Protective Thinking : Zeliangrong Naga made orphan by Naga Nationalism and What next ?
- Part 2 -

Pakinrichapbo *

Memorial stone of Haipou Jadonang Malangmei at Tamenglong
Memorial stone of Haipou Jadonang Malangmei at Tamenglong. Haipou Jadonang Malangmei was one of the pioneer freedom fighters of Manipur and the North Eastern region of India who fought against the Colonial Britishers. Saturday, 29th August, 1931, Haipou Jadonang was hanged to death by the British on fake charges, at the banks of Nambul River behind the Imphal Jail :: :: Pix - Ringo Pebam

Necessary clarification for the readers: to write this article is never a happy venture. Yet, one finds no other option seeing one's own tribe live a life of modern-day slavery, where tribes' identity politics overrule the very idea of multicultural and tolerant democratic society. Ethnic and tribal centric politics that once dominated our predecessors' political lives continue to exert its residual effects on our present social and political generation.

In such turbulent political atmosphere, what is the duty of all the ordinary citizens? The duty is to put forward valuable inputs with accurate information to help find workable solutions to numerous conflicts by employing non-violent democratic methods. In distant and near past, people were forced to witness political violence, and the same can still occur as those same people still have natural propensity for violence.

I further appeal to the readers before arriving at the main topic, to heed to the golden words of the First woman President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, who wisely said "Because I was victim of hatred, I have dedicated my life to reverse that hatred and turn it into understanding, tolerance and why not say-into love.

Rise of Zeliangrong Resistant Movement (1928-1932): When Freedom meant Many Different Things to Different People:

Late Haipou Jadonnang and Late Gaidinliu launched resistant movement against colonial British power on the political agendas of opposing taxations and interfering in their cultural life, though their resistance was short lived with no sufficient financial and military power to bring down the powerful Colonial British Administrative Authority. The movement neither did have the support of the whole Zeliangrong villages. Nevertheless, the time period of launching such 'resistance' did carry enormous political significance in the struggle against the foreign colonial power by the colonized people, albeit by a educationally and politically backward tribal hills people yet unknown to the bulk of Indian population.

It is only after 1954 that whole Nagas launched direct action against newly independent Indian Nation basing on distinct history alone. Certainly, the newly independent union of India created by the blood and tears of millions of Indians freedom fighters was even more ready to shed more blood and tears hundred times over to keep its new union intact, which has remain intact till today and now one of the major world power.

Yet, the question remains, where has Naga Nationalism taken the Nagas to? Correct answer is: nowhere. It has taken us nowhere. At best, one can say it has only taken us somewhere where divided people engage in aggressive tribal politics for gaining unrestricted control of nationalist faction and factions.

It's over ground population, in turn, engage in competition for political and government posts, where unemployment runs high, and where siphoning and diverting development funds by people in power occurs as a daily routine. These are supplemented by bad governance, lack of public transparency and accountability, multiple factions claiming to represent the whole Nagas, at one end of the spectrum. And on the other end, big village bully small village, big tribes bully small tribes to lack of development in a society riddled with ignorant and incorrigible general public. This is the sad reality of the Nagas, and all in the name of Naga nationalism and for freedom.

As stated in my other articles, even if Nagas had successfully created free Naga state/nation on account of fighting, along with the Indian National Congress, against the British, it's hard to imagine Naga state remaining till today, given the wild rawness of Nagas. Even before Naga Nationalist movement took its proper shape, Apeh Gaidinliu has personally informed India's first Prime Minister PT. Jawaharlal Nehru, during his visit to Imphal in 1953, about the welfare of her tribe that lay scattered across the Northeast.

As she had already sense that Zeliangrong villages would be administratively divided once administrative districts under Assam are given full pledge statehood. For this very reason, she started the idea of demanding single Zeliangrong administrative unit under GoI in direct contrast to sovereign Naga Nation.

The presence of committed Zeliangrong individuals in Naga Nationalist Movement, since its inception, perceived Rani Gaidinliu political agendas to be detrimental to the Naga cause. Hence, even after many decades, Rani Gaidinliu's forethought about her people remains true, as her exploited people are once again divided across three states and remain exploited even to this very hour, where some sections belonging to her tribe, especially in Nagaland, live a life of statelessness. Not to forget that the demand of a single Zeliangrong administrative unit often put the Zeliangrongs in bad taste with their fellow Nagas.

However, Rani Gaidinliu had to give up such agenda at the pressure of Zeliangrong leaders, who had full faith in the Naga movement. With the creation of statehood, Nagaland and Manipur, the Zeliangrong people were divided and fragmentally distributed in all the three states to be chewed by larger linguistic driven tribal and non tribal communities. And with no one to protect them, many started to live a life of slave riddled with illiteracy, corruptions, lack of development, ethnic violence, and facing constant threats from other tribal and non tribal communities, and that also in their own lands.

In the event of such backlash to Naga nationalist aspirations and decades long Indo-Naga political talks, Zeliangrongs ultimately became an orphan as they have no say in major decisions taken for the whole Nagas. And as an orphan, they were exploited and continue to be exploited in several areas.

Some of the recent external exploitations faced by the Zeliangrongs are:
o the atrocities committed on Zeliangrongs settled in Dima Hasao (NC Hills) Assam in the year 2009;
o the latest news of the exclusion of their territories in the final Naga political settlement, and this comes after they have helped the Naga nationalist faction expand to Dima Hasao (the then NC Hills), Assam, by sheltering and paying taxes;
o the Zeliangrongs have been targeted for being Naga inhabitants in Imphal valley by the loyal citizens of the Manipur State during the 18th June 2001 Uprising in Imphal;
o the invited Zeliangrong families from Manipur and Assam living the life of second and third grade citizenship status in Zaluke (Jalukie), Peren, with no hope for future;
o the barbaric attack on the Zeliangrong village youth leaders and women folk during ULB protest at Dimapur;
o the hurried trifurcation of Zeliangrong tribes without proper public consultation with the whole Zeliangrongs concerned;
o and the exploitations of its natural resources in their traditional lands.
The list is long but I will stop at these for now.

