Naga Nationalism and Naga Integration: An observation

Dr. Salikyu Sangtam *

Nationalism is one of the most misunderstood terms. Perhaps, it is no wonder that the terms "Nation" and "Nationalism" are rampantly used and abused by scholars, politicians, journalists, armed groups, government, and the mass multitude in general. The purpose of this article, however, is not to rectifying the follies of such abuses. Rather, I'd want to highlight two indelible nuances that are especially relevant to the context of Naga Framework Agreement or Naga 'Solution.'

It is essential to understand these nuances because without grasping such subtleties, one can only have an incomplete understanding of the political significance of nationalism. Most importantly, it will enable readers to better understand the realities of what we, 'Nagas' constituting in Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar, are demanding and expecting out of deals made with the Union Government of India. This is done primarily to clarify and differentiate between what is possible and what is not, which the prevailing narratives seem to, advertently or inadvertently, overlook.

The first is that 'nation' and 'nationalism' are human inventions and constructions. They can be either invented or constructed. They are not something that already exists prior to human existence. Certainly, people do invoke religion, as well as customs and traditions since 'time immemorial,' etc., to justify the existence of a 'unique nation' with 'unique history' along with its 'uniqueness.' Yet, this does not change the fact that concepts such as nation and nationalism are inventions/constructions—see the case of Scotland, Hungary, Wales, Switzerland, German, Nigeria, and even India.

If one is honest, one must admit that Naga 'nation' is itself an invention, since nowhere in the recorded Naga tribal history indicate that 'tribes' shared one identity and/or were unified under that specified distinctiveness. To invoke (as is habitually done by Naga politicians, Naga Nationalist armed groups, tribal apex bodies, and by a majority of Nagas in general) religion, customs and traditions since 'time immemorial,' etc., is to be insincere and disingenuous to one's own history and identity. Even the term 'Naga' (and its various derivatives) is foreign, a derogatory term intended to generalize and stereotype the tribal people (i.e. 'Nagas') habiting in the hills, between the valleys of Assam and Myanmar.

Thus, because 'nations' are inventions, one must also question the genuineness of those—such as a majority of Naga politicians, Naga nationalist armed groups, Naga activists, NGOs—who appeal to religion, traditions, customs, etc. as justifying factors for Naga nation and nationalism. No doubt, the inventions of traditions and customs for the purposes of nationalism are not new phenomena. Such inventions have served well for Hungary, Scotland, Germany, and so on. But, for some reason, we have managed to make a mess out of it.

Instead of uniting, we have managed to invent a nation that is riddled with divisions; and instead of inventing a unified and all-encompassing identity, we have tribes where our first and foremost loyalty go toward our own tribes. It is, therefore, not surprising that the issue of 'sovereign nation-state' (which is the fundamental basis of Naga Nationalism) has been sidelined, i.e. a subtle way of saying it has been 'given up,' as one of the essential preconditions for the ongoing Framework Agreement.

No doubt, those involved in the talks will be vague and duplicitous in their statements about 'sovereign nation-state' and would assert in public that the said matter is on the table. To openly declare that the issue of 'sovereign nation-state' has been ceded would mean the extinction of the copious Naga Nationalist armed groups whose existence is built on their demand for 'Sovereign Naga Nation-state.' So, why would they even bother to publically admit such inconvenient facts?

The second, which is an extension of the first, relates to the issue of 'Naga integration;' that is, integrating all the Naga inhabited areas (Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal, and Myanmar). With this regard, it is essential for us to admit that the creation of states from the then Assam state was a huge setback for Naga nationalism. What it did was to basically create artificial boundaries, thereby constructing new identities such as Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal.

These identities are intrinsically based on the Principle of Inclusion and Exclusion, the principle of division, and on the perception of 'us'/'them.' Hence, the 'Naga,' as a reality and identity, was robbed of its substance, its quality. Without such substance (that is, with the division of Naga population disbursed across several territories), the impetus and energy of Naga nationalism were subdued. This practically assured that Naga nationalist movement and its demand for an independent and sovereign nation-state, encompassing all the Naga inhabitant territories, will not come to pass. And it still has not.

The creation of states and its arbitrary boundaries constructed a new psyche, framed on the basis of inclusion and exclusion in which people in each respective state perceive and identify themselves as citizens of Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Arunachal, or Myanmar (and not as Nagas). Regardless of what we claimed before the bifurcation, the division established new identities. This fact needs to be grasped. What these divisions did was to create not just physical and geographical barriers, but also emotional and spiritual "distance."

Perhaps this is what is most damaging to the idea of Naga nation-state and Naga integration. The spiritual (not to be confused with religion) and emotional "nearness" (as opposed to "distance"), is an essential element of the fruition of nationalism. Without emotional and spiritual connectedness and closeness, the bond of fellowship and brotherhood required for the sustenance and culmination of any nationalist movement is not conceivable. And without a sense of brotherhood and fellowship, no nationalist movement can succeed.

