Publisher: Heritage Publishing House

Author: Monalisa Changkija

Published/Edition: 2014

Type: Naga society

ISBN: 978-93-80500-61-4

Book Reviews for Cogitating for a Deal by Monalisa Changkija, retrieved from

By Dr. Maongsangba, Associate Professor, Deptt of Political Science, Dimapur Government College

‘Cogitate’ was a foreign word to me till I come across the Book ‘Cogitating For A Better Deal’ written by Monalisa Changkija. Though Book review is not my forte, I took up the challenge to read the Book as I rate the author as a bold, fearless and no-nonsense writer and a Journalist of high standing. Having explored the new word, I ventured to go through the book and found the writer has dissected the social, political and economic condition of us Nagas with a degree of accuracy. If I may be allowed to use a medical lexicon, I will call it a ‘CT Scan’ got it done. Now, what is required is the medication, which as per the CT scan report suggests that ailment is gangrene in nature that stems from various factors over a period of time.

For instance, ‘Gun has proved ineffective’ says the author. This is one area in which we all need to ponder collectively and deploy a team of specialist to help find alternative method of recovery. The lopsided development, the emergence of bureaucratic class in the pattern of ‘Brown Sahib”, imperative to scrape a lawless law-AFSPA 1958 and her skepticism on Look East policy and how to reconcile protectionism & globalization are some areas the author highlighted that calls for serious reflections and dialogues.

Classless society and purest form of democracy are two values, which we Nagas claimed to have practiced since the olden days and romanticize these values to this day. However, the author debunks this concept and went on to depict class distinction in early Naga society, which was reflected through slave ownership, feasts of merit and attires for the rich man and woman. Researchers would do well to reflect and focus on this area and educate the succeeding generation by depicting accurate and correct history of our people.

There can be no farther from the truth when she says that “the political class and the economic elite in Naga society are con-joined twins” and many forces are at play to protect these interests. And more importantly, economics was not the basis of Naga movement but now seems to be the sole criterion also merit post mortem by all the stakeholders of this movement. In so far as the 33% women reservation in urban elected body is concerned, the author argues and points out that Municipal Councils, etc are constitutional bodies and ought not to come within the ambit of traditional & customary law. This aspect needs further discourse among the policy makers and the intellectuals as this vital area, as pointed out by the author, should not be viewed from the prism of customary law and traditional practices.

The article on Naga marriage makes interesting reading. Notwithstanding a patriarchal system the status of women in modern Naga society have made a big leap forward in all areas of development including their status vis-à-vis their husbands compared to one of the status of man in matriarchal society such as Khasis and Garos. This article, I’m sure will generate a lively discussion and debate.

The narrative of conflict in Changki village, however, needs further in-depth study inasmuch as in this conflict situation, gross human right violation is being perpetuated under the garb of customary law and traditional practices. It would be in the fitness of things to hear out those unfortunate victims of the conflict highlighted in the article. Alistair Cooke, a well known Journalist says, “When I became a journalist I was taught that there were two sides to every story. But I find that there are four or five sides to every story”. And the assertion that Ao Senden is a mere NGO calls for further examination as Senden though not in the mould of a traditional arbiter rooted in typical Ao-Naga tradition, yet it has assumed certain amount of power to arbitrate in matter related to Ao-Naga customary law and practices as evident in this conflict, which the author may not be aware of the sequence of events.

All in all, the articles presented are thought provoking, insightful and debatable with potential to ruffle feathers of the high and the mighty, the male chauvinist and the votary of status quo, who are milking left and right in the contemporary social, economic and political settings.



 Review by Dr. P S Lorin, Principal, Tetso College, Sovima, Dimapur, Nagaland  

Monalisa Changkija’s Cogitating for a Better Deal is a thought provoking journalistic piece of writing that explores pertinent issues in Naga society. Her introductory essay traces the complex history of the Naga conflict from the past till the present day longing for peace. In exploring the political history of the Nagas, the notion of identity is also touched upon as one that is being constantly reconfigured by the modern thinking Naga. Real conflict situations are highlighted to understand the past and present of Naga history, which creates a greater challenge for civil society to critically analyse such conflict ridden situations.  

Monalisa’s perception as she claims are in tune with general perceptions that the British Raj belittled the Naga  case for self rule and left it to the mercy of Indian Government. She brings forth a debatable question for the readers on “how to best safeguard Nagas’ identity and their right to self-determination”. Complete independence or sharing a common destiny with independent India are suggested as a solution to the Naga problem, at the same time one is left to wonder whether that would pose limitations on the  diverse opinions of the Nagas.

