Post Mortem

Controversy: Naga headgear or Modigear?

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/17/2018 12:11:27 PM IST

 It does not surprise me when the honorable Prime Minister of India, Mr. Modi wear Naga headgear. He is the political head of the country. The head can wear any hat. But it surprised me more as to why Nagas treat their own traditional attires so casually that it can be given to any person anyhow in any place. The recent controversy that arose with the remark of Mr. Shashi Tharoor must find its root cause in Nagaland. The Nagas are kind enough to present all their traditional items to outsiders. The constant giver must equally bear the responsibility.

Is it necessary to give Naga headgear or other traditional attires to political leaders (Non-Nagas) all the time? Is it obligatory to transport Naga’s traditional attires to outsiders (outside the State) to appease different political gods? The amount of Headgears, Spears, Shawls, etc. that most Naga politicians and leaders take along with them to Delhi are good enough to prove the worth of our identity. They are not wrong in themselves. But we need not make it a habit. Adding to this bundle, the long and numerous Naga political talks are often accompanied with Naga headgears, Shawls and other traditional attires. Ask the central ministers as to how many Naga traditional items they have received so far. This will tell the worth of our culture and identity. The fruit of our foolish actions is almost ripening. The one who sows should be courageous enough to face even bad harvest.

Who brings about desecration of our sacred attires? We have become the first cause with the latter bringing greater disaster upon it. We need not blame others for the wrong usage or silly remarks if we cannot keep sacred what belongs to us. What is sacred can lose its value due of its casual usage and unceasing presentation as gifts. Most traditional items are more commercial than sacred. This has brought about certain degree of profanity to our culturing and traditional setting. 

The Nagas strongly assert that our tradition and customs are our identity. We believe that traditional attires are the marks of our identity. Great occasions like Students’ conferences and religious conventions held across the State are marked by the beautiful colored traditional attires. The beauty of Nagas is not only physical appearance; it also resides in the traditional dresses.

Non-Nagas can either appreciate or despise our traditional attires. Mr. Modi may have the highest appreciation for it. There were days when traditional attires and ornaments were taken cared of sacredly. Lots of ‘taboos’ were laid upon to preserve its sanctity. Women were asked not to touch certain ornaments worn by men. Young boys were refrained from wearing certain attires reserved for elders. Such sacredness kept the community alive. We take pride in wearing what should be worn. And we bring condemnation by wearing what should not be worn.

Most Christians think that traditional practices or attires are animistic or paganistic in nature. To be Christian does not mean that traditional sacredness should be outdone. We can find Christian God even in our traditional practices. Our God does not reside only in the traditional practices of the Israelites. He is fully in our Naga culture. He does not take pleasure only in foreign dress, He is found in the sacred traditional attires of the Nagas. God is present in Nagaland as well.

The Naga headgear on the head of the honorable Prime Minister, Mr. Modi may look awesome or hilarious. It depends on the onlookers. Beauty depends on the beholder. It may be outlandish and hilarious for Mr. Shashi Tharoor. The same can be magnificent for others. What if the Chief Minister of Nagaland appears on the stage with dhoti and turban? Will it be glorious? It may be awful to many Nagas. The same was with those who saw Mr. Modi in Naga Headgear. Today, some Nagas condemn the remark of Mr. Shashi Tharoor not because they truly love their tradition and culture but because of political affiliation. And this is ‘more outlandish and hilarious’ than the remark itself.

Did Mr. Modi become a Naga at an instant by wearing Naga headgear? Even if he wants to become a Naga, I am sure no Naga tribe will take him because Nagas are very strict with illegal immigration and ILP. Can Mr. Modi wear Naga headgear as per the Naga customs? Article 371a (i and ii) which speak about religious or social practices, and Naga customary law and procedure respectively may have better implication. Implications speak better than explanation. Those Nagas who strongly assert the rights and privileges contained in Article 371a should know who Nagas are rather than interpreting them fancifully from time to time. We cannot please people all the time in all the places. Nagas are too kind and generous. But generosity can diminish our true identity and kindness can turn us to slaves.

Recollect the great battle of ULB election in Nagaland. It was so bitter because some Nagas want to be more Nagas than the rest of the Nagas. They want to preserve Nagas’ culture and tradition at the cost of others life (not their own life). Most people strongly object the interference of central Government in the traditional practices and customs of the Nagas. Yes, we must preserve our cultural heritage. But when it came to the issue of Naga headgear on the head of Mr. Modi, the protectors of Naga customs and traditions became speechless. They found it difficult to say anything against Mr. Modi for whoever is not with him is against him. We even interpret our rights and privileges with numerous colours.

Many wolves put on sheep’s clothing to survive under the mercy of the central Government. The same wolves will change their cloths when another party take over the central government. We change from time to time because we believe in ‘Change.’ For Nagas, the statement of ‘Change’ is really changing. “Change was coming, change is coming, and change will be coming till the end of the world.” This is why Naga headgear can be worn by a Non-Naga. This is the change which is not wrong by itself. In the course of years, it will be worn by masons and carpenters to protect themselves from heat and rain.Vegetable vendors will wear the same for safety because there are less marketing sheds. Only then Nagas will realize that Mr. Modi gave the best example for all Indians. The sheep has the right to follow the Shepherd. 

Some Nagas suddenly became culturally sensitive overnight. It is so encouraging to see protestors demanding apology from Mr. Shashi Tharoor. If Nagas could truly continue this sense of protecting their customs and traditions, I believe Nagaland will become truly a ‘Heritage State.’ All the same, let us not pretend to be the sole protector of our rich culture. We need to be true to our culture and tradition before proving our worth in front of others.

(The article is a collection of opinions and comments from the social media – The Naga Blog with regard to the controversy of Naga headgear. The Author thank all those who contributed ideas and actions)


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