Manipuri Nagas feel left out in Hornbill Festival


KOHIMA: While the Hornbill Festival in Kisama village in Nagaland brings together culture and cuisine of various Naga clans throughout Nagaland, Naga tribes from neighbouring Manipur, which has a sizeable Naga population feel left out in the festival as the Nagas from neighbouring Manipur are never invited in the festival.

For many of the Manipuri Nagas, visiting Hornbill Festival gives them a glimpse of their past. While they feel inclusion of culture and cuisine of Naga tribes from Manipur would have been a great PR exercise in terms of ‘greater Nagalim’ movement which seeks inclusion of Naga dominated areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh into Nagaland, officials organising the festival say inclusion of Naga tribes from other states would make the event very political and hence, controversial.

“Living in the Imphal Valley, our culture has mixed with the local Meitei culture in terms of food, dressing and language. Visiting the festival gives us an opportunity to know how our ancestors from the hills were before our migration to the valley,” said Richard Kamei. “It would have been great if culture of Naga clans from Manipur were also upheld in the festival,” he said. For Gaichinglieu Remai of Maogate, the border of Manipur and Nagaland, Kohima is closer than Imphal and culture of her tribe is similar to Naga clans of Nagaland than of Manipur. However, still she feels unwanted.

“Had the festival truly upheld the Naga culture in northeast and Myanmar, then clans from Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Naga dominated areas of Myanmar ought to have a place in the Hornbill Festival. However, we don’t have a place here,” she said. The boundaries of Manipur state were based on the princely state with seat in Imphal and that of Nagaland was loosely formulated by the British.

Though the Hindu kings of Imphal ruled over the Nagas, Kukis and Paites of the surrounding hills, autonomy was greatly exerted and cultural exchanges and kinship ties with Nagas of Nagaland and Assam was very common and celebrated. The Greater Nagalim movement seeks inclusion of these Naga-inhabited areas into Nagaland, which the others states are fighting tooth and nail. Thuingaleng Muivah, the general secretary of Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah), a militant organisation seeking independence of Nagaland from India and which is currently in ceasefire with the Indian government in Nagaland, hails from Shongran village in Ukhrul district of Manipur.

A few years ago he had attempted to visit his village but was denied permission by the Manipur government due to fears of worsening law and order in the Naga inhabited areas of Manipur due to his visit. Some of the visitors from Manipur feel the inclusion of Manipuri Naga clans in Hornbill Festival would have given out a political statement. “Had Manipuri Nagas been included in Hornbill, we could have shown a united face as only Nagas, which would have bolstered our political stance of inclusion of all Naga inhabited areas under one political boundary,” said Apao Kamei of Ukhrul who has travelled all the way to the festival.

However, this ‘political stance’ is what is preventing the Nagaland government to include the Nagas of other states. “This is an apolitical secular festival. We don’t want to invite controversy and rebuke by including Nagas from other states. Also, we have non-Naga groups like Kukis and Kacharis in the fest. Including Nagas from other states would mean leaving them out. In politically complex Northeast, one small step would mean a big change with further repercussions,” said a top official of the state government who spoke on strict condition of anonymity.

Source: New Indian Express


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