ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Naga Tribal Councils

A Formidable Political Force

Naga Tribal Councils

The Naga tribal organisations’ opposition to reservations for women in urban local bodies had drawn condemnation from many quarters. But their hold on modern Naga society remains exceptional. Who are these Naga tribal bodies? And what makes them formidable in the Naga political arena? The social processes that contribute to the predominance of tribal bodies in Naga society, and the unresolved women reservation issue from the perspective of the civil society are examined.

In a controversy about reservations for women in Nagaland’s urban governance bodies, tribal organisations opposing the move were widely criticised for being traditional.1 They were accused of defending older structures of power and patriarchal authority that were out of sync with modern notions of democratic representation and gender equality. However, this controversy is no clash of tradition versus modernity. Contemporary Naga organisations are themselves a product of new circumstances in which Naga society finds itself, and these developments point to new emerging trends in Naga identity politics.

Most of the contemporary tribal apex bodies and frontal organisations were constituted towards the latter part of the 20th century, but they cannot be disconnected from the colonial history. The history of modern Naga tribal organisations can be traced to the formation of the Naga Club in 1918 (Elwin 1961: 49), which was propelled by the notion of a collective Naga identity. The Naga National Council (NNC), which succeeded the Naga Club as the premier Naga tribal organisation, was formed on a similar idea of pan-Naga identity (Zetsuvi 2014: 124). In comparison, the identity politics underpinning contemporary Naga tribal organisations is far more fragmentary and complex. This condition is reflective of the Naga society’s response to modernity and democratic ideals, especially individual liberty and freedom of expression, ushered in by the Indian state.

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Updated On : 14th Aug, 2018

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