The word Naga is a collective name of many tribes descended from a common ancestor. Their ancestral homeland- Nagalim- lies in the northwest corner of Southeast Asia landmass. It is bounded in the East by Burma, in the North by China and in the West and South by India. Made up of many hill ranges, this country is known for its rich bio-diversity.
The present population of 3.5 million Nagas are spread out in several thousand villages over a 120,000sq.Km area. A dozen of these villages have developed into towns/cities ranging from 5000 to 200,000 inhabitants. Thehistorical symbols left behind by their ancestors at Makhrai-Rabu-Khyafii[Makhel], a Mao Naga village in present day Manipur [India], are still treated as sacred symbols of their common root. Among the symbols are, a tall stone monolith called Tamratu, the stone of dispersal; three small monoliths called Linotu representing, Tiger, Man and Spirit- flora and fauna, human society and the spiritual world; and a pear tree, called, Chetebu, planted by their ancestors.
Nurtured and protected by rolling hills, for thousands of years Nagas lived under village council system, free from foreign aggression. In the eighteenth, however, with the coming of modern arms, outside forces began to threaten their freedom. At the closing of the nineteenth century, a bout a third of Nagalim was under British control.
Naga People and their Land
Nagaland, or Nagalim, is a mountainous and forested swathe of land of about 125,000 square kilometres, which takes in areas of India, Burma and China. Nagalim refers to the Naga's homeland irrespective of the ärticial boundaries"of the three countries that politically divide it. The vast majority of Nagalim lies within India's borders. The fact that the Naga would prefer to ignore these borders is rooted in a traditional culture of communal ownership of land that remained free of the restrictions of modern states.
According popular belief the Naga peoples are descendants of the Qiang, a people that, during the 11th – 13th centuries BC,.lived in northwest China. The Qiang were forced to flee their homelands and seek refuge in Tibet because of the hostility of the Shang and, later, the Zhou dynasties. From Tibet, they migrated to northern Burma, and then to the Irrawaddy valley and further south along the Malay Peninsula. From there, groups turned northward before staying in their present homelands in the Patkai Range.
Before India invaded Nagalim in 1953, the Nagas were a tough and defiantly self-reliant people. They thrived on a selfsufficient agri ultural-based economy. The Nagas resemble the peoples of Southeast Asia in physical appearance, making them distinct from the Indian population. Although speaking a diverse set of languages, the four million Nagas share a common culture founded on the values of generosity, egalitarianism and independence.They are a people who value the virtues of bravery, honesty, self-reliance, simplicity, hospitality and hard work.
Traditionally, the Nagas are farmers, utilising both slash and burn – or jhooming – cultivation and the tilling of rice terraces. The Nagas built their villages at altitudes of between 1,000 and 2,000 metres, towns perched like fortresses on the highest peaks of the Naga Hills in the Oatkai Range, looking down on to the surrounding valleys. The choice of such strategic sites dates grom the days of warring fractions; when headhunting was common practice. Villages became isolated, and from this isolation developed unique cultures and dialects confined to small populations of Nagas.Such was the diversity of these languages that people living in neighbouring villages spole entirely different languages.
Today however the Naga peoples are proudt o be united through a common language, Nagamese, and in their common aspiration for an independent homeland.
The Naga people (predominantly Christians) are divided into 16 major tribal groups, each with its own name and language. Overall, however, they forged a common group identity during the British colonial period (1857-1947) and have consolidated it while resisting the Hindu-dominant Indian government. The Naga separatists formed the Naga National Council (NNC) in 1946 to unite the Naga's different tribes to avoid the incorporation of Naga land into the Indian Union and to demand regional independence. Naga separatists have waged a sporadic guerrilla war since 1952 until Nagaland was officially designated as a separate state of the Indian Union in 1963 and a cease-fire was signed in 1964. Yet, many Nagas have expressed dissatisfaction and pursued their claim for full sovereignty and fighting between Naga guerrillas and the Indian army sporadically continued. The Naga movement has employed both armed and non-violent tactics against the government. Since the government banned all opposition in September 1972 (when the fighting resumed in earnest), all Naga movements turned to underground guerrilla activities.
Throughout the 1980s, Nagaland, along with other regions in the northeast (Tripura, Assam, Mizoram, and Manipur), experienced a high degree of communal unrest and ethnic-insurgent activities. The violent situation in the 1980s can partly be attributed to the hostile break up of the main rebel force: the supporters of the exiled separatist leader A. Zapu Phizo on the one hand and the adherents of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) on the other. In addition, the Nagas' boundary dispute with the Assamese (since Naga land was carved out of Assam as a separate state in 1955) reached its most violent levels around 1985.
In the 1990s, the central and state governments have faced instability in both Nagaland and neighboring Manipur. Periodic small-scale attacks by Naga rebels against government targets continued through most of the decade. In August, 1997, the main NSCN (I-M) faction reached a ceasefire with the government. The ceasefire has largely been observed and was later extended to include the NSCN (K) faction. Negotiations between the government and the NSCN (I-M) also began in 1997 but have been hampered by both dissension within the Naga movement and continual changes of government at the federal level. Although organizations such as the Naga Hoho (tribal council), the Naga Mothers Association, and other NGOs have attempted to unite the two NSCN factions and the Naga National Council, little progress has yet emerged. In the spring of 1999, following 33 years in exile, the two leaders of the NSCN (I-M) visited Nagaland and met with leaders of the other groups. While no agreement was reached, it could be an important first step toward a reconciliation.
