Anatomy of an Insurgency
Ethnicity & Identity in Nagaland
Sushil K. Pillai*
The unrest in Nagaland is rooted, not in the classic
factors of deprivation or social injustice, but in a deep fear of the
loss of both ethnicity and identity; and it is this fear that animates
one of the most serious insurgencies in Indias Northeast. Unfortunately,
a superficial understanding of the nature of identity and ethnicity
has often led to serious lapses of judgement by policy makers, and these
have exacerbated the problem over time.
Ethnographic literature abounds in social theories
and definitions of identity and ethnicity. The earlier concepts of identity
and ethnicity were simplistic. Both factors, in reality are multi-dimensional,
and complex. They have now been politicised and are viewed by the ethnic
groups concerned, as resources to be mobilised for political advantage.1
There is also a view that ethnicity is a colonial construct. Julian
Jacobs, in The Nagas, writes Administrators and ethnographers
shared a common interest in classifying things in a certain way
later)... the British over a period of time created the
Naga tribes as relatively fixed groups.
Identity was considered as the collective sum of the
unique qualities and beliefs of a people, while ethnicity was the sense
of belonging to a definable group of people with a common origin and
ancestry. The former flowed from the latter.
It was this simple and easily understandable approach
that was taken by A.Z. Phizo (1900-1990), the charismatic Naga leader,
to convince the many Naga tribes that they were in fact one people who
were totally different from Indians. Hence they would be swamped by
the plainsmen, culturally and economically if they remained a part of
Today, identity is considered the outcome of complex
and changing influences.2 Lange and Westin3
view identity as a multi-dimensional concept which has two aspects
social and personal identity. The former concerns the definition of
an individual, in this case the definition of the Nagas by the early
British administrators and missionaries, by the plainsmen of Assam and
by other tribes. Personal identity on the other hand is a definition
of oneself either as an individual or as a member of a sub-ethnic group
eg, as an Ao defines himself in relation to a Khiamniungan, or as a
villager of Chanki defines himself in relation to a villager of Longsa.
Ethnicity, unlike Identity defines a people by their
common ancestry, physical attributes, language, and geographical origin.4
These being easily recognisable and objective, one would expect lesser
complexity in its concept, but this is far from the case. Here too,
there are changes in perception. The Kukis were once considered Nagas.
Indeed, a Kuki was a signatory to the Memorandum submitted in 1929 to
the Simon Commission by the Naga Club, a group of 20 Nagas who made
a representation against being bracketed with any Indian area in the
proposed Reformed Scheme of India.5 This
group represented the Naga intelligentsia of that time and was largely
composed of interpreters. Today, the Kukis in Manipur are fiercely pitched
against one of the Naga insurgent groups, the National Socialist Council
of NagalandIsak-Muivah Group (NSCN-IM) who do not consider them
to be Nagas. Implicit in the concept of ethnicity is the presence of
The Other", and this is constantly redefined.
For our purpose, without entering into academic controversies,
Identity means a body of shared beliefs, attitudes, customs
and institutions which in totality combine to make a regional culture.
These beliefs manifest themselves differently in varying situations.
By Ethnicity is meant the sense of belonging to a group
with a common ancestry and geographical origin and sharing common customs,
values and traditions. The structure of this group is dynamic. Factors
of geography, land ownership, culture, history, politics and above all
powerful tribal personalities influence the constant voluntary groupings
and de-groupings taking place.
Ironically, the term Naga6
is a name given to them by outsiders on the basis of 14 shared physical
and cultural traits.7 Many of the tribe
names too have been given by outsiders and accepted by the tribes themselves
till recently an example of acquiring a social identity
given to them by others, Angami, Kacha Naga, Kalyo Kengnyu are
not the original names of these tribes. The traditional name of the
Angamis is Tengima or Tenyimia,8 the Kalyo
Kengnyu are actually Khiamniungans and the Kacha Nagas were variously
called Kabui, and Rongmai, till they merged with the Zemei and Lingmai
tribes to form a new tribal identity the Zeliangrong.
On the other hand, the Pochurys have separated from
the Chakesangs, which is a composite of the Chakri, Kheza
sub-tribes and a branch of the Sangtams. This flux is also reflected
in personal names. Today many Nagas are replacing their tribal surnames
by their clan names such as Aiyer, Longkhumer, while many Khiamniungans
have started to use only their first names like Khongo, Sedem, Hai,
or descriptive names like Thangnyem Hoklai (Hangnyem-the-long-legged).
Certainly in the 19th and early 20th
Centuries there was no generic consciousness amongst the tribes themselves.
This was reported in various British Expedition accounts from 1832 onwards9
and is also mentioned in the Naga Memorandum to the Simon Commission
in 1929 ("...we have..different languages which cannot be understood
by each other
we have no unity amongst us, and it is only the British
Government that is holding us now"). While an awareness of a common
bonding was always present, tribes and villages fought each other in
the same way that the princely states of India fought each other though
bonded by a common culture and religion. Naga ethnicity as an expression
of a united Naga consciousness was a much later phenomenon.
There is considerable debate about the number of Naga
tribes. In the 19th Century this was a socio-anthropological
question. It is now firmly a political one. Even so there are variations.
Asoso Yonuo in Rising Nagas mentions 50 tribes, while B.P.
Singh in Problems of Change mentions 8 distinct tribes and
31 sub-tribes (obviously only within India). Panger Imchen in his Ancient
Ao Naga Religion and Culture writes of 50 Naga tribes of which
only 14 are in Nagaland.
Generally, the working figure is 35 Naga tribes, 17
of which are in Nagaland (Census of India, 1991), the remainder living
in Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.10
In the 1961 Census, there were 14 Listed Tribes and in 1981, 16 Listed
Tribes.11 This illustrates the dynamic
and evolutionary nature of ethnicity.
The number of tribes has increased because earlier
erroneous classifications have been rectified, and also due to internal
tribal dynamics. There is an awareness now of the political benefits
that accrue from being classified as a tribe. The growth of sub-tribalism
has also taken place since Independence. K.S. Singh, retired Director
General of the Anthropological Survey of India wryly remarks in the
magnum opus of his Directorate, The People of India, "Perceptions
appear to be amorphous, fluid, changing all the time. Therefore lists
vary from Census to Census and no two lists are exactly comparable."12
The mosaic of Naga ethnicity becomes more complex when
the tribes in Myanmar are also considered. The Konyaks in Northern Nagaland
are cognates of the Heimies of Upper Burma. S.S. (Robert) Khaplang,
the leader of the second dominant insurgent group, the NSCN(K), is a
Heimei. The Khiamniungans are kin to the Nagas of the Thesang district
in the Hkampti area of Upper Chindwin where they are known as Para.
The same Naga and Mizo tribes bestride the political boundaries of India
According to Isak Swu (a Sema), Chairman NSCN(IM),
Nagaland extends to the Chindwin in Myanmar and down the Manipur valley
to the Kuki area, an extent of 47,000 square miles with a population
of 2.5 million. This was expanded by an additional 10,000 square miles
with a population of 3 million in a speech delivered by him at Geneva
in July 1993 at the UN Committee for Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights.13
This perception is however not shared by all Eastern Naga (Myanmar)
tribes who have closer affiliations with the Kachins. As Bertil Lintner
points out, in some areas in Myanmar, as at Kesan Chanlam, the NSCN(IM)
had to forcibly establish themselves amongst the Naga tribes there and
convert them to Christianity.14
Two surprising factors stand out regarding Naga ethnicity.
