History Important in Quest for Naga Solution

By- Charles Chasie

The Home Ministry’s announcement that Government of India would give its response on the Naga Issue by November and suggesting all Naga stakeholder groups to come together seems to have sent all Naga political groups, Overground and Underground, into individual sub-rosa confabulations even if their actual coming together is still far off. Various responses, muted and loud, individual or group, are beginning to emerge although still unclear. What is evident is a sense of imminence in the air! Government of India’s recent announcement as a response to “Indo-Naga Talks”, after so many years, has been long overdue. The thought that GoI was either indecisive or unwilling to solve the Naga Issue was beginning to creep into people’s minds both within and outside the country. What perhaps, many people did not expect was the sudden spurt in seeming decisiveness on the part of the Government of India (GoI). The Home Ministry’s announcement gave a time line of its own commitment and did away with the office of “Interlocutor”, thereby giving the message that GoI wants to have direct talks. Its suggestion that all Nagas come together and speak with one voice may sound patronizing but also a necessary condition for permanent settlement in present context of various opposing groups. All these indicated a new sense of purpose and determination, something Nagas had not seen in GoI’s attitude in decades. This sudden promise by GoI to throw the ball onto the Naga side of the Court, without actually doing so, has come as a bit of a surprise to many. It seems to show the kind of confidence GoI has now acquired in dealing with the Naga Issue! Naga division had become a major hurdle to finding an adequate solution notwithstanding the allegations that GoI agents/agencies have manipulated and exploited such divisions. At the same time, the exploitative methods of GoI could only Contain and Control the Naga Situation without finding an adequate solution to the Naga Issue. If the present initiative is sincere enough and goes far enough, the Nagas may find that it may no longer be enough to blame GoI for non-solution of the Naga Issue! Much will depend on Mrs Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh. Both are respected for wh o they are. The Prime Minister also enjoys emotional attachment as an MP from the region. Both sides know that the search for an adequate settlement of the Naga Issue has gone on for too long. One-upmanship and attempts to place oneself in a more advantageous position by force, at the cost of others, may not only lead to a lose-lose situation but also risk the possibility of leaders being cursed by future generations! The need is for win-win initiatives, if only for the sake of those they represent. WIN-WIN SITUATION It would seem that two main things and a lot of home-works are required for both sides before a win-win agreement could emerge. i) Government of India needs to carry further the recognition of Naga History and remove it from the shadow of “secession” or even “insurgency” simply because these are not true. GoI, for example, after many decades of denial, and military action, is coming back to recognizing, if silently, the existence of the 9-Points Agreement, or Hydari Agreement, of June 1947. Moreover, it is not possible to tal k about the 9-Points Agreement without also remembering August 14, 1947, and keeping at the back of one’s mind the Naga Memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929. Equating and comparing the Naga Issue with other militant groups in NE, in the name of “insurgency”, make `India’ look small! (Personally, I have never been comfortable with the term “insurgency” in NE context because I don’t think any of these groups, certainly not the Nagas, give much store to whether the Congress or BJP or any other party is ruling in Delhi) . The history of any people, however seemingly insignificant, cannot be belittled. We are all aware of the few examples where history was attempted to be re-written. No one can really do harm to another without suffering some destruction oneself! ii) On the Naga side, the Nagas should gratefully accept the History God gave them as a people, conscious of other ethnic groups of similar size, including in their own neighbourhood! This should help them, in Christian humility, to admit to faults that have been committed along the way. This is where the need for reconciliation, and moving on, comes in especially in matters intra-Naga. With healing, the Naga people would then have the needed space, even enlightenment, to envision the future of their people and how they could contribute. Without reconciliation and healing, there is real chance of the worst sides of Naga history repeating itself and also encouraging the emergence of the bad traits in others! No one wants these. Further, Nagas will need the goodwill and active cooperation of all their neighbours. From above, it is quite clear that both GoI and the Naga side will have to do a lot of “homework” before an adequate final political settlement of the Naga Issue may happen. FUTURE ROUTE Both sides must recognize the following facts:- a) Regardless of whether a Naga is a Member of Indian Parliament, Minister in a State Government, senior GoI or State bureaucrat or employee, contractor, supplier, educationist, media person, ordinary villager etc. all Nagas recognize and accept the happenings of recent Naga political history such as Naga Memorandum to Simon Commission in 1929, Hydari Agreement of June 1947, Naga declaration of independence on August 14, 1947, Naga Plebiscite of 1951, etc. There is no dispute among Nagas where these above events are concerned. b) Despite its military and economic strengths/powers, and exercising these through various channels, GoI has only been able to exploit and manipulate Naga divisions through Control and Containment policies. The central issue (because of such policies?) could still not be addressed and, instead, created more room for divisions/exploitation while removing possible solutions further afield. What the costs to Naga Society are of such policies have yet to be assessed. c) Nagas must know and accept that it is now in their best interest to work out something tangible and honourable with the GoI. Nagas must accept, however painful, that they have missed several opportunities and there is a limit to how far they can blame others for these. Take two examples. (i) The Crown Colony concept, proposed by some British Colonial administrators, which was not far from sentiments expressed by Naga leaders. (ii) The historic visit to Kohima of Nehru with U Nu, his Burmese counterpart, was a great opportunity. Nagas may claim it was not their fault. The fact remains that Nagas were willing to jeopardize the future of their people because of the attitude of the then Deputy Commissioner, one individual! d) The biggest hurdle to an adequate political settlement has always been the “political”. Economic issues, where most Nagas are concerned, will only be the icing on the proverbial cake! Without some face-saving concession on the political side the Nagas may not see any forthcoming settlement as “honourable”. This is the Catch-22 of the Naga Issue. The positive element, today, is that both sides agree that solution must come through “talks” and not military action. e) Overwhelming majority of Nagas want solution. Three things are material here. (i) All Nagas want an “honourable settlement”. Much will depend on how far GoI is prepared to go to accommodate Naga aspirations and history. (ii) Any Naga leader/s or group/party playing spoilsport and standing in the way of an adequate settlement may, one day, regretfully discover that History is no servant to anyone and that it is best to pay healthy respect to it! Whether Overground or Underground, individual and groups interests must sub-serve the interests of the Naga people as a whole. (iii) The goodwill and active cooperation of all, especially those concerned and affected, third parties. Nagas must reach out and interact with neighbours. Nagas cannot expect satisfaction of their aspirations without also respecting the aspirations and sentiments of neighbours to the extent possible. FORUM FOR NAGA RECONCILIATION I had, on earlier occasions, written in support of the Forum for Naga Reconciliation, headed by Dr Wati Aier because I believe he knows about healing and reconciliation. In December 2001, the orphan choir he brought to Kohima to sing “Healing in Our Nation” is still imprinted in the minds of Naga people. The FNR has also made much headway. Any positives must be appreciated and supported. Healing and Reconciliation will lay the foundations for the rebirth of the Naga people. They will also ensure that any future political agreement will have a chance to work/succeed. But has the time come for the FNR to expand its base at home and grow to the stature it will need for next stage/s? A natural extension would be to sufficiently include, even make core partners, the Nagaland Christian Forum or at least the Nagaland Baptist Church Council. Such inclusion will not only provide the FNR with the needed pillars but will also be fitting in the light of peace movement history in Nagaland. A unified Naga Church will also inspire and give confidence to all Nagas. CONCLUSION It is said that nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. Equally true is that when the time has not come, it is of no use banging one’s head to force it to happen! Take an example. Just a few years ago, the idea of healing and reconciliation failed to make headway despite all the emotional as well as rational and objective explanations given out. Today, most Nagas, thank God, are going out full-throated for these same objectives! This gives hope for Naga healing and restoration, the only adequate basis from which something new and better may emerge for the Naga people! For the above to fully happen, magnanimity and largeness of heart on the part of the Government and people of India will be required as well. Such magnanimity, one thinks, will also help Spiritual India to re-find her Soul which, in turn, could lead to India finding her true destiny?

