By Pamhor Thumra
In one of the introductory sessions at the beginning of academic session, I was once asked about the place of my origin. This happened in one of the states of Northeast. I replied, Ukhrul. The reaction of my teacher was “what?” He did not know where Ukhrul was. So I answered again, “Naga Lim.” His reaction was, “oh!! Nagaland???!!!” Okay okay!!! I clarified my standpoint saying “it is not Nagaland, but Naga Lim.” I explained the diverse population of the Nagas in Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Myanmar. I said, “Nagaland is the creation of the Indian state, dividing our own people. So wherever we are that is ours—‘Lim’” Our great grandparents set their foot on these mountains. We are the master of our own. Remember, this was a class introduction, and I have taken about 5 minutes. The longest self-introduction I suppose! The teacher was patient. I do not know if he was impressed, but, it did made him think.
A few weeks into the first semester, I was called by one of my teachers enquiring as to what my definition of ‘Naga Lim’ was? How has this introduction reached you??? I mumbled a little. He asked me the extent of my definition of ‘Naga Lim.’ I was in a fix here. He was my teacher. I mustered up my courage and replied that the Nagas do not claim what ‘belongs to you.’ ‘Lim,’ I elaborated, is where Nagas call home, irrespectively of forced boundaries. He jokingly warned me to be politically correct!!! We went on for more conversation on the term ‘Naga Lim’ for almost half an hour.
This was one of my experiences as a Naga staying far away from home—the place that nurtured me with motherly love. I am what I am today because of the sun that shine above me, the water, air, food, and people who call ourselves as Nagas. Sadly, most of our Nagas face identity issues. At times we are called ‘Kacha Naga’—that too from our own Nagas in metropolitan cities, educated with the latest know how of the present society. But, I am convinced, one can only name oneself. Just because some people call me a Nepali does not mean I have become Nepali (in no way I am degrading the Nepalis here). None can name me, except me. It is important to note that just because we are born in a Naga family does not make one a Naga (read between the lines). A true Naga is one who live out the qualities and essence of what it is to be known as a Naga. For, we are people of action and not words.
We will identify ourselves, defend ourselves—we and our people—no matter what people say. Dear Nagas, it is time we let go off the past. The flowing river will never come back again. We cannot, at this time, afford to fight among ourselves. Else, we will be doomed. Wherever we are, we are one family. The sun above us, the land that counts our footsteps, and the night that cradles us to sleep are our testimonies. Come, we will receive each other with open arms like a brother who waits for the return of his comrades. My home will be our home, and my food will be our food. Welcome us in your place as well. At a time such as this, let us unite. We cannot afford to live in acrimony. This is our generation to rebuild. Forgive, and let history be a reminder never to walk down that road of hatred we once took.