Besesayo Kezo, IPS
“The enemy is within the gate; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.” – Cicero (106BC – 43BC) Today in Nagaland, we notice two competing political ideas, namely, nagaism and narcissism, in the underground and over-ground organisations that are contradictory and adversely affecting the people in their own way. Running counters to one another, creating confusion and disillusionment in the minds of the people, leaving behind a trail of more divisions and political let-downs. Neither of them clearly propagates its philosophy openly nor are their intentions clearly enunciated except from the actions they take. Most of the narcissistic tendencies are being executed under the facade of ultra-nationalism or nagaism. Thereof, necessary to understand what it means by nagaism or narcissism.
How Nagaism Developed
Nagaism is a philosophy which believes in the oneness of all Nagas without borders, beyond the ideal of unity. The concept is highly debatable, of recent origin and till now nobody has been able to definitely describe it without ambiguity. The Nagas are believed to have migrated from elsewhere to the present location. They moved in small batches mostly comprising of people speaking more or less the same dialect or language in search of fertile and suitable lands for agriculture; permanent settlement before establishing themselves into fiercely independent and isolated village republics far away from the other major human civilisations. There was no possession of any written records about their history and were heavily dependent on oral traditions or from the sketchy records of other people which are neither favourable nor elaborate. They normally resided in the deep recesses in the highly inaccessible mountainous terrains without much material prosperity. The village republics perching on the top of hills didn’t attract foreign invasions or cause the envy of the more powerful neighbours for greed or material gains. Yet, intrinsic predatory habits of raiding the neighbours and headhunting, invited reprisals from foreigners into their country occasionally till the advent of the British Imperialist in the 19th century. Initially, the British Empire had no interests of conquering the Naga country which promised no economic or political gains but the discovery of tea and oil in Assam required protection from the constant raids into their territory and depredation of their subjects and properties by the Nagas, leading to their interference, conquest and ultimate rule over them. The Nagas resisted the advance of the British Empire into their territory as isolated independent village republics and never as a unified entity of Nagas. This idea was unknown to them then. They lived and acted independently of one another without any consciousness of their being ‘Naga’. They were known by their villages and not by its generic term.
The British Empire had their first major war and pitched battle against the independent Naga village republic in 1851, namely, KikrÜma in Phek district guided and assisted by many allied Naga villages.
They bore grudges against their fellow countrymen for past military losses and envious of their size, arrogance and strength. Accordingly, one of the oldest, biggest and strongest independent Naga village republics, namely, KikrÜma was attacked and destroyed killing many warriors in battle and village burnt to ashes. It was a fight between the spear and dao against the gun and gun powder; like fighting with assault rifles against tomahawk or smart bomb or missile in modern warfare! One by one, many other independent Naga village republics were conquered. The British were always assisted by the Naga warriors in their conquest of the Naga country. Never maintaining absolute peace with one another on any permanent basis always lived in constant suspicion and enmity with one another as they practised headhunting as a game and necessity for survival and tribal justice. They only had formal diplomatic relationships by establishing diplomatic feasts sealing friendship or peace treaties with one another amongst friendly villages with a view to maintain balance of power and relative peace in their regions. Against this background, the idea of Nagaism developed seeing themselves as distinct and separate from the other human beings around them based on their culture, traditions, practices, religion, languages, physical features, race, ethnicity etc. The first sense of separateness and identity was expressed in organising themselves into a united body coming right after their involvement in the First World War when conscripted as Labour Corps by the British Empire and deployed them in various theatres of war across the world. Upon return, a few of the surviving members organised the Naga Club in Kohima in 1918 and submitted the famous memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929 asking for independence from the British Empire after their departure from India. This was the genesis of nagaism as we understand it today. The idea of nagaism developed and grew tremendously challenging the might of the British Empire and free India under the charismatic leadership of Phizo inspiring generations of Nagas from India and Myanmar (Burma) into one distinctive national identity called ‘Naga’. That is how the distinct, aggressive and prominent idea of Nagaism developed. It fought and resisted all forms of foreign invasions and attempted to keep the hill tribes of this particular group by race, ethnicity, language, customs and traditions etc under one entity, the Nagas, as a distinct social and political group which has survived till today. Phizo lived for the idea of Nagaism till his death. He was the embodiment of Nagaism and singularly the most remarkable personality in the whole history and philosophy of Nagaism. He had represented the Nagas and Nagaism as much as Yaser Arafat represented the Palestinian Question till his death.