Despite legends of migration westwards into India from various parts
of South East Asia, none of the Naga origin myths are located in distant
lands. They originate from caves (the Tikhirs), stones (Angamis, Aos)
or the sky (Wui village) which are roughly in or near their present
tribal areas. The Khiamniungans show a unique difference, which is strangely
reflected in their independent approach to insurgency. Their origin
myth is linked to a Great Flood and their expansion is eastwards into
Myanmar. Are they autochthons?
From the points of origin, the migrations are recorded
in great detail in oral memory, though often at variance with other
tribes. The Aos have a meticulous count of their generations (one generation
putu = 30 years), tracing their history back 500
years, after which their accounts merge with legends. South West of
the Ao area live the Khiamniungans who point to a long line of spaced
out trees and groves (Lamkuilui) going all the way upto Chare
village which indicates the migration route taken by the Aos. The Aos
scoff at this and have their own legend of crossing the Dikhu river
first, from whence they have got their name (Aor
the ones who went ahead).15
A caveat must be sounded here. Folklore with its many
variations provides enough latitude to fit in with anyones pet
theory. Which is why centuries later when Phizo talked of profound ethnic
differences even with neighbouring tribes in India and Myanmar, no one
The second unusual factor is that despite the great
diversity amongst cognate tribes with no common language except for
Nagamese (a patois of Assamese and words from various Naga languages),
lack of literacy, different economic conditions and religious beliefs
in Myanmar and India, Phizo was able to ignite a Pan-Naga nationalism,
albeit stronger in India than in Myanmar.
Naga ethnicity struck a ready and deep chord amongst
the various tribes even though some of its roots lay not in the feeling
of commonality but in the desire to be left alone. There was also a
deep distrust of the 'Indians' (consisting of Hindus and Muslims, according
to Phizo).16 India, that vast heterogeneity,
was homogenised in Naga consciousness as an exploitative, unpleasant
The Anatomy of Ethnicity
Naga ethnicity was built up through a series of developments.
The Naga Hills District was formed in 1866 as part of Assam. The promulgation
of the Inner Line Regulation in 1873 restricted contact of outsiders
with the Nagas. This was to protect the tribal from exploitation, mainly
from traders. But exclusion or inclusion of a people with the mainstream
is always double-edged.
While it did serve its purpose, it had a negative fallout.
The area continued to be unfamiliar to most of the Indian intelligentsia
except for the hand picked members of Indian Frontier Administrative
Service (IFAS) which was raised in 1957. Officers like N. F. Suntook
and Bob Kathing became legends as effective administrators.
Their deep love and empathy for the Nagas was warmly reciprocated. This
is an important point. Whenever dealings with the Nagas were conducted
with fairness, empathy and respect for their customs, they always responded
in equal measure. There was a sharp drop in standards when the IFAS
was wound up and replaced by five separate cadres of the Indian Administrative
Service (IAS) in the latter half of the 1960s.
The Inner Line system of 1873 was reiterated
under the Home Rule regime introduced by the Government of India Act
of 1935, in which the Naga Hills District was declared an Excluded
Area. This placed it outside the control of the Assam Provincial
Legislature. No responsibility was, consequently, imposed on the then
Congress Ministry of Assam for the development of the Naga Hills, or
for any untoward disturbances in that district.
The establishment of the Naga Club17
was followed by the setting up of Lotha and Ao Tribal Councils in 1923
and 1928, respectively. In 1929, the Naga Club presented a Memorandum
to the Simon Commission expressing their unwillingness to merge with
India. Thereafter, a Naga Hills District Tribal Council was formed in
1945 by the Deputy Commisoner C.R. Pawsey, ostensibly for post-war relief
and rehabilitation work. This soon became a political organisation,
as awareness of the struggle for Independence in India and Myanmar grew.
On February 2, 1946, it became the Naga National Council (NNC). It had
29 members but was not representative of all the Naga tribes. It became
the dominant minority which profoundly influenced Naga political
aspirations a portent of things to come.
T. Aliba Imti, an Ao, then Joint Secretary of the Tribal
Council recalls the questions18 that faced
- What were the Nagas going to do when the British left India?
- What is the future of the Nagas?
- Are we Indians?
- Are we not a part of India? What will be our future provisions?
- What are our safeguards?
- Where do we stand in the future?
The questions raised by Aliba Imti were discussed but
the answers were not unanimous. Some favoured independence, others an
autonomous status in Free India, while yet others desired Protectorate
status under the British Government for a specified period of time.
The Government of Assam responded with a characteristically bureaucratic
decision in forbidding Government servants from becoming members of
the NNC. This may have been appropriate elsewhere in the country but
not in the Naga Hills. Since the bulk of the intelligentsia were Government
servants, it excluded their views in the NNC discussions, which were
consequently dominated by Phizo and his supporters. This was the first
in a series of errors made by the Assam Administration due to lack of
understanding and sensitivity of the tribal ethos. It illustrates how
very serious problems arise when a Government is not sufficiently aware
of the strength of ethnicity and lacks the institutions to deal with
it. Reliance on ad hoc Committees, Commissions and Core Groups
rather than on permanent, dedicated organisations providing continuity
and forward planning, is a faultline that runs through the iron framework
of Indian bureaucracy.
No attempt was made to allay the fears of the Nagas
on crucial issues raised by them. The Nagas felt that a Constitution
drawn up by a people with no knowledge about the Naga way of life, and
their merger with four hundred million Indians, would wipe them out.
There were also strong apprehensions about the ownership of community-land
and the security of land tenure. The Nagas also feared interference
with their traditional methods of livelihood and customs. Similar fears
also haunted the Mizos; but because Mizo society was much more homogenous
than that of the Nagas, there was greater assurance among them, and
their fears were not as magnified.
Strangely, Phizo raised the issue of colour. This
is echoed by Tajenyuba in his 'British Occupation of the Naga Country.
He writes "Nagas favoured white people who were working as missionaries
and administrators among the Nagas for many years, than the people of
black colour found in the plains." Not having ever come across
colour prejudice in Nagaland, I am not too sure whether this was just
an emotive issue artificially whipped up to give a sense of separateness
to the Nagas.
In June 1947, a Nine Point Agreement was signed between
the Government of Assam and the NNC giving considerable autonomy to
the Nagas, safeguarding their customary laws and ensuring that there
would be no alienation from their land and forests. The Agreement was
not referred to the Sub-Committee of the Constituent Assembly. This
caused Phizo to distrust Indian motives. An ambiguous Clause 9 regarding
a choice for the renewal or re-negotiating a new Agreement after a ten-year
period and Clause 6 regarding the return of certain Forest Areas transferred
to Assam were picked up by extremist elements under Phizo who were playing
the Ethnicity card. Phizo declared Naga independence from India on August
14, 1947. He thus took the ultimate step in the assertion of Naga ethnicity
by rejecting the authority of the Indian State as the rightful and legitimate
representative of the Nagas. To the separatists this also morally legitimized
A power struggle between a separatist Phizo and a moderate
Aliba Imti took place within the NNC culminating in Phizos resignation
from the NNC in 1949. He rejoined later and by a series of shrewd moves
was elected by a majority of one vote as President of the NNC in December
1950. The tussle between the Moderates and Separatists was over. Ethnicity
has both an internal and external dynamic.
In 1951 Phizo organised a controversial plebiscite
in the Naga Hills District19 to ascertain
whether the Nagas favoured independence or merger with India. He claimed
that 99% Nagas were in favour of Independence. The plebiscite was held
only in the Kohima and Mokokchung Districts (though this is not known
to most Nagas today). The Tuensang Division, then a part of Northeast
Frontier Agency (NEFA), with its roughly 150,000 Naga population, was
unaware of the plebiscite at that time, and women were not included
in the voting.20 The fact, nevertheless,
is that most Nagas now believe in the validity of this plebiscite.
