Prevailing Questions of ‘RTE’ & Emerging Contentions In The Educational Policy Discourse

By Somingam PS

Constitutional yet partly Praxi Paradoxical’ Education in India is considered a matter of Right for every child (6-14 years), an intrinsic value of the Indian constitutions laid down as the Fundamental Rights. With the 86th amendment Act of 2002 specifically in article 21.a guaranteed “Free and Compulsory education” for all children between the ages of 6-14 years based on the principles of Inclusion, Equality and Non-discrimination. Nearly after 8 years of constitutional amendment act of 2002 (Universalization of education)’Right to education Act, 2009 came into being as a landmark achievement which brings in the fundamental changes and shift in the Indian education system setting up various Institutional mechanism with numerous roles and responsibilities of state and society and with set goals and objectives to be achieve over the next few years and decades. The Act is envisioned on the principle of Holistic approach, equity and accessibility, gender concern, centrality of teachers, moral compulsion on parents, teachers, educational administrators and other stakeholders.

Over the years with the coming of RTE, statistically India has finally almost achieved universal enrollment in primary education with 99.21% and 92.21 at the upper primary level (DISE 2015-16) with the growth rate of 13.56% from class 1- XII (times of India 2013) Despite this massive increase in enrollment at the primary level, six million children aged 6-13 are estimated to be still out of the school system, according to the 2014 survey by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. According to Montreal based UNESCO institute for statistic and global education monitoring, India still has 47 million youth of secondary and higher secondary school-going age are dropping out of school (2016 report). Over the years, the drop-out rate has been increasing at the secondary and higher secondary level. In 6(six) north eastern states (Manipur, Nagaland, Assam, Mizoram, Arunachal, Tripura & Meghalaya, it increases to 10% (India today, 2016). Most children out of school in India is leading by Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar and Rajasthan.

Data source & yearAge-groupOut of schools children(OoSC) in Numbers
Ministry of human resource development, 20056-13 years13.5 million
Ministry of Human Resource Development, 20096-13 years8.15 million
Census, 20116-13 years38 million
UNICEF, 20145-13 years17.5 million

Variation of children out of Schools from different source in different years.

According to RTE Forum (2016-2017), after 7 years of implementation Rights to Education’ only 9.54 schools are compliant with all norms and standards till today. According to the report of the committee of evolution of new education policy, 2016 (Subramanian committee) there is a shortage of 9.4 lakhs of teachers [5.6 lakhs in primary schools and 3.5 lakhs in upper primary school] in government school; and 14 % of secondary schools don’t have a prescribed minimum of six years. a recent MHRD report shows about 1,05,630 government elementary and secondary schools with only single teachers; with Madhya Pradesh emerging as a worst state where 17,874 of the institutions have just one teachers. Further the Report (2017) says 6.3 lakhs of teachers in India don’t have professional qualification. And yet the new education policy Draft titles ”inputs to the new education policy” in 2016 seemed failed to bring out these fundamental issues and challenges of school education at this juncture. The new education policy (Subramanian committee), which was just came into being last year in 2016 under the right wing-Bharatiya Janata Party Government had greatly underscore the continuing contention in India (Venkatraraman, 2016). Instead of attempting of addressing the fundamental educational concerns where millions of children are still out of school, low quality education in purview of DPEP, SSA, ICDS etc. the HRD Ministry have put in place a process that emphasizes issues that are not concern with education at all (Bhatty, 2015) continuing the fashion trend of new Educratic and bureaucratic recommendation (council for excellence in higher education, national higher education fellowships, central bureau of educational intelligence, constitution of standing education commission, national law for higher education) rather than reconstructing the existing failures and complexities.

Over the years’ one of the major critiques of RTE is the lack of quality which the Act has a least focus on outcome. Surveys frequently reported under-performance in children’s attainment. Few years back in 2013, the annual state of education report (ASER) watchdog NGO conduct a largest annual household survey of children in rural India that focuses on the status of schooling and basic learning are carried out facilitated by Pratham. The report reveals two major findings i.e. the worsening of the learning level and the preference for private schools and private tuition in the rural India. The report also says that the learning quality is certainly better in the private schools. On checking of class 3 children’s ability to read a class 1 textbook, only 33% of children from government school could do compared with 60% children from the private schools. This condition has also led to the alarming growth of private school/institutions which provide much better quality education. Even parents from poor family background began preferring private schools with much higher fees and expenditure rather than the free education in the government schools; which means parents are at any cost concern for the quality education of their children despite condition of being poor or financial instability. The overwhelming growth of private schools is also driven by the larger forces of liberalization and privatization. These further creates wider gap between those who are economically better position and those who are not. To see the growth trend of private schools; in 2005, all India private schools is 17%, it has gone up to 29% in 2013. In some state such as Manipur and Kerala 70% percent of children are in private schools. Moreover in some state though enrollment is increasing in government schools high proportion of students are depending on private tuition s. For examples in Bihar and Odisha, only 8.4 and 7.3 percent are going to private schools however, 52.1 and 52.2 % are going for private tuition respectively. With the poor quality of education on government schools, the number of “Small schools” is also increasing among the govt. schools. The numbers of schools with the total proportion of 60 students and below are 27.3 % in 2010 and 33.1% in 2013 (SSA annual report, 2014).

