Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nagaland(那加兰邦), North East India

I accidentally come across the information on Nagaland, when searching for Shanland and Ahom. I once met some students from Nagaland in Malaysia, thinking they are from Nepal or Tibet. I was surprised that they are from India, near Assam. Not many Indian want to talk about North East India, about Assam, Nagaland or to talk about Ahom, Naga or Assam people…. To them they are far away, and in the security restricted unstable region.


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Nagaland(Hindi: नागालैंड) is a hill state located at the North East India, near Assam. It is near to Burma(Myanmar) in the east. It is one of the smallest state in India. The state capital is Kohima. The largest city is Dimapur. It is a beautiful country. It borders the state of Assam to the west, Arunachal Pradesh and part of Assam to the north, Burma to the east and Manipur to the south.

Burma invasion in 1816, the area, along with Assam, came under direct rule of Burma. This period was noted for oppressive rule and turmoil in Assam and Nagaland. When the British East India Company took control of Assam in 1826, the Britain steadily expanded its domain over modern Nagaland. By 1892, all of modern Nagaland except the Tuensang area in the northeast was governed by the British. It was politically amalgamated into Assam.

Not much is known about the history before the Burmese invasion.

After the independence of India in 1947, the area remained a part of the province of Assam. Nationalist activities arose amongst a section of the Nagas, whose Naga National Council demanded a political union of their ancestral and native groups.

The Union government sent the Indian Army in 1955, to restore order. In 1957, the Government began diplomatic talks with representatives of Naga tribes, and the Naga Hills district of Assam and the Tuensang frontier were united in a single political entity that became a Union territory, directly administered by the Central government with a large degree of autonomy. This was not satisfactory to the tribes, however, and soon agitation and violence increased across the state—included attacks on Army and government institutions, as well as civil disobedience and non-payment of taxes.

Between 1-12-1957 until 1-12-1963, the region, including the present Nagaland was known as Naga Hill and Tuensang Area(NHTA). Note: Prior to that time, Naga Hills formed part of Assam, some part of Tuensang area were in the North India Frontier Agency(NIFA), now re-designated as Arunachal Pradesh,and the rest are unadministered areas.

In July 1960, a further political accord was reached at the Naga People's Convention to wit: that Nagaland should become a constituent and self-governing state in the Indian union.
Nagaland become full fledged state in India on 1-12-1963, and the first state-level democratic elections were held in 1964.

Naga Hills
Naga hills, reaching a height of around 3825 meters, lie on the border of India and Myanmar. These hills are part of a complex mountain system, and the parts of the mountain ranges inside the Indian state of Nagaland are called Naga hills. In Undivided India, Naga Hills was also the name of an administrative district of the British Raj.

The hills, due to their complexity and position form a barrier between India and the former Burma. Extending northerly this rock formation and frontier known as 'Arakan Yoma' reaches 12,552 feet. In 1963, the area became known as Nagaland in-line with its position within India.

The tribes of Nagaland are Sumi, Lothas, Angami, Ao, Kuki, Chakhesang, Chang, Khiamniungan, Konyak, Phom, Pochury, Rongmei, Rengma, Sangtam, Yimchungru, and Zeliang, of which the Konyaks, Angamis, Aos, Lothas and Sumis are the largest Naga tribes. Tribe and Clan traditions and loyalties play an important part in the life of Nagas. Weaving is a traditional art handed down through generations in Nagaland. Each of the major tribes has its own unique designs and colors, producing shawls, shoulder bags, decorative spears, table mats, wood carvings and bamboo works. Tribal dances of the Nagas give an insight into the inborn reticence of the people. War dances and dances belonging to distinctive tribes are a major art form in Nagaland. Some of these are Moatsu, Sekrenyi, Tuluni , Tokhu Emong and Gan-Ngai.
Nagas speak 60 different dialects belonging to the Sino-Tibetan family of languages. Nagamese, a variant language form of Assamese and local dialects is the most widely spoken market language. Every tribe has their own mother tongue language but communicate with each other in Nagamese. As such Nagamese is not a mother tongue of any of the tribes and nor is it a written language. English, the official state language is widely spoken in official circles and is the medium for education in Nagaland. (source: www.wikipedia.org)

The name `Naga’ is a generic term that refers to a group of over thirty tribes inhabiting not only Nagaland but also some hilly regions of the states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India. Some of the Naga tribes are also found in the Northwestern parts of Myanmar bordering India. The Naga tribes are reported to have migrated to these places from further east a few thousand years ago. The Naga settlements in the region are mentioned in the Royal Chronicles of Manipur and also in the Ahom Buranjees2. Despite racial and cultural similarities, each Naga tribe has its own language and traditional social and political institutions. Till the arrival of the British, most of these communities depended on hunting, food gathering and shifting cultivation for their livelihood.


