Thursday, November 18, 2010

Inside the Gate


Here is an on-line photograph from the Hornbill Festival, a week-long series of events that celebrates the cultural heritage of the 16 tribes of Nagaland. If all goes as planned, we'll be there for the opening ceremony!

For now, though, we're only prepared to the extent that we've made a list of the things that we need to do before we leave. I've eaten a decent portion of the chocolate that we were supposed to be bring to the kids we meet, so that one gets "un-crossed off". I stopped the mail starting on Tuesday, and I'm trying to get ahead with teaching so that everything is in place by the time we leave. All my efforts to "plan ahead", though, are really just getting me to the place where I should be on any other given day of the year.

We're still waiting to hear if our Restricted Access Zone permits have been approved. That would be unfortunate--to travel all the way from Rochester to Nagaland only to stand at the gate.

Reflecting upon what I now imagine to be the "world beyond the gate", I think of two moments in particular. The first is when I found "Phizo's Plebiscite Speech" on-line. It's a speech given by A.Z. Phizo, the President of the Naga National Council in 1951, shortly after the British left the region (1947). Some highlights:

"We have been living as a subject nation for the last 70 years. Our country was an Independent country before the British conquered us with superior force of arms...Without making any special arrangement for our country the British abandoned us and we found ourselves under the mercy of the Indian people....Our Naga people have demanded independence from the British on many previous occasions. Unfortunately, we never put it on record as our people are not accustomed to writing....We have gathered here together in order to try to convince India of our inherent right to be free and equal to any other nation as a distinct people. This time, and from now on, we shall put everything into writing. We shall see to it that our talks do not end in mere words. In the name of the NAGA NATIONAL COUNCIL, and on behalf of the people and citizens of NAGALAND, I wish to make our stand and our national position perfectly clear. We are a democratic people and, as such, we have been struggling for a Separate Sovereign State of Nagaland in a democratic way through constitutional means....On many occasions we have been accused by the press in India that we were a troublesome people and that our "movement" for Independence must be stopped...When we examine those rapacious assertions, accusations and misapprehensions, we find that the Indians do not know the Nagas...We want our Indian brothers and sisters to know that we are not their enemy. We want the world to know that there is civilization in Nagaland. Academically backward though we may be, it is up to us to show to the world that we are not a people which has lost its raison d'etre. We are alive."

The rest of the speech describes a society that sounds pretty great:
"There is no pauper in Nagaland. There is no social "out-cast" in our country. There are no professional beggars to this very day. There are no families who our houseless anywhere throughout Nagaland. There are no landless persons among us...."

And then, "If Nagaland is not disturbed, our country will remain an oasis of peace in the present form of purest democracy in this corner of the world."

The 10 requests:
1. We want to feel that we are absolutely and unconditionally free as a nation.

2. We want to develop our own culture.

3. We want to direct our own education through the establishment of our own Universities.

4. We want to keep our own land in the possession of our own people

5. We want to live our own lives [without interference].

6. We want to keep in our possession as a heritage something which is exclusively of Nagaland; something which is bound to vanish and be lost to the Nagalas if they were to live under an alien direction.

7. We want peace, real peace put into an abiding practice in the lives of men. We do not want to make our country a defense line.

8. We want to make our country a place of happiness, of security, and rest.

9. We believe that we shall become a better friend and that we can remain a better friend to India and the outside world if we are left to ourselves -- unmolested and unexploited.

10. We believe that it is not only for Nagaland but for India and other surrounding countries as well that there is a better chance of creating and retaining peace and good will with a SOVEREIGN NAGALAND being in existence.

"Above everything else, we want to be free as a distinct nation: and we shall be free."


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