Headhunting is a practice of beheading, displaying, and in some cases preserving human heads for various reasons. The practice of headhunting originated in some cultures from a belief in the existence of a more or less material soul existing in the head. The headhunter sought, through decapitation of his enemies, to transfer this soul matter to himself and his community. Headhunting is thus sometimes found with certain forms of cannibalism as well as with human sacrifice.
The practice of headhunting was prevalent not only among the various tribes of the Nagas but other countries like China, Nigeria, Nuristan, Myanmar, Borneo, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Micronesia, Melanesia, New Zealand etc. It has been, therefore, practiced worldwide. ‘It has been associated (1) with ideas regarding the head as the seat of the soul; (2) with some forms of cannibalism where the body or part of the body is consumed in order to transfer to the eater the soul matter of the victim; (3) with phallic cults and fertility rites intended to imbue the soils with productivity; and (4) with power, prestige, fame and glory. In short it is associated with mortification of the rival, ritual violence, cosmological balance, and the displaying of manhood, cannibalism, and prestige.
The miscellaneous tribes of Nagas were a home to many headhunting people. The entire life of the Nagas revolved around headhunting. It was not only the cause and effect of war; it was also the inscription for the Naga works of art. The primary purpose and function of the practice of headhunting was a part of the process of structuring, reinforcing, and defending hierarchical relationships between tribes, communities and individuals through fighting for dominance, glory and prestige. Inter-village wars, culminating in the taking of the enemies’ heads, were part and parcel of every day life among the Nagas.
Regardless of the arrival of Christianity into the soil of the Naga and the Nagas calling Nagaland a Christian State, the age-old practice of headhunting still carries on in our State. But it has taken the most complex form with the advance of modern sophisticated means and scientific techniques. Gone are the days when our great grandfathers took part in active headhunting for countless reasons. Now we feel proud that such practices do not exist any more in our social fabric.
But still it is very much in our veins and blood. Headhunting is seen very much in our day to day social conflicts. A variety of conflicts existing in our societies is nothing but the residual of the past practice of headhunting, which is now crystallized in various forms of factional clashes. Headhunting continues but the automatic Kalashnikovs and firepower have replaced daos and spears. These weapons or Kalashnikovs are much more powerful in taking away ‘heads’ than traditional doas. These clashes are a sign of lack of solidarity and integration. Obviously, all the Nagas are not aware of the new factional headhunting.
Urbanization and scientific technology have furthered headhunting in the new complex form of factional group clashes and conflicts in our society. In order to reinforce its identity each group is fighting for its preeminence and domination. Each one is fighting for power and supremacy creating havoc in the state of Nagaland. What else can we call these clashes and conflicts in our social fabric except a new form of headhunting?
In the old form of headhunting, innocent women and children were not spared, nor does today’s neo-headhunting. The innocent are the worst victims from primordial time. We ruin ourselves by killing our innocent brothers and sisters. Are we, you and I, aware of it?
Tribalism is the feeling of superiority of one tribe over the other tribes. This superiority complex leads to enmity between persons or groups. Headhunting could be closely connected with the tribalism. Tribalism breeds clashes and conflicts, so does the practice of headhunting. Tribalism is an intricate form of headhunting where effort is made to crush the spirit of other tribes. This tribalism is becoming more and more complex in our state. Nepotism is a new form of tribalism, which is very much prevalent in our society. Favouritism, by acting of kindness to one’s own kindred or tribe or party, breeds enmity between the pubic and the government, the politicians and the bureaucrats.
Looking at our own college, we see and experience tribalism practiced in every activity. A capable person, who could lead the group ably but belonging to a minority tribe, is not give an opportunity to do so due to the practice of tribalism. We forget to stand on moral ground and also forget to use our reasoning power. We become slaves of our feelings and emotions. Tribalism has not changed with Christianity but has taken a new form that co-exists with Naga Christianity. Our religion becomes secondary when there is an ethnic conflict or clash. We are all enslaved by this tribalism. Why don’t we learn from our own history? Why don’t we learn from others? For instance, by looking at the ethnic conflicts between the two tribes Tutsi and Hutu in Africa, we see clearly that the Christians themselves were found killing each other ruthlessly and cruelly. If the Nagas do not learn from history, the ethnic conflicts or clashes between various groups could grow to be worse than those between the Tutsi and Hutu.
Fortunately we have our common enemy “Indian,” under whom we are fighting for freedom, without whom the spirit of tribalism and factionalism or of ‘headhunting’ that is very much present in our blood would have burst, creating chaos in our State. We claim to be a Christian State and take pride in “Nagaland for Christ”. But we are now caught up in the crossfire, in the neo headhunting web which is extremely difficult to give up. But, if we all dare together and collectively voice our concerns, perhaps we can stop this menace of neo-headhunting which is eating away our society. But who will bell the cat? One group clashes with the other creating havoc in our state. Can’t Nagaland be the epitome of tribes, cultures, dialects/ languages of the world- a state that celebrates diversity instead of allowing factionalism and tribalism to breed conflicts and clashes? Can the rainbow of Naga culture continue to shine in the Milky Way? When will the honey of peace and reconciliation reign in our land vanquishing the conflicts, factional clashes, brutality and displacement of the people for good? The choice is ours. Our tomorrow depends on what we decide to do today. Let us choose peace, progress and prosperity. Let go of ‘headhunting’ and start hunting for peace and unity. What do you say?
“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war that is nothing neither sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason,” says Ernest Hemingway.