Paper presented by Kaka D. Iralu on the Indo-Naga conflict at the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research (ICSSR) sponsored National Seminar on Resolving Ethnic Conflicts in North East India.

(Guwahati, Assam, November 11-12, 2002)





1. In the light of modern political developments, the author will first try to develop a conceptual understanding of the word ethnic identity and national identity in relation to Nagaland and India. The first section will also point out the striking differences between the ethnic and national identities of Nagaland and India in the light of history, race, culture, religion and other factors.


2. In the next section, the author will give a brief history of the development of how different and even diverse ethnic identities merged into modern nation state in the modern world. These modern phenomena began in the 13th century and culminated in the 20th century. The author will trace the history of this development as it started from Europe in the 12th century and finally took over both Americas in the 18th century and on to Asia and Africa in the 20th century.


3. In the third section, the author will trace the development of this concept of the modern nation state as it developed in Nagaland and India in the 20th century. This development will be described with the words, from ethnicity to nationality. Interwoven with this concept will be the development of Naga nationalism and Indian nationalism as they both struggled for freedom from the British yoke.


4. The paper will end with a statement of what the Nagas strongly believe are their lands and their rights which had been suppressed by India and Myanmar for over half a century.






The Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary defines “ethnic” as “concerning nations or races.” The Oxford Advanced Learners dictionary defines the same word as: “connected with or belonging to a nation, race or tribe that shares a cultural tradition.” The word ethnic has its origin in the Greek word “ethnos” which literally means nation. In ancient times it was used to denote a tribe or city-state because of the nature of its independent political systems. In ancient times Nagas and Indians also lived in the pattern of the ancient Greek City States. For the Nagas, their villages were their worlds. Every village was a sovereign democratic republic with its own set of laws for the governance of the village. In Naga history, no village ever ruled over any other village or any tribe over any other tribe.


In the case of India, it was in the form of Princely States. Even as late as 1947, India was comprised of five hundred sixty two Princely States. Broadly speaking, both the political and ethnic identity of the Indian citizen was then confined to the Princely State concerned. The citizens of the Princely State owed their allegiance only to the Prince or Maharaja of their State.


One cannot be too dogmatic here and insist that the Naga world and the Indian world were similar in all respects. In fact as later details will show, whatever similarities their worlds may have, the Naga worldview and the Indian worldview were poles apart. For many hundred and thousands of years, the two Naga and Indian worlds existed in their respective patterns.


However, with the dawn of the modern era, drastic changes overtook the world political scenario. In the cataclysmic changes that swept over the pages of human history, old political words changed their meanings from the ancient to the modern. In the process old words with narrow meanings suddenly developed broad meanings. In many cases entirely new words also came into the fray, sometimes swallowing up many old concepts into themselves. The word “ethnic” is one such word, which developed a much wider meaning in the modern era. For example fifty or so years ago when a Punjabi talked about his ethnic identity he would be talking in the context of his Punjabi race, culture, and customs, etc. But now in the modern world, he has to talk in the much wider Indian context. What developed in the modern world therefore, was a dual identity. Today citizens of many modern nation states have to live with these two identities. In my case I am an Angami by tribe but I am also a Naga by nationality. Politically, the only way I can describe myself is to say that my ethnic identity is Angami and my national identity is Naga. Here I must remember that while I am an Angami, all Nagas are not Angamis. In the case of Indians while a Punjabi is an Indian all Indians are not Punjabis. In my case there are cultural factors that are peculiarly Angami in nature. Similarly there are cultural factors which are peculiarly Lotha (another Naga tribe) in nature. These peculiar cultural factors are found in the form of dialect, customs, dress, mannerisms etc. However in spite of these peculiarities, there are also common cultural factors like democratic polity, system of law, clan affiliations etc which binds the Naga family together. One can put it this way; that the “peculiar factors” come under ethnic identity and the “common factors” come under the national identity. I believe this fact is also true of the Indian Punjabi and the Indian Marathi. This fact is also true of almost all-modern nation states in the world.





