The modern challenge for Nagas

For many generations now, Nagas as a people have resisted and continue to resist the idea that they cannot live as a free and dignified peoples. Various policies and legislations have been implemented and pursued vigorously through different means with the intent to sap the free-spirited Nagas and in-effect to hinder and prevent their inherent capability to determine their own internal and external destinies.  

With every passing generation the politics of containment and its means and mechanisms of accomplishment has gotten more sophisticated. Today, it is no longer just living under the fear of physical abuse and a threatening environment perpetuated by anti-democratic legislations; it comes in the sophistication of economic development, psycho-ops and the illusion that the situation is normal in itself. 

While there is continued pursuit of sustaining this illusionary imagination, the Naga society ironically continues to reel under poverty, economic deprivation, literacy without education, homelessness, human trafficking, widening gap between haves and have not; shifting of decision making powers from community to affluent individual families, lack of basic infrastructural needs and the continued absence of a just peace. 

The cycle of indifferent ignorance must be broken for the Naga spirit to find life once again. But how does one transcend this cycle when people seem so caught up with just survival issues; which tragically, while trying to survive only affirms the bondage of indifference. It is a series of chain reactions. 

Take for instance the recent re-emergence of the Human Genome study on the Naga population. An initial attempt in 2000-01 by an individual from Nagaland University met resistance, but by then a good number of blood samples were already collected from some communities and send for research. Till today, no public statement on the findings of the blood samples or its status has been released by Nagaland University. Now again after a period of few years, the question of Human Genome studies on Nagas have resurfaced. It is sad that Naga youths are employed on commission basis for the collection of blood samples. 

Considering the fact that there are no safeguards against the potential use of genetic knowledge for biological warfare and the fact that patents can be claimed on the genes of a specific race raises deep concern. The rationale offered by those responsible that blood from different Naga communities are being collected to be sent for HIV/AIDS test is absurd and an insult to the human intellect. This only presupposes that the intent and objective of the study is not being revealed to the Naga public. This lack of transparency is condition enough to hold those responsible accountable by law. 

The question of how this Human Genome Study is being conducted on Naga communities without any public knowledge and without the consent of the people raises serious questions of accountability. There are ethical questions with social and political implications involved. It would be unfortunate and very tragic, if the Naga public does not engage in dialogue on this very pertinent question of human genome study. This perhaps provides an opportunity for Nagas to be better well-prepared and persuaded to start confronting the modern challenges of today’s world.