Again to look from the ankle of Socially Disadvantage/marginalize statistic, as reported by the UNICEF on “South-Asia regional study 2015” children from minorities (Muslim), Schedule Caste and schedule Tribe face a higher degree of non-participation in the schools as compared to national average pointing out that in all the three; there are 11.9 million children (age 6-13) who are not in school, the study says. Further it pointed out that girls from SCs have the highest rate of exclusion at 6.1 percent. The average rate of exclusion primary school age children from SCs is 5.6 percent and 5.3 percent from the STs compared to national average of 3.6 percent. According to IMRP survey 2014 report revealed that out of 75% of all children out of school are Dalit’s, Muslims and schedule tribe. Hence the questions of inclusive education or exclusion in the education system of these marginalize groups despite of numerous affirmative policies and actions it still widely failed to ensure fair and just inclusion in education in contestation to Constitutional mandate. The social-cultural milieus and inequalities of caste or being downtrodden or disadvantage remains pertinent to it reflected in the education system. On the other hand, if we see the budget allocation for ST and SC, the schedule caste sub plan (SCSP) and schedule tribe sub plan (TSP) is again hugely neglected. According to SCSP budget data of 2016-17 the mandated budget for SC is 91,302 Crores but it is only allotted with only 38,833 Crores and for ST 47,301 is the mandated budget but is also assigned with only 24,005 Crores.

One of the reasons for the failure of RTE act is also that there is no dedicated financial resource for its implementation. Even when the act was passed, it was not accompanied by financial memorandum to ensure the availability of the requisite financial resource for its implementation. However surprisingly as per the report though there are undedicated limited funds on the other hand these funds remain un-utilized. The comptroller and auditor general (CAG) in the performance audit that was tabled recently stated that the government/state implementing agencies were inconsistently unable to utilized the funds (Disha Nawani, EPW 2017). This underutilization of funds ranged from 21% to 41 % between 2010-2011 and 2015-2016. The state government have failed to utilize over 87,000 Crores of the allocated funds in the first six years of act (Nanda 2017). also As per the DISE report, 2014-2014’ most of the state are spending less than one percent of SSA budget on community mobilisation and training of SMC school management committee). With this’ the role and participation of community for the effective functioning of government schools is weak [no sense of ownership by the community].

While the budget allocation for children’ also remains stagnant from the last few years. The union budget is half to the budget recommended by the kothari Commission (6 % of GNP) allocated only 3%. It was 2.42 in 2014-2015(RE), 2.44 in 2015-2016(RE) and 2.19 in 2016-2017(BE). As we see the statistics the funds allocation are also gradually limiting (decreasing) whereby to address and ensure education for every children remains a pertinent question amidst series of obstructing factor.

New Amendments, Recommendations and Debates

In 2016, the Subramanian Committee on NEP, 2016 recommended that RTE should be included standard norms and infrastructural requirement for measuring learning outcomes to enhance quality education. Each class should have such standard norms and evaluated through periodic and external assessment. It further recommends that teachers should be accountable in achieving the targets or outcomes within certain given time frame (MHRD 2016). However the debate evolves around this recommendation is that, education is narrowly understood which may likely ignore the production of multiplicity of views and opinion of the student. Disha Niwani (2016) pointed out that it is hugely dominated by the B.S Bloom concept of mastery learning (1975) which is ignorant to constructivist understanding of learning. He further argued the recommendation fails to acknowledge the variation of teaching strategies, social context, student’s differences etc.

Again, in respect to examination reforms, the committee recommend the class 10 board examination should be held of every subject in 2 parts; part A ad Part B. Part A to be compulsory for all the students especially for those who wish to join the vocational training courses after their class 10 and part P is only for those who wants to continue for further studies. The idea of giving options attempting to ensure students friendly examination system is a good moves on one hand. However it can also mislead the students because at the stage of class 10 deciding a diverging carrier for future might not be a wise move. Mostly it is seen at risk for those who are first generation learners whereby parents and elders have limited knowledge of guiding them.

The RTE act of 2009 initially guarantee for those state which doesn’t have sufficient number of teachers training institute and qualifies teachers were given a relaxed deadline of 6 years till 2015. However even after 7 years of RTE implementation more than 2.1 lakh government school teachers and approx 5-6 lakhs private schools teachers remained untrained. This figure was presented by the union home minister MHRD while presenting the amendment act of RTE 2017 (published in; The Hindu 2017). The amendment bill of 2017 confers again the extension of two years to get the required qualification by March 2019.

One of the long standing debates of RTE is also the exclusion of Pre-school clause under RTE Act, perhaps the most neglected area in policy and legislation. The Subramanian committee 2016 taking a view of providing early childhood care and protection of children in age-group of 4-6 years of children but surprisingly declare that it is not a suitable coverage under RTE act for this age group. However the policy draft to an extent covers the age group of 5-6 years which is to be implemented under ICDS. But ICDS itself are not equipped for implementing Pre-school education. In fact ICDS is largely top-down approach and fails to address numerous contextual needs. Moreover the policy recommendation was blind enough to see into the age-group of 15-18 years where higher number of drop outs happens. Till today the Government is nowhere ready to give any concrete commitment for the children of this age-group. Madhu Prasad, founding members and spokesperson of all India forums for Right to education said that RTE became a legal form of system of discrimination at every level.

Strangely, the 2016 amendment of child labor Act in July last year is ; allowing/legalizing the child labor except three; mines, with in-flammables substances and explosive and hazardous work. Coupled with the policy to introduce vocational training s in schools. It can be anticipated that children would be more easily drop out of schools and take up employment. It is hugely critique that the policy is trying to promote caste based pattern of occupation. The policy actually opens up a way/disguised for Children belong to economically backward and girls to actually out from the schools.