We have just concluded that there are similarities in the patterns of the ethnic identity and national identities of both Nagas and Indians (as well as other nationalities). However we must remember that similarity in pattern does not mean similarity in essence too. As far as the national identities of the Nagas and the Indians are concerned, they are worlds apart. What I mean is that the “Naganess” of a Naga is totally different from the “Indianness” of an Indian. Please do not get me wrong here by accusing me of racism. What I am talking about here is the national identity differences of different nations. These differences are an undeniable universal fact.


It is true that at the human level, irrespective of our different nationalities, there are many common human factors that bind all human beings together into a common humanity. These common human factors are factors like a common sense of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, justice and injustice etc. At this level we are all citizens of the world and the UNO is a symbol of that common humanity.


However, at the level of our ethnic and national identities, there are undeniable differences. These differences are based on historical, political, racial, cultural and religious factors. To deny their existence is to imperil our own peaceful co-existence as nations. In the case of Nagaland and India, various attempts have been made to deny the existence of these truths. Not to talk of a denial of its existence, even military force had been used to impose the Indian national identity on the Naga identity. Hence there is political conflict between the two nations.


Therefore in order to understand the Indo-Naga conflict, we must put these differences into black and white so that both sides know what they are talking about. Now, the Indo-Naga ethnic and national identities are different because of the following facts:


1. While racially, the Indian people mostly belong to the Dravidian and Aryan races, the Nagas in contrast belong to the Mongolian race.


2. Religion-wise, except for a very small minority of Christians and other faiths, the bulk of India’s millions belong either to the Muslim faith or the Hindu faith with its multifarious offshoots like Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism etc. By contrast, the Nagas were all formerly Animists but are now mostly Christians. There is not a single Naga Hindu or Muslim to date.


3. In the Linguistic category too, the Indian languages belong to the Indo-European group of languages with Urdu and Sanskrit as its main languages. In contrast the great variety of Naga languages belong to the Tibeto-Burman group of languages.


Because of these striking differences in race, religion, and language, the cultural by-products and the national identities of both countries are strikingly different. Now, nobody can deny that the cultural ethos of a nation is the visible and practical expressions of a nation’s “worldview.” A nation’s worldview is in turn based on the nation’s religious or philosophical beliefs. To put it in mathematical equation, it will be Religious and Philosophical beliefs + Worldview of a Nation = Cultural Ethos of a Nation. The laws of a nation and the character of a nation are all influenced and shaped by this formula. Keeping this formula in the back of our minds, let us now briefly summarise the Indian worldview and the Naga worldview.





The Indian worldview: The Indian worldview has been deeply influenced by Hinduism and Islam. Islam has its different sects with slightly different theologies. On the other hand, Hinduism, besides its pantheon of gods and goddesses, also has its many offshoots like Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism etc. In all these offshoots, there are myriads of Gurus, Monks etc. Now, nobody can deny that these religions have influenced and shaped the Indian national identity. The cultural history of India as a result of these influences has a history of Kings with divine right to rule; Brahmins with divine authority to dominate and exploit and some Emperors with no hesitation to kill anyone according to their whims.


The Naga worldview: The Naga worldview, on the contrary, was devoid of any such religious so called divine rights to dominate or rule. Prior to the coming of Christianity in the late 19th century, Naga conscience was the only Naga religion. In fact prior to 1875 there was not a single religious or historical manuscript in the possession of any of the Naga tribes! However, solely on the basis of the dictates of their conscience, the Naga forefathers evolved a very pure form of democracy that could put to shame many religion-influenced Democracies or Monarchies in the world. Captain Butler, the British anthropologist and soldier wrote in 1875 that the purest form of democracy exists among the Nagas. In Naga history no one has ever ruled over any other one.


As a result of these totally different worldviews, Nagas and Indians not only think differently and live differently, but they even eat differently and smell differently! (The Naga definition of meat, by the way, is “anything that moves!”)To stretch the difference to its logical conclusion is this: An Indian culture can never produce a Naga mind neither can a Naga mind ever produce an Indian culture. What I am talking about here is not racism but the simple yet undeniable fact of racial differences. These racial differences are a global phenomenon. It is also a biological and anthropological fact. It is therefore both a social and scientific truth. To superimpose the Indian national identity on the Naga identity and say that they are one and the same thing is unthinkable and therefore utterly unacceptable as far as the Nagas are concerned. Imagine what would happen if the Chinese would claim “Africans are Chinese and Africa is China!” No nation on earth can even imagine that such an experiment could ever be possible. “Hindustani bhai, bhai” (all Indians are brothers) may make sense to a Gujarati or a Marathi or a Punjabi because whatever their differences they all share a common racial, lingual, and religious background. But “Hindustani bhai, bhai” is total nonsense to the Nagas.


