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A Naga author’s plight
Nava Thakuria
A Naga author’s plight
PHOTO : Pic courtsey: Nava Thakuria

The residents of northeast India, the tribal people in particular, take it as a pride that women are honored and respected here from time immemorial. While the mainland of the country, particularly the northern and central parts of India, is always blamed for continuous aggravation over women, the Northeast gets the image of a solace for women always.

But is it always right? Is there no example of harassment over the lady residents of the region? Moreover, if any incident of persecutions comes to the light, do the civil society groups of the region always raise voices against the crime?
Meet Tiamerenla Monalisa Changkija, a fearless Naga journalist-author, whose latest book is facing the ban from a tribal body of Nagaland. If it is surprising, the shocking part is that no civil society group of the State has publicly protested against the ban and even the government in Kohima remained a mute spectator to the development.
Monalisa’s  book titled ‘Cogitating For A Better Deal’ was launched in Dimapur, the commercial capital of Nagaland, on 25 October  2014.
Noted peace activist Niketu Iralu released the book, published by Dimapur based Heritage Publishing House, describing that ‘it throws light on some of the things we are doing to our society rendering it un-manageable’.
The release of her book got important media space in the region, as Monalisa is recognized as one of the courageous and outspoken authors of the trouble-torn region. 
But soon bad news broke from the land of Naga people, as the editor & proprietor of Nagaland Page newspaper got a summon letter from the Ao Senden on 9 November, accusing her of propagating wrong (negative) information about the tribal body.
Following the summon from Ao Senden (Ao Hoho), which is responsible for the welfare of Ao tribe in Nagaland, Monalisa attended a ‘hearing’ in Ao Senden office at Mokokchung of the State  on 11 November.
The Ao Senden leaders  claimed that they had received lot of complains from the general public about her latest book. They asserted that ‘if this kind of wrong doing, like poison percolates further, it will lead to disaster’ and hence asked Monalisa, who was accompanied by her husband, to clarify their stand.
Among many issues, the primary contradiction was that Monalisa termed Ao Senden as an NGO having ‘no mandate to arbitrate over any intra-village or inter-village disputes’, whereas the leaders of the
tribal body claimed that it is the statutory apex body of Ao tribe.
The meeting concluded without resolving the matter, but the Ao Senden on 17 November declared about the banning of Monalisa’s book. A press statement, signed by Ao Senden president Dr Sangyu Yaden and general
secretary Tsupong Longchar, asserted that the book made ‘false allegations against the sanctity of the statutory apex body of the Ao community’.
“The Ao Senden honours the constitutional provision and status of freedom of press and expression. However, the Ao Senden asserts that the provision cannot be misused and no one is permitted the power and
liberty to write anything without evidence,” added the statement. It may be mentioned that the Cogitating For A Better Deal is only a compilation of six seminar papers which were presented in various national seminars already by the author as she regularly  participate in seminars and symposiums dealing with the Naga issues, women’s perspectives, human rights, media etc.
The Chameli Devi award winner, who herself belongs to the Ao tribe, still maintained that she stands by what she wrote in the book. But Monalisa politely admitted that it was not her intention to hurt anyone’s sentiments through her writings and apologized ‘if that was the case’.
“I have the greatest respect for the Ao Senden, as much as for the Naga Hoho and other tribal Hohos, and that these tribal bodies are good for Naga society….however I stand by what I wrote,” said the brave and outspoken journalist.
Speaking to this writer from Dimapur, Monalisa  also declared that she made no claim to expertise on the issues those are raised in the book adding, “I have merely stated my views and opinions, perceptions and
perspectives, and as the title of the book suggests, I am merely cogitating on the issues ….”
Lately the author has agreed to publish the Ao Senden’s refutations and rebuttals to what she had written, which they found to be incorrect/disagreeable/objectionable, in newspapers and insert
footnotes in the book itself, as a conciliatory gesture. But the Ao Senden’s ban on Monalisa book continues.
Need not to mention that Ao Senden’s action over the book is illegally. In India only the government can ban a book (or a film, a piece of art etc) and no NGO has the authority to do so. More precisely, Ao Senden is not a statutory body protected under Article 371 (A) of the Constitution of India. 
Also the said tribal body does not come under the purview of the Nagaland Village and Tribal Council
Act, 1978 (with amendment in 2011).
But no civil society or media groups of Nagaland have protested against the ban, nonetheless  the Journalists’ Forum Assam had already expressed serious concern over the development. The Assam based
journalist body also urged the Ao Senden leaders to withdraw the restriction over the book as Monalisa was willing to publish Ao Senden’s clarifications.
It also criticized the Nagaland government for its aloofness towards the matter for all these weeks. Expressing shocks that a non-government entity has tried to dictate an author over a book and even called her for the ‘hearing’, the media forum uttered dismay that the elected government in Kohima continues to be a mute spectator to the entire development, even ignoring the security of the author.
[ Mr. Nava Thakuria is a Senior Journalist, Environment Journalist based in Guwahati, writes on various issues to Media across Asia, Secretary of JFA (Journalists’ Forum of Assam ) ]
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