Reconciliation & Political Outcomes


Many months back I had interviewed General (Retd) Thenoselie, a former comrade-in -arms of senior leaders like Isak Chishi Swu, SS Khaplang, Th Muivah and General Khole. At that time, the work being done by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) was only beginning to unfold. I remember there was an air of expectancy as well as skepticism in the minds of many ordinary Nagas. The public mood at that time was a mixed one—optimistic with a yearning for a new day and yet cautious, knowing the familiar stories of failure. It was indeed therefore uplifting to listen to the old General and his story of hope, a belief in a better future for the Naga people. But he also knew that time was running out for the likes of Khaplang, Swu, Muivah, Khole and himself. During our conversation I recall uncle Thenoselie appealing perhaps for the last time to his fellow comrades “to reason together” and unite. “We can go to Delhi in one voice. We can achieve our goal once we are united in our purpose”, an upbeat Thenoselie remarked evoking the same spirit of ‘Yes we can’, which helped propel Barack Obama as the first ever African-American to the White House.
At that time, who would have thought that the voice of reason could ever triumph or sanity return and that peace would become a reality. Today, that story of hope is being written in gold letters and every day has become a renewal of the spirit—to heal the wounds of the past and to look to the future with greater confidence. And what is encouraging at this point of time is that the signatories to the covenant of reconciliation (the two NSCNs and FGN) have demonstrated up till now the much needed courage of conviction to work towards this objective—to reason together—keeping in mind the need for unity of purpose to achieve the common goal and a shared future. It should be noted that the current reconciliation process has produced several remarkable outcomes. Some of the positive political outcomes coming out of the reconciliation process are as follows:

•    June 14-15, 2009—Isak Chishi Swu, SS Khaplang, Brig S Singnya sign historic covenant of reconciliation
•    August 25, 2009—Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising of members from the three groups NSCN (IM), NSCN (K) and FGN constituted with main task of facilitating a meeting at the highest level
•    September 10, 2009—Ato Kilonser (Prime Minister) of the Khaplang led NSCN Kitovi Zhimomi speaking at a public function in Suruhoto (Zunheboto Dist) clearly mentioning that they have no immediate intentions to start dialogue with the Indian Government till the Nagas unite and speak with one voice
•    September 22-25, 2009—Declaration of Commitment by the NSCNs & FGN groups pledging to cease all forms of offensive activities in Toto.
•    September 27, 2009—Commander-in-Chief of the Naga Army (NSCN-IM) publicly states that Nagas cannot afford another internecine war.
•    September 28, 2009—JWG comprising NSCNs & FGN rejects any form of ‘conditional package offered by the Government of India to the Nagas.