Some arrogant Indian Hindu politicians and social thinkers think that the Hindu Pantheistic umbrella can swallow up even other nations into the Indian belly. I have often sat arguing with Hindu intellectuals including Army Officers who just cannot understand why I refuse to be swallowed into what they call the Indian mainstream. They would argue “after all the Indian nation is a multi diverse nation of various ethnic groups, linguistic groups and religious groups.” The fact is, whatever the multi diversity of the Indian polity maybe I simply do not belong to any of them historically, politically, religiously or culturally.


To conclude this section, allow me to describe in a few words my political and economic status as a citizen of Nagaland. I am from Khonoma village of the Angami tribe. My political status and identity as a Naga starts from that village level. As stated earlier, here the reader must remember that every Naga village is a sovereign democratic republic with its own sets of laws governing the village. Now within the village, I belong to the Iralu clan. The Iralu clan in turn belongs to the wider clan group called the Meyasetsu clan. (The Meyasetsu clan is comprised of five minor clans). The Meyasetsu clan in turn belongs to the still wider and larger clan group called the Merhüma Khel. (The Merhüma Khel is comprised of three major clans). The Merhüma Khel in turn is one of the three major Khels that make up Khonoma village (The other two major Khels are Semoma and Thevoma). The Khonoma village in turn belongs to the Angami tribe and the Angami tribe in turn belongs to the Naga nation. My sense of political identity therefore, starts from the Iralu level to the Meyasetsu to the Merhüma to the Khonoma to the Angami and ultimately to the Naga national level. At every level of my political identity I have hundreds of my clansmen, khelmen, village men, tribesmen and fellow Nagas who have the obligation to protect me as a Naga. I, in turn owe the same obligation and allegiance to all these levels of my political identity. This is how the Nagas, though they are a very small nation, had defied the mighty British Empire for over a century and India for over half a century. In actual political reality, no Naga stands alone. Hence if any foreigner harms a Naga, they will find themselves pursued by hundreds of the victim’s clansmen crying for their blood! Land ownership of an individual also spreads across all these various levels of clan, Khel, village and tribal lands. The Naga sense of both political and economic sovereignty exists and functions in this way. Every Naga therefore, is a man with many clansmen and many lands. In conclusion, if I were to write all my affiliated surnames it would go like this: Kaka Iralu, Meyasetsu, Merhüma, Khonoma, Angami, Naga.


As far as I am concerned, these ethnic and national identities are precious to me. They in fact define my political existence as a man with a country to call his own. As such I can never surrender this birthright to India or any other nation on earth.






The process of the formation of ethnic groups begins with a single-family unit. With the passage of time the descendants or offspring of this one single-family unit develop into clans. With further passage of time, these various clans merge themselves into tribes. Tribes, in turn, form themselves into nations as history progresses. This multiplication of families into clans into tribes and on to nations may take hundreds of years. This process is a universal phenomenon that applies to every nation inhabiting the planet earth. Here the Bible provides the clearest answer to this universal phenomenon. The Bible states that the history of humankind began with the creation of Adam and Eve, the first male and female of the human species. From these two first human beings, the nations of the earth evolved through the passage of human history.


There are also of course other so called scientific and mythological theories about the origin of man and nations, but none of them conform to historical reality as we know it. On the one hand, Darwin’s theory of evolution remains unproven even after 150 years of extensive scientific research. On the other hand, mythological theories of man, having crawled out of caves or from stones or trees or the sea are matters of pure fiction and superstition.


