Nagamese Audio Recordings

Nagamese is a creole spoken as a lingua franca in the state of Nagaland in the north-eastern part of India. Syntactic structure of Nagamese is based mainly on an Indo-Aryan language ‘Assamese’ and its lexicon is made up of words from Assamese, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Nepali, English & various Tibeto-Burman Naga languages like Angami, Sema, Aao, Lotha, Konyak, Zeliang, Phom, Rengma, Sangtam etc.

This creole has no official recognition even though it is frequently used in the legislative assembly of Nagaland and by government servants. A major move towards state recognition was initiated recently by prime ministers of India Narendra Modi. In November 2014, PM Modi’s monthly national broadcast ‘Mann ki Baat’  on radio to Indian citizens included a Nagamese version also. This was unprecedented, as it was the first time that Nagamese was officially recognized on national platform by no less than the prime minister of India himself. From then, every month the nationwide Radio broadcast of Mann ki Baat is also conducted in Nagamese too. 

Mann ki Baat (English- Heart’s talk) is a monthly radio programme in which Indian prime minister Narendra Modi addresses Indian citizens on various issues pertaining to nation. The radio programme is simultaneously broadcast in over 22 languages including Hindi, English & Nagamese.

You can listen to the Podcasts here

      

 I have written a much longer and informative post on Nagamese creole sometime back, here

https://rapidiq.wordpress.com/2008/06/30/survival-phrases-in-nagamese-the-lingua-franca-of-nagaland/

Angami: the Language of the Enchanting Hills


window-to-nagaland

 

Written  by A. Avtans
[This article is copyrighted, please mention author’s name  and article’s name when you are copying/referring content from this page]

Angami (known as Angami Naga in linguistics fraternity) is a language spoken by around 132,225 people (2001 Census) primarily in the enchanting Naga Hills of Kohima district of Nagaland state of India. Angami belongs to the Angami-pochuri sub-branch of Tibeto-Burman family of languages. Though Angami has several varieties, principal varieties are Kohima, Khonoma and Chokri (though it has acquired an independent status over time). Kohima variety is the standard language (popularly known as common language among Angamis) which is used in published religious and academic texts. This common language is known as Tenyidie in Angami.

Earliest writings on Angami language dates back to the days of British in India. Captain J. Butter published his ‘Rough notes on the Angami Nagas and their Language’ in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol.44 Part 1) in 1875. Later R.B. McCabe wrote his ‘Outline Grammar of the Angami Naga Language’ in the year 1887 basing his analysis on Khonoma, Mozema and Jotsoma varieties. Some other works includes the likes of Rivenburg (1905), Grierson (1903), Supplee (1930), Haralu (1933) and several significant works by American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society in the early 20th century.

R. Sekhose, probably the first native Angami to write on the language, says –

‘Angami language is a very peculiar language. A word may mean many different things, which can only be distinguished by High and low tones’ (Angami Dictionary with English Equivalent words, 1984). Sekhose has also published significant works such as Angami Idiomatic Expressions (1967) and Angami Naga Folklore (1970).

Angami is written using Roman script together with the conventions adopted by the Angami Language Committee in the year 1939. Tone is not marked in the orthography of Angami.

A brief summary of the linguistic research done on Angami can be cited as follows (in chronological order):

·

Capt. J Butler: Rough notes on the Angami Nagas and their language, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. 44 Part 1, 1875.

R.B. McCabe: Outline Grammar of the Angami Naga Language (with vocabulary and illustrative sentences), Calcutta, 1887.

S.W. Rivenburg: Phrases in English and Angami Naga, Kohima, 1905.

George Abraham Grierson: Linguistic Survey of India, Vol.3 Part 2, Calcutta, 1903.

J.E.T.: A Primer of Angami Naga, Kohima, 1915

J.H. Hutton: The Angami Nagas, London, 1921.

Angami Leshü Keriau, American Baptist Foreign Missionary Society, Kohima, 1923.

G.W. Supplee: Kephrüda Keriau – First Reader in Angami Naga, Kohima, 1930.

Hisale Pienünuo: The First Gate into Angami and English, Kohima, 1931.

Haralu: Angami-English Dictionary Part 1, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol.29, 1933.