The point wise outcome mentioned above is self explanatory. However the significance of each outcome should not be missed out in understanding the progression of the reconciliation process. First, the historic “Covenant of Reconciliation” jointly signed by Swu, Khaplang and Brig Singnya has really been the pace setter—the buckle or the center piece that holds the reconciliation process together. And the inclusive nature of this covenant is stated in the appeal made to other Naga groups to “join them in reconciling with each other”. Secondly, the formation of the Joint Working Group is I believe the precursor to a future ‘national government’ and a vital piece of ornament in the reconciliation process. The groups must be encouraged to work together on common agendas. Thirdly, the September 10 statement of Kitovi Zhimomi is an important outcome because he was making a significant policy decision that the Khaplang group will not start a dialogue with Delhi till Nagas unite and speak with one voice. This set to rest some amount of confusion and speculation. Next, the image of leaders from various groups—Gen. V S Atem, Azheto Chophy, Zhopra Vero, Somba Chang, Wangtin Naga etc.—holding the common flag would have warmed many a Naga heart. And that this was not mere symbolism alone was demonstrated through the ‘Declaration of Commitment’ by the three groups pledging to cease all forms of offensive activities in Toto. This is definitely a breakthrough.
But what really set things apart though was the September 27 speech of the Commander-n-Chief (Longvibu) of the Naga Army (NSCN-IM) Lt Gen NG Markson VC (on the occasion of National Agony Day). Firstly unlike the recent declarations coming out of the reconciliation process, this one was hardly visible and almost subtle to the point that not many people would have read or understood its significance. The Army General stated point blank that “Nagas cannot afford another internecine war” and send out to fellow comrades the message ‘to reason together’. Should we be reading too much into this? Well for one, it is rare for the military establishment to make such kind of statements. We should in fact look at it as another welcome outcome of the reconciliation process where an Army Chief offers a conciliatory gesture. This is a paradigm shift. It should be welcomed and reciprocated by other groups. And finally the latest most visible political outcome coming out of the reconciliation process is the Naga groups taking a united stand by rejecting any form of ‘conditional package’ offered by the Government of India.  This is indeed a clear indication of the forward movement taking place in the peace and reconciliation process among the Naga national political groups.
In all the political outcomes what is most encouraging is that the JWG comprising of the three erstwhile warring groups have actually started to take their own decision on some very important and substantive issues. This shows the improved trust levels and the fact that the groups are slowly taking ownership of the reconciliation process. All these are healthy signs which need to be further strengthened on the ground, at various levels and across the board by way of taking confidence building measures. As much of goodwill as possible has to be generated to keep the engine of reconciliation running.
And it is for this reason that for the Nagas groups, the next step in the reconciliation process—the proposed meeting at the highest level becomes all the more important because unless the Naga national workers regroup themselves, there is less likelihood of Nagas getting an honorable deal from the Indian State. Not only this, any delay in coming together will allow vested interest elements to try and fill in the power vacuum which will lead to further division and mutual suspicion among the Nagas. Further if Nagas want to avoid falling into the familiar bait of the so called ‘packages’ and financial largesse, which can easily distract and blind us, then wisdom demands that the Naga national groups come together quickly and take control of the political process. This will ensure that the peace process is not hijacked by circumstances like it happened in the case of the 16-Point Agreement. It will be worthwhile to mention here of my earlier conversation with General Thenoselie who was struck by the fact that it was the State politicians and leaders who manipulated their way into bargaining peace deals with Delhi although it was the national workers who had all along kept afloat the “national struggle” or “freedom movement”.
As for the Common Naga Platform (CNP), it is unfortunate that the good intention of initiating such a platform has run into opposition especially from the Naga groups. This is not surprising because in the first place the basic objective of the CNP was itself a flawed one. There is nothing wrong in bringing together ‘Naga over-ground groups’ as envisioned by the CNP. But there is something unacceptable about the objective, “negotiating with one Naga voice with India”. It is obvious that negotiation is best left to the Naga political groups. There is no need for the CNP to be so ambitious to claim a role for itself which as a matter of fact it should not get into. For several decades now successive State governments and the Naga civil society groups have acted as facilitators to the peace process. And this has continued to be acknowledged as a matter of policy even by the present Chief Minister who has in fact assured time and again (as did the former Chief Ministers) that the State government will pave way for a new political dispensation. This being the stated position of the past and current state leadership, cutting across party lines, it was therefore misplaced on the part of the CNP to actually assign to itself the role of negotiation which is best left to the national workers. But it also means that the Naga factions must regroup themselves without further delay in order to take up its assigned role in the Indo-Naga peace process.
There is a need for synergy among all the different players that make up Naga civil society and polity. It also lends to reason that we have to take a step by step approach. Goals have to be prioritized accordingly. In that sense one should not discount the CNP. Its time and role will come at a later stage. But for now our priority should be reconciliation of the Naga factions. And the crucial role of bringing together the warring groups is being undertaken by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR). Its job is not complete. Bringing in the CNP at this juncture is akin to putting the cart before the horse. Let the factions reconcile and come to some form of meeting point first. Once this is done, the FNR will have to naturally move into the background and allow the Naga national groups to come to the fore and negotiate with one voice before the Government of India. The important role of the CNP will come in at this juncture when all out support of the Naga public will be required to push the case for an honorable political settlement acceptable to all Nagas. The point is, let us follow a systematic approach. For the moment let us nurture the ongoing Naga reconciliation process and encourage more political outcomes to emerge out of this process. The rest will follow in its own time. We need to remain patient.

(The above article is purely a personal analysis of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinion of this newspaper) Morung express

Rahul Gandhi’s ways of Understanding the Problems

Rahul Gandhi – a dynamic and promising Indian leader is on the right move to understand the root cause of the problem in India, which is snubbed by many politicians, civil service officers, army officers and many other leaders. One needs to appreciate and adopt his ideology of understanding the problem to solve the problem from the root. Rahul Gandhi’s ways of understanding the problems can solved any kinds of problem in this world; no problem in this world is too difficult to solve with understanding – whether Dalits, Naxalites, Insurgent or any other problems. We know that even a small problem become a critical problem when we try to solve the problem superficially without understanding the root cause of the problem. Trying to remove the problem superficially is only like trimming the branches without removing from the root of the tree.

