Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Naga in Burma

We known Nagas lived in North East India, and there is a state named Nagaland. Most of Naga people live in North East India, such as the state of NagaLand , states of Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. There are Naga people live in Myanmar, the other side of the border live much smaller population of some 150,000 Nagas. They spread around western Sagaing Division(formerly known as the Naga Hills)and Kachin State, from Patkoi range in north to Thaungdyat in south, from Indian border in west to River Chindwin in east.

The people were originally referred to as Naka in Burmese languages, which means 'people with pierced ears'.

Naga in Burma
There are estimated more than 150,000 Nagas, comprising of 12 major tribes and many sub-tribes, dwelling in Myanmar. Since hundreds years, Nagas live high in the northwestern hills region, along the India border, but in recent years, many have moved to the Chin Dwin River Valley around the Sagaing Division and Chin State.

Despite they share basically in agricultural, hunting, and animal husbandry lifestyle, each tribe has developed in a different way that can be observed in individual costumes, weaving styles, bodies and facial tattoos, head-dresses or hats and other individualized ornaments.
That there can be proud and having people, Nagas are well known that they are honest and brave. An adult Naga man must be a warrior. Therefore they are re known hunters' and fierce warriors. Their exiting history inclusive of the practice of head-taking, especially among enemies. Today, they cooperate in an effort to preserve their traditions and history. Other major components such as education, technology and modern transportation have improved living conditions.

Annually, in January, many different kinds of Naga tribes come together to celebrate Kaing Bi (Naga New Year). Formerly it was a private celebration; it is now open to the public.

After the Third Anglo-Burmese War, the British in 1886 annexed Burma and decided to administer all of Burma directly as a province of British India. Because of active resistance by segments of the Burmese population to British rule in Lower Burma, direct British administration, based on the Indian model, was difficult and costly to establish (Hall 1955, pp. 536-55, 620-32). As a consequence, resources were concentrated in the plains while large segments of Upper Burma populated by hill tribals remained beyond effective government administration, even into the 1930s. On the Burma side of the border, the "unadministered" tribal areas included the Hukawng Valley, "the Triangle", the northeastern Naga Hills (Burma), and an area called the Somra Tract bordering on Manipur. On the India side of the border there were also "unadministered" areas of Assam within the Tirap subdivision and the Sadyia Frontier Tract in the North East Frontier Agency.

Within these "unadministered" areas of Burma were a great variety of hill tribals. In the northern "Triangle", Kachins comprised the bulk of the population, but Tikak Nagas, Chingpaws, and Shans were also found in the Triangle. In the Hukawng Valley were a mixture of Kachins and Nagas with 138 villages grouped under the nominal authority of four Chingpaw chiefs (Barnard 1926, pp. 13-14). A scattering of other tribal communities also lived in the Hukawng Valley. The Naga Hills (Burma) was populated primarily by Nagas: Rangpan, Haimi, Longchang, Lungri, Mosang, Lanshing, Tikak, and the Konyak Naga group. To the northwest of the Burma Naga Hills were settlements of Khampti-Shan, Kachin, and Chingpaw. In the Somra Tract were Kukis and Tangkhaul Nagas. In the Tuensang district of the western Naga Hills (Assam) were Chang, Sangtam, Yimtsungr, Kalyo-Kengyu, and Konyak Nagas.(Ref: Human Sacrifice and Slavery in the "Unadministered" Areas of Upper Burma During the Colonial Era, SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, October 01, 2000 )

Till the arrival of Independent India, Burmese leaders did not show interest in Nagalim. However, in 1953, Indian Prime Minister, Nehru brought Burmese Prime Minister, U Nu to Kohima, a Naga center, and began the process of dividing Nagalim between the two.

In recent times, the Military Regime in Burma has been active in those parts of Nagalim they claim, setting up military bases and destroying churches and forcibly converting Naga youth to Buddhism.

Burma's Lost World

A little-known community, the Naga on the Burmese side of the Indian border, is one of the most isolated in the world
By Bertil Lintner

The Naga are perhaps one of the least known--and certainly the least visited-- of Burma's many ethnic minorities. But because they also live on the Indian side of the border, there is no shortage of literature about them. In India they have been converted to Christianity and have their own state, Nagaland. Their literacy rate is also high, and many Indian Naga have been recruited into the Indian civil service and armed forces. On the Burmese side, however, the Naga remain isolated. There are few roads and even fewer schools in the Burmese Naga Hills in northwestern Sagaing Division. Headhunting, a former favorite pastime of the Naga, prevailed well into the 1980s.

