'Wheels within Wheels'
For over half a century, hatred and mutual suspicion have been the dominant social ideologies between the natives and 'outsiders' in Nagaland and other northeastern states. I am stating this despite my profound admiration of the Naga spirit of life and love and utmost regard for their friendship.
This xenophobia against "outsiders" (plain manu) was at display in most gory form in Dimapur, the township where I was born, on March 5, 2015.
Notwithstanding the broad heartedness of the Nagas towards many things in life, it is unfortunate but true that often 'Contempt' for non-Nagas has been a symbol of true manhood.
On the other hand too, the non-tribal "outsiders (or plain Manu)" - Indians from the plains in the mainstream as distinct from the hilly people - too have developed a minimum virtue to underestimate Nagas or to find fault with Nagas.
NO; these have not come solely due to long years of insurgency or political problem, although partly these are also responsible factors for such state of affairs.
By disposition and design, Nagas are short tempered and this is again punctuated by the audacity of highly emotive and egoistic nature --- perhaps hardly understood by mainstream Indians. Perhaps this explains particularly why Neiphiu Rio reportedly turned down Prime Minister Narendra Modi's offer to join the union council of Ministers as a Minister of State. How could a former Naga chief minister join as a Junior Minister? Anyone else in his position from a state like Odisha or Bihar might have.
Nagaism, to me, thus has often remained unmediated glorification of complexity and myth.
But hidden in this complexity is the Naga sense of vigilante. A wrong doer in the eyes of Nagas ought to be punished. Head hunting is thus a sports and law can be made a mockery.
The March 5, 2015 incident, even Nagas believe, has brought into question the renowned Naga character of fairness and uprightness.
My acquaintance with Nagas and other northeastern tribes makes it no difficult for me to judge my beloved Naga people as the most aggressive community in the region -- and that is to use a mild adjective.
This actually brings us to understanding the intricacies of Dimapur lynching or at least near that.
The principle of democracy and the spirit of religious faiths -- so much respected by the Nagas both from their traditional point of view and since the advent of Christianity - has been trampled.
Ironically all these happened in a Christian dominated state and against a Bengali Muslim. These happened on the backdrop that a strong element among intellectuals and political players were only expressing anxiety about the alleged rise of Hindu fundamentalism.
There's already talk about the collective failure of the State government, police, the influential Church, the Civil Society, the Naga Hoho or such organizations and public leaders. On the political space, the state chief minister's principal political detractor the rebel NPF group has issued a statement stating that both the chief minister Zeliang and Home minister Y Patton have miserably failed to estimate people’s angst. This resulting in the breakdown of law enforcing agencies thereby leading to the death of an accused person, Syed Farid Khan, who was in the judicial custody, on the charge of a rape of a Naga woman.
"Had there been timely intervention from the government, such ugly and inhuman incidents could have been averted," the NPF statement said. Other citizens in and around Dimapur have called it a "huge wake-up call" that requires corrective steps to change people's attitudes, take positive action and to make people accountable.
But more than the angst of the people as they stormed into side a jail and attacked the accused, paraded him naked and finally leading to his untimely death, it is important to analyse why the incident came to this far. Never in the past even in Nagaland such an incident has taken place where people attacked someone in police custody. Of course the charge was serious as hardly cases of molestation of women are heard in Nagaland. And even if there are, most of them being allegation of excesses and human rights violation by the army and para-military personnel against local Naga women, courtesy AFSPA.
In 1993, there were a similar charge of molestation against a few individuals and all locals and belonging to a particular group of people.
The vigilante element was in operation then too and the accused were paraded in Dimapur town itself. It is not without reason that twenty two years back media hype was nowhere as compared to the situation today.
So perhaps it is also important to reflect that perhaps things would not have come to such pass had there been strong condemnation of the episode in 1993 itself. On the contrary, things were forgotten following a bad yardstick called --- let the sleeping dog sleep. The seed of xenophobia has existed pretty well.
But with regard to 2015, March 5, incident, there is yet another element that needs to be scrutinised threadbare. This time around the people's anguish was directed against a Bengali Muslim. Muslims like Hindus in Nagaland are ought to be considered as 'outsiders (or plain Manu)'.
The AIUDF leader and Dhubri MP Badruddin Ajmal has his argument when he demanded a CBI probe into the entire episode.
Raising the issue in Lok Sabha during zero hour on March 13, Ajmal said, "shocking part of the incident was that Khan was alleged as illegal Bangladeshi immigrant even by DGP where as Khan's father was in Indian Air Force
and two brothers are serving with Indian army in Assam Regiment".
"It is evident that a co-accused in the same case who was locked in the jail was not touched but
Farid Khan was dragged out, paraded naked for hours and lynched," he pointed out.
This brings into focus the role of the Nagaland police and the Nagaland chief minister T R Zeliang, who has already briefed the union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the incident and subsequent developments and arrest of those involved.
But his political detractors too have their point when they say the administration virtually went on leave that day.
But with regard to March 5 incident, there is yet another element that needs to be scrutinised threadbare. This time around the people's
anguish was directed against a Bengali Muslim. Muslims like Hindus in Nagaland are ought to be considered as 'outsiders (or plain Manu)'.
Importantly, since 1990s thousands of outsiders --- obviously mostly Hindus from Nagaland --- including the Nagaland government employees have left the state permanently. One reason for the same being growing 'hatred' and communal tension. These again got magnified due to extortion demand and threat letters served to 'outsider Nagaland government' employees from time to time.
But please note in the meantime, local Nagas, for that matter unlike the Mizos, did not really improve upon the dignity of labour factor nor at the level of entrepreneur skills. Thus the vacuum for labour especially certain odd jobs in small scale business did exist. The Bengali Muslim population - albeit from Assam - and possibly few from across the border in Bangladesh - got an avenue to exploit that vacant space.
The illegal migrants, if they are called so, be it from Assam, Nepal, Bangladesh etc are in Nagaland today because they offer "cheap labour" and are readily willing to take up jobs that local Naga people would not and perhaps even other outsiders from mainstream - West Bengal, Bihar or Rajasthan would also stay away.
On the other hand, Bengali Muslims allegedly work with such methodology that local anguish against them could have been fueled further in last few years. In recent times, many Bengali Muslims have developed a unique pattern in marrying local Naga women and in the process establish their foothold on strong ground. It is not without good reason that the term 'Sumi-Mia' (or Naga-Mia) has come into the local idiom.