Narcissism: The Alter-Ego
The original idea of Nagaism appears to be fading away. In its place a rather superficial type of philosophy, namely, narcissism – idea of excessive, obsessive and destructive self-love – is emerging from the dying embers of nagaism. It doesn’t sacrifice self for nagaism but capitalises it for personal aggrandisement and other self-interests. A kind of personality cult is being woven around the mysterious personalities of the individuals for unification of all Nagas scattered across the globe and attempting to wield the ignorant Naga tribes into one Naga family or entity without personal sacrifice or committed ideology. The idea of extreme narcissism seems to be taking over the noble idea of nagaism in a most ugly and gruesome manner neglecting all the other virtues. We have reached a stage where we don’t even dare to criticise the wrong and harmful policies of the individual or his group or his tribe for fear of reprisals. It appears that the fight is no longer for nagaism but for personal, factional, or tribal glory and supremacy. If this trend is allowed to grow unchecked by the public, one day it will become self destructive to our fragile socio-economic and democratic polity. The original idea of nagaism is being replaced/hijacked/subverted by narcissism, continually creating mayhem in the political and social fields. It has also produced many pseudo naga nationalists with absurd and distorted political philosophy. With their jaundiced view of the world, compounded by megalomaniac tendencies and autocratic style of leadership, their supporters are causing untold miseries and destruction of all the traditional Naga virtues to all the Nagas and non-Nagas inside and outside Nagaland. It appears that this bunch of politicians are not interested either to fight for the cause of Naga political and social independence any more or are they willing to give up the allurements and trappings of power and glory associated with the genuine Naga nationalists and their movements. The evidence lies in their personal life-style and vast properties owned by their leaders in the name of the movement, displaying to the whole world their ignoble ambitions. Narcissism is a very dangerous philosophy and personality trait in both social and political fields. It promotes selfishness and insecurity at the expense of others. It is always ‘I’ first from the beginning to the end muffling, stifling and bulldozing everything else in between. It firmly believes in ‘my way or the highway’. There is nothing to choose between them. It only knows and acts for its own interests. Nothing else matters. Safely located in the narrow confines of its own world, it doesn’t dare to come out of its shell and interact with the outside world. It also makes its adherents feel insecure and suspicious of everybody else and develops fear psychosis and inferiority complex. It makes them feel over sensitive on any controversial issues and spurs them into violent reaction towards dissidents and political opponents. Many of them develop into full-fledged psychopaths suffering from nervous breakdown or becoming intolerant of dissenters committing crimes of passions haunted constantly by the ghosts of their victims. It appears that many of our leaders, social and political, are displaying all types of unpredictable behaviours in their speeches and actions purportedly guided by something deeper and more forceful and sinister drives compelling us to study about their personality and personal traits scientifically more closely so that we will know them better. Our sense of patriotism is being flawed and ruthlessly exploited by these pseudo Naga nationalists and ultra nationalists without any sense of common vision for nagaism or self sacrifice as before. Every human action flows out of a thought from the heart so when the mind is empty or polluted, we cannot expect any positive action from such thoughtless or vile man except toxic and obsolete ideas.
Except on the condition that we are able to distinguish who is for nagaism and not narcissism, the naga society will continue to be guided and controlled by the narcissists under the cover of nagaism, causing sabotage from inside the Naga Nationalist Movement and irreparable damage to the aspirations and dreams of the Greater Nagaland. Apparently, the only possible way for any Naga negotiating party with the Government of India capable of achieving anything, by progressive piecemeal settlement and not resolving everything in one go. Whatever achievements are claimed to have been made by the present negotiators so far have had very little or no substantial benefits to Naga society. This fact ought to have been appreciated and admitted by the genuine hard-working Naga nationalists. There should not be any doubts on this issue nor should they entertain false hopes. The Govt of India has made it amply clear more than once; that the final solution for the Naga question is not possible this time. Accordingly, the present generation of Naga politicians must conclude the peace talk on a positive note leaving out the more complicated issues to future generation without becoming narcissistic or nihilistic forestalling and derailing the potential and future political growth of Nagas. They must keep the door of political negotiation wide open for the next generation. We must move forward step by step, one step at a time, if necessary.
Disclaimer: Your Page will carry readers’ unplugged contributions. None of the features will be edited but the Editor reserves the right to withhold contributions considered inflammatory or libelous.