Nagaland has become homes of many communities besides the official 16 tribes of the Nagas, each of which has different dialects/tongues identified with different culture characteristics. All these tongues are quite different from the others and these are spoken within the community level. The Nagamese language has evolved as their common link language among all the tribes of Nagaland who speak more than thirty/forty different tongues particularly in Dimapur, Kohima and Mokokchung town etc. Nagamese language is the only lingua- franca in Nagaland which brings in a mode of communication and unity amongst different communities of the State and creates National integration.
The Nagamese language comes especially as a result of some social – linguistic interactions and these problems are felt aside to the interested researchers, luckily Dr. Hitoca Achumi, Ph.D. residing Near Sumi Baptist Church, Puranabazar Dimapur has written an article under the heading “Nagamese as an aid” expressing the fact that Nagamese as a language has grown along with the Naga people. Whereas, another Research Scholar Kereivile Kire in his lingustic point of view, it is too pre-mature for Nagamese to reach that stage to be recognized as a language.” He appreciated Mr. V. Phushika Awomi, former President, NSF’ for his article published on 10th January, 2016 in support of NSF statement on January 20 (NP) when news emanating from New Delhi that Prime Minister’s Office has reportedly initiated the idea to promote Nagamese as a common language. They expressed that “this is an attempt to deprive the Nagas of their identity” I am sure there would be many such writer against or support to take political mileage. However, as the author of Nagamese book entitled “Nagamese – the lingua franca of Nagaland translated into English and Sumi” published in the year 2007 and revised edition in 2015, I would like to reply this way.
The book may not be upto the expectation regarding the language as it has no script; it is a mixture of ideas, written under compulsion as a missionary to the non Nagas. I have been much pressurized to give some write up for the targeted groups particularly those who married other tribes or outsiders (non- Nagas) because inter-marriage has become common in Nagaland and for the sake of those fellow non-Naga Christians who have accepted Christ as their personal saviour and those Christians wanting to know the word of God as our new Christian friends whom we consider more important persons to communicate, we are facing many difficulties in prayer meetings, preaching the gospel, the word of God etc as they cannot understand English or other Naga dialect. My Nagamese book is the outcome of our nature of work among the Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs and Buddhist particularly in Burma (Myanmar) Naga region. Those children and parents whose encouragement and suggestions have made it possible to bring out Nagamese books. I have invited every reader to give their opinion or any correction or suggestion for improvement of Nagamese language and many preachers have responded after reading the book and most of them have requested me to write Nagamese Bible. Meantime, the All Burma Naga Baptist Churches Association has requested United Baptist Churches Association North East India and Christian Education Ministry Dimapur to translate New Testament for there is no single Bible in Burmese Naga language as they have received only 4 gospels ( Matthew, Mark, Luke and John ) which was translated by me in 2009 has reached Burma Naga region through some National workers.
The Government of Nagaland has adopted English as the State official language, but Nagamese has occupied the same State in Government administration unofficially – as a matter of fact majority of Naga people speak Nagamese which is broken Assamese mixed with English, Hindi, Bengali, Nepali, Urdu, Karbi, Kachari etc and is now becoming a common language in Nagaland. The Burma Naga people has also adopted Nagamese as their common language. The Naga Students have rightly opposed the promotion of Nagamese in Nagaland when the Central Government proposed to promote it as an official language, stating that the intentions of the Centre to promote a language which had no originality. Yes it is true, but to know about the origin of the Nagamese language it is essential to study the relation of the Naga people with the Assamese speaking population in the neighbouring areas.
The Naga people had a relation with Assamese and that relation continued since the reign of the Ahom Kings.In our history, systematic historical records of the Nagas were not available during pre- Ahom period except some stray references here and there. The Ahom Kingdom brought a far reaching relationship, with the Nagas which marked the turn from hostility to friendship. The first tribal people with whom the Ahom in Assam, came through the land of the Nagas in the beginning of the 13th century.
According to the Ahom Chronicles, Ahoms had to deal mostly with the Nagas since the establishment of their kingdom till the 17th century. The Nagas offended the Ahom kings from time to time and they also visited the Ahom kingdom. These Naga people lived in hilly region in between the rivers Dikhow and Burhidihing. The relationship of Ahom with the Nagas improved much towards the 17th century. During the reign of Suchinpha, some Khamingia Naga came and paid homage to the Ahom king at the Capital Gargaon and prayed for help to fight with their hostiles, viz. some Naga villages.
