Nagaland has a multitude of tribal, social, trade and welfare organisations. Everybody and his dog seem to be a member of at least one, if not multiple organisations, by default. What no one seems to realise is that all these organisations are functioning on the edges, if not completely beyond the ambit of the law, both customary and statutory. This is especially true of our so called “Apex” Tribal Organisations. And for the purposes of this article, I will stick to our Tribal Bodies, though the points I raise can be stretched to cover other unions, organisations and associations.
What the people of Nagaland and the executive members of our tribal organisations need to understand is that they have no authority under Naga Customary Laws. For under Naga Customary Law, each village is a fully independent political, social and cultural entity. The authority of tribal organisations is derived solely from Article 19(1)[c] of The Constitution of India, which states, “All Citizens shall have the right-to form associations and unions.”Keeping this in mind, we need to understand the main aspects of an organisation, i.e. its foundation, its membership, purpose and its role.
Foundation:- Any person from any tribe can start a tribal organisation. That is the right granted by Article 19(1)[c], and the right under which all present tribal bodies in Nagaland function. A body formed under the right granted by this article cannot prevent others from forming similar bodies.
Membership:- Membership to any organisation requires some form of voluntary consent from every member. This consent can be in the form of a paid membership or a simple sign of assent, e.g. in the form of a signature or show of hands. Every member of every organisation and its affiliates must have this sign of consent. Just because some members of a village, clan or tribe form an association, they cannot take for granted that all members of the village, clan or tribe are members by default. One is born into a tribe, but not into a tribal organisation, so, consent of every member of the tribe, at every level of the organisation is necessary. Furthermore, Village Councils, being governing bodies, under customary, state and central laws, cannot be part of any organisation or association. Neither can they use their office to pledge the loyalty of all their villagers to any tribal body.
Purpose:- The purpose of every association is to protect the rights of members of its group and to further its interests. The rights and interests of the group may lie in the political, ethnic, social, cultural or even religious fields.
Role:-The role of an association is to act as a pressure group to see that governmental or non-governmental agencies do not infringe on the rights or hamper the advancement of the interests of the members of the group in any way.
Thus we can see that many of our Naga Tribal bodies have deceived us in every way. They have taken upon themselves the sole right to speak for our tribes, restricting us from forming any association which they see as a challenge to their dictatorial authority. They take for granted our membership to their bodies and consent to their every whimsical and arbitrary decision. They purport to protect our interest in every sphere, while aggrandizing themselves at our expense.
Instead of pressuring the government in cases of injustice to their members, they have become tools to enforce acceptance of and obedience to government injustice. And worst of all, some of them purport to speak for the entire tribe, demanding an unknown solution in favour of one faction or the other.
So, before claiming to call yourselves “Apex” Tribal Organisations, first address the injustices faced by members of your tribe, whether it be bad roads, non-existent health care, stealing of jobs through back door appointments, stifling development through paper work development, stealing opportunities through diversion of funds etc. And most importantly, securing the collective future of the People of Nagaland by asking the factions in negotiations with the Government of India, what is the exact “Solution” they have in mind. For the time of your deception is drawing to a close; and unless corrective measures are taken, a new and real Apex Association of all the People of Nagaland will rise to overshadow you into obscurity.
God Save Nagaland
Kahuto Chishi Sumi
Akukau, Hevishe Village, Khaghaboto Range, Dimapur
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