Cornerstones of the Khasi ethos

By Aristotle Lyngdoh

The fight for ILP appears to have encountered a rocky mountain. Many are stupefied by the attitude of the Union Home Minister and the Centre concerning the resolution of the State Legislative Assembly and what will follow next. But the question is whether the ILP is the only solution against influx. Are there no other options to counter the perceived threat that may sweep away our culture, land and tradition which we consider our only identity? On another plane the uniqueness of our cultural identity derived from the rare system of matriliny is also under serious attack from weird ideas of a group of citizens who are guided by the thought that unequal distribution of property and wealth are the sole reason that led many Khasi men astray. What a simplistic logic for coming to conclusion on such a complex matter and without substantial cultural and social research. Whereas the problem of landlessness, poverty premature marriage are other causes that may drive people to any extent. But somehow the bond of kinship that originated from the maternal clan system keeps people intact even in difficult situations.
I feel the time has come for us to revisit the principles and values planted in the thoughts and beliefs of our forefathers. Patricia Mukhim has rightly pointed out the feeling of the present Khasi generation towards others in her article (ST Jan 15, 2021) ’Inner Line Permit as identity marker and placebo and the facts pointed therein cannot be denied. But the ancient Khasis felt that they were different from others simply because of the belief they professed and the practice they followed through certain principles that guided the whole conduct of life and behavior with regards to oneself and towards others in reverence to their Maker (U Blei Nongbuh Nongthaw). The ancient Khasis did not believe they had evolved from apes; neither did they became barbarians eating human flesh nor practice animism, atheism, idolism, etc. Right from the beginning of earthly life, they faithfully believed in God the Creator and practiced certain moral etiquettes to develop integrity and acquire justice. They carefully regarded the law of sacro-sanctity (ka sang ka ma), sincerity and righteousness (Ka im hok leh hok), honouring fellow humans and God (tip briew tip blei) and to work or earn with fairness and honesty (Kamai ia ka hok). These are few of the primary cornerstones where the entire administration and conduct of social and political life was constructed. In fact these ethos are divine in nature and when we choose to practice them, we reflect the characteristics of God the creator here on earth. Only then we will be able to have a good and healthy political system in our society. No matter what faith we belong to, the divine principles remain unchanged. The church is just a body of individual believers and it is the nature and characteristic of the individual members that define the entire entity.
Remember the Khasis have survived in this land for thousands of years not because of warfare skills, but simply because their right to live and survive in the land was empowered by the principles and ethos they believed and practiced sincerely. But today we are more driven by the attitude of ethnic minority and the mindset of individualism rather than the idea of collectivism. ILP may not be real for the time being, and it looks funny for the State’s political leaders to rush off and on to the national capital to persuade the NDA Government to put its seal of approval on the Act. How many more trips and appointments our Chief Minister and his team will make to Delhi and what will be the outcome we don’t know. Whether we agree or not, as a state, our strategy on how to lobby with the Centre for various benefits is very poor. The reason I say so is because for the past many years we the people have failed to understand this logic. Being one of the land-locked states with marginal infrastructures, total dependence on the centre for revenue, we should have developed various approaches where we can lobby better with the Centre in many areas. Besides the strong political relationship with the party in power, we should also have professionals and bureaucrats in various sectors and ministries who can intelligently maneuver policies and decisions that are beneficial to their home state. We need people who are concerned and care about the welfare and affairs of the home state and its people. If local NGOs such as the KSU, HYC and others understand this logic, they should encourage youngsters to focus on these approaches so that the future of our state and the people will be bright. We need a person like Phrang Roy, a bureaucrat-cum- diplomat who is solely instrumental in bringing IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) in our state and the entire North Eastern region.
He is an exemplary figure that our youngsters should be aware of.
Coming back to the security and protection of our cultural identity and the point raised by Toki Blah on the structure of local governance in his article, ‘Dorbars and the need to be relevant’ (ST Feb 10 2021), the other problem with our Dorbar Shnong is the withering image of intellectual relevance. And the problem lies with the fact that we the people have completely chosen to ignore our cultural principles that guide our conduct in our daily social and political life. Therefore, with due respect to everyone, I don’t wonder why we should not reap what we have sown. With the prevailing quality of leadership in local bodies and government, the entire business of developing a state and society will rotate only in areas where there is a possible flow of cash. For instance, important legislation such as the KHAD (Clan Administration) Bill 2018 did not catch the attention of the present MDA government and in particular the elected representatives from Khasi & Jaintia Hills who are very much part and parcel of the clan system. The Bill which was meant to codify the age old clan system, was upheld by the then Governor Tathagatha Roy on the advice of the MDA Government. Such an important legislation which is also constitutionally valid that will ultimately regulate the hidden influx, the frequent misuse of Khasi Clan name by non- Khasis, the recognition of clan sanctity to prevent marriage of consanguinity and other welfare related with clan organization should have been given due importance.
It is sad to see that we are governed by representatives who themselves are still in the learning stage and under the patronage of their financiers. As already mentioned, the ILP may not be real and if the partners in the MDA government are serious about matters that affect the indigenous population, they should right away initiate legislation to safeguard the traditional system of governance and the cultural identity of the community.

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