Beginning in late 1992, the Naga's became embroiled in a violent rivalry with the Kuki tribe in Manipur. Some government officials believe that the Naga-Kuki dispute is largely over control of the lucrative heroin trade route from neighboring Burma. By the end of 1993, the deaths of over 300 people in Naga-Kuki clashes prompted the central government to impose a year of President's rule in Manipur. In the mid-1990s, clashes also erupted between the Kukis and the Paite tribe in Manipur; the Kukis believe the Paites support their rivals, the Nagas. As of the late 1990s, the rivalry between the Naga (and Paite) and Kuki tribes has not spread to Nagaland; however, violent attacks on each other's villages continue in Manipur and the death toll is likely close to one thousand.
Analysts believe that a settlement of the Naga insurgency, Indias longest running rebellion, could hold the key for future peace in the northeast region. The Nagas reportedly provide logistical, material, and symbolic support to other insurgent groups in the region. The prospects of a settlement hinges on various issues including whether the various Naga groups are able to unite; if they are willing to settle for a greater role within the confines of Nagaland, rather than pursuing a greater Nagaland which would include territory in neighboring states; and the ability and willingness of the federal government to provide meaningful autonomy and economic development.
The Nagas are indigenous peoples who for gene of oppression whereby Naga's are not allowed to live the way they would like to live. The policies of militarization and the subsequent dehumanization have profoundly damaged the fabric of the Naga society viz. culture, language, way of life, sense of identity and dignity. Throughout our long experiences under oppression Naga peoples have learned the futility of war and violence, which seek to destroy human hopes and dreams and blind us to the violence and hatred that breeds within and around us.
The Naga people wish to recover our wisdom, our cultural heritage and our spirituality by building a future on what we know to be good and right for ourselves guided by the principles of democracy, dignity and freedom. The Naga people continue with the search for our common humanity, justice and peace.
Therefore, fully recognizing the potential capacity of culture as critical yeast in broadening our understanding of human life, respecting diversity, promoting non violence and creating a peaceful world, we undertake a journey to develop better understanding between peoples of all nations through cultural education and exchanges.
This journey reflects the Naga peoples 'Call for Peace: Creating a Vision of Hope for Our Nation and the World.' Through this spiritual journey of cultural awakening, we express our aspirations and reaffirm our commitment to non-violence as a means to reclaim our dignity and rights so that we can build a future of hope for our generations to come.
To share, exchange and celebrate the richness of human cultures in developing understanding and relationships between peoples of all nations for creation and growth of a peaceful world.
- To create networks of peace, human rights and democracy groups through intercultural dialogue for a culture of peace.
- To exchange, broaden and promote cultural education and knowledge of eachother's cultures.
- To develop mutual respect for eachother's culture and create solidarity and partnership.
- To strengthen democratic participation and promote human rights for all peoples through cultural exchanges.
- To strengthen communities through people to people interaction in the spirit of equality and dignity of each human being without discrimination.
- To uphold freedom of cultural expressions, promote cultural communication and strengthen cultural diversity for international peace and solidarity.
LAUNCHING OF "CALL FOR PEACE: Creating a Vision of Hope for our Nation and the World"
The campaign 'Call for Peace' was launched in Bangkok (Thailand) where a cultural troupe consisting of 30 young Naga men and women performed at several avenues, including Universities and educational institutions. Naga human rights activists and social workers accompanied the cultural troupe and shared experiences of their efforts to promote a culture of peace, understanding and human rights.
Thailand, kingdom of Peace and Harmony, and the Thai people have been a leading (...?) founded on tolerance, politeness and respect that are embedded in strong cultural traditions and philosophies of peace as a way of life. The simplicity and honesty of the Thai people makes Thailand the ideal launching place for 'Call for Peace: Creating a Vision of Hope for Our Nation and the World.' This would help to restore historical relations and strengthen ongoing initiatives between the Thai and Naga peoples, particularly in our common search for regional and universal peace, understanding and cooperation.
Through this initiative a relationship of mutual respect, understanding and partnership can be developed between the two peoples. Such a partnership will foster a network of peace, human rights, non-violence and democracy groups through people to people interaction, cultural exchange and development of educational exchange projects. Solidarity strengthened through these activities will strengthen the call for peace based on values of democracy, justice, dignity, freedom and participation of all peoples on decisions that affect our lives.
The Naga people believe the movement for justice and peace must be rooted in our potential capacity of empowering one another on values of self-determination, democracy and our inherent capabilities to create a shared vision that will create just patterns of human interaction.
We have recognized the power of culture as a liberating concept that encompasses all spheres of human life. Through this journey we wish to regain our humanity and join the common and collective efforts in contributing to the process of transforming societies in a humanizing way that non-violently will address the roots of injustice and oppression, the greatest obstacle to world peace.