It is July and the field looks lushly-green, paddy plants have covered the field and yes vegetables and local fruits are seen entwined here and there and the birds can be heard chirping along the creek. A young lad is mastering the art of farming alongside his parents in the field. Occasionally he will find bird’s nest hanging from a Maize plant or nestled among the thick paddy plant. In a hurry he would grab hold of the nest only to be reprimanded by his parents “Tujunga do not destroy the nest” or “leave one of the young ones in the nest so that you do not wiped out a whole generation”. Meanwhile his parents while plucking away unwanted plant/weeds that overshadowed the rice plant would be heard mumbling “Aye forgive us for we plucked you unintentionally” or “we are sorry for doing this to you”.
Yonder there is a group of young men angling gleefully along the rivulet, yes the use of chemical was unheard of those days and whatever they catch was the trophy of the sports on the river bank. The river belongs to nobody yet everyone was the owner with responsibility. Misusing it was a taboo.
The Nags have lived with nature in close proximity as such our attitude towards natural environment is very sacred. Respect for environment was unquestionable and it comes naturally. Chopping off tree along the path was foreign and it was considered uncultured. This attitude has evolved more or less because of this system (clan’s land or territory). It is a system where clan has the absolute right and control over the territory of clan’s land. It reinforce the collective responsibility attitude. It shows the absence of private property where sometimes personal Vedanta will overrule national interest. This system has contributed to Community commitment and care of the natural resources. Every individual was responsible for their act and misuse of the community’s resources would invite exclusion from the use of clan’s property. Therefore respect and reverent attitude towards nature and its resources remained above law (as it happens naturally and unconsciously).
Now comes the scenario where attitude of respect has changed into attitude of indifference and ignorance. With the changing economy and market system our polity of “one with nature” has taken a drastic backward step. Natural resources now lay exploited and misused for personal interest at the risk of national calamity. With the blooming economy now we can see a tendency of capitalist ideology creeping into our society. Should it come and stay in Nagaland then that will be the worst disaster that could be awaiting us. The present scenario in Nagaland is not worth mentioning. We can see many powerful and rich persons acquiring land and becoming land lord. It can be poignantly reminded that while Independent India fought against Land Lord on the other hand free Nagaland is turning into Land Lord. With more and more land being acquired by private individuals the privilege and power of the community to control and regulate the natural resource will be paralyse.
This kind of trend in Nagaland these days is a serious threat to community life as well as the environment. When left unchecked and unregulated this will result in the destruction of age old custom and tradition. This will have a twin impact on us. First, the clan owned system will vanish therefore resulting in the have and have-nots. It will also create change in the power balance. Secondly, since the harvest of natural resource will be determined by private interest it will have drastic impact on environment. It will create a sort of “this is mine and I have absolute right to access and use my property” which will endanger the national interest. Wanton destruction of environment will create imbalance in the natural world. The reverent attitude towards nature will lose its value. Close relation between nature and human, respecting each other boundaries will collapse.
At the reluctant end of a wonderful community and equals’ era we will witness the beginning of a new episode which will be determined by who is powerful and wealthy.
It is time for us to retreat our way back and consolidate ourselves with the community ethos and standard but not our vested interest. Perhaps we could also take the approach of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “Ubuntu”. It is an African concept which says “I am because we are”. It propagate no man survive in isolation and we are all responsible for each other. Tutu says that when you have Ubuntu you will embrace others.
Let us say Ubuntu: I am because we are!