Halloween party ideas 2015

By Prof Lal Dena*, Manipur University

Though the progress of education was slow in the hill areas of Manipur, a second generation of tribal elite had emerged in tribal society in the 50s after India’s independence in 1947. Growth of modern education and monetary economy went together hand in hand. The Government of India also introduced the scheduled system through which those section of people who are born in a caste-ridden Hindu society are classified as ‘scheduled castes’ and those tribes outside the caste system are included in the category of ‘scheduled tribes’ with a fixed quota of reserved posts for entry into the civil services, legislative assemblies and parliament. Out of these second generation tribal elite, different types of new leadership had emerged. New political leadership cutting across existing state boundaries had demanded right of self-determination and in some extreme cases even secession from India. New professional group who entered into government services through reserved quota began to constitute the top class and cream of the tribal population. At the same time, a host of theology-oriented church leaders and the nouveau riche from among the business communities and contractors formed themselves into a powerful group which cannot be easily reckoned with.


The third generation children of these tribal leaders could now afford to get better opportunities to study even outside the state of Manipur. So in course of time these educated people are firmly placed in government jobs and as a matter of fact, many of them began to enter into All-India services such as civil service, police service, medical service, engineering service, forest service, etc. Again the fourth generation children of these central services holders or nouveau riche, being born and brought up in metropolitan cities, begin to join the best colleges and universities in the country and can even compete with non-tribal candidates in the all-India competitive examinations. Elite marriage is also confined to the families of similar status and thereby building the solid base for a permanent middle class in tribal society. The competition is also no longer between the children of this class and the children of the interior villages in the hills; but is now among the children of the same middle class families themselves. Therefore while the reservation system is acting as a means for bringing up the weaker section to the level of other advanced section of the society, it is at the same time creating a new privileged group within the tribal society


Modern tribal middle class vis-ænbsp;-vis Tribalism or Detribalization:

Surprisingly the tribal middle class in the post-colonial period are caught in two self-contradictory situations. While they are in the process of detribalization, they are at the same time advocates of tribalism. As a matter of fact, tribalism emerges in a situation where tribes and tribesmen are vanishing. This is to say that tribalism flourishes among the detribalized middle class which includes politicians, bureaucrats, teachers, doctors, church leaders, wealthy businessmen and contractors. In order to distinguish themselves from the rest of the indigenous masses, they tend to uncritically imitate modern values and life-styles. More crucial, all of the members of the elite have left their ancestral land to settle in town or cities. In this way, disparity between the elite and rural masses has also become wider than before. They also tend to look with disgust at their established traditional values and customs. What is important is the change in their mental outlook. They think and act as other non-tribal urbanized people do, beginning to impose upon themselves heavy bourgeois values.


In a sense, every professional tribal is detribalized as soon as he leaves his tribal area. He begins to live in different kinds of social groupings, earns his livelihood in a different way and comes under different authorities. But the question is: is he really free from the influences of his tribe? In this connection, Gluckman argues that urbanization does not necessarily disrupt tribal solidarity. It is true that a tribal who lands up in a town or city, becomes isolated from his ethnic environment. But it always happens that even there he continues to live with his fellow tribesmen and this can strengthen his communal or tribal ties(Markovizt: 1970). For instance, different tribal groups settle permanently in different parts of Imphal, Guwahati, Bangaluru, Calcutta, Delhi, Mumbai, etc. Even in those metropolitan cities, they continue to organize themselves on the basis of tribes or communities. Because the spirit of tribe always exists as traditional law on cultural rituals and rites regarding death, intergenerational social relationship, leadership and the positions of elders and youth in society. Ethnic-based political parties or voluntary associations are always the visible operational arms of tribalism. These are again instruments for the development of ethnic nationality. Very often, the leadership of these ethnic-based parties or associations is drawn from the detribalized elite who at the same time form a part of national elite in a wider context. They identify themselves with the state and its government. Yet, as and when occasion demands, the detribalized elitists use these parties or associations to protect or promote their own communal interests. For this reason, they are unable to separate themselves from the wishes of their kin and the demands of belonging to their tribe. In a way, “tribe affects the individual at a very personal level. Tribe is touchable. Tribe is not mysterious. Tribe has a face. Tribe is nurturing. Tribe has tradition and culture. Tribe is the clear answer for many people to the question ‘who am I?”(B.S.Aswal,2012:95).


To a great extend, tribalism is the outcome of conflicts between segments of detribalized elites in a pluralistic society. Because of the very nature of inner contradictions inherent in the class relationship, one ethnic group always tries to dominate or compete with the other tribal group. A ministry or government in which one ethnic group is dominant, is often suspected to favor that ethnic group at the expense of others. In this way, we see both competition and conflict for power and position among rival ethnic groups.


According to Peter P. Ekeh, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, tribalism is the direct result of the dialectical confrontation between the two publics: primordial public and civic public. The primordial public is closely identified with primordial groupings, sentiments and activities. Whereas the civic public is based on civil structure: the military, the civil service, the police, etc. The leaders of the primordial public should not be confused with ethnic leadership. They want to channelize a great share of resources from the civic public to individuals or to his community as they can.


The protagonists of tribalism strengthen the positive value of ethnic loyalty. They also create in many cases, cohesive groups much larger than those that existed in the pre-colonial era. For instance, the concept of Nagaisation is still an expanding and unending process and some tribes who are more akin to the Kuki-Mizo groups linguistically and culturally, are now in the process of being Nagaised. Among the Kuki-Mizo groups also, the search for a more accommodating nomenclature is still on and options opened for them are: Kukiaisation, Zomiasation or Mizoaisation. The Paites, the Vaipheis, the Zous, and Simtes, etc. tend to opt for Zomi. Whereas the Hmars in and outside Mizoram prefer to identify themselves as Mizo by still retaining their identity as Hmar. The Gangtes, as a matter of fact, have recently merged with the Mizos.


In the final analysis, tribalism, good or bad, ensures ethnic loyalty which in its turn, provides for the tribal people a sense of their identity and the values of their culture and tradition. At the same time it also provides a material basis for political and socio-religious separatist movements. Even church organizations are based on tribal lines. The whole tragedy with most of the tribal Christians is that their ethnic loyalty often transcends their commitment to Christianity. The majority of them are tribals first and Christians second. In this way, the process of tribalism and detribalization are dove-tailing in a changing tribal society today.



1. B.S.Aswal, Tribal and Human Rights, Cyber Tech Publications, New Delhi, 2012.

2. Gluckman, ‘Tribalism in Modern British Central Africa’ in I.L. Markovitz’s African Politics and Society, Free Press, New York, 1970.

3. Lal Dena, ‘Detribalized Elite Groups: Their behaviour’ in Souvenir, NEIHA Third Annual Session, Imphal, 1982.

4. P.C.Lloyd, Africa in social change, Penguin Books,1972.

5. Peter E.Ekeh, ‘Colonialism and the two publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement’ in Comparative Studies in Society and History,Vol,17, Camdridge

6. R.M.Ismagilova, Ethnic Problems of the Tropical Africa. Can they be Solved?


About the author:- Prof Dena is a regular contributor and patron of Inpui.com and he has been writing articles shedding lights on many historical as well as contemporary issues. He teaches at Manipur University, India.

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