Terrorism Update
Show/Hide Search
    Click to Enlarge

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 India’s 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…(and 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 India.

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 Nagaland–Isak-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.

Naga Ethnicity

Ironically, the term ‘Naga’6 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 and Myanmar.

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 anyone’s pet theory. Which is why centuries later when Phizo talked of profound ethnic differences even with neighbouring tribes in India and Myanmar, no one questioned him.

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 stereotype.

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 its members:

  • 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 Naga insurgency.

A power struggle between a separatist Phizo and a moderate Aliba Imti took place within the NNC culminating in Phizo’s 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 Phizo’s 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 since 1876.

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 ‘People’s 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’ (NFG).

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 didn’t 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 Phizo’s 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. Phizo’s 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 India’s 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 Nehru’s farsighted views, outlined during discussions on Statehood for Nagaland:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 " 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 Government."

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 village council."30

Such is the multi faceted anatomy of ethnicity!

To understand insurgency in India’s 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 Phizo’s 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.

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 that " … 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 1930’s, 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 them.

Naga Identity

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 psyche.

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:




CAME – 1924 3RD A/ R

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 financial profligacy.

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 changes.

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 now."

Recipe for an Omelette

Stalin’s 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 are:

  1. Legal provisions on Statehood or increased autonomy – this includes the all-important aspect of power-sharing;
  2. delineation of inter-state and inter-regional boundaries;
  3. financial provisions for various items such as development schemes, border trade and taxes;
  4. Cultural, social, linguistic, and demographic safeguards;
  5. ownership of land; and
  6. 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. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians: "…the 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 the body?… 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.

  1. JAYASURIYA, Laksari, "The problems of Culture and Identity in Social Functioning," Journal of Multicultural Social Work, Volume 12 (4), 1992

  2. Ibid.

  3. LANGE, A., & WESTIN, C., Social, Psychological Aspects of Radical& Ethnic Relations, University of Stockholm. 1984.

  4. JAYASURIYA, Immigration and Multiculturalism in Australia. University of Western Australia, 1997.

  5. 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.

  6. 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’.

  7. 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.

  8. SANYU, Visier, A History of Nagas and Nagaland, Commonwealth publishers, 1996.

  9. Including an 1881 paper read at the Anthropological Institute, London by Lt Col RG Woodthorpe.

  10. 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).

  11. There are 12 unlisted tribes in the 1991 Census such as the Jeru, Jothe, Kharam, Uchonpok, Yachimi.

  12. People of India, Volume 1, An Introduction, Seagull Books, Calcutta, 1992, p. 40.

  13. Various proposals 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. xxi).

  14. Bertil Lintner. Land of Jade. Kiscadale.1990. This book is reportedly banned by the NSCN(IM).

  15. 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.

  16. RAMUNNY, The World of Nagas, op.cit.

  17. 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.

  18. IMTI, Aliba , Reminiscence: Impur to NNC. This valuable book had a limited edition in 1988 and is out of print.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. RAMUNNY, op.cit.

  22. SINGH, Prakash, op. cit, p. 173.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. RAMUNNY, op. cit., pp. 234-235.

  26. Ibid., p. 91.

  27. L. Ao. Rural Development in Nagaland. Har Anand, 1993

  28. Interview with the author at Kohima, October 9, 1993.

  29. Christof von Furer-Haimendorf, Return to the Naked Nagas, Vikas, 1976.

  30. SANYU, Visier in his essay "What Nagaland State Did to the Nagas: A Historical Perspective", in Nagaland: A Contemporary Ethnography, Ed: Subhadra M. Channa. Cosmo. 1992.

  31. The Kokang, Wa, Danu, Pa-o and Palang. Cf. Maj. Gen. D. Banerjee, Myanmar and North East India, Delhi Policy Group, 1997.

  32. A mixture of the six dominant tribes (Angami, Ao, Sema, Lotha, Changs and Tangkhuls)

  33. This is also echoed by Rajni Kothari in State Against Democracy. New Horizons Press. New York. 1989.

  34. 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.

  35. The World of Nagas. op.cit.

  36. T. Lanusosang. Nagaland. A Study in Social Geography. Department of School Education. Kohima. 1989.

  37. Prakash Singh, op.cit., pp. 184-192.

  38. B.G. Verghese. India's Northeast Resurgent. op.cit.

  39. 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.

  40. CLARK, Mary Mead, A Corner in India. American Baptist Publication Society, 1907.

  41. IMCHEN, Panger, Ancient Ao Naga Religion and Culture, Har-Anand Publishers, 1993.

  42. Narrated to the author on June 3, 1994, at Shillong.

  43. Media reports place extortions and 'voluntary contributions' to the tune of Rs 300 crores per anum.

  44. Conversation with the author on October 9, 1993, at Kohima.

  45. Interview with the author at Mokokchung on May 19, 1994.

  46. 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.

  47. Verghese. Ibid., on Assam's demographic predicament and the influx of 'foreigners'.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. The Holy Bible, I Corinth 12, 12-26, Gideons International, 1985, pp. 1194-95.





Copyright © 2001 SATP. All rights reserved.