Such sense of separation, not just physical but also, most importantly, absence of emotional and spiritual nearness, created a sense of "otherness" and "distance" which was absorbed at the Subconscious level. The perception of distance and otherness is the manifestation of inclusion and exclusion, us/them, indigenous Naga/non-indigenous Naga, nationals/aliens. Once the notion of inclusion and exclusion, otherness, and distance is immersed into our subconscious, they become part and parcel of us as individuals and people.

In other words, they become part of our nature. This is important to assert because our subconscious influences our "real" feelings and actions. Our actions and feelings, in turn, are the manifestation of our nature. Such is substantiated by the fact that we now hear of 'Nagas of Nagaland,' 'Nagas of Manipur,' 'Nagas of Arunachal,' 'Nagas of Assam,' and 'Nagas of Myanmar.'

What this means is that at sub-conscious level, for instance, the majority of 'Nagas from Nagaland' do not/will not identify or perceive 'Nagas of Manipur, Arunachal, Assam, and Myanmar' as Nagas; otherwise, what's the point behind such categorizations or tones of 'Naga-ness.' In other words, sub-consciously, the separation has created shades of 'Naga-ness,' which is possible precisely due to the perceptions of inclusion and exclusion. This is validated by the fact that we still dispute over 'Indigenous' issues with regard to government quotas.

These characteristical facets, according to my observation, signify a profound change in the consciousness of the 'Nagas.' The abstract, arbitrary boundaries instituted a spiritual and emotional distance among Nagas scattered across five territories. And in this sense, the histories and memories of the common roots of the creation of the 'Naga' myth and nation is forgotten. And as the boundaries solidify, it brings about a collective amnesia or Forgetfulness to the Naga identity and nation.

Time hardens these distances and distinctions. With time, younger generations neither feel any sense of affinity nor share a sense of fellowship and brotherhood with its people scattered across the northeast and Myanmar. The younger generations are further emotionally and spiritually removed from the lived historical experiences of those, who shared a mutual sense of emotional and spiritual fellowship and brotherhood, that remained resolute in the idea of a Naga Nation.

Moreover, with the division of Naga population, vested material interests began to emerge especially within the ranks of those who were to administer the newly created states (by joining the state apparatus as politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs, activists) and those who allegedly claimed to be the legitimate representatives of the people (the Naga Nationalist Armed Groups). These vested interests have a stake in their own respective states.

To integrate all the Naga inhabitant areas would mean sharing political and socio-economic power and resources, which no tribe presently dominating in their respective states want. This is precisely because those who currently benefit from the fragmentation of the Naga population want power, in order to secure the future enjoyment of what they presently have.

Noting the fact that in any tribal societies, large tribes always dominate the social-economic and political processes, does anyone honestly believe that the large tribes in Nagaland would want to give up their supremacy for the sake of 'Naga Integration and Nation'? Or does anyone sincerely believe that Nagas settled in the Imphal valley or elsewhere will enthusiastically cede their properties for the sake of Naga Integration? The answer is quite obvious.

We must also take note of the fact that when we talk of 'Naga Integration,' we're naively assuming that the neighbouring states will enthusiastically relinquish part of their territories for the sake of Naga Integration. Holding such erroneous assumptions show how out of depth we are regarding the intricacies of the politics of Nationalism. Such is the unpleasant truth.

All these, in my observation, are the consequence of the division of Naga population that has more or less brought an end to the idea of Naga nation-state and Naga integration. Because inherent in the concept of boundaries is the Principle of Inclusion and Exclusion ('us'/'them'). And for these reasons, the idea of sovereign Naga nation is given up (this is the fact, whether one agrees with it or not) and the present talks on Naga integration will most probably come to not as well.

I can't help but be reminded of a poem by Rudyard Kipling that, for me, succinctly summarizes the present Naga conundrum: "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet." Likewise, the borders that divide the 'Nagas' never shall be integrated. I'd qualify my analysis on the issue raised here with the hopes that I may be proven wrong, for this is not the sort that one wish to be right about. But then again, an honest observation about the present conditions leads me think otherwise.