One of the few outsiders who have visited the area in recent years is Jamie Saul, a South African expert on Naga tattoos. He has spent 35 years accumulating information about the Naga and conducting field work in both India and Burma from 2000 to 2005. Photographer Dominique Viallard spent five years in Burma working as a doctor, and was able to visit the remotest corners of the country, including the Naga Hills. The outcome of their joint efforts is an excellent book about a little known people.

The Naga of Burma describes the culture, way of life and spiritual beliefs of the Naga, as well as their hunting practices and how they are adapting to relatively modern times in Burma. It is, in many ways, more informative than the only other major work on the Naga by non-Indian writers, The Nagas: Hill Peoples of Northeast India by Julian Jacobs, which was published by Thames and Hudson, London, in 1990. That book dealt almost exclusively with the Indian Naga, but, on the other hand, it also provided information about the Naga separatist movement, which is still active on the Indian side of the border. A related insurgency also exists on the Burmese side, but has had even less impact on the overall political situation along the Indo-Burmese border.

By contrast, Saul's and Viallard's book barely touches on the insurgency. It is mentioned in passing on page 198, and then only in the context of the Indian and Burmese governments maintaining "a military presence on each side of the border for national and internal security reasons." This presence has, according to the author, resulted in the provision of basic services on the Burmese side, and more advanced modernization in Indian Nagaland.

It may be correct that some parts of the Burmese Naga Hills, such as the villages in the Lahe and Singkaling Hkamti areas, which the author and the photographer visited, now have some schools, water and even electricity. But that is not the case in the more remote region between the Nampuk River and the Indian border. Development there is non-existent, and that is perhaps why it remains a stronghold of the Burmese Naga rebels, led by Shangwang Shangyung Khaplang.

Until 1989, this was also the main base area of Indian rebel group the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, led by Isaac Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, which had a significant following in Nagaland and the Naga-inhabited areas of the nearby Indian state of Manipur. From their sanctuaries on the Burmese side of the border, raids were launched into those Indian states until the Burmese Naga rose up against the NSCN, and drove its leaders and cadres back into India. Deprived of their cross-border sanctuaries, and thus unable to carry on their military campaign against the Indian army, Isaac and Muivah reached a ceasefire agreement with the Indian authorities. Talks between the two sides have been held in India, Thailand and Japan, with the aim of bringing to an end an insurgency that began in the mid-1950s.
For those who are more interested in culture than politics, this book is highly recommended. Its wealth of photographs and other illustrations, including sketches of the interior of Naga huts, tattoo patterns and weaving techniques as well as detailed maps of the area, makes it unique and well worth its rather hefty price, almost US $40. It also contains anecdotes from the author's and photographer's visit to Lahe and Hkamti, which give the book a very personal touch.

But the absence of any critical remarks about the neglect of the area by Burma's military government--in sharp contrast to relatively advanced social and economic development on the Indian side--suggests that the author and the photographer do not want to jeopardize their chances of being able to return to the Burmese Naga Hills, to which permission to visit is only rarely given to foreigners. Such caution is understandable, but hardly defensible.
During my own visit to the area between the Nampuk and the Indian border in the mid-1980s, I saw villages ridden with poverty and disease, including the plague, and no modern development whatsoever. And little has changed since then. Nevertheless, Saul and Viallard have produced a fascinating book about one of the world's most isolated people, and they should be commended for that.

This article first appeared in The Irrawaddy, October, 2006

Appalling conditions in Naga Hills Region under Burmese junta

Feature - Kachin News Group
Report by Ring Aung,

Thursday, 30 April 2009 23:24

A majority of the Naga, estimated to be about four million live on the Indian side, in Nagaland. The Naga in Burma is in the minority with an estimated population of over 200,000.
The Naga in Burma live in Homemalin Township, Khamthi Township, Leshi Township, Lahe Township, Namyun Township and Pangsau sub-township of Sagaing division and Shing Bwe Yang sub-township in Kachin State.

