Neighbourhood irony

Aheli Moitra

Neighbourhoods that the Naga people have come to share with various peoples in the region have come to be ridden with ironies.


Take the instance of Karbi Anglong in Assam. The Rengma Naga people, along with their Rengma Hills, signed an agreement in Arlongvoti with the Karbi people way back in the 1940s when a movement led to the creation of the United Mikir and North Cachar Hills in1951. In 1976, it became Karbi Anglong.


On November 28, 2017, the Chief Executive Member of Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) attended the Rengma Ngada, annual harvest festival, for the first time in history. The CEM declared the Rengma Ngada day, November 28, a restricted holiday in the district. Ironic, because November 28 is already a public holiday in Karbi Anglong; it mourns the death of Khorsing Terang, the first CEM of the KAAC. The others mourn even as the Rengma Nagas celebrate. The irony is not lost on the latter which would also like to pay their respect to Terang instead of making merry (Nga = merry making dance; Da = big).


The Rengma Nagas would not just like Ngada to be shifted to November 27 and have it declared a public holiday but, most importantly, want to be politically represented with at least one nominated seat in the KAAC.


But silence surrounds the basic political demand. Despite agreeing to bring their lands in to form today’s Karbi Anglong, the Rengma Nagas have progressed little in the past 66 years.


The Zeme Nagas of NC Hills are not to be left out from the irony of the North East times.


On November 21, 2017, the people of the NC Hills district (also known as Dima Hasao) led a protest against the assumed encroachment of their land in the proposed Nagalim. ‘We want togetherness not separation’ read a placard at the rally organized for the protest. The idea is to uphold ‘territorial integrity’ of the NC Hills, some of whose land is inhabited by the Zeme Nagas who have, similarly, not seen much development. They have three seats at the NC Hills Autonomous Council.


Even as there are talks of ‘togetherness,’ there are demands to merge Karbi Anglong and NC Hills into an autonomous state independent of Assam state. The dominant communities (Karbi, Dimasa) of the proposed autonomous hills state have sought the cooperation of the Nagas within their respective jurisdictions to support the demand for an autonomous state.


With some conditions, the Nagas are considering cooperation in the interest of peace. But will history repeat itself? Will the Nagas become marginalized peoples alongside other citizens—Kuki, Hmar, Tiwa, Baite, Vaiphei, Hrangkhol, Man Tai— in a future autonomous state? Or will their historic contribution, as well as their future progress, be regarded by the majority as equally deserving of representation and development?


The experience of Nagas in neighbourhood states should become a mirror for a future Naga Land/Lim. Are the minorities, neighbouring communities, in Naga-administered areas treated with respect, justice and equality?


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