Emerging Contentions in the Educational Policy Discourse

India’s education systems today to a larger extend’ still in subscribe of NPE (National education policy) of 1986/92. In fact the RTE Act of 2009 which came into being in 2010 is the comprehensive result of NPEs. The first national education policy (1968) though efforts were made to ensure free and compulsory education, minority education, and address regional disparities on educational infrastructure and however it was focus more on science, technology and scientific research. With the national policy on education (NPE) 1986/92; education policy was much based on equality (bridging the social gap) and inclusion through various affirmative action by introducing of various schemes and policies for the women’s, SC, ST, minorities and other disadvantages groups and also strengthening the existing policies was envisioned. It set to view education in a more holistic manner; Education system with more cultural orientation (Cultural perspectives), language development (Mother tongue), vocational education, setting up of rural schools and institutes, education of handicapped, minorities, ST, SCs, women, teachers education and training, education of games and sports etc. were introduced paving way of some representational space from the vulnerable and marginalize sections and their knowledge system into a mainstream education system. However the questions of being in subjugation, discrimination and exploitation of people who are socially disadvantage and marginalize remains unanswered over the years till date.

School Curriculum are framed by NCERT as a continuous and evolving process over the periods of decades; The Curriculum for the Ten Year School Curriculum 1975, National Curriculum Framework for Elementary and Secondary Education-1988, National Curriculum Framework for School Education-2000 and the last curriculum was prepared by NCERT in the year 2005, which favors the plurality of textbooks. The need for introducing new National Curriculum Framework (NCF) adapting the fast changing scenario of social, political and economic order over the past one decade has put forward by several educationists, experts, Activist etc. and it becomes a challenge before curriculum framers and developers to assimilate and absorb new changes to meet the aspirations of the people.

NCF 2005 identify independence of thoughts and action, sensitivity to others well-being and feelings, learning to respond new situation in a flexible and creative manner and importance of participation in the democratic process and social change. “In the social sciences’ the approach proposed in the NCF recognizes disciplinary markers’ a paradigm shift is recommended, proposing the study of the social sciences from the perspective of marginalize groups. Gender justice and a sensitivity towards issues related to SC and ST communities and minority sensibilities must inform all sectors of the social sciences (National curriculum Framework, 2005)”. In 2012, MHRD directs the State/UT governments to “modify their existing school curricula and textbooks to include gender positive material”. That would require authors who have internalized the significance of the task assigned and further, are free from “urban middle class biases”.

These are the few important milestone development leading to paradigm shifts at the level of policy framework in the field of education. Yet in these waves of constant adaptation and re-adaptation with the changing social economic and political scenario of the country it is undeniable that the emerging educational trends have lots of ideological underpinnings and political motives in it. On 27TH June, 2017 Delhi Deputy Chief Minister ‘Manish Sisodia once remark during the meeting with the NCERT “Textbooks should not be used as ‘ideological battleground’ between the Left and the Right, they must be designed to suit the need of the children”. These remarks came out from the kind of situation emerging in education system over the last few years/decades. At present, with the coming of the new (BJP) government the ideology of “Hindu Rashtra” has been invisibly visibilising putting as a central agenda taking its shape in all the institutional settings behind the idea of nation state. In fact’ the new amendment Act of RTE 2016, notwithstanding innumerable social disparities, particularly of caste and gender in its social fabric, it hails Indian civilization as the most glorious civilization in the world (MHRD 2016: 5) which uncritically trying to celebrate ancient India in its education system is one of its kind. Arguably Indian education system are obscurant with national identity/goals which in a way overemphasizing on Indianizing’ rather than being rational cutting across boundaries producing multiples knowledge and ideas. In fact the very idea of “national identity” is undeniably questioned and debated among scholars of different communities/region. For the country is a multi-diversified nation with so many nations within the Indian state. Frequently the question arises to whose national identity are we referring to? The question of whose cultural or sociological facts and narratives is represented or how it is represented remains debatable/un-answered till now.

If we are to raise such questions’ Strangely, the historical facts and culture of North-Eastern people and society and Tribal’s are nothing less discussed or mentioned in the central educational boards of syllabus and curriculum until recently few integrated studies started in the college and universities. And tribal sociology of knowledge for that matter only claim a limited space in the academic spheres till today. Moreover few discussions about them are often portrayed distorting the historical and cultural facts in converging to ancient Indian civilization and Hindu narratives (GK-CBSE textbook, 2017). The basic fundamental values and ethos of diversities of the country is violated and constantly attempted to portray in the shadow of ancient Hindu civilization.

Ironically “Indian educational policy” is still majorly caught up in the realms of propagating national identity/ achieving national goals. From NPE 1986/92 there see a shift towards critical thinking however, individual is still seen as a resource for achieving national goals rather than active participant in defining these goals. With the subscription of liberalization, globalization and privatization (LPG) from 1991, education became gradually more commercialize and taking an approach to meet the market requirement rather than producing a rational, critical and creative citizens for realization of national goals.

National policies on education have been shaped by the political and economic contexts within which they were formulated and these in turn defined the espousal of specific policy goals” (Dewan & Mehendale 2015).

Perhaps’ many scholars argued that Indian education system is run by politically governed policies rather than educationally governed policies. Every new ruling government may it be BJP or Congress keep framing new policies, new framework etc. based on their certain political agenda. even few years back, after the coming of NDA government they want to rewrite the History textbook (syllabus) and also came up with a “New education policy, 2016 which itself receive a lots of critics that the new education policy is attempting to corporatize and Brahmanize the Indian education system. Indeed every right thinking citizen welcomes new policy and curriculum which would adapt/update with the new changing social-economic and political environment however the question remains unanswered whether the policy envisioning educational attributes such as critical thinking, creativity, scientific temper, analytical abilities, aesthetic appreciation, sense of philosophy and rationality are reflected on the idea of equity-equality, liberty, rights and justice. At the outset disparity between the rich and the poor becomes wider; the element of caste, or being a tribal or women or minorities etc. became more and more vulnerable at its complexity. Madhu Prasad, founder member &spokesperson, All India forum for RTE remarks that “Clearly, India’s education system is reproducing social inequalities and not removing them”.