Nagaland is known as “ The most populated Baptist state in the World”. This is the most surprising of all information received on the country. The state population is 1.988million,of which 90.02% are Christians, and 75% of the population is a Baptist. The remaining 25% of Christian population are Catholics, Pentecostals and other Christian denomination. The population of Baptist here is more than Mississippi(in the Southern United States),where 52% of its population is Baptist. Hinduism 7.7%, Islam is 1.8%, traditional religion 0.3%. Nagaland was one of the three Christian majority states in India. The other states are Meghalaya 64.58%, Mizoram 85.73%. It is the only state in the world , where Christian formed 90% of population. The state has very high church attendance rate in both urban and rural areas.
The largest of Asia's churches dominate the skylines of Kohima, Dimapur and Mokokchung
The radical transition from being a Hindu state comprised of loosely organized tribes to a Christian government took place as a result of an unusual revival that swept through the villages and tribes between 1976 and 1978. Miraculous healings were common place, which began when “hundreds of people confessed their sins and repented of their old ways.” There are proportionately more born-again believers in Nagaland than any other place in the world, according to statistics gathered by Operation World.
The Nagas were formerly animists who worshipped nature and offered animal sacrifices to appease evil spirits. The gospel of Christ first came to the Nagas more than 125 years ago through American Baptist missionaries.
The first missionary to attempt to evangelize the Nagas, as far as we know, was a man named Rev. Miles Bronson. He lived for a few months among the Nagas in 1841 but was forced to leave due to illness, lack of food and poor living conditions


The Governor of Nagaland is the constitutional head of state, representative of the President of India. He possesses largely ceremonial responsibilities. A 60-member Vidhan Sabha is the state of ministers, led by a Chief Minister - all elected members of legislature - forms the government executive. The state is divided into 11 districts.

Ethnic Conflict

The ethnic conflict in Nagaland, in northeastern India, is an ongoing conflict, since 1993, fought between the Nagas and the Kukis(these are the tribal people who are inhabited in the hilly areas of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and Mizoram; North West Burma, and Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, mainly Christian but some of them claimed to be lost tribes of the Jew, and converted to Judaism)

Initially it started in Manipur between the Thankhuls, (who wanted to overthrow/drive away the Kukis living in Ukhrul district of Manipur .Tangkhul is a Naga tribe living in the Indo-Myanmar border area occupying Ukhrul district in Manipur, India and the Somra Tangkhul hills in Myanmar. They are playing a major role in the fight for the integration of all the Naga dominated areas in Northeast India and Myanmar. The goal of their leaders is to integrate whole Naga tribes by forming a Greater Nagaland or Nagalim, the word 'lim' meaning land in the Ao Naga language.) and Kukis in Mainpur. The various groups involved in this conflict include, among others, several rebel groups, the "National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah)" aiming for a Christian religious state based on Maoism, the "National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang)", aiming to establish an independent "greater Nagaland", and the "Naga National Council (Adino)".

The first insurgencies occurred in the early 1950s. They subsided gradually or were repressed in the early 1980s. In 1993, violence erupted again between the Nagas and the Kukis. Violence had re-erupted and there was conflict between rebel group factions till the late 1990s.

There are several rebel groups operating in Nagaland. These include
1. Naga National Council, a political organization active in late 1940s and early 1950s, that became separatist under Angami Zapu Phizo.
2. 'National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah)': formed on January 31, 1980 by Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S.S. Khaplang [1]. They aim to establish a ‘Greater Nagaland’ (‘Nagalim’ or the People’s Republic of Nagaland) based on Mao Tse Tung’s approach. ’
3. 'National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang)': formed on April 30, 1988 because of differences among the Naga tribes. Its objective is to establish a ‘greater Nagaland’ comprising of the Naga dominated areas within India, and contiguous areas in Myanmar.
4. Naga National Council (Adino) – NNC (Adino): the oldest political Naga organisation, now led by the daughter of Naga rebel A.Z. Phizo.
5. Naga Federal Government separatist movement active in Nagaland during 1970's. After its leader was captured and headquarters destroyed NFG's activities decreased
6. Naga Federal Army separatist guerrilla organization active in 1970's. Several hundred members of NFA.