Robin Burlings: Angami Naga Phonemics and Word List, Indian Linguistics, Vol. 21, 1960.

G.E. Marrison: The Classification of the Naga Languages of North-East India, Vols 1 & 2, London, 1967.

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Idiomatic Expressions, Kohima, 1967

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Naga Folklore, Kohima, 1970

Angami Vyakaran (in Hindi), Nagaland Bhasha Parishad, Kohima, 1970

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Naga Word Divisions and Spelling, Kohima, 1973

N. Ravindran: Angami Phonetic Reader, CIIL, Mysore, 1974.

R. Sekhose Angami: Angami Dictionary with English Equivalent words, Kohima, 1984.

P.P. Giridhar: Angami Grammar, CIIL, Mysore, 1980.

P.P. Giridhar: Angami-English Dictionary, CIIL, Mysore, 1987.

Ram Kripal Kumar: Hindi-Angami Dwibhashi Kosh (in Hindi), CIH, Agra, 2006.

Angami is not only spoken and understood by Angami people but also by Chakhesang, Zeliang, Pochuri and Rengama people who live in Kohima district. Today Angami Naga is offered as a subject in Nagaland University, Kohima up to the level of Ph.D. Ura Academy is the institution established for the development and propagation of Angami language and is situated in Kohima, Nagaland.

Angami Alphabet Chart:

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

Angami Alphabet

Phonemic Value

ü

ǝ

o

o

ny

ny

b

b

f

f

üi

ǝi

ou

ou

t

t

m

m

v

v

a

a

k

k

th

th

pf

pf

w

w

ai

ai

kh

kh

d

d

bv

bv

wh

wh

i

i

g

g

n

n

y

y

s

s

ie

ie

ng

ng

ts

ts

yh

yh

sh

sh

u

u

c

c

tsh

tsh

r

r

z

z

uo

uo

ch

ch

dz

dz

rh

rh

zh

zh

e

e

j

j

p

p

l

l

h

h

ei

ei

jh

jh

ph

ph

lh

lh

Angami is a sweet language to ears (even though I cannot understand much of it). Especially all the the “Uu”(Exclamation when you see an acquaintance) and ” Hoe” (Yes) expressions. Still you will not regret learning bits and pieces of this quite beautiful and fascinating language of equally endowed and very warm hearted people who live in Naga Hills.

To be continued (I am trying to learn more).

Photo Courtsy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dagmaraka/

Survival Phrases in Nagamese: the Lingua Franca of Nagaland

Written and compiled by A. Avtans
[This article is copyrighted, please mention author’s name  and article’s name when you are copying/referring content from this page]

Nagaland in the north eastern frontiers of India is a linguist’s paradise where not less than 23 different indigenous languages are spoken in full vigor. Though English is the official language in Nagaland, It is Nagamese (a pidgin/creole arising out of Assamese, Hindi, English and various Naga languages) which rules the roost across the state. Though the origin of Nagamese is unknown, it is evident from the accounts of Lt. Bigges (Tour Diary 1841) that this pidgin was in vogue before the British soldiers set their feet in the Naga Hills. The earliest record of Nagamese is found in Hutton (1921) with a few lexical items and phrases in the pidgin. Hutton (1921) says

the Assamese as spoken in the Naga Hills is peculiarly well adapted for the reproduction of Naga idioms as a vehicle of interpretation. It makes a better lingua franca for the Hills than Hindustani or English would, the substitution of which for Assamese has been occasionally suggested.

Hutton is referring to Nagamese when he is writing of Assamese of Naga Hills. Similarly Haimendorf (Von Furer Haimendorf, The Naked Nagas, 1939, London) writes

‘Fortunately many people including children spoke fluently Nagamese, the lingua franca of entire Naga Hills’.

The spread of Nagamese according to Sreedhar (M.V. Shreedhar, 1985, Standardized Grammar of Naga Pidgin, Mysore) is due to several factors. He cites the construction of roads, penetration of Marwari traders in far flung areas, and various state and central agencies bringing Non-Nagas in Nagaland as the primary reason for the spread of Nagamese. It is absolutely clear that neither colonization nor subjugation was responsible for the birth of Nagamese.