Surprisingly, the New Education Policy draft which was just framed in 2016 in reference with the school education has a limited reflection on the two emerging/changing social-cultural issues of the country; Gender concerns and environmental concerns. However, One should also note that the new education policy Draft, 2016 came out of the feature that;

  • It came after the gap of 30 years (last formulated in 1986/92).

  • It is an initiative of Right wing-Bharatiya Janata party, which invites saffronization of education in the past educational policy and reforms.

  • It comes at a time when the neo-liberalist waves of privatization and globalization was at its height with increasing negligence in social sector.

Out of the many themes discussed for the school education in the NPE 2016, there is completely no mentioning of gender concerns (apart from mentioning the addressing social gaps) and environmental concern (See NEP, 2016) which is also an important SDGs goals of 2015. Ajay S Sekar also put forward” as Saffronizing and corporatization of Indian education system; critique on new education policy, 2016 in the journal of in Cultural forum. The strong evident point of being not in conformity with the changing Socio–cultural scenario/issues is that; violence/crime against women in the country is keep on increasing at the alarming rate according to National Crime Record Bureau. The overall number has been increased from 2, 28, 650 cases in 2011 to 3, 27, 394 in 2015 (national crime record bureau, 2015). The overall crime reported by national crime report Bureau is also increasing over the years; with 36.3 % in 2005 to 40.3 in 2015. The alarming situation of increasing crime against women in India over the years’ despite of being growing discourse and awareness of gender rights and empowerment along with the growth of education posed a serious paradoxical concern. Similarly, the environmental concern which gained itself a serious global attention has ignored in the new education policy in a largest democratic country. It simply reveals the situation of sinking education in the shadows of powerful corporate. The corporatization of India’s development model whereby the powerful capitalist unwillingness to compromise their power/prestige on to the environmental concerns is the reason for its ignorance. Because the education itself is slowly materializing and corporatizing moving towards to fulfill the demands of market.

The surprising feature of new education Policy (NEP) 2016 is also that it came within the few months of time-line. Contrary to student–centric learning, the report emphasizes the teacher Centric system “Guru Shisya” Tradition of the past (MHRD 2016: 1) whereby schools and universities are termed as Temples of learning. The new policy failed to engage with relevant literature and previous policy documents (Venkatraraman, 2016). It is viewed in Skepticism by many people that the new education policy document was given mostly to retired bureaucrats rather than the educationist, academic experts (Panda, 2016). These whole questions of un-clarity in the new education policy 2016 revealed itself the hidden agenda of the regressive right wing political ruling party.


the Indian education system particularly in reference with the school education; for that matters RTE seems lacking commitment in its policy orientation and implementation without really underlying the complexities and needs of the ground reality. Right to education was bold enough at the policy level however even after 7 years of implementation, only 9% are in compliance with the RTE norms and provision which means there exist a unnoticed fundamental gap/issues between the policy orientation and contextual ground reality. And this was least concerned and revealed in the new education policy drafted in 2016. The basic concerns and issues largely remained unadressed and the new policies are absurdly more driven by Educratic and bureaucratic recommendations and commitments which may have a least impact.

In a Midst of all this prevailing complexities; achievements and failures, the worrying situation is brutalizing the essence of education by the political ideologies and motives. It is undeniably true of a claim that Indian education system is politically governed rather than the educationally governed. The remarks of Delhi deputy chief minister “Textbook should not not be an ideological battleground between Right and Left, it should be design to suit the need of the children” is such a remark of a prevailing context. The ultimate aim of education as achieving national goals and maintaining national identity, which is again obscurantize in Hindu realms of construction violating the very nature of diversity which actually drives India and democracy’ needs to deconstruct and aim to produce a rational, critical and creative citizens for realization of National Development Goals.

Disclaimer: The Arek do not claim ownership of this article. 

For the reference: Somingam.PS. (2018). Prevailing Questions of ‘RTE’ & Emerging Contentions In The Educational Policy Discourse. Indian Journal of Dalit and Tribal Studies and Actions, Vol 4, Pp45-54.

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Therapeutic potentials of Houttuynia cordata Thunb. against inflammation and oxidative stress: A review

By: Kachanchuila Shingaisui et al


Houttuynia cordata Thunb. (Family: Saururaceae) (Ngayung in Tangkhul Language) is an herbaceous perennial plant that grows in moist and shady places. The plant is well known among the people of diverse cultures across Japan, Korea, China and North-East India for its medicinal properties. Traditionally the plant is used for its various beneficial properties against inflammation, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, muscular sprain, stomach ulcer etc.

Oxidative stress and inflammation were found to be linked with most of the diseases in recent times. Many ancient texts from Chinese Traditional medicine, Ayurveda and Siddha, and Japanese Traditional medicine have documented the efficacy of H. cordata against oxidative stress and inflammation.


Houttuynia cordata Thunb, Inflammation, Oxidative stress Therapy

Aim of the Study

This review aims to provide up-to-date and comprehensive information on the efficacy of H. cordata extracts as well as its bioactive compounds both in vitro and in vivo, against oxidative stress and inflammation

Source: Wikipedia (Ngayung in Tangkhul Language)

Materials and Methods

Relevant information on H. cordata against oxidative stress and inflammation were collected from the established scientific databases such as NCBI, Web of Science, ScienceDirect, Elsevier, and Springer.   Additionally, a few books and magazines were also consulted to get the important information.


Herbal medicines or plant products were traditionally being used for treating the oxidative stress and inflammation related diseases in diverse communities across the world. Scientifically, H. cordata has shown to target several signaling pathways and found to effectively reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation. Phyto-constituents such as afzelin, hyperoside, and quercitrin have shown to reduce inflammation both in vitro and in vivo models. These molecules were also shown to have strong antioxidant properties both in vivo and in vitro models.


H. cordata extracts and its bioactive molecules were shown to have both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. As both in vitro and in vivo studies were shown that H. cordata did not have any toxicity on the various model systems used, future clinical studies will hopefully make an impact on the future direction of treating inflammation-related diseases.