An investigation into past human history reveals that the evolution of nations follows the pattern mentioned above. For example, today’s modern German nation state evolved from the Germanic tribes of past history. Similarly the modern nation state of Great Britain is a conglomeration of various ethnic groups like the Iberians, Celts, Nordic tribes and Anglo Saxons etc of past history. In fact all modern nations were formerly savage tribes and headhunters! It is also a universal fact that in ancient time and even as late as the 20th century, nations were mostly ruled by Kings and Monarchies. Today with the exception of a few kingdoms most nations follow the modern nation state pattern. The Nagas, with the exception of some Chieftain systems like the Konyaks and the Semas, never had any King to whom they bowed. When the British first encountered them and asked them about their King, they thrust their spears into the ground and said: That is our King.


In the modern era of human history a new phenomenon overtook the human race in the form of the formation of modern nation states. The history of this new phenomenon will be briefly outlined here tracing its history right up to the point where it also overtook both Nagaland and India in the late 1940s.


In this new development, different and even diverse ethnic groups began to merge together to form new nation states. It is difficult to pinpoint one single event in history as the sole cause for this new development. However in the western world, this phenomenon began to develop towards the beginning of the 13th century with the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. In this epochal event, the paramount authority of the King of England (John) was curtailed by the English Nobles. This event paved the way for Constitutional form of Government. Following a series of similar changes in France, Italy, Germany etc, by the end of the 1st World War in 1918, the concept of modern nation states under Constitutional form of Government was firmly established in the western world. By the end of the 2nd World War in 1945, this phenomenon had become a global reality effecting even Asia and Africa. One important factor to be noted here is the fact that beginning from the 16th century and on to the first half of the 20th century, for nearly five centuries, the western world marched out from their cities and forts to conquer and rule most of Asia, Africa, the two Americas, Australasia and the South Pacific. Along with these conquests, the concept of modern nation states and Constitutional form of Government came with these western conquerors. The western nations owe the insights and principles of this modern nation state concept to Martin Luther’s reformation of the 16th century. In this reformation, besides the religious reformation of salvation through Christ and not the Church (Papacy), Martin Luther also set the ordinary citizen free from the clutches of the political powers of both the King and the Pope. The new political development that emerged was “sphere sovereignty.” Sphere sovereignty was founded on the Biblical principle that the state was divinely instituted by God to control and curb the evil actions (lawlessness) of fallen men. However sphere sovereignty also brought into glaring focus the fact that the laws of the state are not sovereign in themselves but subject to the sovereignty and authority of God who is the ultimate lawgiver of the universe. Under Martin Luther’s reformation, everything under heaven – the King, the law, the state, the church and every citizen within the state was brought under the sovereignty of God. “Coram Deo” the Latin words meaning “in the face of God” was the catchword of the reformation. In this way, every facet of human existence was brought under the sovereignty of God.


The founders of the American Republic of 1776 incorporated these concepts into their Constitution by clearly defining the separate powers of the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. This model was based on the Biblical teaching that God is our Judge, Lawgiver and King (Isaiah 33:22) What emerged was a Government of the people by the people, and for the people based on the rule of law which was in turn based on the word of God – the lawgiver. Martin Luther’s Bible-based reformation thoughts were further developed by Christian intellectuals like John Calvin in the 16th century and Samuel Rutherford in the 17th century. Samuel Rutherford wrote Lex Rex which means Law is King. Samuel Rutherford’s main thesis in Lex Rex was that the rule of law (rather then the law of the ruler) was supreme. He was asserting that the law stands even above the King and that the King is also subject to it like all other citizens.


All these preparatory steps and the subsequent events of western imperialism from the 16th century to the first half of the 20th century eventually led to an explosion of modern nation states in Asia and Africa by the end of the 2nd World War. In today’s eastern world of modern nation states, whether we acknowledge it or not, it is still an undeniable fact that our Constitutions are based on Biblical principles which have their roots in the great Protestant reformation of Martin Luther in the 16th century.

Acknowledging this fact of the dominance of the western and Bible-based British common laws in the Constitution of India, noted Indian Jurist, Nani Palkhivala wrote thus in his book: Let us not pretend that the rule of law is a concept which can be regarded as a part of the Indian psyche (We the People, p.212). The fact is, no such concept of the rule of law exists anywhere in the Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Bhagwat Gita or the Puranas.






Prior to 1947, neither Nagaland nor India were independent sovereign states in the pattern of modern nation states. Nagaland was then a country of more than fifty-four tribes with the British having suzerainty over only eight tribes. India, on the other hand, was then a sub-continent of five hundred sixty two autonomous princely states besides the provinces under British rule.