Once again due to bureaucratic and political insensitivity,
the plebiscite was ignored by the Administration, possibly on the grounds
that it was too absurd to be even taken note of. Moreover, Phizo was
not to be given any importance. But Phizo was impossible to ignore,
especially since there was no alternative leadership to present a point
of view that effectively countered Phizos claims that:
The white Government has gone; a black Government has come.
This government will take away your land; they will tax your houses,
your cows; your pigs will be counted and you will be asked to pay according
to the number of pigs you keep. You will not be allowed to drink. Do
you want such a Government or Independence? If you are independent you
will enjoy life as we had before the British came.21
Alienation is the constant companion of politicised
ethnicity. In the case of Nagaland, all the facets of alienation
cultural, bureaucratic and political were operative. As with
the other North Eastern insurgencies, a certain section of the population
did not identify itself with India and its aspirations. An active dislike
or at best a grudging tolerance for the Security Forces was widespread
in large tracts of Nagaland.
One of the causes of alienation was a general feeling
amongst the Nagas that unlike the foreign missionaries, the Indian church
and social workers did not come forward to work amongst them. Only wily
traders came. Though there was not much contact with the plains apart
from trade, the Inner Line restricted movement. The Roman Catholic Church
which was largely staffed by Indians was allowed to practice in Nagaland
much later in 1973. A group of Sisters was permitted to serve the sick
at Kohima from 1948 onwards. They were, however, forbidden to exercise
any pastoral ministry due to the strong presence of the Baptist Church.
The Baptists were the first to bring Christianity to the Nagas. Today,
92.48% of the population is Christian, of whom 99% are Baptists. The
Baptists resisted efforts of the Roman Catholic Church on theological
grounds. By mid-1967, the hiatus between the two had widened and led
to an indecorous sectarian controversy, which was fortunately resolved
soon after. A remnant of the controversy is reflected in the Constitution
of the NFG which states that Baptist Christianity and Naga religion
are alone recognised by the Nagas.22
A few other individuals who were interested in the
Nagas also contributed their mite. In 1955, the Nagaland Gandhi Ashram
was established at Chuchuyimlang by Natwarbhai Thakkar who has spent
most of his life in the service of the Nagas. He was awarded the 1994
Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration. There were a few well-intentioned
though woolly-headed people too, like Triloknath Purwar, a social worker
from UP and Harish Chandola, a journalist, who attempted to mediate
between the Government and the insurgents, earning the Government's
displeasure by being excessively sympathetic to the separatist
cause. Their efforts came to naught, and their contributions, no doubt,
pale before the dedicated work done by the early American Baptist missionaries
It was not only the Indian Administration that made
mistakes. The Nagas also hurt a few of their friends (including Nehru)
due to their obstinacy and mishandling of events.23
Nevertheless, it took five years after Independence
for the insurgency to boil over into violence. An Assam Rifles patrol
was ambushed in 1953. Thereafter, stray shooting incidents increased.
In September 1954, Phizo announced the formation of the Peoples
Sovereign Republic of Free Nagaland popularly known as the Hongkin
Government. A hitherto unknown person with the exotic sounding name
of Hongkin was proclaimed as President. It was short-lived. Two years
later, this Government was replaced by a Naga Federal Government
To the best of my knowledge a story about the Hongkin
Government has not appeared in print so far, but everyone in Nagaland
still chuckles about it.24 It bears telling
to illustrate how an ethnic movement can be built up around fact and
fiction. Hongkin in the Chang dialect means Foreigner-out!
Hongkin is also the name of a Gaon Bura (headman) of the Khiamniungan
village of Noku. He was 62 when I first met him in 1961and was still
as alert when I met him again in 1993. He recollects the day Phizo visited
his village in 1954. "He gave me a tie and a suit to wear and took
photographs of me. He then told me that he was appointing me as President
of a Naga State but I was not to tell this to the Indians." Thereafter
Hongkin added indignantly "He then took back the suit and didnt
even leave behind the tie!" The NNC started collecting taxes and
laying ambushes in his name while Hongkin went about his life undisturbed.
Violence increased. By June 1955, a rift between Phizos
extremist group and the moderates had widened and inter-faction assassinations
commenced. Those opposed to Phizo were assassinated, prominent among
them being the brilliant T. Sakhire, Dr. Imkongliba and General
Kaito Sema, one-time Defence Minister. The NNC, however, was coming
under pressure both from Burma and India. Phizos wife was taken
into custody. Placing Phizo in a coffin, his followers spirited him
to the Zeliang Naga area and thence to Dacca on December 6, 1956. He
was fully supported by Pakistan. Phizo felt that he would be able to
further the cause of Naga Independence, both internationally and regionally,
by operating from well outside both India and Burma. The Pakistani Government
arranged for an El Salvador passport for him, and he reached Zurich
in May 1959. Rev. Michael Scott, who was once a member of the Peace
Mission along with Jay Prakash Narayan, helped Phizo get to London on
June 20, 1960. Meanwhile, between 1957 and 1960, three Naga Peoples
Conventions (NPCs) were held, the last attended by 3,000 delegates,
seeking a peaceful solution to the Naga problem. The NNC was against
this, and did not participate. The consequence of the NPCs was the announcement
of the grant of Statehood to Nagaland by the Lok Sabha in August 1960.
Nagaland attained full Statehood on December 1, 1963. Phizo, however,
was never to return to India. On his death in April 1990, his body was
brought back to Nagaland, and his funeral was attended by the largest
gathering Kohima had ever seen. On the occasion J.B. Jasokie, a former
Chief Minister of Nagaland said, "His greatest achievement was
the change he brought about in political life of the Nagas, which he
accomplished by awakening the political consciousness of the Naga people."25
Phizo was indeed the most dynamic personality to stride the Naga scene
during his time. He gave form to Naga ethnicity and moulded it into
a strong force that ultimately resulted in the formation of Indias
16th State. It was in July 1960 that a 16 Point Proposal
was agreed to by the Government of India and the NPC, and this became
the basis for the creation of the State of Nagaland on 1 December, 1963.
Violence, however, continued, as some splinter groups sought complete
independence. The Shillong Agreement of November 11, 1975 resulted in
the NFG and NNC accepting the Constitution of India and agreeing to
lay down arms. Once again a splinter group did not accept the Agreement
and continued its violence against the State.
It is important, in the context of what was to happen
later, to reiterate Nehrus farsighted views, outlined during discussions
on Statehood for Nagaland:
- The traditional machinery of Naga self-governance at village, range
and tribal levels should be strengthened. He even suggested that tribal
names be given to the Legislative Assembly and to the Council of Ministers.
- A top heavy Administrative system as in other states would be wasteful
if adopted in Nagaland. The Nagas should be allowed to develop on
their own lines and select an organisation with tribal roots.26
Wise words, if only they had been followed when Nagaland
was constituted. Among the Naga intelligentsia, there were many like
Dr. A. Lanununsang, an eminent sociologist and ex-President of the Naga
Scholar's Society, who recommended that the electoral system should
be allowed to evolve from the old quasi-democratic Councils (Ho-Ho
a Sema word) in which representatives were nominated by
the villagers to the village councils and thereafter elected
from among these, to tribal and State levels.27
During an interview, S.C. Jamir, the Chief Minister mentioned to me,
"Panditji kept asking us if we really wanted the adult franchise
system. Why could we not select something more traditional?"28
It was not only Nehru who voiced the need for an indigenous
polity. Jairamdas Daulatram as Governor of Assam had also warned in
1951, "The Nagas should not be forced to practice the adult franchise
system... The minute they are forced to go with the Indian system of
election, their society will be divided into pieces and their cultural
heritage, tradition and identity will disappear."