Graphical abstract

Disclaimer: The Arek do not claim ownership of this article. 

For the reference: Shingnaisui, K., Dey, T., Manna, P., & Kalita, J. (2018). Therapeutic potentials of Houttuynia cordata Thunb. against inflammation and oxidative stress: A review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 220, 35–43.

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Y.K. Shimray’s Poem ‘Tangkhul Ngalei’ – National Anthem

By: AS Shimreiwung

The poem Tangkhul Ngalei written by Y.K. Shimray’s has remained as one of the canonical works in Tangkhul literature. It has been popularly known for paying hefty tribute to Tangkhul’s life and identity. It is performed as an anthem during important occasions. This poetry was being used as a school textbook, that was included in Y.K Shimray’s poetry book Tangkhul Poetry: Book 1 reprinted in 1978-79.  Most of the Tangkhuls will find that the verse of this poetry is in Khokharum Laa ( Tangkhul hymn book) and mostly used by Baptist denomination, with the title ‘National Anthem’. It appears that these three verses  were originally written as poetry and make into hymn later on. 

The poem represents Tangkhul’s identity, culture, and social position that is not exposed to the outsider, as Shimreiwung (2014) stated “the significance of Y.K. Shimray’s  Tangkhul Ngalei lies in finding the place of Tangkhul’s identity in the universe of social condition marked by cultural diversity and wider exposure to the outside world, a time different from the past generations where the community had no encountered people from other cultures, especially the West”. 

The first verse of this poetry marks the identity and status of Tangkhuls in a modernist’s vision as reproduced below:

Kaphungtungli dolan sada.

Awon eina sari shaksai.

Kathar masi khanim ura;

Nawui naobing kalamahai.

(English free translation)

Palace built on mountain.

Dressed in flowers.

Fresh wind swirls around;

Your children are blessed.

The geography and wealth of Tangkhul are coming to the fore in this verse, where the author has indeed marked out the territory of Tangkhul country in the first line. The first stanza of this verse has distinctly stated that Tangkhuls are hill-men; they live in high mountains, which is a direct reference to the actual habitation choice of Tangkhul villagers. Further, the use of the word ‘dolan’, which can be translated as ‘palace’, high rise building, or storey house, indicates wealth and modernity. This term as not commonly used in folksongs or folktales; even if it used it  was in reference to the deity’s palace or Meitei maharaja’s residence in the Valley and not in references to common housing patterns of the Tangkhuls. If we look into the decade when this poetry may have been written, specifically the living conditions of Tangkhul during the 1960s and 1970s, it was an era marked by drastic changes in their standards of life. Historically, during this period, Tangkhuls had started to build a highrise house, or at least double storey buildings and relegates the old housing style. The context clearly shows references to modern living conditions of the Tangkhuls. Metaphorically, the term ‘dolan’ has also been used here to venerate the Tangkhuls as a wealthy community, which implicitly would also mean that Tangkhuls now are living in equal terms with the raja in the valley and deity’s of yore.

In the second stanza, flowers being used as metaphor for dressing patterns of the Tangkhuls have to do with wealth again. But, if we flowers for further relations with actual practices, Tangkhuls did use flowers forest trees in headgear for males, and also during Luira Phanit (Seed Sowing festival) flowers have intrinsic relations with festivities, which of course have been changing over time. The third and fourth stanzas have been changing over time. The third and fourth stanzas have indirect reference to nature and land of the Tangkhuls; looking into the punctuation styles, these two stanzas have been connected as one as well. Reference to ‘fresh winds’ clearly indicate the unpolluted natural habitations and forest in Tangkhul country.. However, the guardian of Tangkhuls has been ambiguous presented here, remaining as silent overseer; which the guardian is undoubtedly the ‘land’ of the Tangkhul country. But, the god, and not just as guardian in literal sense or symbolic reference. Deification of land and forest was not uncommon in traditional belief systems of the Tangkhuls, and in folksongs and folktales there were extensive reference to such notions, but here it may have certain elements of Chritian pantheon being projected in veiled manner. However, the true benefactor and main emphasis in these narratives is the Tangkhuls, ‘who live in palaces on high mountains’ ‘dressed in flowers’, and breathe ‘fresh air’. They have been projected as being ‘blessed’ and living happily in the laps of their loving guardian motherland.

The third verse in Tangkhul Ngalei further puts the Tangkhul in the highest position, of being at the top in everything. It can be considered as a ‘dream’ about the future, and artistic imaginations that have much to do with surrealistic images, rather the real situations.

Kaphung nawui chuimeithui

Horchamri yirkhamayei!

Nanaobingla chuimeithura

Leiyachingra tekhamatei!

(English free translation)

Your mountains are highest.

Bright and harmonious!

Your children will be tallest

Glory will remain forever!

The expressions being made and showered upon the Tangkhuls here indicate that this poetry is an ode to the land. The lines here are filled with comparisons in terms of height and glory, which the author has tried to exemplify land its children in tallest order. There appears to be no indirect connection, and an attempt to create semblance between land and people, when the authors described the mountains in Tangkhul country being the ‘highest’, and proclaiming their children will be ‘tallest’. It is not just a matter of stature between  the two, but an elevation of the community at the top order, making a proud claim that Tangkhuls and their land is higher than others. Then, there are the superfluous venerations of its glory, which no comparison and remaining in eternal state. It is indirectly a reference to the notions were common or popular in folktales, it must have come through the Christian ideas and texts as the author himself was a devout Christian like others converted Tangkhuls.

The fourth and last verse of Tangkhul Ngalei ends with the thumping assertion of Tangkhuls being the centre of the universe, and the land where all things begin. From the present context such claim, even if it is in artistic representation, may seem a little far fetched, but we also need to look into the context to make sense of such imaginations.