Today Nagamese is used for diverse inter-lingual communication situations such as Schools, markets, hospitals, legislative assembly, and even in churches. Moreover the emergence of a unified Naga identity irrespective of tribal affiliations has led to situations where it has acquired the role of a mother tongue for the children born out of wedlock of people from two different communities. Nagamese is increasingly used in informal conversation though formal discourse is still done in English or any other indigenous language. Youth use it profusely among themselves on the streets of Kohima, Dimapur, Mokukchung and outside Nagaland etc.

Knowing a little of Nagamese in Nagaland comes handy when one decides to visit this beautiful state in the Far East. Nagamese is like a song you would like to sing time and again.

Here are some SURVIVAL PHRASES in Nagamese based on Dr. N. Khashito Aye’s book titled Nagamese: the Lingua Franca of Nagaland, 2007 (published by Christian Education Ministry, Sugar Mill, 5th Mile, Dimapur- 7977112, Nagaland).

SURVIVAL PHRASES in NAGAMESE

English Nagamese Hindi
Please come in aahibi आइए।
Please sit down bohibi बैठिए।
Where do you live? aapuni kot thaake? आप कहाँ रहते/रहती हैं?
My house is in Agra mor laagaa ghar Agrate aase मेरा घर आगरा में है।
What is your name? aapuni laagaa naam ki aase? आपका क्या नाम है?
My name is Prakash mor laaga naam prakaash aase मेरा नाम प्रकाश है।
How are you? kenekaa aase? आप कैसे हैं?
I am alright Bhaal hi aase मैं ठीक हूँ।
Are you alright Aapuni bhaal aase? क्या आप ठीक हैं?
What happened? ki hoise? क्या हुआ?
What is the price of this? itu kiman dam ase? इसका दाम क्या है?
lower down the price olop kom koribi कुछ कम कीजिए।
That will do Hoise हाँ यह ठीक है।
I don’t want amaake naalaage मुझे नहीं चाहिए।
At what time you will come? aapuni kimaan baajite aahibo? आप कितने बजे आएंगे।
I will come tomorrow at 8 o’clock aami kaali aat bajite aahibo मैं कल आठ बजे आऊँगा।
Please drive the car gaari chalaabi गाड़ी चलाइए।
Drive slowly aaste chalaabi धीरे चलाइए।
Stop rukhibi रोकिए।
Turn it ghuraabi घुमाइए।
To the left left phaale बाईं ओर।
To the right right phaale दाईं ओर।
This way itu phaale इस तरफ।
That way hitu phaale उस तरफ।
Which way? kun phaale? किस तरफ?
Go straight sida jabi सीधा जाइए।
Do you like it? aapuni itu bhal laage? क्या यह आपको पसंद है?
Where are you going? aapuni kot jabo? आप कहाँ जा रहे/रही हैं?
I am going to market moi market jai aase मैं बाज़ार जा रहा हूँ।
Where has he gone? taar kot jaise? वह कहाँ गए/गई हैं?
I will come tomorrow aami kali aahibo मैं कल आऊँगा।
Vitsaho and kitoka have come vitshao aaru kitoka aahise वित्साहो और कितोका आए हैं।

