Introducing the Northeast Association Jaipur (NEAJ)

Introducing the Northeast Association Jaipur (NEAJ)

- Haulianlal Guite, IAS
Secretary, Jaipur Development Authority

Far away from home, in this city of Jaipur, was recently founded the Northeast Association Jaipur (NEAJ), on the 30th of November, 2017. The organization is meant to service the people of Northeast who are living in Jaipur and nearabouts. It is a non-political and a non-religious voluntary association for humanitarian, charitable causes. It welcomes everyone from Northeast regardless of ethnicity, place of origin, caste, creed, colour, gender or profession.

The principal objectives of the Association are these:
- to aid and assist needy persons of North-East Indian origin living in and around Jaipur, in times of severe distress, personal calamities, miscarriage of justice, and others;
- to promote a feeling of oneness and brotherhood among all Northeasterners by celebrating and showcasing our composite cultural heritage in various festivals, functions, shows, seminars and other events; and
- to build solidarity with the native people of Jaipur, through creating and strengthening institutional bonds with state authorities, and others.

It is with great humility and gratitude that I accepted their leadership’s invitation to officiate the inaugural function. And I am deeply impressed by the passion and dedication they show. For most of them are young people in their twenties, with jobs in the private sector, and families so far away. Most do not even have that much time to spare for anything other than their work. And yet, somehow, despite their financial and societal constraints, despite still lacking the numbers, they have this common goal of founding an association meant to address shared concerns and bring our varied communities together. What can be more impressive than that!

But what impresses me more than anything else, is the uniqueness of this organization. As we know, all the major cities across India now have dozens of associations and organizations catering to specific tribes and ethnicities. These organizations address the interests and concerns of specific tribes, without much regard for the concerns of other tribes. There are perhaps hundreds of such organizations in Delhi, Kolkatta, Chennai, Mumbai, Bangalore, and elsewhere. Alas, for better or worse, they appear to be nothing but extensions of the ethnic-based organizations back home, and the religious surrogates for the churches to which the leadership and the majority of the members, belong.

What distinguishes NEAJ from all these, is that it is explicitly inclusive in terms of ethnicity and religion. That is, it is built into the organization’s constitution that, come what may, the Northeast Association shall not discriminate for or against anyone on the basis of ethnicity or religion; nor shall it do anything that hurts ethnic or religious sentiments. What this means is simple: NEAJ is a non-political, non-religious organization.

But what does it mean to be non-political and non-religious?

To be “non-political” means, simply, political impartiality. A non-political organization is bounded by the following 3 basic principles:

1. None of the office bearers shall be elected or selected on the basis of tribe, race, colour, ethnicity or state of origin, nor shall any appeal be made along these lines; therefore, the offices of the President, Secretary, Treasurer and Programmer, among others, will be rotated among the various ethnic groups, so that no two persons of the same ethnicity serves in the same tenure simultaneously; and that the successor of these office bearers shall always be from another ethnicity (that is, if the current President is from x community for example, the next President will be from any other community but not from x);

2. No office bearer shall, in their official capacity, especially in functions organized by NEAJ, make any statement or publish any material that can hurt the sentiments of any ethnic group originating in the Northeast; and no office bearer shall, in their official capacity, and in any function organized by NEAJ, make any political statement or publish any political material that is in support of a political party and against another;

3. No office bearer shall engage in any political campaigning or make any political representation, or be a candidate thereof, on behalf of or for any political party, within anywhere in Rajasthan, for the duration of their tenure.

These principles are encoded in the genetic makeup of NEAJ. This is so to ensure that the organization does not splinter along ethnic lines. For when our numbers increase, and the numbers become sufficient to form smaller groupings, there is a constant tendency for vested interested parties to tear it apart. If NEAJ can follow these principles in spirit and in letter, then it shall remain pan-ethnic, inclusive of all, indeed.

And what does it mean to be “non-religious”? A secular organization, again, exemplifies these 5 principles:

1. No religious activity (religious sermons, hymns and psalms, prayers, and other religious dedications, etc) of any kind, of any religion (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, atheists, or any other) shall be allowed in any of its functions, seminars, fests, feasts or celebrations;

2. There shall be no funding of religious activities or religious institutions by NEAJ, nor shall NEAJ receive any funding from religious institutions;

3. No office bearer shall profess or promote any particular faith, creed or belief, in word and in deeds, when acting in official NEAJ capacity; and all office-bearers shall refrain from making any religious statement or issuing any religious publication, whether for or against any religion or irreligion, when acting in official capacity.

Our existing organizations, perhaps without exception, have no secular character. For better or worse, they appear to be extensions of churches. Religious sermons, religious songs, religious performances, and religious rites of passage, suffuse the conduct of these organizations. NEAJ, by contrast, is explicitly designed by its founders to have none of these. To be different. The reason is simple. Members of the NEAJ come from various denominational backgrounds, even from different religions, with some even without any religious faith.

To make the organization comfortable for all parties and all faiths (including for the faithless), but without being against any particular religion, NEAJ has decided to be institutionally secular.

NEAJ is a small organization born only yesterday, yet to take its wings. But I hope and pray that it will become bigger, much bigger – in numbers, in its coffers, in its reach and extent. Throughout its journey however, it must not forget its non-political, non-religious structure.

To be sure, the road is uphill for this young, unique creature. The temptation to turn ethnic and religious, will be huge, perhaps even insurmountable. It remains to be seen how the young leaders deal with them. But I am certain that if ten years from now NEAJ continues to survive and thrive, it will primarily be because it stays faithful and true to its secular, apolitical character.

May other social organizations in other cities follow the same path!

Current Organizational Set-Up of NEAJ

Advisory Board:

1. Dr. Manjit Singh, IAS, Principal Secretary, Government of Rajasthan
2. Thangkhanlal Guite, IPS, ADG, Government of Rajasthan (on deputation)
3. Ashwani Bhagat, IAS, Secretary, Government of Rajasthan
4. Haulianlal Guite, IAS, Secretary, Jaipur Development Authority
5. Dr. Pi Sangi Apex Child Hospital
6. Vanlalmawia Mapuia Social Worker
7. J. P. Choudhary Entrepreneur

Executive Members (with a provisional tenure of 6 months):

1. President - Andrew Khamsanglian Phiamphu (from Zou ethnicity)
2. Vice-President - Nitoka Achumi (from Sema ethnicity)
3. Secretary - Nchumbemo M Ngullie (from Lotha ethnicity)
4. Ass. Secretary - Pompi (from Pema ethnicity)
5. Joint Secretary - V. Lalchchanhima (from Sailo ethnicity)
6. Finance Secretary - Ajung Ozukum (from Lotha ethnicity)
7. Ass. Fin. Secretary - Toka Kinny (from Sema ethnicity)
8. Cultural Secretary - John Pummuanlal (from Zou ethnicity)
9. Program Secretary - Sahi Venyo (from Chakasang ethnicity)
10. Ass. Pro. Secretary - Khelika Achumi (from Sumi ethnicity)
11. Information Secretaries:
a. Yanger Ozukum (from Lotha ethnicity)
b. Krietseinuo Angami (from Angami ethnicity)
c. Biju Singh (from Meitei ethnicity)
d. Kema Sherpa (from Sherpa ethnicity)
e. Emma Bawihtlung (from Bawithlung ethnicity)
f. Mohit (from Asom ethnicity)