When a name is a game

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 4/10/2019 1:01:10 PM IST

 When Western Sumi Hoho (WSH) took serious note of a non-Naga and suspected immigrant, issuing an affidavit declaring that he had changed his name and surname with a Naga name and surname; it opened up the lid over a continuing debate. What the WSH has brought in public domain, is an issue about misuse of traditional practice of adoption. This practise of renaming non-Nagas with Naga names and surnames is also an issue with other Naga tribes. The WSH has made it clear, that it will no longer tolerate such questionable practices that have become almost rampant and that it will also take serious note of the practise among some advocates/notary in preparing such affidavits. This is not the first instance of a suspected Bangladeshi immigrant being given a Naga name and surname. There were instances in the past, where some non-Naga immigrants, under the cover of Naga names and surnames, were caught for extortion or trying to forcibly collect illegal taxes on behalf of some groups. There are also instances where such people have acquired immense wealth and properties because of the privileges of having Naga names and surnames which have been successfully exploited as leverage. The Angami Public Organisation(APO) has taken note of the stand of the WSH against this practice and expressed appreciation of the stand taken in this regard. Furthermore, the APO has also urged upon the apex tribe organisations to also follow suit in order to halt the unhealthy trend. It may be pointed out that adoption in its true sense, is not something that is done rampantly but which is followed with due diligence and after following the customary practises. Today, a mere affidavit is seen as enough for any non-Naga to acquire the tribe identity of the adoptive parent(s). When someone is adopted, it means he or she becomes the child of the adoptive parent and given a name of the tribe and surname of the adoptive parent and enjoys the customary rights and privileges. However, in the recent decades, the practise appears to have taken a different turn especially in Dimapur, where it has aroused serious concerns. The issue of giving Naga names and surnames to non-Nagas etc by local Nagas has created a problematic situation. This is particularly noticed when suspected Bangladeshi immigrants have been given Naga names and surnames. There are also instances of some non-immigrant non-Nagas from other trades who have also been given Naga names and surnames. Whether it is pure ignorance or financial gain that has led to some locals lending their tribe name and surname to the outsiders is quite worrisome. Normally, a child is adopted if he or she is permanently separated from the biological parents or is an orphan to become the legitimate child of his/her adoptive parents with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are attached to the relations. The issue being raised, is not merely about adoption but in a way, about exploitation of a customary practice. There needs to be a clear dividing line between local guardianship and adoption. The situation in Dimapur in particular, needs to be seriously taken note of in the light of how such the practise has become a tool for exploitation and which could cause a very difficult problem for the future generation.

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