The people in the Naga Hills Region under the Burmese military junta have never got favours from the regime. Their neglect by the junta is appalling. Some of these people are forcibly recruited into the army. Their religious practices are controlled by the Burmese authorities.

After 1990, there has been religious persecution in the Naga Hills Region. Since the majority of Naga people are Christians, the Burmese military regime has been planning to develop the region under the military. The Buddhist religious organizations are keen on persuading the Naga people to convert to Buddhism.

In some villages, the Burmese junta has been burning churches. The people have been ordered by the Burmese authorities to convert to Buddhism and are being threatened by the authorities. Villagers who don’t want to change their religion have to run away from their villages.

According to locals in the Naga region, the people tried to negotiate with the Burmese authorities to stop the religious persecution in the region twice in the past, but there has been no progress. The situation is said to be bad.

In every village in the Naga region, the population is half Buddhist and half Christians. The Burmese regime has built temples in a village and put in place fake monks.

Monks staying at a temple in a village are imposters. They are just pretending to be monks. If there are 10 monks in a temple, half of them are soldiers. Some carry guns.
All the monks receive financial assistance and food. Normally, they get 60,000 Kyat (US $ 59) per month. They also receive rice but they sell the rice to for money. Because villagers donate food to them, they can afford to sell the rice, said a local.

All Christian churches in the region have to register with the Burmese authorities and it is mandatory to put up the registration sign board on top of their church.

Being Christians in the region they have to struggle a lot and the Burmese authorities even beat up Christian missionaries who graduated from India. They are not allowed to carry out any mission in the region, a local added.

Because of poor transportation and road communication, the children from the region can’t afford to go to school. Most villages have only a primary school and if the children want to go to middle or high school, they have to study in the township. Children who have finished primary school cannot go for higher studies. They help their parents in farming.
On the other hand, the Burmese Army forcibly recruits youngsters including those under18 years of age.

According to local people from Shing Bwe Yang Township, in September 2007, the Burmese Army recruited over 80 people into the armed forces. They were from the Shing Bwe Yang Township.


Nagas from Burma continue to flee

Imphal, February 25, 2001
Mizzima News Group (

The use of forced labour and military campaigns of the ruling junta have forced more than four thousand Christian Nagas from Burma to leave their native places and take shelter in India. Majority of them are currently in Manipur and Nagaland, the two northeastern states of India bordering with Burma.

Speaking to Mizzima News Group, Mr L. Longsa, General Secretary of the Naga National League for Democracy (NNLD), which is now based in Indo-Burma border said that Nagas from Burma continue to leave their villages in the Naga Hill due to forced labor and military campaigns
launched by the Burmese army. Sixty mile-long Htamanthi-Layshi is one of the motor roads where the Burmese army continues to use forced labor in the Naga Hill.

In Nagaland of India, Mon District and Tunsang District are the two places where not less than three thousand Nagas from Burma are taking shelter. Most of them fled to India after their villages were burnt down by the Burmese army in its attacks on NSCN (Khaplang) camps in Burma
last year. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang) is one of the separatist Naga armed groups fighting India.

Mr. Longsa explained that these refugees came from various parts of the Naga Hill such as Hkanti, Layshi, Nanyun, Lahel and Homelinn towns.

Although there is no influx of Naga refugees to India lately, Nagas from Burma continue to cross the Indian border in small number almost everyday to escape from the abuses of the Burmese army, Mr. Longsa said.

The Naga refugees, living in remote and difficult terrain in India, survive either by working in hill farms or with whatever support they received from local Church organizations. There is no support so far from the international humanitarian organizations.

The Naga population in Burma is estimated to be five hundred thousands.

View Larger Map

Sagaing Division, Burma

Sagaing Division is an administrative division of Myanmar, located in the north-western part of the country between latitude 21° 30' north and longitude 94° 97' east. It is bordered by India’s Nagaland and Manipur States to the north, Kachin State, Shan State, and Mandalay Division to the east, Mandalay Division and Magway Division to the south, with the Ayeyarwady River forming a greater part of its eastern and also southern boundary, and Chin State and India to the west. The division has an area of 93,527 km², and population (1996) of over 5,300,000. The capital is Sagaing.

