Is it happenstance that the photograph on the cover of last Wednesday’s Two Row Times features a vivid shawl woven by another corn-growing people fighting for their traditional lands . . . albeit 12,000 kilometres away?
Whilst I am not one of the concerned people, I recognize the shawl as from Nagaland, a region found on a world map in the triangle between Bangladesh, Burma, and China.
The British colonialists never conquered this region, although India today claims the territory, something an overwhelming majority of the population cannot accept.
They are not Indian. They are Nagas. This word once meant ‘people with pierced noses’, but it is a label now used to identify many communities that do not identify as Indian, living in the Northeast of the Indian Union.
In this respect, Nagaland is an area greater than the area that the Indian government calls Nagaland and administers as one of ‘its’ provinces.
The traditional area for many different Naga communities includes territory from the Himalayas south-eastwards into Burma.
The Indian Army invaded in 1947, with the Nagas, organised into different parties, beginning what must be the world’s longest-running military conflict.
With low-intensity combat, it is still goes on. The Indians have a special act governing large areas of this land, called the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
It permits them to kill or torture people without being charged.
Under this Act they also implement a system of forced labour for the military.
I might be mistaken, but I believe the shawl is specifically from the Angami Naga community.
The Angami Naga community notably spearheaded the fight against the British colonialists, then the Indian government.
Their community produce the great leader A.Z. Phizo, who first declared the independence of the wider Nagaland area against the Indian government. He stood for unity of the Naga people, holding dear an ideal of peace and equality between nations.