ANGAMI SOCIETY: At the Beginning of the 21st Century: By Dr. AJ Sebastian sdb

Review Article:

ANGAMI SOCIETY: At the Beginning of the 21st Century. Editors: Kedilezo Kikhi, Alphonsus D’ Souza, Visakhonu Hibo
New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House, 2009, pp.284, 950/-

This review article on ANGAMI SOCIETY: At the Beginning of the 21st Century, an anthology of essays on Angami community from several contributors dealing with topics ranging from language, politics, education, environment, health. gender issues and the like. The collection focuses on various aspects of the Angami Naga community at the beginning of the 21st century. The opening essay on the evolution of Tenyidie language, Dr. Shurhozelie Liezietsu begins with the legend of the script that God gave to the ancestors on a hide which was eaten by a dog. He acknowledges the contribution of the American Missionary, C.D. King, who introduced teaching of Tenyidie in 1884, and Rev. J.E. Tanquist who constituted Angami Literature Committee in 1939, which laid the foundation of Tenyidie. The Angami Vernacular Text Book Committee constituted in 1954, in consultation with Angami Literature Committee, introduced Tenyidie text books in schools. With the christening of Angami Literature Committee in 1971 as Ura Academy, there began a resurgence in working towards preservation and perpetuation of Tenyimia culture among the Tenyimia groups: Angami, Chakhesang, Pochury, Rengma, Zeliang, Mao, Maram and Poumai. Ura Academy has published hundreds of books in Tenyidie and has got the language being taught up to Postgraduate level. It has rendered a yeomen service to the growth and development of Tenyidie Literature and language with its yearly Tenyimia seminars and publication of the Journal Ura Dze.

In “The Scope of Tenyidie as an Academic Discipline,” D. Kuolie establishes how Tenyidie has grown to be a language with much literary output. He pinpoints faulty policy that has left mother tongue neglected due to undue stress on acquiring competence and performance in English Language. He points out some major behavioural trends in those who have neglected their mother tongue in their pursuit of higher studies. The writer reveals how Tenyidie language is a storehouse of culture since language and cultural heritage are interlinked. He opines how job opportunities could be generated for those competent in the use of Tenyidie language.

Niketu Iralu’s “The Kingdom of God and our Crisis,” delves into the Naga political crisis which needs a lasting solution. “God wants us to give our best to one another to help and inspire one another to do the right best thing for the common good, instead of provoking one another to do the worst, as we are doing at Satan’s instigation. He points out how Naga politicians and bureaucrats added to the new crisis, unable to meet the challenges with appropriate response. It is the bounden duty of every Nagas to establish God’s Kingdom, fighting demonic powers by establishing a just society as “…there is enough of everything in the world for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed. If we will learn to care enough and share enough, everyone will have enough” (Kikhi et al 24). He adds: “The no-holds-barred battle God and Satan are waging in all of us is the reason why we are producing conflicts in just about everything we do, showing who is winning and guiding us? The moment we each obey God, unity, reconciliation, forgiveness, goodwill, co-operation, and all else will automatically appear in our land” (26).

In his paper “Traditional Learning Systems and Modern Education,” Alphonsus D’ Souza SJ centres on how tribal students learn by their tribal learning systems which need be incorporated into modern education. It is important that while recognising different learning styles among tribal students, we ought to discard the traditional concept of intelligence and re-examine the theory of multiple intelligence. The writer speaks of his experience, teaching tribal students of Nagaland since 1995 and observes how their learning styles are different from those of the non-tribal students. He speaks of the traditional system of learning from Morung (bachelor’s dormitory) through story telling, singing and activities. Tribal students have been noteworthy in extensive use of memory to store knowledge through hearing and seeing. Since it is through activities and practical experience that teaching and learning take place among tribal students, it is imperative to incorporate such practices into modern education in tribal societies.

Buno Liegise in her paper entitled “Angami Village Experiment with Communitisation of Elementary Education in Nagaland,” examines the recent communitisation of Elementary System to revamp educating children in Government schools. Se observes, “Community living practices – of sharing with the poor and the destitute, of respect for the parents and elders, of helping the sick and the aged, of performing social works together and celebrating festivals with much grandeur. In an Angami village, social groups formulated on the basis of age, for example, the “thesü,” “kikra,” and “peli” undertake many developmental activities. Works taken up by any such age based social groups are performed with high level of motivation and pride” (39). By introducing communitisation of Public Institutions and Services Act in 2002, the Government of Nagaland has made a bold step in handing over ownership and responsibility of management to the community by which all Government Primary Schools and Government Middle Schools were communitised. The Act enpowered the community to disburse salary of employees, thereby disciplining them and implementing no work no pay to get teachers motivated to perform better. The paper further presents several tables to show the performance of staff and students and the improvement made in discipline and standard in course of time. The writer also makes several suggestions for improvement of communitisation process in the state.