Thus, for the first time one of the restless Nagas tribe of the Patkai mountain, who were considered as the trouble makers towards the Ahom rulers for many times, visited the Ahom king at his capital and established friendly relations with him.
The Ahoms or Assamese relations inhabitants came into contact with the Nagas of the Doyang valley during the reign of Gadadhar Singha ( 1681- 1696 AD ) .These Naga population were undoubtedly the Lotha’s who lived by the side of Doyang river, which is very close to the plains. They showed their sentiments of loyalty to the Ahom King since their contact with Ahoms and respect for each other.
Besides, the custom of adoption of children of other caste and martial relation with the hill tribes were prevailing during the Ahom regime. Sometimes the adopted children were placed in a superior position. The Dupgaria Naga presented three boys to the Burha Raja. Their names were Ao, Apam and Lachit. There are several references of martial relationship between the Ahoms and the Nagas. Previously, the Dihingiya Raja was residing in the hills he had a friendly relationship with a Khungaw of Banpheria Nagas named Karengpa. His daughter Changkun had some familiarity with the King’s household. A son was born to Changkun, who later became to be known as Tyachengmung. Then the King asked his ministers “The boy should find his place between you two Gohains, because he came of a Naga mother,” so be it, we accept him. There are many such instances of the martial relationship between the Assamese Princeses and the people. Likewise, many Naga men and women married to Nepalis, Bhutias, Bengalis, Kerelian, kanadian and even miya people and they speaks Nagamese to communicate at home. And no authority in heaven can stop this inter – marriage between Nagas and non – Nagas.
It will not be out of place to mention here that a talented and notable work done by Shri. Sankaradeva (1449-1569 AD) for creating amity between hills and plains. He also took his disciples from the hill people; among them Narottam of Naga,Gobinda of Garo and Balal of Mikir who were more prominent. There still exist some Naga villages in Sibsagar sub-division and Tirap district who are of Hindu religion. The migrated Nagas of the plains of Assam speaks Assamese and these same people speak Nagamese like the Nagas of Nagaland. The seven Sema villages at Margherita of Dibruguarh district, Gatum Goan and Ugiri Pykhuii Gaon (Konyak) at Sibsagar district are notable in this respect. Linguistically, they merged with the Assamese fold, also their acculturation is a notable feature.
Ahom reign ended with three Burmese invasions. During these invasions many Assamese took refuge in the Naga villages and some of them merged themselves with the Naga fold.Such Assamese people are found in Mokokchung, Dimapur district and even at Kohima districts and in the long run they are identified as Nagas, most of them have nicknames in Naga too.
As per the history, in the year 1826 the British occupied Assam and accordingly Ahom rule ended with. During this period, military expeditions were made to the Naga Hills. Yet Nagas relation with the Assamese was friendly and satisfactory. In a Government official letter, Lt. Col. Jenkins; wrote that “Our relations just now with the Nagas may be considered satisfactory, and I have nothing at present to suggest in reference to them.” There was a commercial communication between the plains and the hills. During the British period, the communications of the Nagas with Sibsagar improved and trade with the Naga villagers was extended.
With the advent of the British rule in Naga Hills, Assamese language was occupying some prominent places in the Naga society. The British Government had to keep Assam Rifles and the Assam Police in Nagaland for smooth running of their administration, especially for the maintenance of law and order. Many of them hailed from rural areas of Kamrup and Goalpara districts. Moreover, civil staffs of the said army were mainly recruited from the plain districts of Assam. During the British rule Assamese was introduced in the Govt.Schools of Nagaland.In this way, there was regular contact between the Naga tribes and the Assamese speaking population was mantained for centuries together. Thus Naga-Assamese came into existence. It is to be noted that the language adopts a Naga form in pronunciation and accentuation. As the people, who served in Nagaland in different capacities, belonged to different linguistic stock and as their mother tongues were different, they had to speak the common language of majority people i.c. Naga- Assamese and this is mixed with different elements of those languages. This way Nagamese incorporated vocabulary from Hindi, Bengalis, English, Nepali, Urdu, Karbi, Kachari besides Assamese. The vocabulary from the local Naga dialects is rare except the local terms of fairs and festivals. The speakers of Lower Assam practically predominated the Nagamese dialect is easily identified particularly in accentuation, intonation and in the sentence structure. I have written the Anglo Nagamese Grammar ( the lingua franca of Nagaland in 2007 and revised edition in 2015 which is already circulated all over Nagaland and the Burma Naga people is using this book as Text Book in Schools in Roman script.