Recently the UP Congress leaders are following Rahul Gandhi’s ways of understanding the problem; the districts units of the congress have organized community lunches and held conventions on 2nd October – Mahatma Gandhi’s birth Anniversary; to understand the problems of the Dalits and make them aware of the central welfare schemes launched for them. Rahul Gandhi stayed in Bundelkhand and Amethi to study and familiar himself about the problems. He also stayed in the home of a Dalit in Shravasti district and interacted with the people in the district to assess the problem and to have better understanding the problem at the grass root level. (DC)

P.B. Salim, an IAS officer is another exceptional officer in India who is trying to understand the problem of the tribal people in India. He stayed in ten tribal settlements in Lalgarh (WB), eating and dancing with them and even sleeping in their thatched huts. He said that the best way to defeat Maoist is by bringing development to tribal region. (ENS)

We have the long pending problem of J&K but only a few politicians try to understand the root cause and problem. We also have the northeastern insurgent problems but for the last few decades, the central government is trying to solve the problem only superficially; sitting in Delhi without understanding the root cause of the problem cannot remove the problem from the root. Today we have another great problem coming up from the Naxalites but the central government is not considering seriously in untangling the problem last one decade and now the problem is gradually blooming with beautiful flowers. Is it necessary to strike the problem with the might of the Indian army or with the state police personnel forces? Can’t we go Rahul Gandhi’s ways of understanding the problem to solve amicably? The more we come to interact and deliberate with the people, the more we understand better the problem and we can solve the problem from the root.

Rahul Gandhi’s way of understanding the problem will have a great impact in every problem and every concern authority – may be in the central government, state or block level may need to adopt his ways of understanding and try to solve the problem from the root. Solving the problem superficially will never end the problem and it will continue to exist and develop further unless the problem is removed from the root.

– Dr. R.B. Thohe Pou

TNL withdraws two resolutions

Dimapur, September 26 (MExN): The Tangkhul Naga Long today informed that the organization during its meeting on July 22, 2009 took a resolution to submit a memorandum to GK Pillai for sponsoring a two-day seminar at Ukhrul. The seminar was to discuss on an 11-point charter of demands and out of 11, two points were taken exception to. The two points, a note from the TNL stated today, namely Shiroi National Park and making Ukhrul ‘the Summer Capital of Manipur’, are likely to “invite unhealthy atmosphere from various corners.” For this, the TNL stated, its executives have reconsidered it and on September 21, 2009 has decided to withdraw the two points. “It is also resolved that though the remaining other nine points may be discussed in the seminar, the seminar be postponed for sometime,” it added.


Affinities between Nagas and Tribes of Southern Seas

Nagad ladies from India

Abstract:  The study of similarities between Nagas and tribes of southern seas (PhilippinesMalaysiaIndonesia, Taiwan etc) is to trace the origin of Nagas. The present study of affinities between Nagas and tribes of southern seas is convincing that they had same ancestor/group and originated from same place.

Similarities between Nagas and Tribes of Southern Seas

Dance troupe of Igorot (Bontoc tribe) of Philippine

Dance troupe of Igorot (Bontoc tribe) of Philippine

The comparative study of the Nagas in India and Myanmar and some of the Indigenous People of Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan shows their similarities in their socio-cultural life. The Naga scholars believed that Nagas lived in the Chindwin and Irranwandy valley before they migrated to Naga Hills. They also believed that they lived near the Island or Southern seas coastal areas and retreated to north west of Myanmar and later migrated to the Naga Hills – while the other groups of Naga went further to the southern seas of Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Philippines.

Many authorities on Naga suggested that the custom and tradition of Naga is very resembled with those tribes in Southern Seas (Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippine etc). Some of the tribes living in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and Taiwan are quite similar with the Naga people in many aspects. The custom and tradition practices by Nagas like Headhunting, Dormitory system, Tattooing, Platform burial, looms, terraces rice field etc are resemble to those tribes in the Southern Seas. Mc Govern writes that Nagas are very similar to the Dyaks and Kayans of Borneo, Bataks of Sumatra and certain groups of Formosa (Taiwan) and several other groups in Philippines. Some of the other writers like, W.C. Smith, Barrows, Shakespeare etc, described the affinities of Nagas with those tribes of Malaysia, Borneo, Philippines, Indonesia and Sumatra.

I. Affinities between Nagas and Igorots (Philippines Tribes)

Barrows writes on Igorots, the tribe of Philippines that it is the customs of all these tribes to chop off the head of the victims in battle or murder and carry them home as trophies, where they form the object of feasting and celebrations.

The Igorots (Philippines tribe) are grouped into six ethno-linguistic groups like Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isneg (Apayao) Kankanaey and Kalinga. The ethno-linguistic groups of Igorots like Bontoc, Isneg and Kalinga were well known for their Headhunting like the Nagas in India. The Nagas carried home the chop off head of the victims as trophies and celebrated with other people in the village. The practice of headhunting was based on the belief that great power lies in human head. It was also believed that when the headhunter brought the head of their enemy – it brings fertility and bumper crops in their fields. The warriors or headhunters who brought the heads of the victim were highly respected in the society in those days. Headhunting was gradually changed with the advent of Christianity to Igorots and Nagas. The tradition and custom of the Igorots tribe in Philippines is very similar to the Naga tribes in India in many aspects. Some of the similarities in their tradition and customs are given below as –

Liangmai Naga tribe

Liangmai Naga tribe

“The Bontoc live in the bank of the Chico River. It used to be a group that was known because of its Headhunting practices. Present day Bontocs are peaceful agricultural people who have, by choice retained most of their contacts with other people…The Isneg inhabits in the banks of the Apayao River and its tributaries in Northern Luzon. Like most erstwhile Headhunters. The Kalingas are noted for their strong sense of tribal awareness and the peace pacts they have made among themselves. They practice both wet and dry rice farming and they have developed an institution of peace pacts which has minimized traditional warfare and Head-hunting.”1

Igorot - the Bontoc tribe ladies in their traditional attires

Igorot – the Bontoc tribe ladies in their traditional attires

The headhunting practiced was reported in Philippines by Martin de Rada in 1577 and this practiced was abandoned formally by Kalingas group of Luzon only in the beginning of the 20th century.2 Headhunting in Naga Hills virtually ceased soon after the British commenced to control over in many Naga villages, though it continued in Tuensang areas and some other villages where British interference is ineffective. The last headhunting in Naga Hills was reported and recorded in 1958.3 The Morung (Nagas Dormitory) system practiced in olden days was same with those Igorots. The young Naga boys and girls slept in their Morungs (dormitories) in ancient time. In those days, the Morung was the center of education to learn many things in their lives. Different kinds of training were carried out in Men’s Morung. In every village there were two or three Morungs both for boys and girls. The young men and women continue to live in Morung till they are married. The boys go to girls Morung but the girls were not permitted to enter in boys Morung. After the advent of Christianity in Naga Hills – Morungs were vanished from the village. The Bontoc and Kankanaey groups of Igorots were also well known for their dormitory system.

