There is no denying that man has ascended the Everest of civilization- the highest of development in almost all aspects of human existence- in the field of politics, religion, education, literature and culture and science and technology. The modern man has advance so far that he no longer spoils his valuable time in search of divinity realizing the futility of chasing the mirage of that kind and the fruitfulness of toil that exploits the earthly hidden power of the living universe for the common welfare. Down the history, we have witnessed a gradual social transformation ultimately resulting in a hectic change of mans attitude towards the universe and his place in it. Conclusively it can be said that man has been realistic and materialistic in dealing with nature as well as his fellow beings as we have seen in the developed countries of the world. However, we should never be mistaken that only the material development can bring about the change of mans way of thinking in those parts of the globe, but rather it is other way round. The most remarkable aspects of the change of mans attitude towards life and the world is that he has freed himself from the demonic clutch of superstitions and his minds eye can see the truth, and the result of which is that whatever man achieves is due not to the blessings of the Gods but the outcome of his own efforts. However this new dawn of scientific enlightenment has covered some certain parts of the globe only, not all over. To mention the blessed areas, the countries of the Europe, North America the eastern part of Asia and the Oceania have witnessed that dawn of scientific spirit side by side with material advancement while the rest is still hobbled with age old superstitious beliefs, burden with weakness for easy money instead of earning by hard work and especially weakened with inability to unite as a one nation and finally maiden with greed and vaulting ambition for political power to enhance individual social and as well as economic status.
The cursed side of the human world, still far beyond the touch of the divine light of renaissance in human civilization, is unfortunately inhabited by the people of our own kind. It is not a matter of great wonder that we have to point our fingers not to any other than to ourselves. So my point of view is quite clear that what I mean to say is the Mising community. In this short essay and honest but an open attempt has been made to touch only upon the three cancerous ills of the community which not only stands as distinct evidence of the fact that it has not coped up with the blessed sections of humanity, but deters the all round progress of the society with the instinct for reverting back to barbarism of the time before the dawn of human civilization.
The language; the tongue cancer
Not to exaggerate, I have all the moral courage to assert that the Mising language is without any doubt, one of the most logical, the clearest, richest and softest languages of the world that are spoken by human beings. But the irony is that though spoken by a large living population, it has not been constitutionally recognized unlike the sister language “Bodo” which has already attained the height of development in all aspects. So, Bodo has made it’s safe birth in the eight schedule of the constitution of India and become as subject of study upto University level and now an associate official language of the state of Assam. But the easy question with no answer, “what can we speak about the Mising language?” is a burning question of the time, to which every Mising seems to be deaf and blind. We have a rally of intellectuals working in series of pompus convention celebrated at a certain interval of time at the cost of large amount of public money and valuable time and energy of the common people, with no yield to reap by the community. If the language cannot make it’s journey through beyond the boundary line of the primary schools, if no literature of high standard ever appears, if the language itself receives no recognition officially, can it be a language at all? Certainly not. The large and rich word stock co-existing with the colourful social life and large population can inspire the Mising language to be highly well organized living language with a rich literature. Despite its scope and prospects it still remains dumb with a cancerous disease in it’s tongue. If a person is unable to express in words how can he think of sharing his hopes and fears with his fellow beings? Language is the only medium in which man relays his experience to his neighbours in form of written literature and thereby propagates not only new ideas but the spirit of unity too. Another burning question arises- “How many news papers and periodicals in the language do we have at this point of time?” A language without literary culture must be termed as a spiritually dumb language. A nation without a written language and literature even cannot see itself as it is universally acknowledged that literature is the mirror of a nation, a mirror in which the real looks of the nation is distinctly reflected. But tragically, do we have such a mirror? Even if we do have any, it is not polished, so not reflective one. For all this poor state of affairs regarding our language and literature, who can we find fault with? Obviously those who are steering the wheel of the whole affairs in the names of some important organizations like the Mising Agom Ke̒bang, TMPK and few more others of which the former two are supposed to be the unquestioned guardians of the community must be held responsible. With regard to the most outstanding aspects of the language, namely adoption of all acceptable and workable script, official recognition and inclusion in the eight schedules of the constitution and further, introduction in educational curriculum as a subject of study from the primary to the university level are doubtlessly to be taken care of by the social bodies mentioned above. In this regard the common people have practically no say and so far the apex body of the language has single-handedly dealing with those matters and the no remarkable interference from any quarter is noticed as such. But regretfully, the Roman script for the language has not won the hearts of the lesser practitioners of the missing literature due mainly perhaps to the alienness of it and some technical setbacks inherent in it and that is why prolific and standard authors are not yet born. Besides disappearance of the language even from its place of birth within a very short time after it was introduced it’s alarming. Nobody knows what occasion the sudden premature death of the language as a subject of study in the formal academic world. Even the Ke̒bangs seem not only blind to but dumb about this hard rending state of the language.