* Dr. Salikyu Sangtam wrote this article for
The writer is at Department of Political Science, St. Joseph University, Dimapur and can be reached at salikyu(DOT)sangtam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on June 26, 2018.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Kang Khichri chaba @Kwakeithel : Gallery
  • Plastic Surgery Day @RIMS : Gallery
  • Kang Chingba @Keishampat : Gallery
  • Human rights of women in our society
  • AFSPA Gesture and Better Alternative
  • Leisure :: Poem
  • Restore Life After Burns : Plastic Surgery
  • IM accuses AR of 'cold-blooded murder'
  • Konung Kang Chingba #1 : Gallery
  • Dont waste searching for word/phrases
  • Hill People & Merger of Manipur
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #5
  • U-Mangra for biofuel for economic devpt
  • Painting competition on environment
  • Condemn Moreh terror attack
  • Climbing Shirui Hills, Ukhrul #3 : Gallery
  • Ichangthoubi, Thotmungchan :: eMing
  • Kang Chingba - Rath Yatra : Book
  • Why the impasse at Manipur University
  • Condolence Message for Tamenglong
  • Maharaj parleys Bizando
  • Opt for fruit/vegetable beauty product
  • DG Assam Rifles meets Governor
  • Recreation - a Serious Business
  • Tuilha Kolt waterfall @Kpi #1 : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Lamjing Meira Ningsing Numit #2 : Gallery
  • Who Created the Border Pillar Conflict ?
  • EEVFAM amidst Numbness and Noise
  • Special Olympics Unified Cup 2018
  • Path for youth's bright future
  • Addressing core issues
  • Students Vs Centre's man : MU
  • Thangjam Manorama Anniversary: Gallery
  • A reflection on POCSO Act, 2012
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Fear :: Poem
  • War veterans laboured to clean compound
  • Free Career Counselling Program
  • NEFIS writes to University bodies
  • Sit-in-Protest Against House Search
  • 50th World Population Day celebrated
  • Something worrying
  • Congress : 2 days session too short
  • Jadugi Chei :: Funga Wari
  • Tribal protest for MU normalcy : Gallery
  • Framework Agreement: What is it ?
  • Some cairns from the way: Artist's retake #2
  • Cry of a Dying River # 36 :: Poem
  • Overview on Manipur University imbroglio
  • Tribal Students memo to HRD on MU
  • India-Vietnam Film Show 2018 at Delhi
  • Why the CM is helpless ?
  • No end in sight to MU crisis
  • Indo-Myanmar Pillar 81 @Kwatha #1: Gallery
  • Global Bamboo Congress @Beijing : Gallery
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #4
  • Kamesh Salam : Speaker at BARC, Beijing
  • Career in Cooperatives
  • Nagaland CM's speech at NEC
  • NPF Rejoinder to JD (U) of July 9
  • The Killing Fields - 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • Unfair Game
  • Expecting documentary proof from villagers
  • Lamjing Meira Ningsing Numit #1 : Gallery
  • Woken Youth Clubs in season of World Cup
  • Converting tourism potential into reality
  • Let me live in your heart :: Poem
  • D-Jent.... Djentleman... Anyone ?
  • Socialism or destruction of humanity ?
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Demand action against KSO activists
  • 3 Manipur girls in BCCI U-19 squad
  • Rights meet on bill outcome
  • Naga integration will be democratic..
  • Ichangi Laidhi #3 :: eRang
  • Modernizing Manipur University Library
  • In the grip of nothingness :: Poem
  • Password protection - I
  • Congenital Heart Defect operated
  • Hill area bandh relaxed temporarily
  • State & central govt must stop conflict
  • Cohesion is sports
  • Explain 'devious purpose'
  • Willong Khullen, Maram #2 : Gallery
  • Manipur merger agreement 1947
  • Wari Jalsa at New Delhi
  • Congress grass menace in North-East
  • M A Thomas National Human Rights Award
  • What does worry do to us ?
  • Is Manipur a part of India ?
  • Rumours of child lifters : Dangerous
  • List of MLA (Jan 2018) #3 : Gallery
  • Forest Rights Act 2006 -context of Manipur
  • Supreme Court Hearing on EEVFAM case
  • Cry of a Dying River - 35 :: Poem
  • Terirama Th. met South Korea's first lady
  • Securing security cameras: invisible eye
  • Rejoinder to Nagaland CM's statement
  • Meitei Mayek - are the scales tipped now
  • Patronising non-locals : Nail the insiders
  • UNC oppose indefinite Manipur bandh
  • Tribal University @ Senapati : Gallery
  • Rally to remove MU VC #2 : Gallery
  • Some cairns from the way: Artist's retake #1
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #3
  • UN experts on 'fake encounter' killings
  • Nagaland CM Rio statement on July 4
  • Condemns inhuman eviction by Govt
  • Trainees Certificate of RPL at Kamrup
  • Minor reunited with mother after 26 days
  • Non-Operative Closure of "hole in the heart"
  • We are for the people, for the society
  • Over 30 days : Centre sleeps, MU 'burns'