The Bontoc, “Traditionally, young men and women lived in dormitories and ate meals with their families. This gradually changed as with advent of Christianity…Two famous institutions of the Kankana-ey Mountains province are the Dap-ay the men’s dormitory and civic center, and the Ebgan, the girl’s dormitory where courtship between young men and women took place.”4 During the time of dormitory system prevailed in Naga society – the courtship between young men and women took place in girls’ dormitory.

The Maram Naga tribe

The Maram Naga tribe

Still some young boys used to sleep together in a house in some villages but the Morung system is no more existing where courtship is carried out like in the olden days. The young men going to girls’ house to have fun together or courtship is still very common in some Naga villages. The Ibaloi and Ifugao groups are also well known for their prestige feast of the wealthy. This kind of feast is quite similar to the Nagas’ Feast of Merits. During the Naga’s Feast of Merit, the host or donor of the feast offer to kill lots of Mithun (Buffaloes), Cows etc and distributed to the villagers. The host also freely provided abundant of rice beer to the villagers.

The Bontoc tribe

The Bontoc tribe

The Feast of Merit continues for 4-5 days in many tribes but the number of days of feast varies from one tribe to another tribes. “The Ibalois’s feast is the Pesshet, a public prestige feast of the wealthy, that could last for weeks and involving the butchering and sacrifice dozens of animals…The Ifugao’s highest prestige feast are the “Hagabi” for the most wealthy, and the “Uyauy” a feast for those immediately below the wealthiest.”5 The Naga people also have the similar system of feast like Hagabi and Uyauy for the rich and very rich people. The amount of distribution of meats and offering rice beer is depended on the donor of the Feast of Merit (Zhosou) according to his richness.

The Zeme Naga tribe

The Zeme Naga tribe

In Naga society – a wealthy person repeats the Feast of Merit a number of times. The wealthy people treated the Feast of Merits more than one village, while the less wealthy people treated the feast only in their village. It also depends on richness of the donor to butcher how many animals for the villagers. One of the Naga Scholars late Shimray wrote, “The philosophy behind the performance of feast of merit is that the performer is honoured when he alive and remembered after death. The deeper philosophy involved is, however, the sense of generosity and the warm heartedness towards the poor people who are fed on the occasion.”6

The last Feast of Merit in Poumai Naga tribe was held in January 2004 at Liyai Khullen village and another Feast of Merit was held in 1999 in Koide village (My native village). The Feast of Merit is hardly reported in 21st century in many Naga villages since most of the Nagas adopted Christianity. The heathens also seem give less important in Feast of Merit due to influence of the Christianity. The Ifugao and Kalingas groups are good in terrace rice cultivation and their type of terrace farming is similar with the Nagas. “The country of the Ifugao in the southern part of the Cordillera region is best known for its famous rice terraces, which in modern times have become one of the big tourist attractions of the Philippines… The Kalingas…practice both wet and dry rice farming…The Kankan-ey built showing terraces to maximized farm space in the rugged terrain of the Cordilleras”7

The Bontoc tribe

The Bontoc tribe

W.C. Smith an authority of Nagas also pointed out the similarities between Nagas and Dayaks of Kalimantan (Borneo) in rice terrace cultivation. There are lots of similarities between the Nagas and the tribes of Igorots in Philippines in terrace cultivation. All the Naga tribes practiced terrace fields cultivation especially in Poumai Naga areas, where there is no much shifting cultivation in present context. About the disputes in Naga village, some of the leaders (elders) in the village deals all kind of disputes arise in the village. Naga society is a democratic society; all the people involved in any disputes depending on the seriousness of the problem. But the leaders in the villages settle the disputes, which do not need to take the voices of the public. The kind of dispute settlement by the Naga leaders is parallel to those Kalinga societies. The Kalinga society, “Disputes are usually settled by the regional leaders, who listen to all sides and then impose fines on the guilty party. There are the formal council meetings but carry a good deal authority.”8

II. Affinities between Nagas and the Tribes of Malaysia

The largest state in Malaysia, Sarawak is comprised of ethnically diverse population, which consists of both the indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.

The indigenous people constitute of Bisayuh, Kenyaks, Iban, Malays, Pennan, Malanau, Kayan, Kelabit, Muruts and Pennan. The indigenous people according to the 2000 Census is 1.46 Millions, forming 70.6% of the total population of 2.07 millions. The Ibans also known as Sea Dayaks represent the largest group with a total population of 6000,000, which is 29.1% of the state total population. Like the Malays, the Ibans are of Proto-Malay decent; their origin traced back to Yunnam China.9 The Nagas tradition and customs have affinities with some of the Malaysia tribes in many aspects. The Iban, reputed to be the most fearsome of the Borneo’s headhunters, “It was not so long ago that the Iban celebrated the captured heads with a great festival called Gawal Kenyalang (the Hornbill festival). It was believed that the magical power of the heads would bring strength, virtue and prosperity to the long house.”10 Peter Kunstadter who studied the south Asian tribes also mentioned about the headhunting in Sarawak and the rest of Borneo, “This is all tied up with the past traditions of headhunting and aggression and warlikness, which were very much a part of pagan animism among the hill peoples of Sarawak and the rest of Borneo.”11