Haimendorf similarly speaks of the dangers of29
the imposition of a top-heavy bureaucracy "...in the long run the local
economy will be unable to carry the administrative and educational superstructure
which is now being built up with outside funds provided by the Central
What is amazing is that despite these grave warnings,
Nagaland and the Centre chose to give the Naga Government its present
form, and this has had serious effects on Naga identity. Visier Sanyu,
an Angami historian points out, "...the nature of political activities
were (sic) mainly responsible for the emergence of the bourgeoisie
all this led to social stratification based on material strength. The
exploitation of the Nagas by their fellow tribesmen commenced speedily,
for the first time Naga millionaires came into existence ... the newly
imposed government led to the erosion of traditional authority of the
Such is the multi faceted anatomy of ethnicity!
To understand insurgency in Indias Northeast
one must also understand the situation in Myanmar. The banality of this
statement can only be matched by our lack of interest in, and knowledge
of, what goes on in Myanmar. The Indian media covers Myanmar and its
insurgencies, at best, cursorily.
At present, movement of locals is permitted within
a 20 kilometre zone on either side of the Indo-Myanmar border. Though
there are two trading points, one at Moreh in Manipur and the other
at Zokhothar (Rih) in Mizoram, the entire border is porous, and illegal
trade in weapons, drugs and consumer goods flourishes.
Occasional joint Indo-Myanmar operations against insurgent
groups have been successful. Unfortunately, the anti-democracy stance
of the Myanmar Government has stood in the way of the exploitation of
the potential of joint-operations, and this is compounded by a certain
suspicion of India's motives.
U Ohn Gaw, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Standing Law
and Order Restoration Committee (SLORC now re-designated as the
State Peace and Development Council SPDC) announced at the UN General
Assembly on September 27, 1996, that 15 out of the 16 insurgencies in
Myanmar have been effectively contained though not fully resolved. A
new Ministry for Progress of Border Areas and National Races
and Development had been constituted. The Eastern Nagas along with
five other minority racial groups31 were
granted autonomy by the National Constitution Convention. In 1995, three
townships near the Indian border were designated as self-administered
areas for the Nagas. Despite this, unrest persists. The Kachin Independence
Army (KIA), which came into being in 1960, continues to aid various
Naga insurgent factions on payment, as do other Chin and Arakanese insurgent
groups. Nevertheless, institutional mechanisms set up to create greater
autonomy as part of the Myanmarese anti-insurgency policy, are significant.
A curious aspect of Naga ethnicity is that its centre
lies in India. Judging from Naga nationalist published work
and from extensive conversations, there seems to be no clear vision
or acknowledgement of the problems of the viability of a landlocked
state and the difficulties of gaining independence from two countries
a problem shared by the Nagas with many other ethnic groups like
the Kurds, Chechens and Baluchis. The vocabulary regarding the viability
of small ethnicity-based nations has changed since 1947. The examples
of landlocked Switzerland and Zambia, and small sea-ringed Singapore,
have been replaced by Afghanistan, Kosovo and Timor. And as these examples
amply illustrate, the independence of a small group may bring greater
misery to them than before.
The current political dialogue is mainly between the
two main insurgent groups and the Indian rather than the Myanmar Government.
This, paradoxically, has much to do with the better educational standards
and quality of life of the Indian Nagas in comparison to the far less
developed Eastern Nagas of Myanmar.
Naga ethnicity lies as a thin crust over the strong
tectonic plates of inter-tribal loyalties and animosities. In 1968 an
anti-Communist faction calling itself the Revolutionary Government of
Nagaland came into being, but soon faded away. Further splits have occurred
in the NNC and NFG, largely along tribal groupings. Disagreement within
the NNC led to the formation of the NSCN on 31 January, 1980. This new
insurgent organisation for Naga Independence split, after the massacre
of a cadre of 200 NSCN men by one of the factions in May 1988, into
two groups, composed largely along tribal lines the NSCN(IM)
and the NSCN-Khaplang. After Phizos death, the NNC split into
two groups, NNC-A and NNC-K under his daughter, Adino and a former Phizo
aide, Khodao Yanthan, respectively. Khodao has since reportedly joined
The NSCN-IM and the NSCN-K are engaged in a power struggle,
which is not likely to end as long as their present leadership continues.
Though the NFG and NNC factions now play a peripheral role, they cannot
be ignored. The interference from Pakistan and enlarged co-operation
with other insurgent groups in the Northeast has created a situation
that shows no hope of an early resolution.
After the grant of Statehood, new factors have come
into play. While Nagaland has seen development as never before, its
politicised ethnicity has created new tribes of corrupt
officials, drug runners and a stratification of the early egalitarian
Naga society. The irony is that the indigenous dominant groups that
emerged,32 are as exploitative as the earlier
dominant groups. The Assam Government, which itself was victim of colonial
exploitation, repeated the process by dominating the Northeastern tribes
through policies that included an attempt to force the adoption of Assamese
as the State language in1952. In the anatomy of ethnicity there is evidently
a blind spot regarding the treatment of ones own minority sub-groups.
The emergence of a middle class and a nexus between
politicians, drug dealers, contractors and the insurgent groups has
vitiated the body politic and Naga civic life. Some members of the State
Administration are nothing more than middlemen in the flow of funds
to insurgent groups.33 This has been made
possible by ensuring that no system of accountability exists.
The developmental policies of the Central and State
Governments, formulated without consultation with the various tribes,
have resulted in an alarming degree of acculturation and a sense of
neglect. The lack of understanding of the Naga psyche is significant.
Many officials thought that once District Councils were set up and development
work commenced, the insurgency would die down. In its early phases,
the agitation was simply regarded as a Law and Order problem and allowed
to grow as long as there was no untoward violence.
The ignorance of senior Indian politicians and intellectuals
regarding the Northeast is well documented.34
The result as Ramunny points out35 was
the Government of India and the administrators slowly
but steadily and perhaps, unconsciously, handed over Naga
Hills into the hands of Phizo".
The effect of ethnicity amongst youth is even more
profound. Their teenage idealism soon dissipates in contact with the
realities of unemployment and unfulfilled desire. By AD 2000, 67% of
the Naga population will be under 34.36
The aspirations and hopes of this group have not been given the attention
they deserve, with the result that many of the youth, in frustration,
turn to insurgency as alternative employment.
The aspirations of the youth have also changed. In
the 1930s, young people aspired for employment in the Church or
in Government. In the post-Independence era, the choice of employment
changed to business, contracting, politics and Government jobs, in that
order. The educated and aware youth hold the key to a weaning away of
the Nagas from insurgency. There is much that is positive in Naga youth.
They seek new horizons and are prepared for participating in new ventures.
The role of the Naga Students Federation in achieving this is important,
provided it does not remain trapped in perceptions of the past. The
population of Naga students studying outside the state is also substantial,
and this exposure broadens their outlook. Unfortunately, for some students,
the experience turns negative as they come up against ignorance about
the Northeast and racial stereotypes. Nevertheless, many among the Naga
youth have a strong social sense and are keen to work for the betterment
of their State, though this desire is yet to be channelled effectively
into constructive programmes.
The Government has, of course, made several attempts
to overcome the divisive confines of ethnicity. However, despite the
Nine Point Understanding, the Sixteen Point Proposals and the Shillong
Agreement,37 there is still no sign of
reconciliation, especially since, whenever an agreement is reached,
a dissident group emerges to feed the strife further. Inter-tribal factions
have remained divisive forces, obstructing both regional and Pan-Naga
movements. Recently, T. Muivah and Isak Swu were given safe passage
to the State after 33 years under the provisions of the present cease-fire
and stayed for a month in May,'99 at Niuland near Dimapur. No signs
of unity or consensus were apparent at the end of their stay, though
an uneasy cease-fire has survived since August, 1997.
