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Of People, Politics And Religion

Manjeet Baruah

By John Thomas
Routledge, New Delhi, 2016, pp. 242, Rs. 895.00

By Anubha Bhonsle
Speaking Tiger Publications, New Delhi, 2016, pp. 250, Rs. 499.00


Evangelising the Nation by John Thomas is an important study on the making of the Naga nation, and especially its relation with the (Baptist) Church. There are few works which have critically engaged with this relationship. The book covers the period from the late nineteenth century to the last decades of the twentieth century in five chapters. Broadly, there are two inter-related processes which the book deals with. What is equally notable, as the book shows, is that the two processes emerged almost around the same time. One process was the making of the Naga nation, a political process of nationality formation among Nagas that could be concretely traced to the early twentieth century. In this regard, Thomas’s analysis appears to be based on one of the approaches applied in Indian historiography on the Freedom Movement. It is that nationalism need not be identified only in the language of nationalist representation of people but can be located in numerous articulations of nationhood. Thus, articulations of nationhood comprise a broader reality than the language per se of nationalism. For example, it is through this approach that the book bridges the politics of the Naga Club or the Naga National Council (NNC) on the one hand and the Heraka movement on the other. Thus, the analysis shows that the political differences between the NNC and the Heraka movement was primarily a mystification of reality among Nagas rather than the reality itself. It was this mystification which resulted in the two forms of the same (Naga nationalist) ideological premise getting appropriated into two opposing politics in course of time, and in which the Nagas themselves participated. On what caused the mystification, the book suggests that both sides misrecognized the language of nationalism (or identity) as the other’s only self rather than perceiving the common context of nationhood, or the totality of the Naga self, that both in fact emerged from and stood for. The other process that the book deals with is that of the rise of the (Baptist) Church as a powerful political mediator in the collective life of Nagas. The rise of the Church as one of the institutional mechanisms of Naga society could be traced to the early twentieth century. What was remarkable, as the book shows, was that this institutionalization of life became deep rooted. This was reflected in the fact that since the 1950s, when the ...

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