Viraho Hibo’s paper “Educational Achievement and Aspiration of the Angami Students: A Study of Two Colleges,” examines how education can be made dynamic with formal systems. He makes further study of the educational achievements of students by assessing them through examinations. The writer analyses the performance of the final year students of St. Joseph’s College, Jakhama and Japfü Christian College, Kigwema. The study revealed that after H.S.L.C. examinations, parents slowly neglected overseeing the performance of their wards. Most students and teachers were found to take lightly their studies leading to poor performance in their examinations. There is very little competitive spirit among them. He calls attention to the need for proper guidance from parents and teachers by inculcating in students a healthy spirit of competition.

In “Education as an Industry: Impact on the Angami Society,” Kevizakie Rio makes his observations of education which has become an industry in Nagaland with private stake holders who are highly entreprising. He observes: “Those who know these private schools and collegesn rather closely would almost unanimously agree on considering them as enterprise, like any other enterprise, mainly undertaken to earn income and profit. These schools and colleges employ teachers at a low salary, charge substantial amount as admission and tuition fees, often provide for residential facilities to enhance profitability, and yet, at many instances, remain unmindful to providing enough facilities to students” (69). In the process, private institutions have made their contribution in imparting quality education to a big population, generating employment opportunities, creating income flow and helping entrepreneurial and managerial abilities in the young generation. Emergence of education as industry has become an income generating alternative to the lack of industirs in the state. The study also shows how students passing out of such institutions have excelled in various careers and jobs, creating competition among the institutions.

Kedilezo Kiki’s paper “Educated Unemployed Youth: Problems and Consequences” attempts to answer questions such as i) Do educated youth possess required qualities? ii) Whom do they blame for growing unemployment? iii) What are the social problems due to unemployment? Nagaland having a weak industrial sector, educated population depends on the services sector. Able and educated persons in search of work increasing day by day brings about unemployment. Statistics show that the state had over 31,000 educated unemployed in 2006. People fear unemployment and consider the problem of having so many unemployed youth bringing threat to stability and security in the state. It is a frustrating experience for these youth to know that they cannot contribute to their family economy and their years of devotion to education has become a waste. The writer lists some of the striking problems faced by unemployed youth such as: developing a feeling of frustration, failing to adjust in society, rebellious nature due to dejection, bitterness due to prevailing corruption, nepotism in matters of employment, and facing identity crisis due to financial hardship.

Thepfulhouvi Solo in “The Ecological Status of Angami Land” examines environmental depredation. He comments on the necessary evil of jhum cultivation and irresponsible felling of forest trees that has hardly spared any virgin forests. He refers to the vanishing forests of Minkong, Helpong, Mount Tuli, Satoi and Zanibou. What remains is only a few hundred kilometres of primeval forests of saramati and Japfü Mountain Ranges.

“Problems of Pollution in Kohima and Dimapur Districts” is an interesting study of the environmental crisis facing Nagaland. Rusovil John traces the enormity of the environmental pollution taking place in Dimapur and Kohima. He begins with the increasing air pollution in Dimapur from the small scale industries which use coal and wood in brick kilns, tyre and vulcanizing units which are in the vicinity of human habitation. Ever increasing motor vehicles add to pollution year by year. The writer also reviews various forms of pollution in the air and water, and by noice and biomedical waste.

Assessing the “Health Status of the Angamis”, Sedevi Angami makes an attention-grabbing study on the health related issues among ther Angamis who are predisposed to most diseases like any other population in the world. A few diseases are most common among them due to their lifestyle like excessive intake of salt causing hypertension. He lists some common diseases like TB, hepatitis, renal stones, stomach cancer due to consumption of smoked meat, Hypereosinopilia and certain parasitic illnesses due to snail and crab eating. Some of the other problems in the health delivery system which need attention are Research, Vaccination, PPP Model Centres, Health in the curriculum, Networking, Planning Committee, Churches Involvement, Training and development of teams and Medical and Nursing Council.