Kathemla haophok khavai ram.

Kahorla shophok khavai pam.

Nawui eina haophoksera.

Tangkhul Ngalei, Ishava Ram!

(English free translation)

Land where knowledge began.

Place where lights arise.

Everything begins from you.

Tangkhuls Land, My MotherLand!

In these lines, where the status of Tangkhuls is being constructed as being the beginning of all things in the ‘universe’, the claims made by the author about the ‘honour’ of the tribe may seem superfluous from contemporary points of view. However, looking into the context when this poem was written, the expressions here are based on certain historical circumstances that have happened during the colonial period. If we take the princely state of Manipur during the colonial as a ‘universe in itself’, then the superfluous claims being made here will make sense. The Tangkhul were the first were also the first community to be converted to Chritianity. The metaphor, ‘Beginning’ of light and ‘knowledge’ is in direct reference to these historical facts in Manipur’s past. Geographically, Ukhrul district is located in the eastern side of Manipur. So seen from the other parts of Manipur, it is the place where the ‘sun rise’, in view of which the author maybe making reference to this as well. The final assertion ‘ Tangkhul Land, My Mother Land’ is the culmination of every emotion being described, and presented in the above stanzas. 

The imagination of Tangkhul as ‘beginning’ of everything, and as a singular body is something that was absent in the oral narratives. Without much ado about the diversities that are apparent to any observer, Y.K Shimray made the astounding narration in written form about the life and identity of the Tangkhul as it has never into an ‘anthem’ and becoming part of Hymn book reserved for another testament to the fact that the readers and literate Tangkhuls have honoured such narratives as being sacred. The focal point has been ‘land’ being personified as ‘guardian’, ‘deity’, and finally declared as ‘mother’. Rootedness to one’s native place and deriving the ‘unity’ out of such is not uncommon in other cultures or patriotic songs. 

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This article is excerpt from: 

Shimreiwung, A. S. (2014). Print Culture and the Rise of Identity Consciousness in Oral Society: Trajectories in Conception of Community Identity in Tangkhul in Tangkhul Literature. In Encountering Modernity Situating the Tangkhul Nagas in Perspective. New Delhi: Chicken Neck.

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Waiting for the Peace Never Comes

by: M. Horam

 Twenty-Seven years is a long time to be agitating for independence and apparently getting nowhere though there have been longer-standing cases of frustrated nationalism. If all attempts to reach a satisfactory solution of the Naga problem have so far failed it is not for want of trying. Despite blunders on both the Indian and the Naga sides it must be stated in fairness to New Delhi that there was a time when a negotiated settlement through political dialogue was not ruled out by it. But this was not to be and the problem remains as intractable as ever. While all political goings-on is on record what has never been fully gauged is the sum-total of human suffering during these 27 long years. And there has been suffering, plenty of it. It must be so until a settlement is reached. When the September 1972 ban was announced declaring illegal the three wings of the Federal Government of Nagaland, it was hoped by many that a fatal blow was thus struck to the activities of these underground bodies. Again when the Revolutionary Government of Nagaland, a splinter underground organisation, decided to surrender on August 16, 1973, it began to look as though the Naga underground movement was, at last, petering out and indeed this idea was conveyed in most press reports at that time. Today, almost two years after invoking the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and despite all reports and statements to the contrary, the situation remains unchanged for the Naga villagers. Military operations continue and villagers live in suspense and fear. Thus things are not what they seem in these troubled hills. The true picture is either kept deliberately hidden or it is possible that at the official level it is genuinely believed that the hack of the problem has been broken and that given time it must fizzle out. If prob- lems couild evaporate in this fashion theni many administrative headaches cotuld be avoi(led lbimt in this case onie must reckoi xvith the Naga psyche anid the present set-up in Nagaland. The decade long rule of the Naga Nationalist Organisation ended when early this year the United Democratic Front, the erstwhile opposition party, came to power. The UDF has been fairly consistent in its avowals, aims and political colour. While the NNO has always been associated in the Naga mind as leaning towards New Delhi, the UDF has been openly spoken of as being a pro-underground body. The UDF victory, after years of patient waiting, was hailed by the underground Nagas as their own victory. Indeed it is openly voiced that the fortunes of the UDF are dependent to a great extent on the support extended to it by the underground Nagas. In the cabinet now are formerly active NNO men. Underground traffic to China continues unabated and small batches of China-trained guerillas return to the country at regular intervals. There are agreements recently arrived at between the Naga underground of Kachin, Mon and Chin insurgents in Burma. Though all this may pose little or no threat to the nation, the fact remains that this goings-on gives the lie to the claim that the north-eastern region is silent or silenced.

 A single visit to the five states and two union territories constituting the north-east mosaic and a few interviews with the youth of the region will apprise one of the general discontents that prevails in these states. The deep-seated suspicion, distrust and bitterness will be disconcerting to anyone who may have been given to understand that all this was a thing of the past and that any anti-government activity here is blown out of all proportion and is, in fact, a non-happening. Granting of state- hood and union territory status notwith- standing, there is seething mass unrest. The people of Assam resent the dis- membering of their state and besides Assam has its own problem of the Ahoms demanding a separate homeland. Miri and Garo tribals in the plains want, respectively, a separate state and merger with Meghalaya. Anti-Indian feeling rides high among the youth in Meghalaya and provides the main topic of conversation even bet- ween strangers. The Mizo hostile activity has reached a crescendo and an independent Mizoram is still the cherish- ed goal of the guerillas and the secret dream of many Mizos. Mizo rebels continue to use China and Pakistan as allies. Youth in Arunachal fear the swamping of their culture and identity by Indian ways and influence and often organisations founded ostensibly to safe- guard culture become centres of feverish political activity.  Manipur takes the cake for political instability and chaos and here matters are further worsened l)y a pan-Mongoloid movement and the Kangla League stridently demanding an independent Manipur. Meanwhile responsible leadership in the Naga 1lills region of Manipur continues to carry a sizeable population with it in the demand for Greater Nagaland by integrating all contiguous Naga areas. The Kukis and Lushais in Manipur wish to merge with Mizoram. With so many groups pulling in as many directions, it is little wonder that peace cannot even find a perching place in this region. 