The spirit of nationalism that swept across Asia and Africa in the 20th century affected Nagaland and India only in the earlier half of the 20th century. This spirit of nationalism took some concrete shape and direction for both Nagaland and India only in the 1920’s. Now some Indian historians would argue that the Indian independence movement started from the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. This assertion is disputed as exaggeration of actual historical facts by historians, many of them Indian. We will come to these details later on. For the moment, we will separate the two country’s historical developments. In the case of Nagaland, we will begin with a brief account of Naga history.





Ancient Naga history - The Nagas are an ancient people whose forefathers migrated into their present habitat from Central Asia. Their forefathers belonged to the Sino-Mongoloid race that came in waves from South East Asia in the B.C. era. Their entry points to their present lands were through the Himalayan region and the Burmese corridor. Their forefathers migrated from Mongolia in 2617 B.C. and after migrating across Turkistan, Tibet and Mongolia, they finally arrived in Eastern Yunan Province of China in 1385 B.C. Many of them again migrated from China and entered Southeast Asia and on to their present habitat in 1225 B.C. Whether in historical records or oral traditions passed from one generation to the other through word of mouth, there is no mention whatsoever of the Nagas driving away some former inhabitants of the land to make the lands their own. The fact is one where their forefathers, like any other nations in the world, at some specific time in history migrated from more populated regions of the Asian continent and settled down in their present lands and made it their land. Their continuity as a people inhabiting their present lands is an established historical fact. In historical records, the first mention of the Nagas as a people inhabiting their present lands was made by Claudius Ptolemy, the Greek historian and geographer in AD 150. In his records Ptolemy mentions the Nagas as Nagaloi (Claudius Ptolemy, Geographia, Vol V11, (ii)p.18). They were again mentioned by Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller who spent 15 years in India between AD 629-645. Hiuen Tsang visited Kamrup the capital of the Varman King, Bhaskar Varman in AD 643. From Kamrup in Assam, in his accounts “Si-Yu-Ki” he writes about the Nagas saying: The east of this country is bounded by a line of hills so that there is no great city to the kingdom. The frontiers are contiguous to the barbarians of Southwest China. These tribes are in fact akin to those of the Man people in their customs.

(Thomas Watters, On Yuan Chwang’s travel in India, Vol.III, Part II, Varanasi, 1903, p.11) Quoted in Visier Sanyü, A History of Nagas and Nagaland, p.7


Besides these records, the Nagas are also mentioned in the Royal chronicles of the Manipur kingdom in records like Chietharol Kumbabu and Ningthourol Kumbabu (AD 663-763 and AD 906-996). They are also mentioned in the chronicles of the Ahom kings who came from upper Burma and the western Unan provinces of China and settled and ruled in Assam for 600 years beginning from the 13th century. Naga resistance against intrusions and raids from these two neighbouring kingdoms and also other kingdoms like the Burmese, Tripuris, Dimashas and the Cachar kingdoms from the 13th century to the 18th centuries are all there in recorded history. As for their encounter with the British in the 19th century and their resistance against British rule for one hundred fifteen years (1832 – 1947), numerous accounts are found in the British colonial records. It is said that the battles the British fought with the Naga tribes in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries far outnumber all the frontier battles fought with the Indians in the great Indian sub-continent. Even in spite of all these battles, the British were able to subjugate only thirty per cent of actual Naga territory. (The actual Naga ancestral domain would be around 120,000 sq. km). In British colonial accounts, the unconquered 70% territories of the Nagas were recorded as unadministered territories or excluded area. Even in the thirty per cent lands that the British administered, they never laid any claims to the lands they were administering. In fact C.V.Aitchinson in Treaties, Engagements and Sanads clearly records that: No written treaties or agreements have been made with any of the Naga tribes. (Vol.XII, 1931, p.91). Also following the submission of the Naga memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929, where the Nagas had refused to be included in the reformed scheme of India, the British Government in recognition of their demands put the Naga Hills under excluded area in the Government of India Act, 1935.