 Nagamese Audio Recordings

Survival Nagamese Glossary

Nagamese English gloss Hindi Gloss
aalu potato आलू
adowaa / adruk ginger अदरक
agote front आगे
ahaa kaali tomorrow कल
ahibo will come आउंगा
aina mirror आईना
ami I मैं
ami / moi I मैं
amikhan we हम
anibo will bring लाऊँगा / लाएगा
aru and और
azi-kali nowadays आजकल
baastenga bamboo shoot बाँस की कोपलें
baba father पिता
bagan garden बाग
baksaa box बक्सा
bera wall / fence दीवार
beya bad बुरा
bhaat rice चावल
bhal good अच्छा
bhekuli frog मेंढक
bheraa sheep भेड़
bhija wet गीला
bili sun सूरज
bishi more ज्यादा
boga white सफेद
bohibo will sit बैठूँगा / बैठेगा
bon koribo will cover / close बंद करूँगा / करेगा
bonabo will make बनाउँगा / बनाएगा
borton utensils बरतन
bosti village गाँव / बस्ती
chaapattaa tea leaves चाय पत्ती
chamraa skin / leather चमड़ा
charibo will leave छोड़ूँगा
chatni mashed/grounded vegetable or fish भर्ता / चोखा
chini sugar चीनी
chipaise hidden छिपाया हुआ
choto small छोटा
chuli hair बाल
daam price /cost दाम
daambishi expensive मँहगा
dali pulses दाल
dangor large बड़ा
dao dagger दाव
dhalibo will pour डालूँगा / डालेगा
dhoribo will hold / catch पकड़ूँगा / पकड़ेगा
dingi neck गरदन
dobol double दूहरा
dolong bridge पुल
dorja door दरवा्ज़ा
dorkaari useful उपयोगी
dud breast / milk स्तन / दूध
dukan shop दुकान
eki same समान
etiya now अभी
gaao buraa village headman मुखिया
gahori pig सूअर
gao body शरीर
gaudhabo will bath नहाऊँगा / नहाएगा
ghumabo will sleep सो जाउंगा / सो जाएगा
ghurabo will turn घूमेगा
gola throat कंठ
gorom hot गर्म
goru cow गाय
haas duck बत्तख
hardi bone हड्डी
hasibo will laugh हँसूँगा
hatguti elbow कोहनी
hatzoin waist कमर
hitu that वह
hitukhan those वे
hodai always हमेशा
hohai help मदद
hoi yes हाँ
hosa true सही / सत्य
hudibo will ask पुछेगा
hunibo will hear सुनेगा
iman so much इतना
isor god भगवान
itu this यह
itukhan these ये
jabo will go जाएगा
jakhala ladder सीढ़ी
joluki chilly मिर्च
jonabo will inform सूचना देगा
juhi fire आग
kandibo will cry रोएगा
kaso tortoise कछुआ
ketia when कब
ketiyao never कभी नहीं
khabo will eat / drink खाएगा
khata short नाटा
khong koribo will be angry गुस्सा होगा
khori wood लकड़ी
ki what क्या
kinibo will buy खरीदेगा
kobi cabbage गोभी
kobo will say कहेगा
kol banana केला
kopita papaya पपीता
koputor pigeon कबूतर
kot where कहाँ
kothal jackfruit कटहल
kuchu yam कच्चू
kumraa pumpkin सीताफल / कुम्हरा
kuni egg अंडा
laipata a kind of leafy vegetable एक पत्तेदार सब्ज़ी
lao gourd कंद
lobo will take लूंगा
lora boy / son लड़का
lori girl / daughter लड़की
loshun garlic लहसुन
maaki female / wife औरत / पत्नि
maatha head सिर
maati land / field भूमि
mangsho meat मांस
mash fish मछली
mekhala skirt worn by women औरतों द्वारा पहना जाना वाला एक वस्त्र
misa false गलत
modu liquor शराब
moribo will die मरेगा
morom love प्रेम
morom koribo will love प्रेम करेगा
mota male / husband आदमी / पति
motar peas मटर
moumakhi honeybee मधुमक्खी
mudram guava अमरूद
mula radish मूली
naarikol coconut नारियल
olop few कुछ
paahoribo will forget भुलेगा
pabo get लेगा
paribo can do कर सकेगा
philla thigh जाँघ
pothabo read पढ़ेगा
puka insect कीड़ा
raati night रात
rakhibo will keep रखेगा
rukhibo will wait रुकेगा
ruti flattened bread रोटी
sagoli goat बकरी
saphaa clean साफ
shim beans सेम / फली
sorai bird चिड़िया
suku eye आँख
taan hard कठोर
tai she वह
taka money / rupee रुपया
tamul betel nut सुपारी
tarkhan they वे
tengaa sour खट्टा
thai place स्थान / जगह
thing leg पैर
titaa bitter कड़वा
upor above ऊपर
uribo will fly उड़ेगा

And I end this piece with a Nagamese Love song by Kevilinuo Vizo:

Moi laagaa darling

Moi laagaa darling bishi sunder,

Tai laagaa bosti moi najaane,

Beraai beraai kenaa thing bekhaaise

Biyanpabi salam di aase

Ek din noholie, dui din noholie

Love kuribo etu time te koi dibo de,

Eki logote rastaa rastaa beraabo,

Itu din rukhi aase darling.