The anatomy of Naga ethnicity is clearly based on inter-tribal
affinities that, instead of opening outwards to take in new influences,
have become inward looking and xenophobic. Naga ethnicity has blinkered
many of its leaders the overall political situation in India. In this
of course, they are no different from their counterparts in other regions
of the country who support narrow sectarian interests. A crucial difference
is that the latter predominantly function within the framework of the
Constitution. The lack of institutions to tackle alienation at the Centre
and State levels, together with political and administrative ignorance,
apathy and lack of empathy towards the Northeast have exacerbated the
situation. As Verghese points out "The dominant Aryan bent of national
thinking has accommodated the Dravidian reality but has yet to appreciate
the Mongoloid factor in the Indian ethos."38
In this dismal scenario, a new sense of realism has
emerged in Government. Current efforts to achieve better governance
through de-centralisation are encouraging. The need to understand the
anatomy of Naga ethnicity has at last been accepted. Failings in policy
and execution are being frankly admitted and new solutions are being
worked out. Efforts to increase people-to-people contact with the rest
of India are now being made, as had been urged since long by Niketu
Iralu, a well-known Naga social activist and by journalists such as
Kuldip Nayer and the late Nikhil Chakravorty. Methods to manage the
media to help in achieving this are also being explored. Nevertheless,
information and media management, powerful resources to fight alienation,
still remain the weakest links in bonding the Northeast to the rest
of the country.
Sadly, there is still no evidence of the establishment
of institutions needed to remove alienation and perceptions of neglect.
Ignorance about the Northeast among politicians, bureaucrats and the
public, continues to be abysmal. One of the main causes for the lack
of political interest in the Northeast is that only 4% of Members of
Parliament represent this region, which holds 8% of India's population.39
Nagaland has but one seat each in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Many
North Eastern MPs lament that their voice is not heard. The total insurgent
cadres in Nagaland amount to 2.53% of the population of the State. Yet
they hold the State to ransom as a result of our failure to isolate
Naga Identity is not as closely linked to politics,
as is Naga ethnicity. Naga Identity has more to do with the human, social
and cultural nature of the Nagas, while ethnicity is concerned with
the larger issues of Naga and Pan-Naga assertion and their relationship
with plural Indian ethnicity. Though not exclusive of each other, one
is the human aspect while the other is the political aspect of the Naga
The spread of Christianity has been the single most
important factor in moulding the Naga identity, starting from nine converts
in 187240 to the present, when 92.48 %
of the Nagas are Christians. The British burned villages, clipped the
wings of the tribal chief's, changed the political structure of the
village by appointing new gaon-buras (village heads), imposed
taxes and froze village land holdings; yet they are remembered with
affection because of the great moral strength brought to the Nagas through
Christianity and the gift of education.
Though Christianity altered and destroyed many basic
social structures like the morung (bachelor's dormitory), the
tsuki (girl's dormitory), feasts of merit and other festival
dances and observances, these were replaced by the social safety nets
of the many Church organisations for men, women and youth. Later, in
the 1970s, public performances of dances, sports and ceremonies connected
with traditional festivals were reintroduced, though in a form divested
of their connection with the old religion.41
The first public celebration of the revived Moatsu festival (observed
in the end of March or early April) at Mokokchung was held in 1993.
There is a clearly a crisis of identity with the Nagas.
At one time it was even fashionable to have an identity crisis. Yusuf
Ali, a long-time administrator in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh recalls
how, in the 1960s, many Nagas would laughingly greet each other by asking
"And how is your identity crisis today?"42
Earlier this was linked mainly with political alignment. This conflict
is symbolised eloquently by the headstone on a grave that lies in a
quiet forest grove near Nokyan:
OUR BELOVED FATHER
COL. YAMTSUTONG 1953 -59 INA
CAME 1924 3RD
REST 25-7-79 1960-69 F/GOVT
1968 -69 C/JAIL
1970 -76 D.B.
1976 -79 F/GOVT
Apart from the puzzling INA entry, the service of this
ex-Colonel of the NFG was divided between Government service
as a soldier with 3rd Assam Rifles and later as a Dubashi
(DB interpreter) on the one hand, and with the Naga Federal Government,
on the other. From all local accounts, he was not an opportunist. He
was a brave and upright man. The pressures and dilemmas faced by many
Nagas during that period are well illustrated by his life.
Naga identity is, today, pulled by four centripetal
forces: i. Pan-Naga nationalism; ii. Western culture; iii. urbanisation
and consumerism; and iv. the pressures of coming to terms with a pluralistic
India. The first three have produced severe strains, resulting in the
familiar fallout of drugs, heavy drinking, lack of discipline, and alienation
from the land and old customs and traditions. The fear of being culturally
swamped keeps the Naga from coming to terms with mainstream India. The
substantial Central Government budgetary allocations have not helped
the cause of integration, as they are misused with impunity and fund
the insurgents as well.43 This is because
of extortion, lack of accountability and a feeling that the money is
being poured in to corrupt the Nagas and make them soft and dependent
on India. These perceived threats to Naga identity create distrust and
In their interaction with outside culture and the state
apparatus, the perception of their own identity by the Nagas is complex.
S.C. Jamir, Chief Minister, Nagaland asserts, "Naga identity is
still essentially that of the clan, tribe and village. Thereafter, it
changes into a more abstract feeling which has to be understood in the
context in which the term is being used."44
Ex-Lt. Gen. Makhanmayang Ao, once a Kilonser
(Minister) in the NFG and later Vice President of the Ao Senden Salang
(the apex Ao Tribal Council), feels that Naga identity is of comparatively
recent origin and argues that there has been a strengthening and not,
as many people bewail, a loss, of Naga identity in recent times.45
This is a significant point. There is far too much negative reportage
on the Northeast. The many positive developments at individual, district
and State levels do not get objective exposure.
For me, the pieces fell into place at Pangsha, a renowned
warrior-village. Pangsha jealously guards its freedom to follow its
ways in the approximately 35-40 square kilometres of its land. Their
observances and their customary laws give a form and meaning to their
existence. This is their anchor, their identity, which in many small
details is different from that of the other villages of its tribe. In
the past, when required, Pangsha fought for its particular identity
with its own tribe living in other Khiamniungan villages and with other
tribes such as the Konyaks. Today there are wider concentric circles
of trans-border identity with the Khiamniungans in Myanmar. There is
yet another larger circle of the Nagas as a whole. The last and weakest
outer ripple is that of being Indian. In a time warp, each of these
circles exist simultaneously, though frozen in different periods of
time. The current trend, at least in urban Nagaland, is a growth of
individual identity competing against the conformist expressions of
collective identity. This is not regressive as is commonly believed,
but is a process of the crystallisation of identity.
The loss of identity leads to loss of nerve.
Yet, if replacements are found for that which is lost, the individual
and tribe is strengthened and something new emerges. More than pedantic,
erudite explanations, the story of Keshe of Noklak in Tuensang District
illustrates how the essence of identity can be retained, even as identity
Keshe was the last Ain46
of the village. She had converted to Christianity just three months
before I met her. I was told she was a witch but as I talked to her
it became clear that she was an oracle and a priestess in the old order.
Her whole family had converted to Christianity and she had come under
considerable social pressure to do likewise. I asked her how she had
made the transition from her old religion to the new one. She replied
that it was initially a conflict but one night she saw a beautiful vision.
She saw her old Gods, Kovatsu and Ankova in heaven. They
were surrounded by light and glory and all the spirits stood around
Them in awe. But on Kovatsu and Ankova shone a brilliant
shaft of light from further above. There she saw Jesus surrounded by
angels and His Apostles. She intuitively understood that here was a
Holy Spirit of greater brilliance and love than she had ever known.