The reason or the purpose of headhunting by the Iban is quite similar with the Nagas. The Nagas take a head to reveal his manhood also they believed that bringing a head to their village brings prosperity in the village. Nagas had their own beliefs about the value of human heads. They believed that heads of those belonging to villages other than their own would add to the fertility of the soil. It is also an important factor to bring the head to be recognized in the society12. The British intervention on Nagas headhunting after 1832 and introduction of Christianity brought to cease in headhunting. No longer, the Nagas practice headhunting but the skulls of man hanging in old Nagas houses can be still found in some remote villages. “Thankfully the Iban no longer headhunt, and have adopted a peaceful agrarian lifestyle. Any modern day visitor to an Iban longhouse will testify that they are a generous, hospitable and placid people…. Although the majority of Iban are now a days Christian, many traditional rituals are still practiced, including the Gawai Dayak (harvest festival) Gawai Kenyalang (Hornbill festival) and Gawai Antu (festival of the dead). The traditional Iban religion is a fusion of animistic and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs, and they worship a triumvirate of gods under the authority of Singalang Burung, the bird-god of war, Iban woman are superb weavers, using the back strap loom, while Iban men are excellent silversmiths.”13

The ancient Nagas and the Iban people were resembled in their tradition and customs, like Headhunting, animistic religion, harvesting festival, hornbill festival, woman-weaving etc. The Harvesting festival and Hornbill festival are still very common in Nagaland (Nagalim). Every year the Hornbill festival is hold in Nagaland. Recently the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland was held from 1st –5th December 2003 at newly constructed Naga Heritage Complex at Kisama. The majority of the Nagas had adopted Christianity but they still practiced traditional festival like the Iban people. Both ancient and modern people of Iban are similar with the Nagas in India. The Nagas women are good in weaving clothes like the Iban women. All the Naga tribes have different beautiful color of shawls representing their own tribes. There are also many Nagas expert in blacksmiths. The Nagas men made all kinds of sword, dao, knife, spear etc for different purposes. Nagas are similar with the Iban people in religion, tradition and custom, festival, economic activities etc. Besides, they also have similar attitudes to the outsiders and to their fellow people.

The Nagas are generous, hospitable, frankly, honest and amicable, as many authors on Nagas had written about the Nagas. The Iban were largely known for their fierce reputation as warriors, particularly because of their headhunting tradition. In fact, it was as recent as during World War II, the community celebrated the victorious warriors of a headhunting raid with a grand festival called the Gawai Kenyalang (the Hornbill Festival). The tradition of headhunting gradually came to an end after the British made it illegal after the war. A large majority has become Christians although they still maintain their strong cultural identity and heritage, keeping their traditional beliefs.14

The Nagas are very resemble with those nomadic people of Penan tribe. Those Penan people who have converted into Christianity no longer live the nomadic life and have settled in long houses. Their long houses are similar with the ancient Naga houses where they built the big houses for the village chief and dormitories. The Orang Ulu another group of people from Borneo is also resemble with the Naga people in some aspects. Most of the Orang Ulu people are now Christian and they are warm and hospitable people like the Nagas. Their long houses and woodcarvings houses are similar with the Naga ancient houses.

III. Affinities between Nagas and Indonesia Tribes

There are some affinities between Naga tribe and some of the indigenous people in Indonesia. Some of the tribes in Indonesia like Batak, Dayak, Toraja, Bugis etc have some resemblance in their customs and tradition with the Naga people. Headhunting, house structure and social structure is similar with Naga tribe in India. Today, many Bataks tribe living in Sumatra were converted into Christianity and Islam.

There are six groups of Batak living around Danu Toba who distinguish themselves with their languages and habits.15 The Nagas and Bataks tribes are parallel in their tradition and customs. Both the tribes were well known for their headhunting. They were isolated for centuries from other contacts living in the hilly regions. “The Bataks, is infamous tribe of former cannibals and headhunters. Their bloody feuds and guerrilla attacks on each other’s villages gained an apparently well-earned reputation for ferocity. They also practiced ritual cannibalism in which a token piece of flesh – of a slain enemy or of one judge guilty of a major violation of traditional laws – was eaten. The heads and hands of war captives were preserved as trophies.”16 The Bataks also preserved the head of the war victims as trophies like the Naga tribe.

In those days, reputation of man or manhood is reveal through their headhunting skills and bravery. The indigenous people in Borneo (Indonesia), known to the outside world as the Dayaks live by shifting rice cultivation and by farming of Sago palms. They are divided into different tribes, which were formerly prone to the internecine warfare that their headhunting customs demanded. Although, they are now mostly converted to Christianity, their cultures retain a great deal of their original vigor. Traditionally, the Dayaks live in communal long houses known as Lamin in East and West Kalimantan, Sarawak and Brunei. Long houses are usually built parallel to the river, and rice barns and storehouses containing valuable is kept separate from the main building, to keep away from fire.17 In most of the Naga villages, there is separate house like those of Dayak tribes for living and storehouse.

Storehouses are build near to the main house, which keep rice barns, millets and other barns to avoid fire from main house incase any fire broke out from main house. The seafaring Bugis are found all over the Indonesian archipelago. They have settled in the Riau Islands, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sumbawa and Malaysia and have trading with all the smaller Islands. The Bugis have traditionally lived in pile-built wooden houses with slatted bamboo floors similar in style and layout to the basic Malay prototype. The characteristic decorative feature is a pair of crossed roof finials symbolizing buffalo horns.18

Some of the Naga tribes also lived in pile-built houses like those Bugis. The Nagas old house structure is very similar to that of Bugis old house, which have a pair of crossed roof symbolizing the buffalo horns. The Nagas who treated the ‘Feast of Merit’ to the people have such kind of house structure with diagonally crossed wooden beam, which is attached to the eaves of the house symbolizing the buffalo horns. The house with diagonally crossed wooden beam above the eaves is gradually vanishing. There is one Church at Senapati, Manipur where we can find the old Naga house structure with diagonally crossed concrete beam placed above the eaves symbolizing the buffalo horns. The Tana Toraja is located in the northern part of the South Sulaweshi Province.