Post photo courtesy: http://miyzone.blogspot.com/2007/08/different-houses-nagaland-heritage.html

 

Killing in the name of*……

 

We live in the world of seamless insecurities where life is not a very precious commodity. Though we all believe sincerely in our religions (whether we are Hindu, Christians, Muslims or practice any other form of belief), but we have forgotten the pristine values of life, love and humanity. We fight among ourselves on anything related to our human existence viz language, culture or community. When the Hindu lunatics burned people in Gujarat in 2002, not many of us were shedding tears for the deceased. Then when a terrible earthquake struck Gujarat in which scores of people died, I heard a rickshaw puller in old Delhi saying it was God’s punishment for the carnage happened before.

Some kill for money and some kill in the name of religion, caste, tribe, community or language. In North East of India people are killed for some different reasons too. When the Manipuri insurgents or criminal elements (locally called underground) kill some innocent and poor Hindi speaking people, they have two fold reasons in their minds. Firstly, for creating a sense of fear among the migrant community and people living outside the state. And secondly to create a niche for themselves in the eyes of other such groups and local people. This helps them evolve a false situation of disturbance which in turn tends to fuel insecurity among all and sundry resulting in more extortion. What is surprising is the despite all the calls for stopping the violence, violence is still perpetuating in some parts of North-East India .

In Nagaland’s economic capital Dimapur, when somebody is shot dead in a crowded market, no body runs after the killers to nab them. Everybody pretends as if nothing has happened. Police never investigates the case.Thanks to Indian government stage managed ceasefire, even the security forces stationed there, turn a blind eye to the killings. The parallel federal government of Nagaland (FGN) established by the Naga freedom fighters, has also not evolved any criminal justice system like the Indian Maoist where they hold people’s court and then arrive at any conclusion. It seems that the FGN does not believe in any of the legal systems evolved so far in the world. Their declared ideology of Liberation Theology has not stopped them in indulging in barbaric acts of violence on the streets and shops. When the Indian security forces in 1955-56 burned 645 Naga villages out of the existing 861 villages in Nagaland, the genocide was as atrocious as the guerilla violence perpetuated by the both the underground and the overground elements today.This continued cycle of violence has resulted in ghettoization of the populace even in growing modern cities like Dimapur and Kohima where one can easily identify specific tribe dominated areas. Even after many years this mistrust and misunderstanding among the Nagas, despite sharing the same God, has not withered away. In moments of crisis, these inter-tribal differences become more prominent leading to migration and abandonment of entire localities. The church despite all its sincere efforts has not been able to quell this miserable situation. Recent spurt in fratricidal killings in Nagaland is sure sign of this failure. Nagas are not killing the enemy they are supposedly fighting but their own neighbors and brothers. There is no doubt that in the root of the problem is the insatiable hunger of money and power.The fight among the various factions (NSCN-IM, NSCN-K, GPRN-Unification and others) for a total control over the pie of taxed money and unquestionable dominance over the society, has given rise to lagging growth of Nagaland in all sectors. Nagas of all corners have to realize that when the rest of India is growing at the rate of 9 %, Nagaland is busy making coffins for their own people. They are killing in the name of nobody. Violence can never bring prosperity to any nation or people. Of course India’s democracy is flawed but violence is no answer to it. We all can live with love and peace together. World is a beautiful place.

Post title* courtesy RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.

The wound from within

Manipur Rebels

Colonial rule in India is a history of isolation and separatism. And India is still trying to come in terms of the differences arising out of this history. Take for example the North-East India. North-East India is a cultural mosaic or a colorful kaleidoscope on its own lying in the North-Eastern frontier area of India which touches China, Burma(Myanmar), Bangladesh and Bhutan.

India’s independence in 1947 led to the emergence of a new nation consisting primarily of British India. But it also inherited the problematics of it. Due to various reasons, North-East India drifted towards a state of alienation resulting in insurgency or calls for sovereignty. In the course of time these nationalistic aspirations turned uglier and murky for both the government and the insurgent groups (commonly known as Undergrounds).