 While political opportunism is bound to thrive in situations such as these, another puzzling fact is the total indifference of a fairly large section of Nagas all of whom have one common aspect – they are among the more educated and better qualified among their people. They seem to be dispassionate onlookers. Their apathy may be construed as being either the cynical aloofness of the modern educated man or a deliberate and appalling disregard of their responsibility to society and the nation. They could do a great deal to inject sanity and moderation in a situation like this where opposing parties, argu- ing from different premises, have taken all of 27 years to reach nowhere. The underground Nagas continue to be “patriots” in the eyes of all Naga nationalists and “rebels” in the eyes of India. A curious fact often overlooked is that this educated section of Nagas so indifferent to the Naga milieu, are the very persons who have benefited most as it were from all the happenings.

 This needs some enlargement. The underground movement precipitated the formation of the state of Nagaland. The Government of India since then has poured aid into Nagaland. Even the semi-educated, not to mention those with adequate qualifications, b)benefited job-wise when Nagaland came into existence. Then with aid from New Delhi, a new generation of Nagas received the very best education and training without incurring practically any expense of their own. Having thug been educated and finding their future ready-made most of them have not felt it necessary to exert themselves in any way. They have steered clear of controversy and have slid into lucrative careers. Instead of being a sound middle-of-the-road body, working for peace and understanding, many of them are guilty of sitting on the fence or deliberately turning their faces away from the needs of the people. Some have indeed done worse; with all their learning and knowledge, they have not hesitated to use their brains in misleading their innocent brethren thus wounding where they should have brought the balm of healing. They talk to please and act only after carefully observing which way the cat will jump. When with representatives of the government one may hear them conveniently run down the “hostiles”. When back in their own villages or face to face with underground men or sympathisers they execute a volte-face and speak movingly of independence for the Nagas. There are hardly any who will speak out boldly against New Delhi’s shortcomings and then unequivocally point out the blunders which the Naga underground has made and go on to suggest how the present impasse can be removed. This is a time for truth, not smooth platitudes. When this is realised by the hitherto indifferent intelligentsia a reliable way will be paved for peace to come to Naga- land. For in spite of all claims to the contrary there is no peace in Nagaland.

 It is becoming a matter of course to cite India’s new-found superiority in the subcontinent as effective match against any foolhardy rising on the part of a handful of Nagas. The recent nuclear device acquired by the nation may further enhance that feeling of euphoria. True India is not the India of 1962 and it has come a long way since then as a military power in its own right. But the increase in India’s military strength has not in any way decreased the political aspirations of the underground Nagas. The problem therefore remains. But what is hearten- ing is that even among the Phizoites there are people who will settle for less than independence. This in itself is a step in the right direction and towards peace. What is required is tactful handling, concessions and magnanimity on the part of the Government of India and rational thinking, practicality and graciousness on the part of the underground leaders. Church leaders alone cannot do much. For a lasting solution to the problem, public involvement is required. Public leaders must be more forthright than they have been. Politicians will have to stop thinking of themselves and of staying in power but must utilise their office in resolving the problem which has clogged the footsteps of their suffering people for so long.

 This will entail sacrifices all round as well as some hard and level-headed thinking. New Delhi and the Federal Government of Nagaland have been at cross purposes too long and the stalemate can easily continue with no one suffering too much except of course the poor Naga villager whose disenchantment with all parties and governments is by now complete. This is not the time to stand on national prestige or worry about the loss of face for this is a matter involving human lives and much tragedy. If extreme views and demands are modified and if an accommodating spirit is shown then there is no reason why the Naga question cannot be settled within a fairly short time. Failing this the long-suffering Naga public will have to make its presence felt and come up with an answer and solution which will only hold up more glaringly the diminishing credibility of both the Government of India and the so-called representatives of the Naga people.

 There is yet another aspect of the problem which needs consideration and requires farsighted action. India’s relations with China continue to remain cool and China’s abetment of hostile activity in the north-east has not endeared that country to India. Again, if India has become a nuclear power, China’s nuclear arsenal is also well equipped. International relations and actions are no longer predictable in a world taut with tension. The territory of the north-east areas of India is not to be scoffed at. Wars have been fought for lesser prizes. Of course, in such an event, the hill areas will have played directly into China’s hands but by then it would be too late.

 Perhaps, the greatest weakness on the Naga side is the fact of tribal rivalry which may be said to have been transcended in, the wake of Naga nationalism inspired by Phizo way back in 1947. Recent happenings, however, have repeatedly shown that this unity is often only an illusion. The only binding factor among the tribes is the fact that they are ‘different’ from the Indians. It is this theory which is the focus of Naga nationalism. As Barclay has said, “A Nationalist needs a theory. But it is no more than the truth to assert that any theory will do. What is really important is not an intellectual argument, but a physical fact of difference … Race obviously provides the most satisfactory rallying call for the new Nationalism.” So, as long as the Underground groups pursue this theory – and many among them confidently speak of holding out indefinitely, having held out for 27 years – and as long as the Government of India takes up the issue piecemeal or hopes to solve it by ignoring it, in short as long as the two sides continue to behave in impractical and uncertain ways, peace in the Naga hills will remain a myth.

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For the reference : Horam.M. (1974). Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 9, No. 31 (Aug. 3, 1974), pp. 1226-1227.