Overall, Monalisa Changkija’s writing challenges the reader to ponder upon solutions that could bring about a better society, citing problems such as individualism and passive submission to norms. Progressive thinking is the direction, I believe, towards which Monalisa Changkija attempts to steer the mind of the reader. This message is reiterated in her concluding essay where she explores the position of the female Naga as being traditionally sidelined, either intentionally or unintentionally, and that it, surprisingly, continues to prevail in modern times despite the female having broken through most of the traditional barriers of the past.

While all readers may not agree to every single opinion expressed in her essays, Changkija’s writing challenges the reader to reflect and ponder on comments and insights drawn from a detailed reading of history and reports that span the time of post-colonial India till date. Her writing comes across as sincere, challenging and innovative and although opinions come fast and strong, she is able to maintain a fine balance with her unique style of writing that also provides room for the reader to draw their own conclusions.



Review by: Eniro Murry, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Patkai Christian College (Autonomous), Dimapur, Nagaland

 A vibrant multi-dimensional approach on rational grounds of analysis and constructive debate to the multi-faceted issues confronting the Naga society at large is indeed invaluable a contribution by Monalisa Changkija. If I may say so, the author by profession a journalist, an accomplished poet, a creative writer on varied social issues and academically inclined a scholar has unequivocally echoed the aura in her Cogitating For A Better Deal. The book contains six chapters in the form of papers presented by her on various occasions both at the state and national level.

It is interesting to note the manner on how the author has compiled those articles in one book that touches the crucial aspects pertaining especially to the Naga society, past and present. At the onset it draws our attention on the day-to-day harsh realities of tribal life being unable to reconcile with the numerous complexities of civil society and the so-called underground and overground on the one hand and the Union Government the other. The Nagas, moreover, seem to be sandwiched in between the forces of tradition and modernity. At such a juncture revisiting the unrefined Naga civil society is well sounded. In Cogitating, the author raised series of rhetorical questions that indeed reflects the actual trajectory of the Naga society and in this regard sufficient assertion for a better deal is convincingly rendered. The latter phase of the book that covers the unique identity of the Northeast, advocating people-centric journalism and yet another eye opener on Naga marriage concerning the position and role of Naga women will obviously captivate the readers.

The valor of the author expressed vividly deserves nothing short of admiration. The book certainly has earned a suitable place for further discourse on Naga society.



Kekhrie Yhome, Assistant Professor, University of Delhi

‘Cogitating’- a word I have never heard before, but immediately a Latin suspect from the famous Cartesian “Cogito” - must be something to do with thinking!

The resources of collective issues that confront a young society today are highly mismanaged, under-discussed, and often lacking perspective. Monalisa Changkija’s Cogitating is a collection of essays that largely challenge the way we think about Naga society today. It is an assemblage of unpolished and raw social data - underlining the emergent urgency for sensitiveness toward redefining and fine-tuning a civil Naga society.

In auditing contemporary social conditions and institutions, Monalisa is also wary about the disruption of the “tribal principle that the collective is greater than the individual.” By charting comparisons between present situations and the traditional, she illustrates whether it is a case of old wine in new bottle, given the continuity of parochial social values. The redundancies of transitory realities are therein central to her focus. These concerns are magnified through the question of “marriage” in Naga society, then and now, or the emergent “civil society,” and prevalent conflict situations, where Monalisa highlights the need to address the “quality of village leadership,” the reckless mushrooming of “power centres” in civil organisations, and the complexities of equal opportunities.

 Being an activist journalist and creative writer, the author’s understanding of social psyche is typically informed through grounded examples and instances, and expressed with enriching boldness. As somebody who has taken to task the narrative madness of a society historically obsessed with the “importance to politics,” a re-thinking of how perceptions are framed and how public debates are channelised, is avowed in Monalisa’s frame on how the “power of the idea” subsist - which is ultimately to “mould a society, indeed a nation.” 



 Review by Father Abraham, Principal, St. Joseph’s College

Monalisa Chankija has a different style of writing on issues that concern the Nagas and Naga society. For instance, Naga history is told in a style very different from the familiar template-like format that many Naga writers have followed so far. Her writing is dense, but the issues she discusses are every-day realities. As a journalist, her insights and commentaries on issues such as the conflict in the Naga society, Northeast outside the print media, challenges for new vistas in journalism concerning the Northeast, and the complexities of Nagas today are engaging. Perhaps, the most contentious article for readers that can engender a lively discussion is the one on Naga marriage. Whether one agrees with her analysis or not, Monalisa Chankija’s articles are a step in the right direction for a thinking Naga society.

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