Being born as Naga women in occupied Nagalim of India!!
I have come across many times, " where are you from?". I am a Naga from India. 'No way! you don't look or act like an Indian and that's a compliment you know!! You look East Asian..' Yes, we share 98% of the border with neighbouring East Asian countries and 2% with India. Nagas declared their Indepedence from British on August 14, 1947. UN, British and India remain silent about it. India began to occupy Nagalim in 1950s and the eastern Nagaland went towards the border of Burma. I am not writing here to say whether Nagas should be part of India or become Independent. The readers can have their own thoughts and views. I want to represent what Naga women goes through being born in such region.
I have seen some Naga women getting married with Indian men and suffered to the extreme due to Indian families unacceptance of the women from northeast India. The culture and the lifestyle itself are very different. Naga women are mostly educated and modernized. They have open minded culture with a sense of dignity, courage, style and ambitions in life. Their traditional culture gives more equality between women and men than the culture of India. When Naga women migrate to the cities to study, work or live, Indian men finds Naga women very attractive and beautiful. However, their culture tells them different story about Naga women. Even if they happen to fall in love, Indian men face pressure from family and society that follows culture of arrange marriage set my parents or family. Naga women do not fit into typical Indian daughter-in-law that cooks food for every members of the family; washes clothes of the husband, takes care of in-laws and sit at home. I have heard stories of Naga women being ill- treated by Indian in-laws. It does not matter how educated Naga women would be.
I still remember a sad story of a Naga woman pioneer, who died alone on her flat because of all such in-laws conflict that she decided to live alone and died. It makes me wonder whether she regret of having not much educated Naga men to marry in those times. It makes me think whether she had ever wished of being born outside of occupied Nagalim of India- where she would have had the freedom to decide and better choices in life circumstances without fear of anybody questioning her. She might not have expected of what she went through being married to such educated family and husband being well known. It makes us reflect how such strong educated Naga woman pioneer could also fall at the end of the day being succumb with the reality of harsh culture that occupies Nagalim. I want to reiterate how such culture of India could make women's life miserable. Living in a place like India, "re-marriage for her would have been termed a 'taboo' and consider her as 'loose'."
There have been various instances of abuse and assault against northeastern women and youth living in cities. It occurs daily, weekly and monthly. I have been helping the victims of all such circumstances when police do not even register their case or complaint. That led to setting up of 'northeast helpline in cities' for protection and safety of northeast people. This helpline comprises of lawyers, professors, social activist, students association, youth groups and special team to assist.
There was an incidence of a 19- years-old beautiful Naga girl, who came to visit her sister in Delhi to explore the beauty of the Capital of India. She could not speak hindi and her sister happen to live in hindi speaking neighborhood. It is definitely costly to afford english speaking neighborhood for students since India has huge divide between the rich and the poor. The rich lives in colony with security guards and educated group of community that makes safer environment to live. However, that doesn't guarantee that some men in such colony will stop staring at women. Women's safety is always a concern if you happen to be in India anywhere or everywhere. To be honest, women always need to be on guard.
The fate of the young girl did not turn out well- One afternoon, when she happen to cook in a shared kitchen, a man that has been trying to make an advance against her captured that moment to rape her. When she resisted, he killed her. Her sister said that the young girl couldn't speak or understand a word of 'hindi' as it's 'alien' language to many. She also said that her younger sister might have screamed for help but none came forward to help. How could neighbors be so cruel or was she choked with shock and could not scream? I went to their house to pay condolence and track the case with the police. Her soul might want to speak if it has the chance, what would it be i wonder? Such incidences should have strong indications whether Nagas should be integrated with India or not.
Are there instances that could convince people that integration will work? How many Naga women and students should continue to suffer at the cost of building shining India or multi-cultual society. It doesn't seem to shine for many in reality! How secular and democratic is India in reality? Do we really embrace and allow other cultures to thrive? We need to reflect deeper of all such reality in times of the peace-talks and negotiations.
I have heard of many Naga women and students feeling alienated in cities due to cultural differences. Yet, most of them learn through time survival skills of living in harsh culture. Unfortunately, some never do and return back to the region. In my survey, the finding indicates that none of them would want to continue living and having a life in 'harsh cities' for long term. They feel alienated, unaccepted or experience stereotyping due to different race. Indians consider them as either Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Nepali due to lack of knowledge of the northeast region.
According to the study, most of them prefer to return to the region someday. It makes me think where would they return to? Will they be able to live peacefully in occupied land of conflict? For many, the region has become only a dream, not a reality anymore. 'Home' is ruined and torn with armed conflict.
No doubt, the region is beautiful with great landscapes, mountains, valleys, rivers and various kinds of natural resources...
Even the moon and stars are so bright that it can light up the entire village. At night, watching stars and moon (seeing the shapes and signs whether it's going to be sunny or cloudy) was common. Children would whisper to the bright stars and moon that they want to be as bright as them when they grow up. Through the window of a house, you can watch beautiful landscapes and mountains and the beauty captivates you. But the whole situation of conflict makes you want to run far away from it.
We should allow women and youths from conflict torn area to have better choices, freedom and opportunities in life. They are trapped with the reality of conflict that awaits them each day when they lie awake in the morning. All of them yearns for peace, dignity, freedom, justice, equality and love.