On 25 July, 1997, Prime Minister Atal Bihari vajpayee announced that the Government after talks with Isaac group of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) declared a cease-fire or cessation of operations with effect from 1 August, 1997 for a period of three months. The cease-fire has since been extended

Background of the conflict:
The Nagas comprise some 17 major tribes and over 20 sub-tribes. Some of the major tribes include Ao, Angami, Sema, Lotha, Tangkhul, Konyak, Rengma, and Mao. Each tribe and sub-tribe speaks a different language, though each of these belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese group of languages.

Among all the ethnic groups and tribes living in the Northeast, the Nagas were the first to raise the banner of revolt against the Indian government, on August 14, 1947, under the aegis of the Naga National Council (NNC) led by Angami Zapu Phizo. In July 1948, Phizo was arrested along with some of his associates. They were released in 1949 and Phizo became the President of NNC in 1950. The NNC publicly resolved to establish a sovereign Naga state. In May 1951, the Council held a ‘referendum’ in which it claimed that 99% of the Naga people supported independence for Nagaland, though this has never been accepted by the government. The NNC boycotted the general elections in 1952 and launched a violent secessionist movement, with Naga insurgents raiding several villages and police outposts. On March 22, 1956, Phizo created an underground government called the Naga Federal Government (NFG) and a Naga Federal Army (NFA). In April that year, the Central government inducted the army to crush the insurgency in what was, till then, the Naga Hills District of the State of Assam. To deal with the situation, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, was subsequently enacted. Phizo, however, escaped to the then East Pakistan in December 1956 and, subsequently, to London in June 1960.

After Nagaland attained Statehood on December 1, 1963, a serious attempt was made to bring about a political settlement. In April 1964, a Peace Mission was formed with Jai Prakash Narayan, B.P. Chaliha and Rev. Michael Scott as its members and an Agreement for Suspension of Operation (AGSOP) was signed with the insurgents on September 6. However, the insurgents continued to violate the agreement by indulging in various acts of violence. Six rounds of talks between the insurgents and the Centre resulted in a deadlock and the Peace Mission was dissolved in 1967. In 1972, the Centre banned the NNC, the NFG and the NFA as "unlawful associations" under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967. The security forces launched a massive counter-insurgency operation and once again brought the situation under control forcing the insurgents to the negotiating table. An agreement known as the Shillong Accord was signed between the Centre and a section of the NNC and the NFG on November 11, 1975. According to the terms of the Accord, the NNC-NFG accepted the Indian Constitution and agreed to come overground and surrender their weapons.

However, a group of about 140 activists of the NNC, who had gone to China for training, repudiated the Shillong Accord and refused to surrender. They formed a new underground organisation called the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) under the leadership of Thuengaling Muivah, Isak Chisi Swu and S.S. Khaplang on Myanmarese (Burmese) soil in 1980. With the passage of time, the NSCN emerged as the most radical and powerful insurgent group fighting for the Naga cause, as the NNC-NFG became less active.

The Nagas had always been divided along clan and tribal lines. The majority of the rank and file of the NSCN was from the Konyak tribe, while the command structure was dominated by the Tangkhuls. This created discontent among the Konyaks. There were also apprehensions among the Konyaks and the Myanmerese Nagas that the Tangkhuls were about to strike a deal with the Central government. These factors resulted in a vertical split in the NSCN in 1988. The Konyaks formed a breakaway faction under the leadership of Khole Konyak and S.S. Khaplang, a Hemie Naga from Myanmar. The Tangkhul faction was led by Isak Swu, a Sema from Nagaland, and Muivah, a Tangkhul from Manipur’s Ukhrul district. This was followed by severe inter-factional clashes in which hundreds of activists of the rival groups had been killed.