There may be some objection for Nagamese as language that it has no script, but there are written records, documents of Nagamese language which are found in Roman script which is also convenient in writing the language though with certain limitations. The dramas namely “ manuhor babe” etc, preserved in the All India Radio station, Kohima are written in the Roman script.The Naga film division has written “ Pagla Duniya”, Bosti manu” and the latest film heading “ My blood for the Nation”, has script in Nagamese.The book ‘ Nagaland ‘ by Navarnalati Chakravorty, a publication of Asom Sahitya Sabha is also written in the same script.
I want to inform the young esteem readers who are opposing the Nagamese language, that the Nagamese has already adopted as a communication among all section of people by the following Church organization 1.United Baptist Churches Association North East India 2. Christian Education Ministry, Dimapur (New Testament – Notun Niom Rev. N. Khashito Aye translation) and Church Hymnal) 3. The Nagamese Baptist Churches Association affiliated to NBCC has published (Nagamese Hymnal by NBCC, Kohima. 4. The Nagaland Christian Rival Churches has published New Testament (Sam Kumar translation) There are many other ministry who has written several Books in Nagamese.
In fact, the Nagamese language is not thoroughly studied and explored by the linguistic. I am sure some of our young theological students are still in the manuscript forms. Some examples :- Nagamese into Anglo- Hindi- Ao ( July 1969) by D. Baruah is the first comprehensive work on lexicography which actually meets the need of the a handbook dictionary for learning three languages- Nagamese Hindi and English by the Aos and others. Naga pidgin:
A socio- linguistic study of Interlingua Communication pattern in Nagaland ( November 1974) by M. V. Sheerdhar is the product of the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, which throws some light on the grammatical aspects of the Nagamese language spoken by few Naga tribes.
Nagamese is considered as a common lingua- franca in Nagaland and the Nagas treat it as their most vital language for inter- communication. Further, it is observed that Nagamese was necessarily used as a medium in the discourses and reports of the momentous Naga National Convention held at Kohima in 19th January 1957.The Government of Nagaland considers Nagamese as an important language for publicity purposes, and it is always announced from their Broadcasting Centre, All India Radio station, Kohima. The importance of Nagamese is also laid down by some foreign writers like W.B. Smith, Hutton and Verrier Elwin. The European writer Hutton refers in his book that ‘indeed the Naga- Assamese language as used in the Naga Hills is peculiarly well adopted for the reproduction of Naga idioms, and a vehicle of interpretation it makes a far better linguafranca for the hills than Hindustani or English would,the substitution of which Assamese has been occasionally suggested by the Government. Moreover, Naga people continue to use Nagames in all public meetings and generally Nagamese has got its importance for national integration.
The influence of the Christian Missionaries, British occupation of Nagaland had great impact on the vocabulary of Nagamese language and it is continued till- today and will continue.For the information to young writer let me refer the Nagaland Legislative Assembly Rules and Procedure and conduct of Business in Nagaland Legislative Assembly Chapter V11 rules 28 says:- “The Business of the Assembly shall be transacted in English or in Naga-Assamese ( Nagamese) All the NPGs (underground) is using Nagamese.
Let me also remind our esteem students leader (NSF) That Nagamese is a mixture of Indian and Foreign Languages which which do not pose any threat to the Naga identity, as one of the Village Chief Mr. T. L. Angami has pointed out clearly in his rejoinder to NSF ( 24.1.2016. I also advised NSF and other writer not to play politics in Nagamese. In order to refresh your mind I want to cited one example when I filed PIL in the Supreme Court of India against “Corruption, Bribe system in appointment” in Nagaland NSF and Naga Hoho kept Mum” during 1990s and when we fight against 50% IAS, IPS for our Nagas, ILP issue during 1980’s our people did not support our movement. My dear Students leader, you have many other issue concerning to the welfare of the Students like “Backdoor appointment, Bribe system in the various department, unemployment, immorality etc. What is really missing in our society is “Power of Students”. As a former Students leaders I advised the NSF not to misguide the younger generation.
The writer is Missionary to Non-Nagas, the author of Nagamese Grammar and translator of New Testament (Notun Niom)
Rev. Dr. N. Khashito Aye
5th Mile, Dimapur