Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Political Science


Gordon Means




An Examination of the Modernization Process and Ethnic Mobilization among the Nagas of Northeastern India.

An important feature of politics in the hills of northeast India is the confrontation between tradition and modernity. Many relatively isolated groups of people have come into contact with powerful external forces of change, and have undergone fundamental social transformation. A key element in this process is the political mobilization of previously isolated groups, and the creation of new sources of friction between them. The aim of this thesis is:

(i) to examine the formation of an ethnic group known as the 'Nagas' from among the ill-defined and constantly warring linguistic and cultural groups which inhabited the Patkoi range of mountains during the nineteenth century, and,
(ii) to examine the sources and forms of ethnic cohesion and conflict. The central theme employed in the development of the analysis is

the process of social change. Various patterns and agents in the process are examined from a historical perspective, and the British colonial administration; the Protestant church; neighbouring ethnic groups; trade contacts; and foreign armies; is assessed in the extent to which they contribute to social change, and affect the formation of political orientations. The institutions, structures and organizations that help to maintain ethnic boundaries are investigated, and consideration is given to the agents of change, the so-called "new elite".

The thesis is divided into six chapters. The first chapter focuses upon a discussion of approaches to the questions of modernization and ethnicity, to establish the theoretical basis for the study.

A brief overview of traditional Naga society is presented in the second chapter with special emphasis given to an explanation of traditional socialization patterns.

Chapter three outlines the development of the early British relations with the Nagas, the gradual extension of British administration over the Naga Hills and, the reactions of Nagas to colonial administration. The development of opposition to British rule reveals the central role played by the village of Khonoma.

The fourth chapter seeks to identify the primary factors inducing social change in the pre-1967 period; 'These include, the impact of the British administration, the spread of Christianity, social conflict generated within Naga villages, the emergence of new Naga elites, and the impact of the Second World War.

The final two chapters focus on the post-war politics, with special emphasis given to the development of ethnic identities as a basis for political mobilization. The Naga National Council, demands secession from India and provide the importance of new organizational and propaganda methods used by the elite in crystallizing and maintaining ethnic boundaries.

Divisions within the elite, development of factionalism, peace politics, stop-go game with the Indian government. The account reveals how the Naga National Council became the vehicle for articulating Naga political demands, including the demand for secession from India. In the political struggle with Indian authorities Naga elites utilized new techniques to crystallize ethnic boundaries. As the level of violence subsides, arising from various peace initiatives and the alternate policies of the Indian Government, internal political divisions within Naga society became manifest in elite factionalism. Ethnic identity is viewed as being derived in large measure from the political process with the salience of ethnicity being a function of the issues and cleavages of political struggle.

McMaster University Library

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."