo for most matters of the Clan Members, -with the Village Council on matters of voluntary common Interests to all the Villagers.
None of the lingual NGOs of Nagaland has the legal Traditional Customary Authority. The Tribal Organization today is an offshoot of Naga Hills Tribal Area Council the last Deputy Commissioner Sir. CR Pawsey constituted in 1946; the Naga Representatives unanimously converted the Naga Hills Tribal Area Council into Naga National Council –NNC- which the Government recognized. The State of Nagaland later on abolished the Naga Hills Tribal Area Regulation.
State Laws go wrong, good Intensions go wrong; but with good Reason and Discernment, the Society changes them. With GLAZNOS openness Gorbachov changed Imperial Russia into a Democracy. Some Russian may curse Gorbachov today but he changed the world. The educated Ao Senden may wisely withdraw their Ban on ‘Cogitating for a Better Deal’, as Changkija had already apologized if she has hurt anyone’s sentiments.