Toraja is a name of Bugis origin given to the different people of the mountainous regions of the northern part, which remained isolated until recently. Their native religion is megalithic and animistic, and is characterized by animal sacrifices, ostentatious funeral rites and huge communal feasts. “In former times, Toraja villages were sited strategically on hilltops and fortified to such an extent that sometimes access was only possible through tunnels bored through rock. This was all part of then common Indonesian custom of headhunting and inter-village raids.

The Dutch pacified the Toraja and forced them to leave the hills and to build their villages in the valleys, and they also introduced wet-rice cultivation.”19 The Nagas villages are also situated on hilltops and fortified in ancient time to protect from their enemies’ attack. There was headhunting between inter-village and tribe so it became necessary for them to fortify and to have village gate in all the villages. In the case of Nagas, the British pacified them and later there was no headhunting.

On the front of the wall in most of the Toraja important houses are decorated with wooden buffalo head, adorned with actual horns.20 In most of the houses in Naga villages also have similar decoration like the Toraja houses with carved wooden buffalo horns and real buffaloes horns hanged on the front of the wall. The number of real buffalo hanging on the front wall is depends on how many cattle killed during the Feast of Merit. But the other carved wooden horns are depended on the sculptured and designed of the house owner. The carved wooden buffalo horns and real buffalo horns hanging on the front wall of the house are still found in many Nagas villages.

IV. Affinities between Nagas and Taiwan Tribes

There are ten tribes in Taiwan (Formosa) and each tribe have different culture and tradition. The Puyuma and Tsou tribes have some resemblance with Nagas tribe in their tradition. The Payuma tribe had the institutions for males and they stayed in their Assembly Hall, so as to build them strong bodies to protect their tribe. Before men get married they stay in their assembly hall. These groups are divided according to their ages and they are trained to defend their tribe.21

The Nagas had very similar assembly hall or Morung, where males stay there and trained in different ways in singing, folkdance, fighting and other skills. The Naga men also lived in their Morung till they get married. To quote Elwin Verrier, he writes, “Prominent in many villages is the Morung or dormitory for the young unmarried men – some tribes also have small house for the unmarried girls. The morung are guard-houses, recreation clubs, centres of education, art and discipline and have an important ceremonial purpose.”22 In Naga society even the females group also have assembly hall or Morung (dormitory) where different age group sleep together.

The different activities carried out in Puyuma assembly hall and Nagas Morung is similar in many aspects. The TSOU tribe of Taiwan also have assembly hall. The young men lived in Assembly Hall and are trained in different skills before they are married. There are traditional taboos prohibiting the women from setting foot into the “Kuba” (the Assembly Halls)23 Like the Tsou tribe, the Naga tribe also have a kind of Assembly hall called “Morung”. The young man folk stay in Morung and were trained in different skills till they are married.

The Naga young woman folk have separate Morung, the man can go to female’s Morung but the females are prohibited to enter into man’s Morung, which is also similar with the Tsou tribe. The Nagas belief that if woman enter the men’s dormitory, it would bring misfortune in the village, thus woman was restricted to enter in men’s Morung. “Headhunting was a cultural practice of some of the indigenous tribe of Taiwan. The men of the Atayal tribes were required to bring back a head to earn manhood and the ability to marry headhunting struck fear in many settles on the Island who gave the people the name “savages”. The Japanese abolished the practice during their occupation from the 1890s to the 1940s.”24

The Naga tribes also required like the Atayal tribe of Taiwan to bring back a head to earn manhood and ability to get marry a beautiful woman in the village. For those people who could not get even single head couldn’t elevate their reputation and status in the society in those days. In those days, bringing a choke off head from other village is a must to be highly recognised and to earn high status in the society.

The similarities in custom and tradition of Nagas with some of the Indigenous tribe in Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan is convincing that once the Nagas lived near the Southern Seas or Archipelago and migrated from the southern seas to the present Naga Hills. It also believed that some of the indigenous groups of Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan were the same group of Nagas who retreated from the southern seas of Myanmar. Some of the Naga scholars believed that some of the descendants of Nagas were left near the seacoast and those people went further to the southern archipelago.

The Malay tribe is the largest ethnic group in Malaysia, accounting for more than half of the population in Malaysia. Their origin is traced back to Yunnam China through the Proto-Malays and Deuteron-Malays, which belong to the broader-based Malayo-Polynesian group of races. These early aboriginal groups first reached the Peninsula around 2000BC. Since their arrival, the cultures of the Peninsular Malays have been shaped and reshaped through many influences from those vicinity areas of Java and Sumatra, the Indian sub-continent, China, the Middle east, and the West, as they have large trade with them, resulting to variation in customs and social identies.25 Some of the Nagas writers also traced back their origin to Yunnam Province of China, which assumed that some of the tribes in Southern Seas are to be the same ancestor.


The above comparative study in affinities and origin is convincing that some of the indigenous tribe of Malaysia and other tribes in southern seas of Philippines, Taiwan and Indonesia are the same ancestors/group and have same origin of place. Some of the Nagas writers traced back the origin of Nagas to Yunnam Province of China like some of the writers from Malaysia tracing back their origin to Yunnam Province of China. Some Naga scholars also believe that some of the Naga groups went further to the southern seas of Myanmar, Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia. The Nagas and some of the indigenous groups of Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia may be the same tribe/group originated from China but due to influence from other people and differences in environments made them variation in their culture and customs.