Today North-East India is still burning with the flames of seeds sown long time ago. This state of affair needs us to re-examine the role of the so called main stream society specially of the people living in Hindi belt in the above context. Recently I wrote a an article (which I actually started as a letter) on this issue titled ‘ मुख्यधारा के बरक्स हाशिए का समाज-पूर्वोत्तर ‘. To read this article (Pdf) click on the link below

The margins in the main-scape: North-East India

Into Nagaland- Part I

When I started thinking of visiting Nagaland, I was having a bagful of emotions. Firstly I was quite excited to go and meet my fascination (or shall I say my love for things others don’t really venture into). Secondly, I was also somehow sceptical and anxious about the place and people. It was not as if it were my first trip to north eastern part of India. I had been to Meghalaya twice where I first fell in love with pig meat (actually the white juicy part on top of it!). But those visits were in a secure company of fellow travellers and anyways we did not venture much deep in Meghalaya. But this time I was going alone and that too into well dreaded Nagaland.

From my amorous student days in the university, I had always seen Nagas with a bit of awe mixed with the feelings of suspicion. But things changed once I started working and living at my new workplace at Agra. Here I saw Nagas from my own eyes and skin. Lot of my misconceptions dissolved and I found myself quite fascinated by their way of living. Actually those guys were exactly doing the same things I always tried to live on i.e. to live life away from the general crowd. They taught me that you don’t have to be educated in San Francisco to listen Rock music. You can just sing and play it if you desire so. Those innocent fun loving guys showed me the brighter side of Nagaland. It’s hard to befriend them but you will cherish the time once they let you share their unique world. I remember one of them commenting to me that I was so much like them…the way I sing with a much weird high pitch, the way I cannot escape company of women for long, my guitar and drums love affair (though I can’t play either of them, thanks to my late arrival in this music scene), my carelessness and above all the desire to be different or unique or weird.

I was born in a quite a traditional family, going by the present trend. I was doing things none dared did in my family. I ate, drank and lived much like a Lennon fanatic (minus drugs and of course America).I grew in the university on a high dose of Rock plentifully supplied by AIR FM’s Wicked Hour program plus nicotine blues. I never knew this can be a way of life in Agra till I met the Nagas. So enjoyed every bit of their new found company. Coming back to the journey, I decided finally to embark on this journey into Nagaland.

Planning:

Through different sources, I had come to know that to enter Nagaland, I need an Inner Line Permit (popularly known as ILP) which I found, can be obtained from the office of Deputy resident commissioner, Nagaland House at Delhi. So in mid November ‘07 I managed to get the much needed ILP from Delhi’s Nagaland Bhawan (at Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi-11) after shelling out 20 rupees and filling-in the formalities. The first thing which bewildered me was the following lines written on top of my ILP

Permit granted under section 1-4 of the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act of 1873’

Here I was standing at Nagaland Bhawan, Delhi in the year 2007 and we still have to abide by the laws put in paper in the year 1873. Whoops!  Thats incredibly Indian!

My ILP also mentioned the purpose of my visit, the duration (usually 15 days which can be extended by permission from local authorities), Identification mark and the place where I wish to go. Actually I wanted to reach Nagaland by the first week of December. This was the time I was informed that great show of Nagaland ‘Hornbill Festival’ takes palce. Another reason was the Rock gigs I could lay my hands on during Hornbill. But unluckily I could not move around that time and so I chose Christmas time to be there. In fact Christmas time is a good time to travel to Nagaland as the entire Naga community is in a festive mood during this time. Plus there is ceasefire among warring factions of Naga freedom fighters and opportunists alike during this festive season.

As my savings did not allow me to afford a flight to any closest Airport to Nagland viz Dimapur Imphal and Guwahati, I chose to book my AC-III rail ticket to Dimapur from Tundla by Brahmaputra Mail. Dimapur is the commercial capital and biggest Railhead in Nagaland. I could have also gone by Delhi-Dimapur Rajdhani Express but as it doesn’t halt at Tundla, I would have to shell out more money first and endure the five hours boring ride by bus for travelling to Delhi. But I would recommend Delhi-Dimapur Rajdhani for travellers starting from Delhi. And Brahmaputra Mail which starts from Delhi for those with a shoe string budget (and those who really want to see the true colours of India).