It is bearable, that other non-Naga ethnic groups apply aggressive policies toward the Zeliangrongs, but fellow Naga tribes' aggressive policies (with full of vicious hidden agendas) toward the Zeliangrong in its internal tribe affairs and taking advantage of chaotic situation is unbearable.

And these violate the Naga spirit and disregard the sacrifices Zeliangrongs have made for Naga political movement for freedom. If factionalism and sectarian tribal politics continues to profuse, then the Naga final political settlement can never achieve its aspirations and our belief in ethnic Naga nationality becomes meaningless.

Reformation on Social and Political Set Up

The rigid and unchanging Nagas seriously need to enforce check and balance system on following the present crude federalism (power sharing among tribes) if Nagas desire to see Nagalim rising as power house in Northeast regional politics. It is either this or, if they so wish, to limit Naga influence only to the present Nagaland state boundary and within its respective district boundaries in other states where Nagas are settled. Certainly, such outcome will be revealed soon.

Majoritarianism and its Evil Consequences

Adding more woes, the Indian electoral system based solely on population size has permitted northeast primitive ethnic tribal groups, including Nagas, to blindly embrace majoritarianism electoral system; thereby, creating numerous conflicts in their social and political life. In such political atmosphere afflicted by majoritarianism along with ethnic and tribal aggressions and conflicts, the Zeliangrong, as a tribe of Scheduled Naga tribes, have been at a receiving end of all forms of exploitations for generations from prior to colonial British arrival to this day, from all its neighbouring communities in the three states of Assam, Manipur and Nagaland.

Sadly, Zeliangrong population settled in Mizoram hills and Tripura are now absorbed by the culture of much larger community of the said states thanks to lack of preserving their ancestral identity.

The Current Zeliangrong Situation :

Reacting to exclusion of Zeliangrong territories in Assam, we cannot be sure whether such exclusion will really happen or whether such exclusion will be boon or doomed; only time will tell. No doubt, the Zeliangrongs can have the last laugh only if they can manage to turn their hopeless and chaotic political situation into their advantage by employing right kind of strategy to tackle their endless exploitations, both from inside and outside. In this world, there is no justice unless we make it.

At this point in time, one cannot categorically state that Zeliangrong have either a good or bad future. Rather, one can only state that Zeliangrong have a future. We do not know if that "future" is bright or not. Indeed, Zeliangrong's cannot have a bright future if they fail to make peace among themselves and they fail to settle domestic issues first, so as to survive and thrive under the shadow of communal and ethnic tribal centred politics of the northeast.

Enough of Violence, Let Diplomatic Skills do the Talking

Having mentioned the tragedy of Zeliangrong Naga tribe, I would like to add that as a spirited believer in ethnic Naga identity and believer in the peaceful coexistence of all varied neighbouring ethnic groups, Nagas need to respect political aspirations of other ethnic groups and with diplomatic skills negotiate and make necessary compromise to gain solid support from neighbouring ethnic groups.

Without such support, Nagas alone cannot afford to achieve its political goals. Twenty one years of peace talk with the GOI alone cannot guarantee dreams of Naga State, unless we take selfless practical actions and by taking advantage of the support and understanding of other neighbouring ethnic groups.

Expansion of Naga Political Influence or Restricting Influence to Present State Boundaries

In matter of expanding Naga political influence based on Naga nationalism, even in the face of huge division among Naga factions and its civilian populations, the best and the only option is to grant and promote Naga citizenship to whole Nagas with equal rights across all Naga populated areas and encouraged cross migration to build people-to-people ties. This will at the same time help check the menace of huge influx of Immigrants.

The bigger question is: which government would grant Naga citizenship? In this matter, if Nagas are united, no authority can stop the granting of Naga citizenship based on Naga Nationalism. And to do this, we have to look beyond the benefits derived from being a member of Scheduled Tribe.

Notably, the present archaic notion of being natives/indigenous to ones traditional land supported by system of inchoate system of tribal federalism will only encouraged Nagas to think regionally and tribally as belonging to states of Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal, Assam, and Myanmar.

Failing to correct such prevailing trends among Nagas, the present state boundaries/divide, will become permanent, and when this happens, people will have no choice but to accept it as new normal. But as of now, Scheduled Tribe and Indigenous Certificates, on the account of The Scheduled Tribe Order Act 1950, will continue to supersede the ideology and practicality of Naga Nationalism. Hence, the longer this continues; Naga nationalism will forever remain a theory and will soon turn into a myth. And when this will happen is only a matter of time.

In addition, Nagas need to move forward, guided by the principles of rule of law. Without strict adherence to the rule of law, crisis after crisis shall continue to plague Naga political aspirations, given Naga Nationalism is 'nationalism without principle' in the first place.


Lastly, all Nagas in nationalist factions, as well as civilian population, must mend their evil ways to see the reality before it's too late and take practical steps to right the decades of wrongful violence, injustice, inequality, and abuse of discretionary power by nationalist mixed with unhealthy nexus between factions and Naga politicians and its civilian population for self interest.

This is an essential first step before frustrated Naga tribes throw down their towel in the political ring and seeks greener pasture for their own respective tribes. Until that time come, Zeliangrongs will continue floating along with other Naga tribes wherever it takes them.

* Pakinrichapbo wrote this article for
The writer is an Advocate from Samziuram Village, Peren, Nagaland and can be contacted at pakinchawang(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on June 21, 2018.

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