Richard Kamei, Sira Kharay & Dolly Kikon on culinary worlds beyond Chicken Neck
As of now there are no direct links, and the alliances between the Azadis, in India and in Kashmir. But remarkable and perplexing exchanges are not uncommon in history, and we should not close our eyes to such possibilities beforehand. Kashmiris have demonstrated the ability to patiently out-wait the state, not least of all in this present crisis of the post-370 abrogation. The rhizomatic subterranean diffusion and spread of Azadi into India’s social – slowly navigating across barriers and police pickets, surviving and seeking life – into all different directions, should also be patiently nurtured and allowed to grow for more mature solidarities and struggles to come later in the day. It’s not the responsibility of the oppressed to emancipate their oppressors but somehow Kashmiris might have just given India such a gift. How far India will go with this gift is an open question.
Jelle J. P. Wouters traces the early beginnings of the Indo-Naga conflict, which erupts in the 1950s and continues into the present-day. Focussing on the period roughly between the Battle of Kohima in 1944, which ended Japanese expansionism in the east, and the enactment of Nagaland state in 1963 as an envisaged (but failed) political compromise to the demand by the Naga National Council (NNC) for complete Naga sovereignty. Using, hitherto scantily used tour and personal diaries, government reports, private correspondence, memoires, and recorded memories to interrogate the master-narrative of the Naga struggle that reconstructs a relatively straight and uncomplicated historical trajectory that sees the genuine awakening and NNC-led political mobilization of an upland community situated off the beaten track of both Indian civilization and colonial domination, and of Nagas’ collective resolve to take up arms to fight for a place on the table of nation-states. Alternatively, if the story is told from the vantage of the Indian state, the dominant narrative apportions blame to a ‘misguided’ Naga elite that seeks to undermine the territorial and national integrity of the Indian state. These prevailing views, attractive for their absence of complexity, however, ignore the anguished debates, interpersonal and intertribal differences, contingent histories and events, dissenting voices, political assassinations, and sharp divisions within the rank-and-file of the NNC, and whose inner dynamics and sentiments could as well have produced outcomes other than war.
Nagamese has been for close to a century and a half the lingua franca of the people of Nagaland and parts of Assam. A hybrid of Naga languages, all of which belong to the Tibeto-Burman family and Assamese, an Indo-European language, Nagamese occupies a distinct space in the region and plays a unique role serving as a connector between the various Naga tribes. It also facilitates communication between the Nagas and the Assamese. To understand the origins of Nagamese, it is essential to briefly dip into the history of the Nagas as a people and the history of their contact with the Assamese.
I witnessed diverse changes in the atmosphere of the hills. While travelling through shared taxis people seemed tight-lipped about the choice of candidates but at the same time, they were looking for interesting political gimmicks. Richest national parties flooded the state with huge banners, posters and photos of their candidates in the cities of Kohima and Dimapur.
It doesn’t snow in my village,
Santa Claus is unfamiliar to us,
though we don’t get Christmas cake,
Yet Christmas is best in my village;
Reindeers don’t roam in our forest,
Exchanging Christmas gifts is not our tradition,
Bethlehem is a place we’ve never seen,
yet Christmas is best in my village.
[Khrismas Ye Niphulo pavi / Christmas is best in my village, a christmas song by Sumi Naga Choral group NAGAGENOUS]
Almost seven years ago, to the week, I had sent off instructions to Gauri Lankesh about who would receive her at Imphal airport and then take her up to Ukhrul. She was part of a team of women writers from different parts of India who had been invited to travel across the Northeast and write stories about their experiences
Dogs mean different things in Naga society: pet, companion, food, medicine, guard, spirit sensors, thief catchers and cat chasers. They also feature centrally in the most famous origin myth about the Naga script, which is connected to identity and language. According to legend, a dog ate the Naga script written down on animal skin, and from that day onwards, Naga tradition and knowledge has only been received and shared orally. The relationship between dogs and people in Naga society is an intimate one, and is integral to everyday lives. Dog meat has been part of Naga cuisine for a long time, yet, before dishes started to appear on restaurant menus and before vendors starting selling the meat in the market place, there was no debate or national campaign to ban dog meat.