I hope everybody would unanimously admit that the machine has been now a days propelled by a rally of self styled so called, Pandits whose knowledge of language is not trustworthy in any count and whose usurpation of the driver’s sheet has compelled the really enlightened personalities to opt out of the whole business and take self exile from the realm of the language and the literature of the community. However, it is honestly advisable that the young stars should not try to take the upper hand in the matters that involve years efforts and experience gathered through perseverance and age. The best possible job they are supposed to do is to observed the activities of the elders and learn and then wait till their natural turn comes if the community is expected to recover early from the cancerous ill in its tongue.
The excessive greed for political power- the brain cancer
The present political scenario in the Mising society is perhaps the most alarming and ominous symptom of the future state of the community, even far worse than the state of affairs prevalent now amongst the Bodos, Karbis, Nagas and many others. In support of this view point of mind I would like to say that the hard core terrorist of the communities have their definite goals to achieved not for individual benefits, but for upliftment and all round development of their own communities and for which they do not hesitate to shed their blood or cause others to do so, whom they considered their enemies to do the same in any way, while the totally reverse phenomena are noticed among the Misings. We must confessed shamelessly that by nature the Misings are not warrior people, evidence of which is in the fact that no terrorist organization, no diplomatic pressure group and even no democratically agitating group do exist in the Mising society. The Nagas have raised guns to achieve sovereignty, the Karbis to achieve autonomous statehood, the Bodos full statehood, but what are the Misings doing for without arms in hand and without audible voice in mouth? It will certainly sound humorous to say that we are not demanding nor fighting even not asking for but simply expecting the six schedule of the constitution to creep in through the back door. We are not at all aware of the hard fact that whatever we have so far achieved is the proof that somebody has actually deceived us. The name of autonomy may sound much optimistic but the common people must have sensed that it is not for the whole community. It is seen to be an official permission for feasting and feasting all over and the residue is to be converted to luxurious source of standardizing for a limited few in front of the hypnotized eyes of the innocent common people.