In “Problem of the Angami Aged,” Ketshukietuo Dzüvichü deals with the situation of the elderly and aged citizens among the Angamis. The paper begins defining ‘old age’ and ‘the elderly’ and establishes how these concepts differ from culture to culture. The study based on select respondents from four villages of Kohima District, reveals various social problems of the aged. In the traditional social system, the elderly are respected for their wisdom and maturity, drawing much respect from all and sundry. But in our technologically advancing society that measures everything in terms of economic growth, has the tendency to ignore the elderly. In this context the study of the aged among the Angamis shows certain trends. There are more men than women who are married among the aged. The writer points out: “In an Angami society, illiteracy is more pronounced among the aged women than among such men. But among the literate respondents, formal education is more significant among the women than men. None of the aged women has gone for technical education. Most aged respondents have received education from primary to high school level and only a few of them have studied up to graduation or postgraduation” (129). It is remarkable that all the aged among the respondents live in their own homes while a few live with their children. Many of them are still bread winners of their families. Due to lack of education many aged women are dependents. Most of the aged persons are cultivators, engaged in their farm activities. Others who are retired Governemtn servants, engage themselves in social and church activities. Most have income of their own, by selling their farm products, retirement benefits, property/house rents etc. The study also reveals that most families are under lower income groups, thereby making the aged find difficult to educate and marry off their children. Though many of the aged under study suffer from various ailments, most of them are in quite good condition of health. The study also reveals that despite various financial and health problems faced, most of the aged continue with their daily chores. The writer draws attention to the need for proper medical facilities to be offered to them from the Government hospitals and primary health centres.

Visakhonu Hibo’s “Village development Board (VDB) and the Role of Angami Women” traces the growth and contribution of VDB in Nagaland, enpowering people. The experiment was introduced by Shri. A.M. Gokhale, D.C. of Phek District, in imitation of the movement in Maharastra and Gujarat. He deviced a system by which funds were diverted directly to the community. The experiement in Phek District in 1976 was a great success. Despite, certain drawbacks, it was an innovative grass-root planning for villages. The funds came from the Government’s contribution to the village community, kept in fixed deposit and grand-in-aid from the department of Rural Development etc. The scholar, in her field study, chose five villages from Southern Angami area (Khuzama, Viswema, Jakhama, Kigwema and Phesama). Since the Angami society being Patriarchal, found it difficult to include women into VDB. “If VDB is the essence of decentralisation of democracy then decision-making bodies must also exude the principle in its totality. The status of women is directly linked to the level of participation at the bodies that are involved in decision-making ” (141). Though women constitute more than half of the Angami population, they are bypassed in decision making bodies. Hence, in the VDB programmes too, they have been disregarded. The gender divide has been created due to patriarchal system of governance. However, it has been observed that women themselves have kept away from taking part in such bodies, feeling it inappropriate. The writer brings out certain suggestions to make VDB bodies function better. i) Educated women in the villages be inducted into such bodies. ii) Government ought to include women into decision making bodies without gender discrimination. iii) Education of girl child must be given priority. iv) Women should be given proportionate funds from the common village funds. v) Various funds must be used by VDBs for developmental works.

Niu Whiso Kuotsu traces “The Challenges Facing the Angami Men Today” and recounts how Angami’s had an economic system which influenced their social and political systems. They were governed by a gerontocracy consisting of elders who were remarkable for their capability in war or wealth. They had developed a value system to regulate personal conduct, sense of religion, promoting hard work and public welfare. The age old value system called for maintaining sense of graceful living, avoiding the forbidden or sinful. They called for competitive spirit, bravery, honesty, integrity, truthfulness, diligence, hospitality, social concern, respect for parents and eldes. Traditionally Angamis had very sound socio-religious values. The writer observes the valiant spirit of the Angami’s in the past, however, in the recent times they have declined in their spirit of competition. The power and influnece of the tribe has declined in the various strata of society. He calls on them to restrospect as a tribe to be effective agents of social change. He points out the need for credibility to be established with responsibility. Angami’s have been known for their ambivalence, having the capacity to be tough, yet soft and loving. But such spirit of ambivalence is affecting people adversely due to their easy life style. Due to decline in their spirit of hard work and tough life, people are becoming victims of mediocrity. His clarion call is to return to the former life of diligence and hard work. The writer comments on the need for good example from parents and teachers to bring up children properly, correcting their mistakes by showing proper care and appreciation. The writer firmly calls for living by timely laws of the Ten Commandments, shunning permissive influences afflicting society, delinking it from core Christian values and morals. To counter the fast eroding of values, he calls attention to inculcating virtues of temperance, chastity, fidelity, integrity, diligence, prayer and love. He also refers to avoiding certain anomalies found in modern Angami society, such as abdication of paternal authority and responsibility, pampering of boys, valuing formal education more than inculcating values, lack of work ethics, need for family prayer and setting proper aim in life. He observes:

… the challenges facing the Angami men today are the problems arising from the need to cope with a new situation. So it involves understanding the past to understand the present. It also involves adapting ourselves to the new without sacrificing the essence of the old especially in the realm of values… it involves accepting the challenges of reincarnating, as it were, in our lives, the traditionally acclaimed qualities of the Angamis such as being hard working and enterprising, conscientious and honest, tough and indomitable, couragious and adventurous, thinkers and visionaries. Then the Angamis will be in a position to play the leading role again once more in the affairs of the Nagas (166-7).

