Coexistence in Nagaland and other parts of the world- The Sumi Experience

HK Khulu, IAS

There is a crying need for authentic account of the History of Nagas and would require proper research and documentation after careful authentication by appropriate elders. There are many theories about how Nagas came to settle in the present area. Yunan province in China is one of the regions, Nagas seem to have come through but there are striking resemblance with tribes from present Taiwan (formerly known as Formosa), there are also certain striking similarities with Igarots of Philipines and Dayaks of Indonesia- perhaps connection with Mongolia needs to be studied but that is too vast a topic for a lay man like me so I would urge upon able Naga scholars to come up with an acceptable account of the history of Nagas for which support of the Government, society and the people would be required. Analogy can be drawn from the Buranji, which has documented the 600 years of Ahom rule. Likewise documentation in addition to what is available about the Nagas has become an absolute necessity.

Many will wonder what kind of opinion this might be but this is based on real life experience and is interesting. Nagas are getting too narrow minded and getting tribalistic, clanistic and getting more and more polarized. Today we can see the three main groups Tenyemia-Enpo-Cntc in Nagaland. Underground factions are mushrooming in Nagaland. At the regional level, we are seeing the disturbing trends in Manipur. Meitei-Kuki-Zo clashes and a section of Tangkhuls supporting the Meiteis for protecting the territorial integrity of Manipur State. The divide between the hill people and the Meiteis in the plains of Imphal valley is getting very pronounced. Zos/Kukis want a separate Administration. This affects Mizoram/Manipur/ Nagaland and will also affect Arunachal and Assam and thus the Northeast is becoming a cauldron of boiling tribal and communal enmity. Under such circumstance here is an example of how we can coexist and certainly the Sumis can offer an example of how we could coexist despite difference in our dialects. Some of the factual examples can illustrate how we have been able to coexist with other communities in different parts of the country:

1.    There were 12 villages established with British permit (Migration Permit) in various parts of Nagaland- this was issued during the period J.C. Barnes was Deputy Commissioner, Kohima starting with Kiyezu in 1908 and thereafter by respective Deputy Commissioners at the relevant point of time at that time.

I)    Kiyezu (HC Barnes) 27 Jan 1911; 

II)    Kuki dolong (JH Hutton)    1916

III)    Kuhoxu (JH Hutton) 23 Feb 1919

IV)    H.Khehoi (JH Hutton) Dec 1919

V)    Nikhekhu (JH Hutton) 7 June 1920

VI)    Nihokhu (JH Hutton) 1920

VII)    Hovishe (JH Hutton) 15 Jan 1922

VIII)    Alato (JH Hutton) 1924

IX)    Shoxuvi (JH Hutton) 20th Dec 1926

X)    Kiyevi/Lhothavi (CR Pawsey) 12 Jan 1939

XI)    Zhuikhu (CR Pawsey) 15 Jan 1940

XII)    Hekheshe (CR Pawsey) 15 Jan 1940

XIII)    Zutovi (CR Pawsey) 1940

2.    Pekiye of Asukhomi establishing village near Nongpoh, Meghalaya- it is called Umling in Khasi and is located at about 6 kms as you climb up from Brnyhat towards Nongpoh on the way to Shillong. There are a good number of Sumi families who live there peacefully as of today and Nagas can visit them

3.    Naga villages in upper Assam: The Naga Warriors, who were recruited as political labour Corps and had comprised of people from Angami, Ao, Lotha and Sumi by the British since 1882. In 1904 some of the Nagas of Sumi tribe gathered at a place called “Longtong” meaning “Village of stone” and established a village. Many of them married women from Tangsa Naga tribe. Thereafter some four more villages were established in Margherita area Viz.1. Tsaliki 2. Lalpahar 3. Paharpur 4. Balijan.

There were seven sister villages that migrated from Longtong at different points of time- Three in Assam and four in Nagaland (one in Aqahuto area and three in Aghunaqa area- now Niuland district)

It is worthwhile mentioning here briefly about 1911 Anglo-Abor war, where Naga warriors and the chief warrior was Sukhalu from Sukhalu village, Zunheboto district. During this war many heads were taken by the Fierce Naga warriors. After the war many of them including Sukhalu returned home and some of them settled at” Kopatoli” near Dhola in Doom Dooma in Tinsukia district.