After the death of Phizo in 1990, there was another split in the NNC. Phizo’s daughter Adino, an Angami, and Khudhao Nanthan, a Sema and a close associate of Phizo, constituted separate groups on rival lines. In the winter of 1996-97, Khudhao joined NSCN (lM) and is currently the Vice Chairman of the organization. With this move NSCN (IM) was also able to get the support of the Lothas to which Kudao belongs .All factions of the NSCN and NNC (Adino) have been banned since 1991 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
The NSCN-IM lays primary emphasis on the point that the Naga region was never a part of India and that Nehru’s argument was fallacious when he said that India had "inherited" the Naga area from the British. Both Swu and Muivah argue that "the fate of a people cannot be passed on like an inheritance from one party to another". The NSCN-IM has taken an inflexible stand on this point and insists that their demand is not for ‘secession’ because they have never been a part of the Indian Union.

Nagaland Assessment - Year 2009
The Naga insurgency in India's troubled Northeast has, over the years, become increasingly fratricidal, and trends in 2008 only demonstrate a further acceleration along this trajectory. While 154 deaths were caused by militancy in 2007, fatalities increased to 201 in 2008. The fatalities put Nagaland in the third place in the vortex of violence in the States of India's Northeast, behind Manipur (492) and Assam (373).(source:http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/india/states/nagaland/index.html)

Readers also take note that the history of Nagaland may reflected that the insurgencies occurred may not be a tribal conflicts, but actually political in nature.During the colonial times of India and Burma by the British Empire the Naga people fought the British troops for more than 40 years before they made a peace agreement. After the independence of India (1947) and Burma (1948), one part of Nagaland was annex to India and a smaller part to Burma. for many years the Naga people had fought the British because they felt they were a country and race of their own. India and Burma always felt that the Nagaland was Part of them. So the political history revealed that Nagaland is the consequence of "Divided and Ruled" policy of British colonist, and before the independence of the two nations(India & Burma), the will of Naga people was not took into consideration by the colonist and they left with big mess and future political time bomb for the newly independent nations. The Naga people now lived in two nations. The new states inherited the policy of divided and rule of its colonial master... also the human rights violation at Nagaland.

The Song from the heart of Naga People

Beautiful song, like a Christian song...their dream of Nagalim, a greater Nagaland. The hopes and they are still waiting....for the dream to come true.

This is another forgotten people by the world.....as there is no oil in the place, and therefore no political interest from the superpowers/global political leaders...

Related articles:

1.Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990), A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer. The chapter on General Mowu Gwizan from Nagaland, http://www.scientificpsychic.com/etc/jeff/Jeff-Noordermeer-Philosophy-008.html. The memoir revealed one of the Naga leader's attempt to seek help from the state department of USA government.
2. Naga of India, World Directories of Minorities, http://www.faqs.org/minorities/South-Asia/Nagas-of-India.html
3. War and nationalism in South Asia: the Indian state and the Nagas(2009), by Marcus Franke, published by Taylor & Francis. This book has details on the history of Naga.
4. Nagas' rights to self determination: an anthropological-historical perspective(2005), by Reisang Vashum, Mittal Publications.
5. Nagalim, UNPO(Unrepresented Nations & Peoples Organization),http://www.unpo.org/content
6. World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - India : Nagas, UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/topic,463af2212,469f2dd72,49749d11c,0.html
7. Human Right Violations in the North East(1984)file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/seow/My%20Documents/Nagaland/4373911.htm, by Udayon Misra
8. Peace and Democracy in South Asia, Volume 1, Issue 2, 2005, Naga Resistance Movement and the Peace Process in Northeast India , by H. SRIKANTH & C.J. THOMAS.
9.We Do More Because We Can :Naga Women in the Peace Process(2004), by Rita Manchanda, published by South Asia Forum for Human Rights
10. Conflict Transformation in the Naga Struggle(Chapter 4 pg 173-182),Reclaiming Balance:Indigenous Peoples, Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Development(2004),by Tebtebba Foundation
11.Nagaland: Naked Warriors & Beauty Contest on the India-Myanmar Border, http://twcnomad.blogspot.com/2007/12/nagaland-naked-warriors-beauty-contest.html. This is an interesting blog> The blogger, a Singaporean has visited the Nagaland.


  1. Thank you Raymond! You r one in a billion from the Globe to notice our people.May God Almighty bless u!!!

  2. I come to know Nagaland when I do some study on Ahom; prior to that I was interested in the Burmese refugee issue. I suddenly discover the historical link. There is similarity between political history of NE India and Burma.

    A political mess left behind by the colonist.
    Naga people must stand tall, and God bless Nagaland- the largest Baptist population in the world. It is a blessing...