Demography & Labor

With the supposed onward march towards progress and development, Naga policy makers and their consultants have under compulsion initiated its course of action without having much control or ownership over it. The first evident fall-out of this approach is the ever increasing outside labor population; comprising primarily of an unskilled labor force driven by compelling conditions in search of work to meet basic necessities for survival. The incursion of the labor population is occurring in an uncontrolled, unregulated speed and hence operating in free-will that is exercised in fervor randomness.

Such a trend has adverse consequences on the society, its culture and the people. In the Naga context, the areas most impacted by the incoming flow of labor have been around the issue of demography and employment. The effects of these consequences are self-evident and have the potential to cause far reaching short-term and long-term impairment. For instance, the dramatic increase in the population census of Nagaland State in the last two decade is quite unnatural and indicates abnormality, especially when it continues to be a ‘disturbed area’ of conflict. Perhaps the more important question would be; is the increase caused by the growing numbers of indigenous people; or is it a result of the growing non-indigenous population. By any just standard this abnormality would raise eyebrows and demands thorough investigations for immediate redressal.

History is proof that the policy of ‘demographic engineering’ has been an ongoing occurrence in situations of conflicts, particularly in the case of indigenous peoples, as a means of diluting political issues into questions of domestication and assimilation within the lexicon of its intended mainstream. Interestingly, the drastic change in Naga demography is being felt more clearly in the last ten years and more aggressively in the last 6 years or so. The rationale behind ‘demographic engineering’ has social, economic and cultural dimensions with political objective. At the heart of such a project, the intention particularly in the case of indigenous peoples is to bring people within the effective control and mechanism of state structures. It’s not therefore surprising that development without the people have questionable intent.

To address the policy of ‘demographic engineering’ requires a more comprehensive approach that touches issues of employment, trans-border labor migration and fundamentally the political question of citizenship. Present discussions and debates for effective policies to address the predicament of illegal immigrants form just one aspect of ‘demographic engineering.’ The tendency to isolate the issue of illegal immigrants could essentially be counter-productive if not placed within the broader aspects of state demographic engineering which at its root has homogenizing and hegemonizing tentacles towards assimilation into the mainstream. The continuous push and pull between the contradicting elements of the center and the periphery is best demonstrated in the struggle of demographic organizing.

The need to find a satisfactory solution to the policy of ‘demographic engineering’ based around the question of political citizenship will become more apparent. Essentially there is a need for a paradigm shift around the question of citizenship, which presently for the Nagas is primarily and revolving around primordial identities of exclusive territory. This shift requires a move towards a discourse where citizenship is centered on an inclusive understanding of political identity of a political nation where the will of the people is the decisive authority. Can Nagas be a dignified nation without this shift?