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Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Since independence, the tone and color of administration in the hills have undergone a complete metamorphosis. The establishment of the District Councils under the sixth schedule to the Constitution suddenly brought party-politics into the hills where it was unknown before. In addition, the creation of numerous new government departments, and as a result of the induction of hordes of officers from the plains, with hardly any service to render to the people and with hardly any coordinating agency to regulate their activities, practically destroyed over night the old, strong, efficient administrative set up and disrupted the life of the people.
From this point of view the abolition of the institution of Chiefs in the Lushai Hills was perhaps a premature and unfortunate step, the consequences of which are seen in the disturbances which are now shaking the once happy and smiling land of the Mizos. Be that as it may, the greatest harm caused to the hill peoples by the new dispensation was the damage and degradation caused to their character. The most outstanding characteristic of these people had always been their strong spirit of self-help and self-reliance. They made and maintained village paths, constructed school, church and hospital buildings, wells, water tanks, play-grounds and did other works of public utility voluntarily without remuneration. These were community projects in the true sense of the term. The establishment of development blocks, on a stereotyped all-India pattern,without taking local conditions and the temper of the people into account and the liberal doling out of grants, loans and subsidies in the name of community development have now completely changed the picture. The people now not only refuse to perform any of the tasks mentioned above without payment, but these doles have affected their attitudes to such an extent that they have stopped giving proper attention even to their rice fields, knowing that if crops fail, free or at least subsidized rice would be made available by 'Government'. Extracting some thing out of 'Government' for nothing has in fact become a practice with them and it is looked upon as a creditable performance. These once sturdy, self-respecting and self-reliant people have thus been so demoralized and corrupted that they do not hesitate to resort to chicanery for obtaining gifts which they look upon as graft for keeping them quiet and peaceable.

Mass conversion to Christianity has been another disrupting, demoralizing, devitalizing and denationalizing factor affecting the life and character of the hill-people. To elaborate the point, the instance of the Deka-changs (Youngmen's village club houses) called Nok-pates in the Garo Hills, Zawlbuks in the Lushai Hills. Morungs in the Naga villages and the Maro by the Mikirs can be given. These Deka-changs are an excellent institution and a distinctive feature of every tribal village. These clubs where young boys have to serve and obey the older boys, besides being associated with agricultural, social and almost all other activities of the village community, instilled into the youth discipline, respect for and obedience to elders, a spirit of service to the community and a number of other admirable qualities.

The village youths belonging to the club work in the fields together, a portion being allotted to each house. Work is enforced by penalties. In the Mikir Hills, in the olden days, it is said, shirkers were roasted alive. Now-a-days, of course, such drastic punishment cannot be meted out. Nevertheless, severe beatings are often given. The boys of the Maro, or Zawlbuk or Morung are in great demand for social services also, especially tasks and ceremonies connected with the dead. Dancing and singing are also practiced in these clubs, which keep old ways and customs alive.
It is a pity that these clubs are gradually becoming a thing of the past.
Wholesale and indiscriminate imposition of alien institutions on primitive races is a practice which cannot be too strongly condemned. It sort of tears them away from their roots, breeding in them contempt for their own race and racial traditions, causing a loss of pride and self-respect and turning them into unnatural specimens of humanity ill-at-ease everywhere, at home nowhere. By disrupting tribal foundations and destroying an age-old way of life, not inferior to any other, it engenders in them a sense of frustration or ennui and an indefinable fear about the future, a kind of mental unrest which finds expression periodically in violent eruptions as in the Naga and Mizo Hills.

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