Young men and women mainly from rural Nagaland come in for short-term training courses to learn basic soft skills: to present themselves, stand, sit, communicate, dress and apply make-up, all essential requirements for a job in the service sector. Many of them find placements in hotels, spas, restaurants, airlines or security companies.
‘However hard they try to deny that this issue isn’t about reservation and try to divert the issue to taxation and interpretation of Constitution, the truth is they can’t stand to see a woman holding political power. Patriarchy is deeply rooted in our Naga society. Things got to change. Our women need some freedom.’ (A Naga fellow via digital forum)
As a Naga feminist, I remain hopeful at a time when Naga society decides to sit for consultation that we are able to resist the money, power, and attractions of authority wrapped in Naga patriarchal and traditional cloaks. Such kind of seductions has devoured numerous Naga tribal councils, politicians, leaders, community activists including the church workers. Albert Camus’s wise words come to my mind. As Camus fought racism and homophobia and joined hands with the African American civil and political rights movement, he noted, “I love my country, but I also love my justice”. I too end this essay by stating “As much as I love my Naga community, I also love my justice” and will continue to join hands with the struggle for gender justice.
Within Nagaland, especially among young people, there is a quiet groundswell of support for women reservation. When the protest against reservation begun, I had been following the discussion on social media and whatsapp. Of course, there are those young men, with their regressive views, who are the loudest even here. Their opposition to the reservation is usually because, in their views, women are premature to partake in decision making, or that it is an open field where both women and men should fight equally. But there are other voices, both men and women, who believe that the existing social structure is highly discriminatory, and that without reservation it is almost impossible for women to take part in decision making. Yet these voices are seldom heard, primarily because of the draconian directives passed by the tribal bodies.
Somaiah K, a young Indian, tries to figure out Nagaland
Given that Naga men and their tribal bodies have complete control over both the definition and exercise of what constitutes Naga customary laws, there is no room left for any debate or conversation with other concerned persons. It has now come to a point where customary laws are being used to reinforce patriarchy and legitimize violence, to subject and silence women and to shut down any space for gender justice.
Women’s political representation has been an undying struggle all across the country including the North Eastern states. Mob violence and politically polarised outbursts cannot exclude Naga women from public spaces, political assertion and ecological ecosystems which define their existence.
We, the undersigned women’s organisations and concerned individuals take serious note of the fierce opposition to women’s reservation of 33% seats in Nagaland Municipal Councils by male dominated tribal bodies in Nagaland in the name of protecting their tradition and customary practices that bar women from participating in decision- making bodies.
Internet in Nagaland has been banned by the Government.
33% reservation for women is not welcome!
Women can cook, or become a prostitute.
But a woman MLA? NO WAY!
Reservation for women in Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) has caused a serious unrest in the state of Nagaland in the north-eastern region of India. Women’s groups in Nagaland have been leading a struggle for 33 per cent reservation in the local bodies on the grounds of gender equality. On the other hand, tribal bodies and groups (consisting mostly of men!) including the Naga Hoho (the apex body of all 18 tribes in the state) and the Joint Coordination Committee of tribals (JCC) have been opposed to the demand on the grounds that granting 33 per cent reservation for women would violate Naga customary laws and tradition as protected under Article 371(A) of the Constitution of India. Thus, customary laws and the notion of gender equality have been pitted against each other. This calls for serious examination of customary laws and the demand for reservation.
Would this magnificent achievement, and the award change how publishers look at English writing coming from the Northeast? The easy answer is no. The difficult answer is to find an explanation why.
Easterine Kire, who won the Hindu Literary Prize 2015 for her novel When the River Sleeps, beating stiff competition from heavyweights like Amitav Ghosh and Amit Chaudhuri, among others, talks to Dibyajyoti Sarma about her ‘spiritual’ book, and about being a writer from Nagaland
The decennial census data for the Naga Hills (later, Nagaland) between 1881 and 1981 shows that the most dramatic religious change occurred after 1947, when foreign missionaries had left the field.
As India celebrates the National Press Day and the very freedom of press that has liberated us, we the Journalists, Newspapers and media houses in Nagaland faces a difficult challenge of delivering transparent and free communication and expression to our own people.