Mezoma | October 18
The journey to Mezoma, a village in the Western Angami region, is an uncomfortable one. There is no semblance of roads, and the money sanctioned in 2010 for the road construction to the village is yet to begin.
“Only the poor live in the village. Due to the lack of good schools, most of the villagers migrate to Zubza or the urban areas to find a better life and better education for their future,” mentions a resident. The ones who migrate rarely return, as is quite noticeable by the isolated households and old tin roofs. Rarely has a good building made its presence, except for the churches.
Yet, Mezoma like most Naga villages offer a respite from all the desolate realities of urban Naga lands. The almost ripening rice fields in October are as unique as any other rice fields in neighboring villages such as Khonoma. What the village lacks in roads, it makes up in its rice fields and scenic hills.
And in an almost quiet corner of the village is a neatly built home, where 84 year old Zapuvisie Lhousa lives. Perhaps one of the oldest writers in Nagaland, Lhousa has written three books in English. Alone most of the days, his little home in Mezoma is open to youngsters, comrades, researchers, or anybody interested in listening to the Naga story. A flask full of tea awaits the visitor.
In 2015, Lhousa released a 458-page book called ‘Strange Country-My experiences in Naga Nationalism.’ ‘Strange Country’ is one of the rare collections of Naga national history written from experience and lived truth.
Lhousa himself is a fragment of Naga history, having attended the historic NNC meeting held on February 19, 1947, and further joining the Naga national movement in 1956, where he went underground for 15 years. Prior to that, he had served as a teacher.
“I left the underground to retire but my heart has never retired,” says Zhapuvisie, who was also a founding member of the Angami Public Organisation (APO) and served asthe first President of APO in 1972. Narrating the beginning and early meetings of APO, Lhousa recalled how people would just come to hear any discussions on political and social issues and how the hall would be fully packed with people even entering through the window.
“The need to form APO arose in the time of army atrocities where our people were arbitrarily arrested and there seemed to be no independent body to speak for the innocent, to claim their rights, to rescue them or protect them,” says Lhousa. Drawing an irony of the civil society of the past and the civil society today, Lhousa mentions how in the past organisations like APO were often looked at with suspicion by the government, but today the government has become very welcoming of most civil society groups in Nagaland.
On writing and against forgetting
“I never imagined that one day I would write,” says Lhousa.
Realising that the history, he and his counterparts, leaders and elders created and lived is almost disappearing and forgotten, Lhousa began to document and write his experiences and thoughts, collecting documents, and traversing many Naga areas by 1994.
One reason that inspired him to write is because of the Nagas’ struggle for self determination and the fact that Nagas firmly held to that assertion. Another core inspiration has been his deceased wife, Late Riatoü whom he considers his most endearing companion. Late Riatoü was also an ardent activist of the Naga freedom struggle.
With most Naga elders and leaders of the early Naga movement gone, Lhousa fears that truths are in “grave danger of distortion, dilution, dismissal and disappearing altogether something we simply cannot allow”. Therefore in writing, the Octogenarian writer hopes to preserve the history and truth he lived.
“I used to read rigorously earlier and collected a lot of newspaper clippings. But my eyesight is weakening now. If you want to be a writer, you need to collect a lot of newspaper clippings and collect it in a file,” recommends Lhousa.
A firm belief of Nagas according to Lhousa, is to rise up when being humiliated. “Sometimes we tend to shy away from our stories. But we need to hold firmly to what our elders and leaders in the past asserted. We no longer have the power to assert once we lose this identity, once we let go of our assertions,” remarks Lhousa.
While viewing that the young cannot be blamed, Lhousa reminds that the Naga leaders’ “mezhie” (cause) should not be forgotten or ignored.The young should not say that the struggle was for nothing. We cannot let go of our assertion for self determination, we cannot let go of what is rightfully ours, believes the old writer.
He poignantly remarks that unless the story is buried, it will rise again.