TS Meren Jamir
Duncan Bosti, Dimapur
This happened the year 1993. While serving as one of the Joint Secretaries of All India Chess Federation, I was appointed as Team Manager of the Senior Indian Chess Team that was selected to represent India in the Asian Team Chess Championship which was held in Kualalumpur, Malaysia from 15th June to 25th June 1993.
So as per procedure, my passport, along with the players’ passports was submitted by the AICF Officials at the Malaysian High Commission New Delhi for the Entry Visa. All the documents and paperworks were obviously checked thoroughly and visas were issued promptly without any hassles and so off we went, me and my team of India’s top six IMs by the first available flight which was Air France. After a couple of hours sleep in the flight, we landed in Kualalumpur feeling drowsy but happy nonetheless. On arrival, we had to go and wait in a queue at the Malaysian immigration counter for the necessary entry permit and so when my turn came, I walked up groggily to the front desk and handed my passport to the nearest officer. There were two of them in uniform looking grim, prim and proper and taking my passport took about five minutes poring over it, flipping from first page to the last all the while murmuring something in their language. By now I had lost all my drowsiness watching them argue and so I asked if anything was wrong? They just stared at me and asked back “You Indian?” I answered “Gentlemen, you have my passport in your hands.” In the meantime, my team members came up to the counter and tried to explain to them that I was their Team Manager and that I was an Official of the AICF etc etc but to no avail. It was only when our host, Mr. How, who was the then Vice President of MCA came inside and intervened that the immigration officials grudgingly stamped my passport and reluctantly let me go. When we stepped outside, Mr. How laughed and slapped me on my shoulder and said “Mr. Jamir, how come you say, you are Indian’? You look just like us!
I brought up this anecdote which is just one among so many incidents that I have some across, just to prove a simple point that when we Nagas go about our businesses anywhere in the world, we are just an Asian face with no specific identity or bias. But then the issue arises when we have to present an Official proof of our place of residence, State and Country.
Now, as we all very well know, our present Nagaland was only a small part of Assam called the Naga Hills until about five and a half decades ago when it became the 26th State of the Indian Union notwithstanding the fact that there was and still is an ongoing political talks between the GOI and the NPGs for the final settlement beyond the 16 point Agreement for which we the Nagas, as one family, wish it God Speed.
So, this being the stark reality of Nagaland Statehood and the Nagas, what and how do we reply when asked about our nationality? We cannot help it, but we are Indians at least geographically as of now. And though we look more like our Chinese and Burmese neighbors than the ‘Mainland’ or ‘Mainstream’ Indians, we cannot claim any other nationality without landing up in their prisons. This actuality puts the Nagas in a Catch 22 situation more often than not.
Today, there are lots of debates going on out there in various political, social, educational and other public forums on whether the Nagas should be identified as Indians or not and so on so forth. We, as a democratic people who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ, must encourage a healthy exchange of ideas and thoughts amongst us in a non emotional, non partisan, constructive and practical manner. I feel, this is the need of the hour, because it was our past that has brought us to the present and from here to the future we must progress honestly and positively with a prayer for the generations to come and with malice to none.
TS Meren Jamir