In the cosmology of spiritual life here was the Ultimate. She gave herself
time to understand this vision and after a month decided to become a
Baptist. She had moved painlessly from one belief to another by incorporating
both into one cosmology. Keshe has an inner strength that is not in
conflict with the past. But what about passing on her ancient knowledge
to someone who still follows the old beliefs? Keshe answered gently,
but in a matter of fact manner, "There is no need for all that
Recipe for an Omelette
Stalins down-to-earth observation that an omelette
cannot be made without breaking an egg has a corollary. You cannot unscramble
an omelette,47 if it's badly made. This,
however, does not mean that there is no hope for Nagaland; something
new can always be whipped up.
The solution to an insurgency, as we are told all the
time, is political. What constitutes this political solution
is evident in the various agreements with the Naga, Mizo and Assamese
insurgent groups.48 The common elements
- Legal provisions on Statehood or increased autonomy this
includes the all-important aspect of power-sharing;
- delineation of inter-state and inter-regional boundaries;
- financial provisions for various items such as development schemes,
border trade and taxes;
- Cultural, social, linguistic, and demographic safeguards;
- ownership of land; and
- rehabilitation and safety of insurgents.
This list is unexceptionable, but in practice what
seems to become the only element that matters is power-sharing. But
if it is to be lasting, the political solution has to cover
a field much wider than the politics of power-sharing. It must have
a human and moral component that has, so far, been ignored, and the
issues of identity and ethnicity that lie at the root of the Naga problem
must also be confronted and resolved. Future initiatives will have to
take these aspects into consideration and cannot escape certain basic
principles and policies that must include:
Good Governance: One of the key features in
the bonding of a tribal society with the Adminstration is the latter's
accessibility to the people and in giving them quick decisions. The
hand-picked members of the Indian Frontier Administrative Service,
in the initial phase, provided this bond. But with its replacement by
the Indian Adminstrative Service, bureaucratic alienation set in. While
the clock cannot be turned back, a better system of selection of temperamentally
suitable officers to the Northeastern cadres needs to be evolved. Some
incentives to the Northeastern IAS Cadres, such as foreign postings
for good performance as Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of
Police, were announced in September 1998. But these are palliatives.
Much more attention needs to be given to this area, not only to improve
the quality of officers, but also to evolve administrative processes
suitable for a people with a tradition of self-governance. There has
to be more decentralisation, transparency and accountability. The Nagas
understand this because, in essence though not in form, this was how
their village-states functioned.
Border Management: The human problem of tribes
whose areas are artificially divided by the international boundary needs
to be tackled beyond the present 20 kilometre free-movement zone. A
paradigm shift is required in our concept of political boundaries though,
though the possibility of extending analogous arguments to J&K will
inevitably crop up as an inhibitor. Boundaries can remain intact without
hindrance to movement of people. Surely this points to one possible
way out of the current impasse at least in the case of the Northeast?
The suggestion of work permits made by Atal Behari Vajpayee, or dual
citizenship, or the Swiss model of three levels of citizenship, need
to be examined more seriously. Dr. Roy Burman, referring to boundary
management, points out that "all the countries in the region have hardly
shown any collective sensitivity about these facts of history." Perseverance
will be required to resolve this bilateral issue with Myanmar.
The Northeast is the surface bridge to south east Asian
markets. The land routes and inland waterways that were in widespread
use prior to Indpendence have tremendous potential. The idea itself
is acceptable to all the countries concerned. But when it comes down
to details such as working out the requirements of infrastructure, improvement
of roads, ware-housing, customs clearance procedures, rates of exchange,
taxes and levies, there is more evidence of timorousness than reasonable
caution on the part of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Participatory Development: Above all, the involvement
of the people in the shaping of their destinies is vital. This would
mean extensive training in participatory planning and co-operative ventures
at village level before actual projects are executed. Advantage must
be taken of the ancient tradition of voluntary community work that exists
in all Naga tribes, such as the yim mapa of the Aos. The basic
planning unit has to be the clan or village and not the individual,
because the former represents the primary sources of Naga identity.
Thus allocation of loans should be through the Village Council with
incentives for timely repayment and penalties for delays in the form
of deductions in future village allocations. At present planning is
paternalistic, top-down and community-oriented only in name. The paradox
is that there are a number of State and Government training organisations
and NGOs with ample expertise in Participatory Management.
Media Management: Good Media Management is a
cardinal element in overcoming alienation and reinforcing the social
and individual aspects of identity. At present there are two ad-hoc
co-ordinating agencies in the Ministry of Home Affairs, one for J&K
and the other for the Northeast. The Joint Secretary (East) is responsible
for the Northeast region. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
has a Media Relations Committee at the Centre and an Inter-Media Publicity
Co-ordination Committee in each State capital. There are no signs of
a co-ordinated media policy to tackle the sense of alienation in the
Northeast. The radio, not TV, is still the most important media agency.
Yet our radio signals on the eastern border are so weak that villagers
prefer to tune into transmissions from Bangladesh and Myanmar. The weekly
Doordarshan programme on the Northeast is transmitted at 9a.m., when
there are hardly any viewers.
Alienation is the child of ignorance and prejudice.
Media management is perhaps the most potent force to widen horizons
and wean the Nagas from ethnocentrism. That this has not been adequately
attended to these last fifty years only indicates the lack of understanding
of how alienation can be overcome. The emphasis in development still
seems to be on allocation of funds. Keeping in mind the difficult terrain
and poor condition of roads, the flow of information should be in order
of priority, through the radio, TV and then newspapers and journals.
In this context, the Bharat Darshan scheme that
introduces Northeastern students to the plurality of Indian culture
through a national tour has been a success story. A scheme that encouraged
students from other parts of the country to tour the Northeastern states
would also help the national mainstream overcome its own
prejudice as well.
Institutions, Not Committees: Given the magnitude
of the problems of the Northeast, a reorganisation at the level of the
Ministries is required. However, the creation of a new Ministry of Border
Areas and National Races, as in Myanmar, may not be necessary. All that
is required is to upgrade and adequately staff the North Eastern section
of the Home Ministry, and to set up a Directorate of Psychological Operations
and Civic Action which would be responsible for long and short term
information and media policies. The two are quite different.
The former defines macro-policy and its dissemination while the latter
applies this specifically to the management and co-ordination of inter-national,
national and regional media. The Directorate would specifically tackle
the problems of alienation and training in participatory civic action.
An Inter-Media Publicity Co-ordination Wing under the Ministry of Information
and Broadcasting could replace the existing Committee.
The political temptation to order yet more Committees,
Commissions and Reports, instead of building institutions, should be
curbed. There are already more than half-a-dozen Reports to go by.49
There have been numerous and erratic Prime Ministerial initiatives on
the Northeast as well. Rajiv Gandhi set up a Northeast Council (along
with an Islands Development Authority for Lakshadweep and the Andaman
& Nicobar Islands). This was in addition to the Northeast Council
already established at Shillong. Narasimha Rao set up a Council of Senior
Central Ministers to monitor progress in the Northeast. So did H.D.
Deve Gowda. All these bodies were to report directly to the then Prime
Minister, and most, if not all, have died an early death due to their
innate ad hoc nature.
Accountability: Accountability is not only a
matter of fiscal discipline. It is also a human problem. The free flow
of funds without accountability has wreaked havoc on the moral fibre
of the Nagas, and it has failed to earn their goodwill. "Loyalty cannot
be bought" is a phrase often heard in Nagaland. What is worse is that
it, at least partly, flows into the coffers of the insurgents. It is
as important to assess the effect of such funding on the value system
of the Nagas, as it is to compile statistics of numbers of primary schools
opened through fund allocations for this purpose in a financial year.