If they are not influenced from other people and bring changed due to environment – it may still retain their ancient culture and customs, which will be easier to study about their similarities. There are some similarities in customs and traditions; they also traced back their origin to Yunnam Province of China. But the study of DNA and analysis of Nagas with those tribes in Archipelago can give us scientific proof and conclude that they are from the same descendants. There is great possibility that in deep comparative study of origin of Nagas and some indigenous people in Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan in the future may conclude that they are from the same origin and same ancestor in examination of archaeology and DNA.

References 1. (http://www.geocities.com/tokyo/pagoa/4820/sagada/fok-stories.html) References used: i. Philippines ethnic Motifs vol.3 as part of the Okir projected by the product Devt. And design center of the Philippine and Philippine national museum. ii. Unreached Peoples’ 81 –David C. Cook Publishing Co. iii. Cordilla Philippines iv. Bibak NE homepage) Page-1

2. Website: http://www.lard.net/headhunters.html (copyright 1996, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc) Website visited on 12-02-03

3. Elwin Verrier 1961, Nagaland, Shillong: Published by P.Dutta for the research Dept. Adviser’s Secretariat Page –12

4. (http://www.geocities.com/tokyo/pagoa/4820/sagada/folk-stories.html) website Visited on 20-2-2003

5. Ibid

6. Shimray R.R.1985 Origin and Culture of Nagas, New Delhi, Somsok Publications, Page-113

7. (http://www.geocities.com/tokyo/pagoa/4820/sagada/folk-stories.html) Website visited on 20-2-2003

8. Ibid

9. (http://www.allmalaysia.info/msiaknow/iban-ethnicity.asp) All the figures are from Year Book of Statistics, Sarawak 2001, Dept. of Statistics Malaysia, visited on 10-3-03

10. (http://www.sarawaktourism.com/malays.html) website visited on 21-2-2003

11. Peter Kunstadkar, p-339

12. Shimray R.R.1985 Origin and Culture of Nagas, New Delhi, Somsok Publications, Page-72

13. (http://www.sarawaktourism.com/malays.html) website visited on 21-2-2003

14. Ibid

15. ttp://www.asiatravelling.net/indonesia/sumatra/sumatra_culture.htm) Website visited on 21- 2-03

16. Ibid

17. (http://www.sunsite.ui.ac.id/unscol/english/sulawesi.html) visited on 20-9-03

18. Ibid

19. Ibid

20. (http://www.atayal.org/tribe.asp) visited on 04-02-04

21. Elwin Verrier 1961, Nagaland, Shillong: Published by P.Dutta for the research Dept. Adviser’s Secretariat Page –8

22. (http://www.atayal.org/tribe.asp) visited on 04-02-04

23. (http://www.atayal.org/TT_headhunting.asp) visited on 04-02-04

24. (http://www.allmalaysia.info/msiaknow/malay_ethnicity.asp) visited on 10-3-03

25. (http://www.allmalaysia.info/msiaknow/iban-ethnicity.asp) visited on 10-3-03

Copyright@Dr.Thohe Pou

Below link: Pictures of Igorot tribes of Philippines


GPRN/NSCN on unity of all Nagas

Dimapur, September 22 (MExN): The “GPRN/NSCN” has informed that a former NSCN (IM) “CAO” of Rengma region, H Shiuto Kath, hailing from Kandinu village, along with Yashkha Kath, “razou peyu” (NNC non-accordist), David Kath, “khapur” and Kaghato Kath ‘Pte.’ of Hebron Camp have decided to switch their allegiance to “GPRN/NSCN.” According to them, their decision was based on “reality and practical necessity” and that in the last two years “GPRN/NSCN has unwaveringly supported the process of reconciliation and unity of the Nagas”. “It has participated in all the platforms organized by the FNR thus far. It truly believes in the unity of all Nagas”, stated the press note issued through the MIP.

It went on to add that the “enemies of the Naga people, in the garb of freedom fighters, have attempted to paint “GPRN/NSCN” with darkest of colors but strangers will never understand the core values of the common Naga struggle”. “Only true patriots with true Naga blood in their veins understands what it means to reconcile and unite with their brethren”, it stated and that those who have left “realized that any further support to Hebron Camp would be detrimental to the Nagas.”

 “If the twelve years of GOI and IM talks had anything to show, why are the Tangkhuls fronted by Tangkhul Naga Long, demanding that Ukhrul, the hometown of Th. Muivah, be made the summer capital of Manipur? It only reaffirms Manipur state’s territorial integrity. If Ukhrul is proposed as the summer capital of Manipur State, where is the wisdom of our continuation at Hebron Camp?” the home comers asked, according to the MIP press note.

The Kilo Ministry, GPRN has acknowledged “their wise decision and welcomed them into a reconciled and united Naga Family”. Meanwhile, the “GPRN/NSCN” stated that it was “deeply troubled” by the arrest of its official Mangpu Kuki, Razou Peyu at Ghaspani by the NSCN (IM) on September 21. “Presently Chiang Mai city in Thailand is hosting another meeting among the Naga groups and it is yet another hostile intent of Muivah’s gang”, the press note stated while also informing that the GPRN/NSCN official is being detained at Hebron Camp and reportedly a sum of Rs. 20,000/- is being demanded from relatives for his release.

“This is in stark contrast to the reconciliatory gesture that GPRN/NSCN is trying hard to uphold”, it stated and demanded that the official be released unharmed and unconditionally at the earliest in the interest of the Nagas. The “GPRN/NSCN” also sought to clarify that there is nobody in the Naga Army with a name and rank of Azheto, ‘sgt. major.’ The press note clarified that the miscreant arrested on 20th September at a rail gate was a one time Sgt. Major in the Naga Army. However owing to his indulgence in immoral and anti-National Activities, he was terminated from National service in the month of May, 2009. “GPRN/NSCN has no responsibility over the terminated cadres”, it stated and has henceforth requested all media outlets to first confirm the status of arrested individuals prior to publishing what it described as “dubious information”. MIP NSCN

source: morungexpress.com