Being born as a Naga woman 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, I share 98% border with neighbouring East Asian countries and 2% border with India. We are occupied when colonials left India and Burma since their Indepedence from British. Nagas declared their Indepedence from British on August 14, 1947. Yet, the records of paper were not known to the world and even the UN seem to remain silent because Nagas forefathers were uneducated and illiterate. Verbal declaration or writing through telegraph to UN hardly worked. I am not writing here to say whether Naga 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 occupied land where they are forced to become others in order to fit into their society and they feel so lost in the process as they were not raised that way!!
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 is way too different. Naga women are educated and modernized. They have open minded culture with a sense of dignity, courage and style with a sense of their own and very ambitious in life!! Their traditional culture gives more equal weightage between women and men than the culture of India where men are always superior. Therefore, when Naga women migrate to the cities to study, work or live; Indian men finds Naga women very attractive and intimidating. Yet, at the end of the day, their culture tells them different story about Naga women. Hence, even if they happen to fall in love; Indian men listens to their parents and society that follows closed culture where Naga women should not be welcomed as they might not fit into their typical daughter-in-law that cooks food for every members of the family; washes clothes of the husband and takes care of in-laws and sit at home where her world should be her husband and his family!! I have seen Naga women ill- treated by Indian in-laws family, no-matter-how-educated Naga women could be; they are never accepted by in-laws family or closed-mindset society. According to Indian culture of closed family ties- husband goes through alot of conflict and start torturing wife when he couldn't have a balance of life anymore.. I still remember a sad story of a Naga women pioneer who died alone on her flat because of all such in-laws conflict that she started living alone and died. She must have gone through alot of conflict, decided to be alone and regretted of not having much Naga educated men to be married during her times. Did she also wish that she had been born outside of occupied Nagalim of India- where she might have had the freedom to do what she wants or had the option of choices in life and none would question her. I believed her husband must have made promises of 'bed of roses' in times of love which made her felt confident enough that her marriage would survive through the love and care of him. It makes me ponder how such strong educated Naga woman could also fall at the end of the day. It was a great loss for Nagas society. Is it the culture and close-society of India that made her fall? Her husband was one of the pioneer too in the field of medicine; yet, culture seems to be above education! Being born in a place like India, re-marriage for her would have been termed a 'taboo' or look upon her as 'loose'.
I also saw a young Naga women that came to study in Capital of India, fell in love with a young Indian man and he vanishes when she became pregnant!! She's raising the child by herself. Her son must have been so grown by now. Will he search for his father and fight for his mother that his culture sucks (sorry for using this word, but it really is) and not a man enough to stand up for what he wants. Instead, abandoned his mother and chose to vanished to fit into the system of closed-culture. Did the young man felt threatened that family and closed society would outcaste him? There are many more incidences of how Naga women have suffered in the hands of occupied land- a land where Caste and Class matters as well as worshipped.
We can't deny the fact of how many abuses and assaults that occur each day, week, month or year against the northeastern women and students in cities. I have been quite an activist in helping the victims in these issues, which also led to setting up of northeast helpline in cities for northeast women and students protection and safety. I still remember the case of a young Naga girl, who came to visit her sister in Delhi to see how beautiful the city is like; her fate didn't turn out well. One afternoon, she was murdered by a man from the same building when her sister went to work for resisting his advances against her. She was damn young and beautiful, who couldn't speak or understand a word of 'hindi', which was an 'alien' language to her; that didn't help much when she screamed for help in a neighbourhood of 'hindi-speaking'! I wished that they have been able to afford living in a safer neighbourhood of educated lot and class. When i went to her house to pay condolences and track the case with the police- i was confronted of how i could also have been in the same situation when i landed in Delhi, not knowing how to speak a word of 'hindi' and if I hadn't had an opportunity of living in safer neighbourhood with educated lot & higher class. Her soul might want to speak if it has the chance, what would it be i wonder? "please don't integrate with them or please forgive them."
Do we think that integration will ever work when the Indian culture and society have been very different from Nagas way of life? How many Naga women and students should continue suffering at the costs of building shining India or multi-cultural society which doesn't seem to shine for many in reality. How secular and democratic is it in reality? It's a thought to ponder when the peace-talks and negotiations are taking place. I really don't know what would be the correct thing to do. I am pondering these lines through the lens of 'Naga women and youths' experiences of living in cities of India.
I still remember having homesick as the culture became way different when i first landed in Capital of India to study in one of the women's prestigious college- Miranda House, DU. i suffered for almost six months even if i had sisters living there. I nearly went back! Thank God, i chose to stay and overcame all the hurdles of living in an alien environment. After a while, i got used to the culture and learnt how to deal with people, culture and to be assertive to succeed and survive! I have heard many Naga women and students feeling alienated in cities due to cultural differences. Yet, most of them learnt through time survival skills, but some never do and return back to the region. In my survey study, it turned out that none of them would want to live and have a life in 'harsh cities' permanently where they feel alienated and unaccepted. Many Indian thinks, 'they are either Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Nepali'. Most of them came to cities to either study, build a career or work. All of them wants to return 'Home' someday according to the study. But, my question is where would they return to and will they be able to live in a region peacefully when it's still occupied and never know what the future would be like?
For many, the region has become only a dream, not a reality anymore. 'Home' is ruined and torn with armed conflict eventhough it's damn beautiful and rich in natural resources- I missed watching colourful rainbow after the rain. At nighttime, watching stars and moon (seeing the shapes and signs with grandma whether it's going to be sunny or cloudy) was a real delight; whispering to the bright stars that i want to be bright like them and walking in the bright moonlight ; watching beautiful landscapes and mountains through the window; playing with friends whenever it rains- how all of us would run to the nearest waterfall from the church roof to play with water; many boys used to swing from the branches of the trees. Oh such times of innocence of childhood- it still remains! Whenever i get a chance to travel and see nature around me, it reminds me of 'Home' and that's how i try to stay connected.
I have come across many women and youths from other conflict regions of the world undergoing similar conflicts within. How should they rebuild their Home when there's still so much of politics and the 'rulers just rule' where there is lack of space for change to occur in occupied land or the country that follows autocratic system of governance? I share the sentiments of women and youths that feel so lost and scared to return to conflict torn area. Will it take ages to rebuild? Will it costs their lifetime? Should they give up their life and choose to live for others? Or should they forget about the sufferings of the people and choose to have their life? What would be the right steps to take or follow? Everybody longs to have a Home of peace, dignity, freedom, justice, equality and love!
I wish that women and youths from conflict torn area could have better choices, space, freedom and opportunities in life rather than stuck with the reality of conflict that awaits them each day when they lie awake in the morning. What is the best way out? How should they rebuild again the ruined world that confronts them each day....