Historical Connections Explored in Morung Lecture XIX: “How Far Did Your Ancestors Go?” Naga Worlds and Assam


Professor Sanjay (Xonzoi) Barbora


Mokokchung, 19 August (MTNews): “Today, we are struggling in our postcolonial journeys,” said Professor Sanjay (Xonzoi) Barbora while delivering a lecture in Mokokchung. “Our destinies, though seemingly our own, are being shaped by people with narrower visions than the ones that our ancestors had bequeathed us,” he added.


Professor Sanjay (Xonzoi) Barbora, a sociologist from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati Campus said this while delivering the Morung Lecture XIX held at the Conference Hall of Fazl Ali College, Mokokchung, focused on the theme “How far did your ancestors go? Naga worlds and Assam.”


Jointly organized by the Research & Development Cell of Fazl Ali College and The Morung Express, the Morung Lecture XIX aimed to delve into the historical connections between the Naga and Assamese communities.


He highlighted the significance of addressing ancestral ties to better understand the history of the region. The lecture was divided into two parts: Personal Connections and Social History, followed by Nationalism, Nostalgia, and History.


In the first part, titled “Personal Connections and Social History,” Professor Barbora delved into his own personal history, intricately intertwined with the interactions between the Naga and Assamese communities. He recounted stories from his upbringing, including his birth in Jorhat, Assam, near Mokokchung. He described the significant role Naga individuals played in his early life, both during his birth at a Christian Mission Hospital and later during his school years in Shillong, where he built friendships and shared cultural experiences with Naga friends.


The lecture then transitioned into a historical exploration of upper Assam, highlighting the rich relationships between the Ahom kingdom and neighboring Naga communities. Professor Barbora discussed instances of solidarity, diplomacy, and power-sharing between these groups during the precolonial era. He emphasized the importance of recognizing these historical connections in understanding the region’s complex sociopolitical dynamics.


In the second part, titled “Nationalism, Nostalgia, and History,” Professor Barbora turned his focus to the changing landscape of nationalism and its impact on contemporary society. He discussed how evolving nationalist ideologies in the 21st century have led to challenges and conflicts within communities, often fueled by misplaced anger and nostalgia. He highlighted instances where conflicts arose due to competition over scarce resources, resulting in divisions among communities that had previously shown solidarity.


Reflecting on his own experiences, Professor Barbora recounted the changing dynamics in Jorhat and the rise of divisive sentiments between communities that were once interconnected. He shared observations on how postcolonial journeys, instead of fostering unity, had led to narrowing visions and a lack of generosity among individuals.


Professor Barbora concluded his lecture by invoking a poem by William Butler Yeats, expressing the hope for unity and understanding to prevail over division. He emphasized the need to embrace the lessons of history and shared experiences to shape a better future for the region.


The Morung Lecture XIX, through Professor Barbora’s presentation, highlighted the intricate relationships between Naga and Assamese communities, encouraging the more than 50 attendees to reflect on the past while fostering unity and collaboration for the challenges of the future. The event attracted prominent scholars, researchers, academicians, and participants from various walks of life, fostering an environment of intellectual engagement and cultural exchange.

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