The Unsung Naga Hero

Phizo

By Sanjoy Hazarika in http://www.indiatoday.com/itoday/millennium/100people/laldenga.html

When I was 18 and studying journalism in London, I received an invitation to dinner from Angami Zapu Phizo, the leader of Naga insurgency. As I stepped into his tiny study to shake his hand, the first impression was, “How small he is!” Yet, one could not but marvel at the passion, energy and commitment which fired this slight figure.

Through that long evening, we — the leader of the most powerful rebellion to trouble India then, and now, and the scion of a prominent Assamese political family — spoke of India and Indira Gandhi, of promises made and broken, of the taste of Assamese food. We chatted in English and even in Nagamese, a combination of Assamese and Naga dialects. He treated me not as a teenager but as an adult, with dignity and took my opinions seriously.

More than a quarter century later, it is difficult to remember his exact words as he said farewell but they were along these lines: “The Assamese are our brothers. India too will treat you as they have treated the Nagas. Only then will you understand our struggle and speak my language.”

I smiled at the time, in the confidence of youth, thinking how wrong he was. But Phizo was prophetic: he foresaw the birth of the United Liberation Force of Asom, the Bodo militant groups, the many fighting forces in Manipur and Tripura. These movements, though waning in part, continue to tie down large numbers of Indian security forces, including the army, paramilitary and police with ambushes and occasional strikes.

Yet, I doubt whether he believed that, in his lifetime, his own Naga movement would become as fractured and embittered as it has. These days, Naga guns and bullets are not trained on Indian troops but against fellow Nagas, on the basis of ethnic, ideological and personal loyalties. It is especially tragic among a deeply religious people who take the teachings of the Church very seriously.

It was a Phizo acolyte who tapped the China factor. The man chosen for the job was a young graduate named Thuengelang Muivah, then general secretary of the Naga National Council (NNC). Muivah and General Thinsolie Keyho, on their own version of the Long March, slogged through jungles and hills in Myanmar (then Burma) to Yunnan Province. They established contact with the Chinese leadership which promised them training, logistical support and arms. In addition, the Nagas established links with the Pakistanis which continue to this day.

Those were Phizo’s days of glory and power: this little man, who slipped out of India and turned up in London on a Peruvian passport, had let loose a prairie fire that engulfed the Naga hills and stunned Delhi, forcing it to launch a full-scale army operation, with the backing of military aircraft, against the rebels. He had opened a Burma front with S.S. Khaplang, a Konyak chief, heading the Eastern Naga Revolutionary Council since the 1950s.

The Nagas suffered terribly at the hands of the security forces: entire villages were torched, their inhabitants forced to flee into the jungle for safety, men taken prisoner, women were raped and molested. The innocents wept and were traumatised. There were no human-rights groups those days, no National Human Rights Commission to run to, no public-interest petition which has become so chic these days. The story of those years of violence and brutality have not been fully told. Yet, it would be foolish not to acknowledge Phizo’s role in inflicting this disaster on his own people.

Phizo’s hold over his movement weakened after ethnic divisions began surfacing in the mid-’60s. These divisions have been the bane of the Nagas for long; until less than a century ago, tribes fiercely protected their own lands and aggressively led raids on others, to collect “heads” and exact tribute as well as take slaves.

Those divisions have grown since 1975 when a faction of the Naga movement signed a Peace Accord with the Government of India at Shillong. The signatories included Phizo’s brother, Keviyalley. Muivah denounced the accord but Phizo, while making known his disapproval of what had happened, never publicly attacked the peacemakers.

Muivah and Issak Chishi Swu later broke away from the NNC to form the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) which has also split — between the Muivah-Swu faction on one side and Khaplang on the other. Again the divide is on ethnic lines.

The violence continues in Nagaland though talks have opened between the Indian Government and Phizo’s successors in the movement. The China connection is closed, the Pakistani link is cracked but ties with other “liberation groups” in the North-east continue. Indeed the NSCN(I-M) is described as the “mother” of insurgencies in the North-east.

Phizo is remembered not simply because he maintained his prophetic separateness till his death in 1992. He had an appeal that transcended ethnic fissures and touched the hearts of all Nagas.