Walter Fernandez’s “Understanding Angami Today in the Context of Modernisation and Globalisation,” attempts to fuse the main features of globalisation and Angami life. Globalisation with its new economy, ethics and power relations is a capital oriented movement. He distinguishes between globalisation and modernisation and states: “If directed properly it can be beneficial…. It is possible for a community to modernise its tradition and thus ensure a smooth transition from the past to the future. It does not always happen because not all social processes are under human control. It has negative impacts if in the name of modernisation a relatively strong group or social system imposes its values or culture on a weaker community that is unable to cope with them” (170). Globalisation in the guise of creating a global village is a process by which the powerful continue their domination through free market. The writer makes his comment on various issues related to globalisation like exploitation of cheap labour in poor countries by foreign investors and acquisition of huge lands by companies causing displacement of population. He points out how Angamis have dealt with modernisation better than other tribes. Despite coming under the impact of modernisation, the Angamis have maintained a sense of their tradition in family and social spheres. He writes, “Thus, in their interaction with modernity, the Angami (and other Naga tribes) seem to have made a choice between the modern and the traditional and have not allowed the two to benefit from each other. To a great extent their trasdition and modern inputs have remained parellel” (183).

In “Changing Land Relations and Angami Society,” Kekhriesenuo Christina examines how an agrarian society of the Angamis has handled land ownership by individuals, households, clans and community. She traces different types of land relations related to agriculture, such as shifting cultivation, sedentary cultivation, terrace cultivation, and agriculture based on modern technology. An individual can use his personal property as he wishes, but community property can be transferred only as per ancestral property right laws. She writes: “…the oft-repeated saying that there is ‘no Naga without land’ is true in the case of the Angami because every household (misokeswe) owns some land” (199-200). Lands can be classified into agricultural and non-agricultural lands. Agricultural lands can be those used for cultivation as well as those that are potentially available for it. Non-agricultural lands are those reserved for pheba (for residential purposes), kichüki (bachelor’s dormitory), mechüki (community hall, churches etc). Among the agricultural lands terrace fields (Japfuphiki) are the most valuable which are further classified as Dzutse (terrace fields near natural streams), Vakhra (terrace fields little away from a stream), and Khutso (terrace fields that cannot be irrigated being on higher levels). Melu is fields of shifting cultivation. Forests are also property classified into Sokha (forest close to terrace fields) and Ketsalie (forests close to fields for shifting cultivation). There is a growing awareness of preserving forests in the midst of commercial exploitation for timber and firewood. Ownership of land is both individual and communal. Some land ownership belongs to the clan, khel or the village. Ancestral lands are inherited from one’s ancestors while personally one acquires lands by purchase. Ownership of land is clearly defined by customary laws. Land disputes arer settled by clans, khels or by village councils, respectively. The writer also clearly defines the three basic types of lands in an Angami village namely, terrace fields, jhum fields, and forest. She also makes references to rules governing land transactions, inheritence, lands as gifts, renting lands, buying and selling lands, land acquisition for public purposes etc.

Chandran Debnath & G. Singaiah in their paper entitled “Developmernt a Collective Journey – Well-being its destination” makes some enlightning reflections on Naga Society. They make their observations on cultural beliefs and values. They present opinions of academicians, policy makers and public leaders regarding development in the state. Development being a collective journey, they write: “The strength of a culture lies in inducing aspirations among individuals to excel. Organizational support in this context connotes a general consensus on supporting individual initiatives through leadership, reward and recognition, respect for diversity and dignity of labour” (221).

Melville Pereira’s “Codification: A Swansong for Customary Law?” attempts an assessment of customary law. He observes that customary laws are part of an indigenous legal system, giving vibrant expression of the values, ideals and principles of culture. Though it has several benefits, customary laws call for modernization by certain reforms with regard to gender rights, revision of antique and cruel rules, decay in traditional institutions, and inadequate investigation procedure. Modernization of customary Law could be achieved by Documentation, Recognition and Codification. The writer observes: “Codification of these laws could harm the rich cultural heritage of these communities resulting in fossilization of their rich traditions” (269).
AJ Sebastian sdb
Former Professor & Head
Deptt. of English
Nagaland Central University


Kikhi, Kedilezo, Alphonsus D’ Souza, Visakhonu Hibo (2009) Eds. Angami Society: At the Beginning of the 21st
Century. New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House.