Mechanisms for monitoring and accountability in the utilisation of funds
exist, but are not enforced. Auditors fear for their lives. In such
an environment the Village Development Board (VDB) Scheme, with all
its faults, is an example of the benefits of decentralisation, transparency
and accountability at village level. Extortion from this fund by the
insurgents rebounds on them because the development of the village is
seen to suffer directly. In the VDB Scheme, development is planned and
executed by the villagers. They are responsible for the utilisation
of the funds. Penalties and incentives are built into the rules governing
the scheme. Unfortunately, interference by local politicians has somewhat
vitiated the functioning of the VDBs. Nevertheless, more schemes based
on these principles, and on yim mapa (voluntary community social
work) can exploit a traditional strength of the Nagas
There is a host of other macro issues, beyond ethnicity
and identity, which also demand attention, but which remain outside
the scope of this paper. Education, Employment, Vocational Training
and the development of micro-economies centred around groups of villages
will help fight insurgency and develop the economy. Nevertheless, the
use of force will always be a part of counter-insurgency, and a pro-active
model for fighting militancy needs to be evolved. The present model
is reactive because it views an incipient insurgency as a Law and Order
problem. It is only when it gets out of hand at the State level that
the Centre intervenes with its Security Forces. Unfortunately, turf
battles have obstructed the evolution of a better model.
The causes of insurgency in each of the Northeastern
States are different and have to be tackled accordingly. The vexed issue
of ethnicity and identity is central to Nagaland and common to all the
other States in the region. The challenge is to understand its dynamic,
evolutionary nature that contains elements that are both self-perpetuating
and self-destructive. Janus-like, ethnicity and identity have the choice
to look at once at the past and the future. Looking at the past is self-destructive,
and results in what may be termed museumisation.
On the other hand, looking outwards and to the future, identities may
be strengthened as they acknowledge other societies as part of a larger
whole. A culture rejects, or enriches itself, with the influences of
these societies by using the touchstone of its own core values.
I was once asked to speak at a Sunday Service at the
Baptist Church in Mokokchung. It was a gracious invitation, since the
Church elders knew that I was not a Christian. I looked through the
Bible to find a keynote for the talk something that was universal
and yet specific to the situation in Nagaland. I found it, across two
thousand years, in St. Pauls letters to the Corinthians: "
body is one and hath many members
if the ear shall say, Because
I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of
And whether one member suffer, all members suffer with
it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it"50
If only the other face of Janus would pay heed.
*Lt. Gen. (Retd) Sushil K. Pillai, PVSM, is a former Deputy Chief of
Army Staff and Director General of Infantry. He was commissioned to
the Assam Regiment in 1955. After retirement in 1991, he has written
extensively on India's Northeast, and is currently writing a History
of the Assam Regiment. He is also a Consulting Editor with FAULTLINES.
"The problems of Culture and Identity in Social Functioning,"
Journal of Multicultural Social Work, Volume 12 (4), 1992
LANGE, A., & WESTIN,
C., Social, Psychological Aspects of Radical& Ethnic Relations,
University of Stockholm. 1984.
and Multiculturalism in Australia. University of Western Australia,
Memorandum of 10 Jan
1929 submitted to the Hon. Mr. E. Cadogan and Clement Atlee on their
visit to Kohima. The text is available in Tajenyuba Ao, British
Occupation of Naga Country, Naga Literature Society, Mokokchung,
1993, pp. 272-273; as well as in Murkot Ramunny’s The World of the
Nagas, Northern Book Centre, 1993, p. 249. Out of the 20 Nagas,
14 were Angamis, 2 Kacha Nagas and one each from Sema, Lotha, Rengma
and Kuki tribes. They represented 6 out of the then classification
of 8 known Naga tribes. Today there are 17 Naga tribes. Cf. Murkot
RAMUNNY, The World of Nagas, Northern Book Centre, 1988.
There are a number
of theories. One is that it means ‘People’ as given in the Borunjis
(history) of the 13th Century Ahom Rajas. The more popular meaning
as given by Phizo is ‘Na-Ka’, a Myanmar word for "Pierced Ear’.
SMITH, W.C., The Ao
Naga Tribe, 1925. These were head-hunting, dormitory for young men,
house on piles, disposal of dead on platforms, tribal marriage customs,
betel chewing, aversion to milk, tattooing, lack of political organisation,
double cylinder forge, loin loom, hexagonal shields, residence in
hilly regions and jhum cultivation. These commonalities are questionable
and in any case are not applicable now, which only illustrates the
dynamic nature of both identity and ethnicity.
SANYU, Visier, A History
of Nagas and Nagaland, Commonwealth publishers, 1996.
Including an 1881 paper
read at the Anthropological Institute, London by Lt Col RG Woodthorpe.
1.Ao, 2.Angami, 3.
Chang, 4. Chirr, 5. Chakesang (earlier known as the Eastern Angamis.
Now combined with Chakri, Kheza and a branch of the Sangtams), 6.
Pochury ( a break-away group from the Chakesang), 7. Khiamniungans,
8. Konyaks, 9. Lotha, 10. Makware, 11. Phom (earlier grouped with
Konyaks), 12. Rengma, 13. Sema, 14. Sangtams, 15. Tikhir, 16. Yimchungr,
17. Zeliangrong ( combined Zemei, Lingmai, Rongmai-this tribe was
earlier called Kacha, then Kabui).
There are 12 unlisted
tribes in the 1991 Census such as the Jeru, Jothe, Kharam, Uchonpok,
People of India, Volume
1, An Introduction, Seagull Books, Calcutta, 1992, p. 40.
for independence of Nagaland were also articulated by the British.
In 1946, Sir Robert Reid, ex-Governor of Assam, proposed a Crown
Colony including the Naga, Lushai and Chin Hills, along with the
Hukwang valley, curving upto the Lakhimpur Frontier Tract. Sir Reginald
Coupland, who had served in Burma, made a somewhat similar proposal
of a Condominium of Britain, India and Burma, to look after the
common tribal areas. (Verrier Elwin, Nagaland, Research Department,
Advisor’s Secretariat, Shillong, 1961, pp. 51-52. Both the proposals
were rejected by Whitehall and by the NNC, which felt that the proposals
smacked of colonialism. (Tajenyuba Ao, op.cit., p. 276; and Sir
Reid’s Notes in the Raj Bhavan Records, Shillong). Dr. J.H. Hutton,
a distinguished anthropologist, author and administrator who had
served two decades as DC, Naga Hills, in a Memorandum (Cf. Raj Bhavan
Records, Shillong) to the Simon Commission, recommended the gradual
creation of self-governing communities, semi-independent in nature
on the lines of the Shan States of Burma. (Ramunny, op.cit., p.
14). In his Geneva speech, Swu described Free Nagaland as lying
between China, India and Burma (Tajenyuba, ibid., Appendix 3, p.
Bertil Lintner. Land
of Jade. Kiscadale.1990. This book is reportedly banned by the NSCN(IM).
Cf. K.S. Singh, People
of India, Volume 34, Nagaland, Seagull Books, Calcutta, 1994, p.
76. The Khiamniungan legends were related to the author on October
30, 1993, by Putsong, President, Khiamniungan Tribal Council, at
Noklak. Also cf. Maj. Gen. S.C. Sardeshpande, The Patkoi Nagas,
Daya Publishing House, New Delhi, 1987.
RAMUNNY, The World
of Nagas, op.cit.
The Naga Club was
set up in 1918 by the British Administration. Prior to British control,
the Nagas lived in autonomous village-states. The purpose was to
set up a representative body bringing together, first, the villages,
and then, whole tribes. Its members were Naga Government officials
(mainly interpreters) and headmen from villages around Kohima and
Mokokchung. The motive was administrative and not political, though
it did eventually lead to politicisation and the demand for an autonomous
state within India. This was changed, on February 20, 1947, to a
demand for an independent state.