The political autonomy and rise in standard of living though for a few, are no doubt great achievements in the sense that the people of present world are dying for them. However, it is a good thinking that the Misings have achieved it without shedding a single drop of blood. But rather as a free gift from the state government though theoretically or exclusively for a limited few who seem to have used it to enhance their standard of living and social status. They have gone so far that news from elsewhere spreads from time to time that some powerful leaders have threaten the innocent people and raised donations and sometimes even physically and mentally tortured those who oppose them. It seems those power mongers grasp power not in legal way though maintaining all formalities of democratic election. Distinctly they do not have the popular support and leave no stone unturned to dupe the innocent and threaten the conscious ones who oppose them, in order to win the majority votes. So far as my practical knowledge of conducting polling activities is concerned, they mostly harass the polling personnels in different ways to indulge in rigging votes. So, most of the votes cast in favour of them actually come through unfair means. In this regard, the security measure taken by the election commission is so poor and weak that the power hunters face not the least hindrance in their criminal acts during the polling. In some cases even the security personnels are easily bribed and made to join hands with the culprits and at last the polling officers have no alternative to giving way to the will of the culprits. So, it remains open secret that the elections of present day time are not free and fair but the more striking aspects of the whole affairs is that the people who have caught the steering wheel of political administration are the youngsters without practical knowledge and experience of life and who have been affected by the brain cancer of power greed. The political power won by them turns out to be Alladin’s magic lamp which changes their lives overnights in such a way that the youths of yesterday waiting for line buses or taxis, ride on motor bikes of high cost today and will travel in luxurious cars tomorrow. Further, the youths who fed on public donation yesterday live in gorgeous buildings today and whose forefathers earn livings as share croppers on others land are rich land owners now. In this way they are snared in the power cobweb and enslaved by all source of evil spirit and remain confine within their respective pandamoniums in form of panchayats. When step out to the great pasture they find no grass to graze totally rejected not to be any luminous stars unlike their counterparts in the other communities. They are easily tamed like hungry barking pets with little morsel of the leftover of food eaten by their masters. The super masters from Dispur throw out some amount of morsels to the hungry pets barking elsewhere in order that they never unite but remain divided so that they can be ruled. Perhaps that is why almost all the aboriginal tribes and communities have been conferred with autonomy which is nothing more than giving freedom to a flock of hungry pets to eat the morsels of the leftover of food thrown at them. However, the power riders of the Mising communities of today seem to be well satisfied with what they have achieved so far and to have remained loyal to the super masters. In this situation, this arrangement looks sound and suitable of course, in the short run but it is ruinous to the community in the long run.
Apart from all these, the seamiest side of political life of the Misings is that they have no tradition and convention of “hero worship”. No Mising person can be an all revered leader nor recognizes any. Most probably, that is why the history is mute about political activities of the entire community and about the existence of kings or queens in their folklores. So, this is clear, so long as the brain cancer of the community affected by the “power virus” is cured by kenneling the hungry pets who have taken over the charge of the “power kitchen” it will soon become epidemic making the whole community starve.
The superstitious beliefs- the heart or lung cancer
Human feelings and scientific attitude are not only the science of civilization of a people but also the science of sound health and life process of social existence of them. When the heart or lung of a person is affected by serious diseases like cancer certainly he loses his natural capacity to inhale fresh air and exhale the carbon di oxide and the whole body would be affected. The lungs of the social life of the Misings have been very critically affected harmful gas like superstitious belief and they have been filled with that gas in such a way that the social being is in no position to breed in fresh air like human feelings and scientific attitude. So, the Misings seem to have loss the power to feel the humanly things like love and compassion for their fellow beings. Already affected by the harmful thoughts and beliefs the Misings are also possessed by the most terrifying evil spirit- jealousy. Out of jealousy in most cases some people forcefully accuse the rather innocent and meek neighbours of indulging in and practicing witchery. The number of cases of witchery is numerous in the Mising society. It has become a common phenomenon in social life of the community. Now and then, the rumours spread that some men or women have acquired the super natural power to tell people’s fortune who declare themselves to be some particular gods or goddesses. People from different places visit those gods or goddess incarnate to know their fortune. The incarnation of such divine man or woman provides the golden opportunity to some jealous and cruel people to materialized their evil designs upon those who are too poor and weak to defend themselves and those who are considered to be their foes only because they have outshined them in some way or other. Only on suspicion, those unfortunate fellows are held responsible for illness and death of some persons around their neighbourhood. In three ways, the so called witches are caught. The first way is by simply believing in rumours already spread out. Secondly, by secretly observing the movements and activities of accused. In this process, if the accused are found in an odd time or at an odd place they are straight away held involved in witchery. Thirdly, the accused are caught on the words spelled by the so called gods or goddess incarnate.