Naga Land is the land at Sagaing Division, North-West of Myanmar near India Border, where Naga Hill Tribes are living. Khamti, LayShe, Lahe, NanYun

Lahe is a town in Naga Hills of Sagaing Division on the northwest frontier of Burma. It will now be grouped together with Leshi and Nanyun in Naga Self-Administered Zone under the new 2008 Constitution of the military regime.

The Naga New Year Festival is held on 15 January , and Lahe, Leshi, Hkamti and Nanyun hosted it in rotation until it became state-sponsored for the benefit of tourism and limited to Leshi and Lahe since 2003 during the time of the ousted prime minister Khin Nyunt.

Naga insurgents fighting against the Indian government have bases in the border area inside Burma. The Burmese army have launched offensives against these camps in recent years following top level meetings between the two countries.

The Pyu were the first to in recorded history to populate the area of Sagaing Division by the 1st century CE. The Bamar (Burmans) first migrated into Upper Myanmar by 7th century CE. The area came under the Pagan Kingdom certainly by the middle of 11th century when King Anawrahta (r. 1044-1077) founded the Pagan Empire, which encompasses the modern day Myanmar.

After the fall of Pagan in 1287, the northwestern parts of Upper Myanmar came under the Sagaing Kingdom (1315-1364) ruled by Burmanized Shan kings. The area was ruled by the kings of Ava from 1364 to 1555 and the kings of Taungoo from 1555 to 1752. Konbaung Dynasty (1752-1885), founded by king Alaungpaya in Shwebo, became the last Burmese dynasty before the British conquest of Upper Burma in 1885. The area became Sagaing Division after the Burmese independence in January 1948.


The Bamar (Burmans) are the majority ethnic group in the dry regions and along the Mandalay-Myitkyina Railroad. Shan live in the upper Chindwin River valley. A sizable minority of Naga resides in the north of north-west mountain ranges and Chin in the south. Smaller ethnic groups native to the Division include the Kadu and Ganang, who live in the upper Mu River valley and Meza River valley.

Internal Displacement in the Chin State and Nagaland (February 2004)

* The situation in the Chin State is not well known, but estimates by the Chin population reflect large-scale displacement
* Thousands have fled to Rangoon and other areas inside Burma, while at least 50,000 have crossed the border to India
* In the Sagaing Division, the Naga have suffered significant conflict-related displacement in recent years
* In addition to conflict-induced displacement, border area ‘development’ programmes have forcibly resettled people
* Numerous Naga villages have been displaced after fighting between SPDC and Naga insurgent forces

"It is already apparent that the genocide campaign is taking a toll on the Chin society. Families are increasingly separated and more people are feeling [sic.] the Chinland to seek safety elsewhere. More than 50,000 Chin refugees have fled to India since the 1990s when the military junta began sending thousands of troops to Chinland. Thousands of Chin families have made their way to Rangoon and elsewhere to escape conditions at home, becoming internally displace persons (IDPs).

Fifty thousands Chin refugees living in Mizoram [India] are not recognized as refuges by the Indian government and are considered illegal immigrants. Thousands of them have been arrested and forcibly returned to Burma." (CHRO, February 2004)

"The situation in Chin State has also not been well reported, hence the scale of the problem is not generally known. However, estimates by Chin people themselves reflect large-scale displacement of population. The Chin National Front (CNF), a pan Chin nationalist movement, reports displacement taking place. Members also estimate that there are 40-50,000 persons displaced from their homes, many of whom have fled to Mizoram State in north-east India.

In addition to conflict-induced displacement, many states have introduced border area 'development' programmes, entailing resettlement of populations and carried out under the auspices of the Ministry for the Development of Border Areas and National Races, set up in May 1989. Initiated in border states where successive central governments have been involved in long-standing conflicts with ethnic armies, its objectives among others, are to carry out 'all round development', promote national unity and stamp out poppy cultivation. This programme was to extend to 19 distinct border zones with an estimated population of four million. In these zones two groups were eligible for resettlement: former insurgents who laid down their arms in so called 'welcome' sites and populations displaced by military action between the army and insurgents.