  • Thokchom Brindashabi Devi :: Profile
  • Kshetri-bengoon Eviction Protest : Gallery
  • Successive pay commissions: It's impact
  • Research Support @ R-Square Design
  • leingakki thouwong - state terrorism
  • Rebuttal: Interview of Ranju Singh
  • Different forces pulling Manipur : Lim
  • Pakhangba Cheng Hongba #3 : Gallery
  • Some ideas for prevention of flood
  • Satisfaction :: Poem
  • Supreme Court hearing on EEVFAM - 2 July
  • Dark lips .. causes and care
  • Training on Handloom Weaver at Hojai
  • CME on 'Congenital Heart Diseases'
  • Nagaland CM should make his stand clear
  • 2019 LS polls : BJP on the offensive
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #4 : Gallery
  • Naga American conference in California
  • Life of an army officer's daughter
  • The Winter Blues :: Poem
  • 16th Mega Miss North East
  • NDPP on Naga integration
  • Allegations against VC holds no ground
  • Rally to remove MU VC #1 : Gallery
  • July Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • A Washed-Out Summer Vacation in MU
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #2
  • My short interaction with Penna Donna
  • 9th Men Mega Mister North East
  • Memo submitted to Kiren Rijiju
  • India- no interest to protect its boundary
  • Idea of who is a citizen of the land
  • Poumai Purul Hiimai Paoki #3 : Gallery
  • Dr Thingnam Kishan Memorial : Gallery
  • Black sheep in movement for ILPS #3
  • Our Common Crisis: What are We to Do #2
  • Jackichand Singh signs for FC Goa
  • No co-operation to MU VC
  • Nagaland CM contradicting himself : NPF
  • Career Guidance Workshop at Ukhrul
  • The tales of a forgotten University
  • Pulling at idea of Manipur : Lim, ATC
  • Climbing Shirui Hills, Ukhrul #2 : Gallery
  • Moirangthem Arup: 90 Km Marathon, Africa
  • Pitfalls on land acquisition for Mapithel Dam
  • Chinese dominance in 21st century
  • Caring for the elderly
  • IIT-G's Technothlon prelims at UAE
  • Mass Rally from Manipur University
  • Nagaland CM releases book by teenager
  • Why trying to dictate media time & again
  • MU, border pillar, Citizenship Bill
  • Oinam Dilip's Painting Exhibition
  • Intl Day Against Drug Abuse : Gallery
  • The Manipur Merger Agreement 1949
  • A road to Mandalay
  • Keeping up: medical diagnostics tech
  • The mother of all preventive strategies
  • Relief camps for Flood affected families
  • The dark side of Indian democracy
  • From three time CM to Oppn leader
  • Khumang Pokpa Haraoba #1 : Gallery
  • Enduring Theatre of Guerrilla War
  • Intl Day in Support of Victims of Torture
  • Impact of trade & floods on economy
  • Imparting training as profession #2
  • Najmaji's flood fixing formula
  • History of Yoga
  • Intl Day against Drug Abuse
  • Politicising MU issue: by whom ?
  • Effective ban on plastics needed
  • Thaunaphaba Marup :: Funga Wari
  • Naga Nationalism & Naga Integration
  • Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 #1
  • If I were :: Poem
  • Is football an anathema to the Indians ?
  • Miss, Mister North East contestants
  • MU Imbroglio: Power games now
  • MU crisis : Centre must act fast
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #3 : Gallery
  • Lamka's Dark Light House
  • Our Common Crisis: What are We to Do #1
  • Cry of a Dying River -34 : Poem
  • Textile industry in Manipur
  • Blood Donation Camp at New Delhi
  • Rahmani Program of Excellence
  • Mova Cave, Hungpung, Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • Expanding Economy Beckons :: Speech
  • Before trains arrive, must read
  • Impact of the Shirui Lily festival
  • Securing Wi-Fi: Negating doorstep threat
  • Blood donation drive in North East
  • Expecting changes in dealing SoO
  • Scourge of drug trafficking
  • Tribal Cultural Festival #2 : Gallery
  • Letter to JS-MHRD from MUTA
  • JS-MHRD did not meet with MUTA
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #2 : Gallery
  • Yoga Day: Celebrating Your Health
  • Chak-hao - black gold of Manipur
  • In response to the culture of shaming
  • 3rd Documentor Imphal
  • General Thangal Eco Park : Gallery
  • Deadline of 5 days time set : MU crisis
  • Garlic Festival @Ukhrul #4 :: Gallery
  • Flood in Imphal [14 June] #3 : Gallery
  • Dzuko valley #4 :: 360 Panorama View
  • Phumdigi Tantha : Dance Drama : Gallery
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • Laitonjam Rajnikanta : Profile
  • Amuktang-Ga Haikho #1 : eRang
  • Kang Tournament @ Yaiskul : Gallery
  • HSLC 208 Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • HSLC 2018 :: Toppers Listing
  • HSLC 2018 :: Check Result
  • HSLC :: Statistical/Subject Topper
  • HSLC 2018 :: External
  • Aerial view from Chingmeirong : Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #2: Gallery
  • Class XII Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic