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Seminar seeks clarity on concept of property in Naga customary tradition

By EMN Updated: Sep 21, 2019 12:23 am

Eastern Mirror Desk

Dimapur, Sep. 20: The concept of property is a critical subject that encompasses the central realm of human existence and plays pivotal role in every human relation.

A two-day national seminar on ‘The concept of property in Naga customary tradition’ is currently underway at Immanuel College in Dimapur where a research committee from the college asserted that the ‘concept of property is crucial in defining Naga customs and traditions as it lacks proper conceptual understanding.’

“Property is any physical or virtual entity that is owned by an individual or jointly by a group of individuals and are either immovable and tangible or intangible,” according to the committee. In the context of the Nagas, communal property is the norm wherein entitlements are based on customs and traditions and is attached to the community rather than to the individuals. However, the committee asserted, “property remains mostly in the form of individual ownership”.

The seminar has been organised in collaboration with the Institute of Naga Studies in Dimapur and attempts to delve upon the conceptualisation of property in relation to Naga tradition by looking at ownership and entitlement, succession and inheritance, adoption, marriage and family, maintenance of custom, divorce, and remarriage.

S Anandha Krishma Raj, assistant professor of Law at the Vellore Institute of Technology, School of Law in Chennai, in his paper on ‘Tribal law and private property’ asserted that tribal law and private property were not present in the ancient society and communal property was the practice in the ancient society. Law, he said, has to be seen with the “origin of a state and the absence of private property”.

“Law during the ancient society for thousands of years validates the absence of tribal law and private property. In the primitive communal society, there was no private property, the society hunted together, shared together, and there was no exploitation. The notion of exploitation comes with private property. Family relation was matriarchal and mother acted as the head of the family and there was no clear division of labour and no private ownership,” Raj said.

According to his study, agriculture was ‘invented by the female and dominated by the male’. Invention of agriculture led the society to have surplus and the first division of labour happened between the male and the female, Raj asserted. The monogamous society, which was only for the female, came into picture with the passing of the private property and this, he claimed, was the origin of the patriarchal society.

Concept of property in liberal tradition

According to Levinu Sakhrie from the department of Political Science, Phek Government College, liberalism is concerned with the establishment and maintenance of a political and legal order which, among other things, secures individual freedom in choosing the values and ends of a preferred way of life.

Private property, she said, was a way to “ensure individuals enjoy their choice over goods and resources so as to allow them to fulfil their aspirations and freedom was seen as a fundamental value to govern social and political life.”

“The concept of property was not merely a concept in economics and law, but more importantly in political theory and the liberal conception of private property typically includes a set of rights which reduce to use exclusivity and disposition,” she said.

According to Sakhrie, the liberal view on property rests on two main themes. The first is where property is seen as an absolute right (classical liberalism) and is defined as property which is beneficial and benevolent. Property for them is the limit on human action recognised by society.

The second property is seen as a limited social right, she said. ‘Most contemporary liberal authors accept private property as a fundamental right but supplement this acceptance of unrestricted private property rights with a set of social rights,’ according to her.

As per Sakhrie’s research paper, the principles of the new governance agenda-privatisation, corporatisation, public private synergy, minimal role of the state, increasing reliance on market as a viable service delivery mechanism, to name a few, emanates from the liberal understanding of profit-making and private wealth.

The liberal notion of property, she remarked, would lead to a system where economic inequalities exist and the inequalities in private wealth would further lead to differential levels in political decision-making.

“The liberal concept of property was essentially built on the principle that no individual may be prohibited or refrained from acquiring and building property. Therefore while right to property was deemed to be fundamental and inalienable to the individuals set of rights in the liberal tradition, it becomes imperative to ask if such a justification would lead to a bypassing of public welfare of interests,” she concluded.

By EMN Updated: Sep 21, 2019 12:23:41 am