Naga’s long struggle for an independent homeland echoed in BBC

Kohima, February 7 (NE): The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), world’s leading public service broadcaster – in its latest edition of radio broadcast in “BBC Radio 4”, narrated about the Indo- Naga conflict and the long struggles of Naga people on Thursday, February 6, 2020.

Antonia Bolingbroke Kent, a British travel author and television producer narrated the story in the BBC Radio 4. She had traveled to the remotest Naga villages in India and Myanmar inorder to document Naga’s cultures, people and environment during the month of November and December last year – 2019.

Antonia’s episode reads as below:

The mountainous borderlands between India and Myanmar are inhabited by the Nagas, a Tibeto-Burman people who form dozens of different tribes. The area was administered by the British for a century until the end of second world War. Since then, atleast 200,000 Nagas have died fighting for an independent homeland. Although an official ceasefire was signed in 1997, there’s still sporadic fighting between the Indian Army and Naga rebel groups.

Antonia Bolingbroke Kent further shared her experience while she was in the remote Naga villages in the Indo-Myanmar border.

Pape Khiamniungan doesn’t know how old he is but he thinks he is nearly a hundred, with a faded blue tattoo on his chin. He remembers when the British raided Pangsha in 1936. ‘They killed all the livestock, destroyed our fields and burnt down our houses and left’, he said. Huddling closer to the fire, he pulls his red shawl around his bony frame as if the very memory makes him shiver. Back then, headhunting was prevalent among the Naga tribes. In a single raid in 1936, its warriors returned with 53 enemy heads. ‘Enough is Enough’, fumed the British marching across the mountains to teach the aggressors a lesson. Now, decades later, Pangsha and it’s neighboring village Dan are fighting a very different battle, this time over borders.

Tensions are high when I arrive, three Indian Army trucks are parked beside Pangsha’s white Baptist Church and soldiers patrol the roadside rifles at the ready. NSCN K, a Myanmar based Naga rebel group recently attacked the nearby Indian Army post and talks between the Indian government and Naga political groups have led to an increased military presence throughout Nagaland. We Khiamniungan Nagas, have lived here for a thousand years, we’ve always been able to move freely across these lands says the head of Pangsha village council, as we jolt along the muddy tracks in his gypsy four wheel drive.

We had no idea about border until 1917, the soldiers came here and put white markers on the ground we didn’t understand what they were so we kept pulling them out, no one told us it was a boundary line. Despite the markers, life went on as normal untill 2014 when fighting between Indian Army and the NSCN K whose camps are hidden in the thick jungle over the border in Myanmar left 8 rebel soldiers dead. A year later, the Indian Army built a post in Dan and Burmese trekkers started clearing the way for a new border fence. Operations by Indian Army and Myanmar military- Tatmadaw haven’t dettered the Naga rebels who still operate from the jungle camps.

We were shocked and angry, Our village owns five and half thousand Hectares of land on the Myanmar side and we need that land to survive. Thousands of Khiamniungans marched in protest, and a delegation of elders traveled one and half thousand miles to Delhi to speak with the Home Ministry. They argued that the fence went against the free movement regime, a 1967 agreement between India and Myanmar allowing all ethnic groups living along the border to travel upto 10 miles on either side. The Home Ministry denied any knowledge of the border fence but we know the Burmese government weren’t building these alone and when we returned from Delhi, the construction work stopped.

If we loose those land, our children will suffer. Mithun, endemic to this region, are the key source of income for the Nagas, who often sell them to fund their children’s education. Work on the fence may have stopped for now but the villagers don’t know if or when it will start again or what the future holds. There are soliders and cameras every where complained the Village head and we checked whenever we want to cross. We don’t want any sort of visa or permit system to go to our own fields or to visit our brothers and sisters over the border says the village head of Pangsha .

In conclusion, she quoted the village council head of Pangsha, “I want to make one thing clear, we will not give an inch of our land to the Myanmar government and we are willing to fight for it.

According to a report, BBC Radio 4’s have 11.5 million listeners a week from around the world.

(News Source: BBC Radio 4)