This profile was prepared when Chingmak Kejong was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Chingmak introduces less-engaged members of society to the concept of modern civil society to promote democratization, civic participation, and government accountability. Although apathy generally characterizes the mood of the public in Northeast India, community is the historical foundation of traditional tribal governance. Chingmak's conception of a functional, contemporary government relies on the participation of diverse sectors of society to inform public decision-making. By reinvolving elders and including women and young people in the governing process, he fosters leadership, facilitates the reemergence of community-based activism, and helps draw attention to the issues affecting people the most. He is strengthening governance using traditional Naga community values and practices, such as reasserting the role of elders, promoting leaders with character, and bringing accountability back into governance. Though he is rooting governance in traditional systems, he recognizes the importance of incorporating modern democratic values like greater participation by all people in planning and decision-making, giving women a voice in governance, and building leadership among youth and children. Chingmak advocates a strategy that marries traditional and modern aspects of governance so that people can have forward-looking and yet effective systems for managing their lives and affairs.