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Women’s Work in Naga Society

by: U A Shimray

This paper attempts to understand household work, workforce participation, division of labour and women’s position in Naga society with special reference to the Tangkhul Nagas of Manipur state. Using a qualitative approach, the average time spent on housework and agricultural activities by men, women and children and the gendered division of labour are examined. Although Naga society is patriarchal, women enjoy considerable freedom and play an important role in family and community life. Women have a greater range of responsibilities, from domestic work – within and outside the homestead – to various agricultural activities and bear a greater work burden as well. Gender disparity measures reveal that men’s responsibility for household activities is shrinking while women’s work frontier is expanding, as they take over work traditionally designated as ‘male’.

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Fight for Intellectualism

By: Mc. Vareiyo

It’s high time that we come out of our comfort zone like Moses of the Bible, to lead our own people. We have to volunteers ourselves in taking initiatives as modern-day ‘Moses’ to enlighten and to free our people from the bondage of ignorance, which is a death-knell of our society, from the calamities, crisis and from the guiles of government. We don’t need a modern gadget of artillery or our physical strength to fight, but we only have to fight a good fight with our own cognitive knowledge and wisdom. We youth have the potential to ignite our society and life up our community up to the expectation of a global level.

This fight that I am talking about is not of flesh and blood but the fight of intellectualism. So in order to win this fight should be equipped with intellectual warfare. Now the question is how to get this warfare? There is a multiplicity of ways to discover it but up to the catch of my understanding, one should get it from his own school of thought i.e the utility of one’s brain or an exercise of one’s thought. This doesn’t mean that only the learned or an educated person can be a part of this fight, starting right from the kids to the ed until a person goes beneath the willow. I realize that one of the greatest tools to win this fight is IDEALISM. There is nothing called best idea in my dictionary, I regard and give equal importance to every idea but each idea has its own logic and to understanding this logic we don’t need to have a great sense but simple to use our common sense. So you don’t need to wait for yourself to become a great person to use your ideas or to inculcate your ideas to other fellow beings. But your ideas must be relevant to the present time and times to come. One’s ideas must have both qualitative as well as quantitative applicability for the society and for every living creature under the sun. my assumption is that the one who knows the perfect utilities of ideas will dominate the others and ideas are like atom bombs, which can explode and even destroy the prevailing system of the world. If we are not idealistic then the other societies will play with us a game of amusement, which I would also like to call as lurk fooling game and then will plunder away our treasures.

We have an excellent idea but we are unable to use them in a productive way. So our ideas are used by others who are idealistic and intelligent and are making a living out of it. Our society has a closer relationship with the natural environment and has excellent knowledge about nature has been stripped away from us by outsiders and apply it in a global utility and are making a good profession out of it. We have always been behind the actual play so its high time to realise to come out in the mainstream on our own. The world is turning in a ‘U-turn’ that is to say that the world is going back to its original stage. Each and every nation both developed and underdevelopment are concerned about creating a world with a new natural environment, so we can take a lead role in this new phenomenon of creation because we are more friendly towards nature and have a better understanding about nature so let not miss the opportunity of taking a lead role. 

We can act, dress and behave like Westerner but we don’t have thinking like Westerner. As westerners in their past glory were a great explorer and hunter of treasure both materials and non-materials and they still are! They have explored the unexplored world in every nook and corner of this wold and now they have climbed up to the cosmos wold i.e the open space but we remain still the same in the approach of ideas as a hunter of animals in the jungle. It is not our tradition to think for the world but we have to break this tradition of imitation and self-sustainment and must go beyond this boundary of incapability’s and fooling around on the ideas of others. Instead of squandering, we must start thinking with new aptitudes of ideas for our society as well as for the whole world to deals with the contemporary challenging issues of this fast-changing world. Ideas can cross every boundary without any limitations only if its impact is for the welfare of all human being. A few decades ago with sound judgements of knowledge and wisdom regardless of boundaries and limitations William Pettigrew brought us a new concept of life. With this enlightenment, our society was exposed to the other wold so now we have started moving out from our confinement to other parts of the world in order to live the life of our inspiration and as we succeed in our expedition we never look back from where we first stand. There is nothing wrong in it but where ever we are we have to communicate and share our fellow men with new ideas of living and opportunities. As we the world is changing at a fast rate with new models and system, so we have to be equipped wealthily with the prevailing knowledge and wisdom along with our innovative ideas to keep pace with the changing environment along with the times.

When we are unable to adapt to the new situation that arises because of the changes then our society will be enveloped within a blanket of problems for the survivors. Whether you like it or not you have to be a part of a change. As we know that ‘change is an essence of life’ so everything in this world changes i.e. to say we are living in a dynamic world and not of static regardless of Bible which is all time relevantly static. Do you think that our society needs a change? If yes, then we have to start with ‘ideational change’ our ideas must change first in order to change the other, which are paralyzing our society. So ideas are instrumental in bringing about a change and the ideas that we have are potent enough to bring about a change in our society. By sharing our ideas and thoughts, we are forming a network. And I hope if such an idealistic intellectual network exists in our society then it will be an asset of our strength for new intellectual exploration. We have to inculcate our newer generation and the generations to come with our new hunt for idealistic intellectualism so that they can have more treasure to explore in their life to come more than the westerners do and even more than the other societies as well.

I would like to end by saying that God has given all of us good brains without partially to rule the world and to take care of everything in it and if we are unable to take up our responsibilities, then others have to take the privilege in which we must appreciate their initiative instead of complaining or playing the blame game.

Disclaimer: The article Fight for Intellectualism by Mc. Vareiyo was published by A Center for Tangkhul Socio-Historical Research and Documentation (CENTSHIRED) Ukhrul at the bi-monthly journal ‘The Legacy Vol 10, July – August 2011’. You can contact to the writer at

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