We have so far a great number of cases of killings of suspected witches all over the state. The cases of witchery are seen among the tribal communities, which is clear proof that they are not yet enlightened by the divine light of civilization. The striking fact about witchery is that most of the highly educated person belief and join hands in mission against the suspected witches instead of doing away with the superstitious belief in witchery. Even more distressing thing is that though the law never recognizes the existence of witches and such super natural power, the civil and police administration play a very passive role in controlling it. In most cases these authorities seen to support the miscreants against the innocent accused by remaining silent and uninvolved. In the constant hunt for the “killer witches”, not only the innocent suffer and jealous people materialized their revenge upon their self made foes but a number of ill willed people are encouraged to shatter the god gifted essence of humanism spreading distrust, terror and a chaotic atmosphere amongst the common people. In former times, suspected accused were punished physically and made to drink a kind of mixture of human urine and excrements believing that it would make the mantras, the black incantation of the witches ineffective and removed from their memory. But now a days the process of witch hunt has changed. It is seen that the most powerful and influential and highly educated people of a particular village first form a strong committee which makes communication with the so called gods or goddesses incarnate and threatened those innocent persons whom they have already suspected to be witches and compel them to surrender and appear before the god or goddess. An endless current of mass exodus flows either to have blessings of the so called divine person or to witness the witches who are going to be punished as the divine person spells. As soon as the captive appears before the god or goddess, they are asked to confess their guilties or offences forcefully. If any accused refuses to admit his being a witch, the divine man puts rice purified and made divine with special incantation and asked the accused crossed over it. Already weakened and terrified morally, the innocent accused dare not cross over the rice. Even if any accused does it, he is compelled to walk upon burning embers of fire to prove his innocent which is not possible for a living man to do. And that is all that the accused is proved to be a witch without the least doubt. The next step is the start of imposing corporal punishment upon the witches. Every eye witness of the whole procedure would admit that it is far more than inhuman. Immediately after the offence of the accused is proved, they are made to lie in a mercy place and remain there day and night for several days bearing the attack of blood sucking insects like leaches. And when the god feels that the punishment is enough, the accused are brought out from the place of punishment and made to undertake that he would no longer dare to practice witchery and fed some short of anti-dose so that the black incantation of the witches become not only ineffective but forgotten too forever. And the innocent sufferers have to accept all the humiliation as their destiny and in most cases remain social outcasts.
The cases of witchery and the resultant physical torture and even numerous murders are very frequent and common in the tribal and adivasi societies, especially in Mising society. It seems from all quarters support for the anti-witchery mission flood the environment while some innocent people at stake in that flood of suspicion and cruelty meted out to them. No signal for rescue of the innocent sufferers is noticed anywhere except some few weak casual voices heard only to die down before their content is understood and disappeared from the memory of the once whose voices they are.
If this state of affairs continue to exist without any kind of resistance for few more decades, it can be easily predicted that there would be utter anarchy and wide spread genocide all around and ultimately the whole tribal society would revert to the barbaric state of human existence shattering all fortification for mankind provided by the magic of science modified by humanity. So, I would like to appeal to all conscious people to start a mission to resist the onslaught of ignorance and superstition using our so far achieved power of scientific knowledge and blessings of divinity bestowed upon humanity both of which can only raised human beings to the level of the gods in heaven. In but in this regard one thing is clear enough that not a single tribal or Adivasi person educated or uneducated can overcome the fear of the unreal, the hindrance pose by the superstitious believe. Already affected by several cancerous diseases beyond cure, the Mising community must be rescued by some godsend from the enlightened and blessed community of mankind. However, a ray of hope seems to have dawn in the very recent past (after the draft of this piece of writing was completed) witchery the police ultimately arrested some of the so called fake gods and goddesses in some villages in the river island of Majuli.
In these dire hours of hopelessness for the Misings, what as a member of the community I can possibly do is that I can pray to the Omnipotent that He may be cruel to those who have already assume the Devils postures spreading all short of evils in the society and be kind and generous to the upcoming fresh generations and keep them immune from the almost hereditary diseases mentioned above! And so be it!
The writer is a subject teacher at Jonai Higher Secondary School, Jonai, Dhemaji, Assam. This article originally appeared in Majorbari Yalo, a souvenir published on the occasion of Po:rag festival in 2014 in Disangmukh, Sivasagar. This is published with permission from the concerned author and editor. Views are personal.