Former Ao Senden President urges examination of traditional practices
In a thought-provoking position paper for Vision Mokokchung 2040, social activist and former President of Ao Senden, Lendinokdang, emphasizes the need for a resurgence of values in Ao Naga traditional and customary practices, suggesting changes where necessary.
Lendinokdang’s article, part of the ongoing academic discourse by the Mayangnokcha Award Trust under the banner ‘Vision Mokokchung 2040,’ challenges the present-day practices and usages within the Ao Naga community.
Expressing concern over contemporary debates, particularly those surrounding the origin from six stones at Chungliyimti, Lendinokdang warns against unnecessary conflicts and divisive discussions.
“The beliefs of Aos that we originated from six stones at Chungliyimti, wherein the present-day Ao clans are observed to be squabbling over inclusion and exclusion in the emergence from the stone. So sadly, we see a tendency which is pulling the Chungli-Mongsen towards a divide and conflicts over the issue. If left unattended, the polarization of this issue may result in a vertical division of Ao society,” cautioned Lendinokdang.
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He went on to write that lots of unnecessary debates were seen held under the aegis of newly formed various platforms for the purpose, that too, by involving huge expenses.
“What a waste! Haphazard researches by hair-splitting twists of words are seen conducted by self-proclaimed intellectuals, hardly realizing that they are trying to apply nonexistent scientific yardsticks over a mythical tale or folklore. This will create more confusion than solving the jigsaw puzzle. No amount of so-called scientific research can meaningfully satisfy the superimposed minds of the people by supernatural influence on all issues of origins,” he added.
Building on his perspective, Lendinokdang passionately argues that it is high time to distinguish between the mythical and legendary aspects of the Ao Naga origin. He contends that beliefs like the origination from six stones hold mythical importance, representing a shared belief rather than a factual account. Furthermore, he emphasizes the need for equality between the Chungli-Mongsen phratries/groups under this categorization.
Lendinokdang asserts the legendary reality of the Chungliyimti civilization, urging the community to accept it as a historical fact. While acknowledging that improvisations occurred over time, he advocates for a mindful connection between present customs and the historical era.
Codify customary laws for a progressive society
Addressing a critical aspect of Naga society in Nagaland, Lendinokdang sheds light on the legislative competency provided by the Indian constitution which is to be ruled by “our own customs.”
He observes that, although the legislative competency was provided, Nagas have never given a sincere collective effort to codify customs and usages since statehood. Lendinokdang attributes this lapse to the lingering dream of a sovereign nation, suggesting that it is now time to prioritize current realities over distant aspirations.
Expressing concern over a perceived misconception of values in contemporary Ao Naga society, he questions whether the misuse of customary and traditional practices might push the community back into decades of rustic living. Lendinokdang contends that customs, though static by nature, need to be consistent with regular laws to avoid mobocracy.
Lendinokdang advocates for a departure from the current trend of imposing penalties through floor management, devoid of adherence to customs and conventions. He emphasizes the need for strict reference to aged conventions in debates to ensure a more uniform imposition of penalties. Illustrating the varied degrees of execution in imposing fines, he suggests early codification of customary practices. He proposes a diverse team, including experts in regular law, customs, and respected community figures, to bring about comprehensive codification based on correct interpretations.
The article delves into the misconception surrounding the jurisdiction of associations and unions concerning Ao customary traditional institutions. Lendinokdang argues against diluting traditional institutions and urges adherence to respective constitutions. Criticizing open-ended rules in these bodies, he stresses the necessity of explicit directions from laws or customs to avoid arbitrary punishments, highlighting instances of extreme measures taken in the name of tradition.
Lendinokdang criticizes the imposition of village suzerainty over townships, deeming it a hindrance to overall development. He deems claims of royalty and ownership rights over previously disposed land illogical, advocating for the illegality of such practices. Encouraging the bona fide residents of towns to uphold their welfare, he emphasizes that allocated areas for township extension fall under urban administration jurisdiction.
In the face of contradictions and confusion in this nascent society, Lendinokdang remains optimistic, asserting that progress is still achievable.