June 6th, is observed as Phom Day by the people of Phom Naga community. The day is observed in remembrance of June 6th, 1952 when the elders of the Phom tribe made a pledge to stop the practice of head hunting. Untill that time Phoms were upholding head hunting culture. It was an era where killing and vengeance were glorified. Head takers were considered as heroes and they occupied higher social status. "Let someone else’s mother grieve than ours" or "Avenge the man that killed our men" were the dictums they dearly embraced. Thus, fear and insecurity enveloped the Phom society of that time.
When the rest of the Naga tribes were striving to catch up with the modern civilization by embracing Christianity, modern education and civilized way of living; with none to reprove them, Phoms wasted their time in seeking vain-glory. History tells us that the last major head hunting expedition in Phom area was made in 1948 against the people of Yongshei village (Kamahu) by the combined forces of its neighbouring villages, where more than hundred heads were lost. There were also instances of head hunting raids made between some villages in 1949 and 1950 where about twenty heads were lost.
Thus, observing that peace was the urgent need of the day, the government administrative officer, pioneer Dobashis of Longleng like Hamnyei, Yongtau and their colleagues, and few church leaders purduaded the village elders of the tribe to stop the evil practice. Consequently, on June 6th, 1952 the village elders of the tribe were summoned at Longleng at a place where the present police station stands; a pit was dug and the village elders were asked to spit in the pit as a sign of pledge that from then on they would no longer carry on the culture of killing one another. Swords and spears were buried inside the pit and a stone pillar was erected symbolizing the end of the head hunting era.
Since that historic day, Phoms have been observing the ‘Peace Day’ by organizing grand functions with chief guest, and various performers from villages, schools, college etc. This year is its 62nd anniversary. During the recent years, adding colour to the celebration has become a common practice. The ceremony is also observed by collaborating with the government’s road show program. One cannot but appreciate the loyalty the Phoms uphold to the pledge made by their forefathers.
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Looking beyond the normal celebration, one is also made to realize that head hunting was the major social evil of that time. The government officials and the community elders of that time took up the challenge to fight against that social evil and won over it. The Phom Day today, stands as its testimony. With the dawn of peace on land, Phoms started on the path of progress and all-round development of their community. Student leaders of the yesteryears played a major role in bringing community transformation by launching literacy campaign, sanitation movement, movement against the consumption of opium etc. One is told that student leaders even went to the extent of compelling some of the villagers who were still naked to put on clothes. The clean examination movement, environment protection initiatives and campaign for the judicious utilization of government’s developmental schemes spearheaded by the student community are commendable. Nonetheless, much work needs to be done. Provisions for good roads, safe drinking water, health care and proper educational facilities to the citizens, which are the basic requirements for modern civilized living are still dreams awaiting realization. Hence, in celebrating the Phom Day, the present generation must draw inspiration from the past leaders to bring changes to their dwelling place.
Phom Day is also significant for its message that permanent peace is attainable. One positive characteristics of the Nagas is that they find honor in keeping the word. If they forgive each other, they would remain true to their words. The erstwhile rivals can sit eat and chat together, about the past. This makes me ponder, “Can the Nagas too dig a pit and bury the bitter past in order for peace and prosperity to prevail? We too can erect another Peace Pillar!”
About the Author:- Dr. B henshet Phom is the Vice Principal of Yingli Govt. College, Longleng, Nagaland. He did his M.Phil in the area of Philosophy & Religion and Ph.D in Political Science. He has authored four books and has also presented various research papers in seminars at different levels.