IMTI, Aliba , Reminiscence:
Impur to NNC. This valuable book had a limited edition in 1988 and
is out of print.
Naga Hills District
of Assam. On 1 Dec, 1957, Tuensang Division was detached from NEFA
and merged with the Naga Hills District. The new area was renamed
the Naga Hills and Tuensang Area (NHTA) and was under the direct
control of the Governor of Assam. NHTA became the new state of Nagaland
on 1 Dec, 1963.
Prakash Singh. Nagaland.
National Book Trust.1972. There are, predictably, two versions of
the Plebiscite. Tajenyuba Ao, in his British Occupation of Naga
Country presents the NNC Naga view. According to this, Phizo decided
to hold a plebiscite before the First Indian General Election of
1952 to demonstrate the Naga desire for independence. The Plebiscite
was approved by the NNC in February 1951. On May 16, 1951. "hundreds
of Tribal delegates and thousands of people" assembled at Kohima,
including Naga observers from Manipur and Tuensang. They were told
by Phizo that all adults above 15 years could sign or put their
thumb impression on their declaration of their desire for Naga Independence.
The Plebiscite was completed in two months and copies of the forms
(with thumb impressions) wre sent to the President of India and
to the Secretary General of the United Nations. The unilateral plebiscite,
according to Tajenyuba, became binding on all Naga tribes in India
and Burma. Prakash Singh, IPS (Retd), in his account on Nagaland
presents the version that the plebiscite covered only two districts
of the Naga Hills and is a disproportionately exaggerated claim
which does not stand the test of scrutiny. The villagers were fed
with wrong and oversimplified information. A similar view has been
expressed by Ramunny in The World of Nagas. Viewed objectively,
the plebiscite was a rough and ready effort that cannot be termed
as truly representative of the opinion of all the Nagas then. But
it was an indicator of incipient agitation. To this the Administration
remained a silent spectator, making no effort to present the Government
view. In fact, on the eve of May 16, 1951, a Naga delegation called
on the DC, Shri Duncan, a Khasi officer, to thank him for not interfering
with the ceremony! Today, however, the reality of how the Nagas
view the pelbiscite cannot be wished away.
SINGH, Prakash, op.
cit, p. 173.
At a public meeting
at Kohima for Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Prime Minister
U Nu of Burma on 30 Mar,1953, the bulk of the audience walked out
in protest against the NNC not being permitted to present a Memorandum
there. It was an insult that Nehru had never faced before, but he
was magnanimous to the NNC. He faulted the Deputy Commissioner for
mismanaging the show (which is correct) but did not comment on the
obduracy of the NNC who also must share the blame for inciting the
walkout. On Feb 17,1966, Jaya Prakash Narayan resigned in distress
from the Peace Mission because of the discourtesy shown to him by
a Naga delegation following an incorrect newspaper report that JP
had said the Nagas could be liquidated by the Government. Earlier,
in 1965, Y.D. Gundevia, the then Foreign Secretary, thought that
creating a friendly ambience for the Peace talks would help and
bent backwards in giving in to some of the demands of the Naga delegation.
He was soon disillusioned. B.P. Chalia, another member of the Peace
Mission, also resigned in May1965, after two train explosions took
place while peace talks were on. On his resignation, Jerenkoba,
‘Home Minister’ of the NFG, said he would badly miss a friend like
Chalia who understood the mind of the Nagas. Both chivalry and obstinacy
are part of the Naga temperament.
Tochi Hansao, at one
time Minister for Health in Nagaland, who was my travel companion
in Khiamniungan area was the first to relate this story to me. Hongkin,
laughingly, later confirmed it.
RAMUNNY, op. cit.,
Ibid., p. 91.
L. Ao. Rural Development
in Nagaland. Har Anand, 1993
Interview with the
author at Kohima, October 9, 1993.
Christof von Furer-Haimendorf,
Return to the Naked Nagas, Vikas, 1976.
SANYU, Visier in his
essay "What Nagaland State Did to the Nagas: A Historical Perspective",
in Nagaland: A Contemporary Ethnography, Ed: Subhadra M. Channa.
The Kokang, Wa, Danu,
Pa-o and Palang. Cf. Maj. Gen. D. Banerjee, Myanmar and North East
India, Delhi Policy Group, 1997.
A mixture of the six
dominant tribes (Angami, Ao, Sema, Lotha, Changs and Tangkhuls)
This is also echoed
by Rajni Kothari in State Against Democracy. New Horizons Press.
New York. 1989.
Cf. for instance,
V.S. Jafa, "Administrative Policies and Ethnic Disintegration:
Engineering Conflict in India’s Northeast, Faultlines: Writings
in Conflict & Resolution, Volume 2, ICM-Bulwark Books, August
1999, pp. 48-115.
The World of Nagas.
T. Lanusosang. Nagaland.
A Study in Social Geography. Department of School Education. Kohima.
Prakash Singh, op.cit.,
B.G. Verghese. India's
Northeast Resurgent. op.cit.
MADHAB, Dr. Jayanta,
"The Northeast: A crisis of Identity, Security, Under-development",
Talk at the India International Centre, September 1998. There are
24 Lok Sabha seats for the NE in a House of 545.
CLARK, Mary Mead,
A Corner in India. American Baptist Publication Society, 1907.
IMCHEN, Panger, Ancient
Ao Naga Religion and Culture, Har-Anand Publishers, 1993.
Narrated to the author
on June 3, 1994, at Shillong.
Media reports place
extortions and 'voluntary contributions' to the tune of Rs 300 crores
the author on October 9, 1993, at Kohima.
Interview with the
author at Mokokchung on May 19, 1994.
Ain (pronounced as
in ‘main’) means ‘oracle’. Khiamniungan society is fairly complex
and is composed of two major groups, divided into two major clans,
each with a total of 24 minor clans. In addition, there are eight
important people in the village: The War Leader (Nyokpao), the Peace
Maker (Petchi), the Priest (Meya), the Doctor (Meshwon), the Priestess
and Oracle (Ain), the Blaksmith (Sonlan), the Story Teller (Paothai)
and the Keeper of the Stone (Ainloom). The Ainloom is a man of probity
and peace. He keeps a magical stone that warns of any impending
disaster, such as a fire or raid, by either moving out of its basket
or by creating a sound by striking some other object. His home will
not be touched by raiding parties. Of these various tribal institutions,
only the Petchi, the Sonlan and the Ainloom have relevance today.
For the rest, they are to be remembered only in books and in the
oral tradition. The author was fortunate to meet each of them, the
last in their line, over the period 1993-94, except for the Paothai.
Verghese. Ibid., on
Assam's demographic predicament and the influx of 'foreigners'.
Nagas The Nine Point
Understanding (28 June,'47) & 16Point Proposals (28 July, '60.
Statehood announced in Lok Sabha 1 August, 1960). Mizos. Memorandum
of Settlement. 30 June, 1986. Assam (a) Memorandum of Settlement
with AASU & AAGSP on Foreigners issue15 August 1985. (b) Bodo
Accord. 20 February 1993.
These reports range
from vintage 1950's to current ones. To name a few – The Shilu Ao
Study Team on Tribal Development, Dr. Roy Burman's Poverty Alleviation
in Nagaland and Manipur, Dr. L.P. Vidyarthi's Task Force on Development
of Tribal Areas, S.C. Dube's Expert Committee on Tribal Development,
R.N. Haldipur Working Group on Tribal Personnel Policies and the
recent Shukla Commission.
The Holy Bible, I
Corinth 12, 12-26, Gideons International, 1985, pp. 1194-95.