In the seven largely Burman-inhabited divisions, with the exception of Tenasserim Division, the displacement situation is little better despite the absence of any insurgent activity there. Evictions for reasons of city beautification, urban development and infrastructure construction (particularly roads, railways and dams) are likely to be the same as in the seven ethnic majority states. The construction of the Kalay-Gangaw railway line in Sagaing Division illustrates clearly that the problems of forced displacement are not only confined to the war-affected zones. The line crosses mostly flat farmland and paddy fields; these were destroyed without any compensation being paid by the national government." (BERG September 2000)

"In the Chin State there were reports that 3,000 Naga villagers fled the country into northeastern India in May [2001] when the army launched an offensive against Naga separatists. Army troops reportedly burned villages and laid landmines to discourage villagers from returning.

Authorities have attempted to prevent Chin Christians from practicing their religion. Military units repeatedly located their camps on the sites of Christian churches and graveyards, which were destroyed to build these camps; local Chin Christians were forced to assist in these acts. In addition the army reportedly also has taken over churches to use them for bases in remote areas.
Since 1990 government authorities and security forces have promoted Buddhism over Christianity among the Chin ethnic minority in diverse and often coercive ways. This campaign, reportedly accompanied by other efforts to "Burmanize" the Chin, has involved a large increase in military units stationed in Chin State and other predominately Chin areas, state-sponsored migration of Buddhist Burman monks from other regions, and construction of Buddhist monasteries and shrines in Chin communities with few or no Buddhists, often by means of forced "donations" of money or labor.

There also were a number of credible reports that the army continued to force Chin to porter for it, both in Chin State and Sagaing Division. In addition the Army reportedly no longer takes rations with it, and rather lives off of local villagers often by force, although villagers reportedly were permitted to provide monetary compensation in lieu of such work. Local government officials ordered Christian Chins to attend sermons by newly arrived Buddhist monks who disparaged Christianity. In addition there were reports during the year that many Christian Chin were pressured and some were forced to attend monk school and Buddhist monasteries and then encouraged to convert to Buddhism." (US DOS 4 March 2002, sect. 1g & 2c)

"Moreover, as is the case in Sagaing Division, the designated administrative boundaries of the division conceal the ethnic diversity within its borders and internal displacement which has occurred. Many Naga people, estimated to be around 100,000 strong in total, populate the four northern townships of the division, near the town of Khamti and the Patkai mountain range […]. Fighting for an independent Nagaland in both India and Burma, and facing increased internal divisions, the Naga have suffered significant conflict-related displacement. In the last six years particularly along the Khamti-Tekai road, numerous Naga villages have been displaced after fighting between SPDC and Naga insurgent forces. It is estimated that up to 1,300 villagers have been displaced and fighting seems presently to have increased." (BERG September 2000, "Other States and Divisions of Burma")

"Delegates of the Relief Team from NPMHR and NSF have just returned from Chen Mohu, Mon after delivering the relief materials to the Nagas from Eastern Nagaland who has been displaced following the Myanmarese military crackdown on their villages. The team comprising of eight members from both the aforementioned organizations left for Mon on the 1st of June, 2001 and returned on the 4th of June, 2001.

Many villagers from Chen Hoyat, Throilo and Nyanching have taken refuge in the neighbouring villages of Mon district of Nagaland state, while many are still hiding in the jungles in Eastern Nagaland. According to the refugees we met at Chen Mohu the atrocities meted out on them were gruesome. A couple caught by the Myanmarese army suffered excruciating tortures leading to the death of the husband. The wife was raped for two days and released at another village. Their five children had fled with the rest of the villagers. Several had gone missing while the bodies of at least three who had starved to death had been discovered. Those who escaped also do not know how the people are sustaining themselves in the jungles in the rainy weather of the summer season.

Except for some few houses and granaries in the outskirt of Throilo village, all the three villages have been burnt to ashes. Many of the cattle were eaten up by the Myanmarese army in the campaign. The others were just shot and left to rot in the jungles.

After burning down the three villages, the Myanmarese army left several
mines inside as well as around the burnt villages. As of now, nobody has fallen victim to the landmines. Only a bear, a pig and two cows has been killed by the landmines. For this reason the villagers are unable to go back and rebuild their villages." (NPMHR/NSF June 2001)

See the internet site of the Chin Human Rights Organisation for further information on the background and patterns of displacement (including forced labour) in Chin State.

1.Naga population and integration movement: documentation(2007),by U. A. Shimray, published by Mittal Publications

No comments:

Post a Comment