4.    As we look at the map of present of Nagaland, Zunheboto district is right in the middle of Nagaland and perhaps we may need to accept that being neighbors of most of the Naga tribes of the state will have many facets but one thing that has pervaded the minds of a Sumi has always been to maintain a friendly coexistence with all neighbours. There are Sumi Villages in Wokha district, Kiphire district, Shamator district, Phek district (Sumi village and many others along the Tizu river), Kohima district (Nethophumi, Lachephumi-now known as Tuophema and Gariphema) Mokokchung district (Shihaphumi, Atuphumi, Victo, Puneboto)  more than a dozen Villages under Wokha district, Chümoukedima district, Many recognized villages- too many to be listed here) Peren district (Kiyevi estt in 1939), Niuland district (there are more than 100 villages) Sumis can be classified as adventurous and truly Naga in outlook and believe that all Nagas are from the same ancestry and we can only progress if we can coexist peacefully and stand united in order and a clear vision for our common future and that we can have our own space amongst ourselves  first and then with other communities in the country and in the world. Let us look at some of important aspects that we need to be aware of :

Eastern Sumis: Prior to 2010 there was an organization known as TMPO (Tuensang/Mon Peoples Organization)- in 2011 a representation was submitted to the Prime minister of India for Frontier Nagaland under the name of ENPO( Eastern Nagaland Peoples Organization). Government of India, for reasons best known by them, gave due importance and started having separate discussion with ENPO in which the State Government was perhaps taken into confidence and the Committee under AK Mishra has been given the responsibility for necessary discussion and submission of report for the GOI to give a final decision. The surprising aspect of this proceedings besides the issue of Federalism in India (Sanctity of the decisions of the state Government within the territorial jurisdiction of the state), one major community living in the eastern part of Nagaland (Tuensang/Kiphire/Shamator) was excluded from ENPO due to local politics- The Sumis. The number of Sumi villages in Kiphire/Shamator is twenty two (including 4 Admn Hqs, with mixed population and 6 villages mixed with Sangtam- the rest being Sumi villages). In fact the MLA representing 59 A/c- Sheyochong/Sutimi was a Sumi and he is still alive.  The real question we should all be asking ourselves is firstly 1. Are we Nagas first or of different tribes/ sub tribes first? 2. Where did this groupism come amongst our Naga family? 3. Where do we go from where? 4. How can we make it better?

There is a great need for Nagas to look deeper and reason together for a better tomorrow. The Naga insurgency which is the oldest perhaps in the world today began more than seven decades ago and was in various stages of negotiation with various factions and notably even certain in- principle agreements have been made with NSCN (IM) – framework agreement in 2015 and the NNPGs – Agreed position in 2017. Nagas were hoping for a final settlement but there seems to be a total silence on these interim agreements from Government of India and in fact there is proliferation of factions in Nagaland and today there are as many as Eighteen or more factions that are collecting so called tax/ extorting from the people and there does seem to be any semblance of Rule of Law. Surprisingly the ENPO issue which is a smaller issue within Nagaland state is given more prominence. In fact the supposedly proposed draft appears to not only give financial powers on development sector but also includes legislative powers which would amount to creation of a state within a state.

In fact now Government of India is having to deal with the issue of Manipur which appears to be spiraling out of control in that state till today with the possibility of affecting the neighboring states in the NE region. This would have disastrous effect unless the fire is controlled at the earliest. Nagas should also be prepared as immediate neighbors. The most surprising aspect is the silence of the Prime Minister of India even after more than six months since 3rd of May, when ethnic/engineered clashes began.

What is required right now to bring things under control and for the nation to look up to the Government of Nagaland is to take the following steps:

1.    Condemn the violence and the violation of human rights in no uncertain terms in Manipur.

2.    Nagaland state cannot interfere in the internal problems of Manipur state and therefore Manipuris should stop interfering in Nagaland state. The people residing in Manipur since its annexation in 1949 must be able to coexist together and progress alongside one another. Nagaland can make efforts to be a good neighbor. As per social media posts, certain sections of Tangkhul Naga brothers have come out clearly stating that they are blood brothers of the Meiteis (though there were also denials by another section of the community)- This has indeed confused the people. The Naga MLAs of Manipur have also voiced out for protection of the territorial integrity of Manipur. Perhaps political party like NPF can throw better light on this.

3.    Under the present conditions, it would be prudent to leave window open for the future integration of all Nagas in India in different states in the northeast India and also Burma (Myanmar now)

4.    Nagas in general must work towards emotional and economic integration and not necessarily only political integration. We have ample examples of how USSR disintegrated and how Europe is already moving towards a common economy.

Having cited a few instances, I would appeal to all Nagas to learn lessons from our past experience and move closer to one another and forge a solid alliance amongst our own family first for we are a community which is not having numbers on our side nor are we having unity and we are relying on Nagamese and English for communication amongst ourselves. The wise saying “Charity begins at home” seems to have lost any meaning as we seem to be breaking our very own homes through our own selfish activities.

The simple message  would be to first improve our own capabilities, overcome communication problems, Infrastructural bottlenecks draw lessons from Sumi experience of peaceful coexistence in our own family and move together for Naga space in the sun in the future for our children and coming generations.

The writer is Retd Addl Chief Secretary, Government of Nagaland & Akukau (Village chief) Naghuto (old) Zunheboto