Modern Naga history - The submission of the Naga memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929 by the Naga Club was in a sense the first Naga action in the transition from Naga ethnic identity to Naga national identity and ultimately towards the realisation of a modern Naga nation state. The Naga Club was formed in 1920 by the Nagas who had returned from their 1st World War experience in Europe. By February 2, 1946, the Naga Club of 1910 had metamorphosed into the Naga National Council (NNC). One of the first important actions, taken by the NNC was to submit a memorandum to the British Cabinet Mission which came to India in 1946 in the light of the impending transfer of power between India and Britain. In the memorandum, the NNC declared that the future of the Nagas would not be bound by any arbitrary decisions of the departing British Government if such decisions were taken without the prior information and approval of the Naga people. This memorandum was submitted to the Cabinet Mission on April 9, 1946. This was followed by the submission of another memorandum to the outgoing British Government and the incoming Indian Government, entitled Memorandum of the case of the Naga people for self determination and an appeal to Her Majesty’s Government and the Government of India. This memorandum was submitted on March 27, 1947. Copies of the same memorandum were also sent to Clement Atlee, the then Prime Minister of Britain, Members of the House of Lords and also Winston Churchill. Getting no favourable response from either the British Government or the Indian Government, the NNC next met Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor-General of India with the proposal that the new Indian Government act as the guardian power for a period of ten years after which the Nagas would be free to determine their own political future. (Full contents of all these lengthy memorandums can be found in the appendix section of my book: Nagaland and India, the Blood and the Tears with a sub title A historical account of the fifty two year Indo-Naga war and the story of those who were never allowed to tell it, five hundred forty three pages. The book was clandestinely published by myself since no publication company was willing to take the risk of publishing it).


Meanwhile, a British scheme of forming an independent North Eastern Agency on the pattern of a Crown Colony comprising all the eastern peoples between Burma and India was offered to the Nagas. If the Nagas had accepted this scheme, a British Crown Colony with over 200,000 sq. km could have come into existence with Chittagong as its sea outlet. The colony would be comprised of people like the Nagas, Kachins, Karens, Mons, Shans, Khasis, Assamese, Mizos etc – a people who were then more devoted to the British than their own citizens. The lands were also very rich in oil and other mineral deposits. If the Nagas had acted selfishly, they could easily have gotten the lion’s share in such a scheme. Knowing that the Nagas were politically the most advanced tribe, this scheme was thoroughly discussed with the NNC leadership during its formative years. However, the NNC leadership rejected this offer on the grounds that they could not betray the eastern peoples right to their respective freedoms. It was evident that a “Yes” from the Nagas could have resulted in all the eastern peoples being condemned to many years of subjecthood to a British Crown Colony. Another obvious reason was the Naga love of their own freedom, which they were sure the British would not treacherously betray into the hands of the new emerging Indian Government.


Subsequent events would however show that the Naga sense of integrity and honesty and also the recognition of other people’s rights would be betrayed and trampled by both Britain and India.


Besides these events, many other important representations and actions were made by the NNC and the Nagas to clearly declare and demonstrate their political will to become a free nation again when the British left their South Asian Empire. Up to 1947 six different memorandums and representations were given to the British Government before they handed over power to India. One possible reason for the apathy and indifference shown to the Nagas by the British may be because of their rejection of the British Crown Colony scheme. Or perhaps Britain was too exhausted from the 2nd World War and the mood of the British was to retreat homeward from their empire. What was so desperately important for the newly emerging Naga people did not impinge on a people weary of their world responsibilities. They left behind a legacy Nagas could not accept. In turn their later rejection of the legacy produced the Indo-Naga conflict.


As for India, the NNC made many representations to the Indian leaders before India became a free nation on 15th August 1947. Among those many representations and actions, when the Indian Constituent Assembly constituted a Sub Committee for the North East region in 1946, the then NNC President T.Aliba walked out from the meeting at Shillong saying: We the Nagas cannot sign our names to be under India. He further said, I cannot return to my people as a traitor. Saying thus, he resigned from the committee and came back to Nagaland. At that time the NNC had a Constitution of their own and refused to be under any other Constitution. Even when the Constituent Assembly Sub-Committee again visited Kohima in May 1947, the NNC still refused to join the Indian Union. In that confrontation in 1947, the NNC stated its position that it was willing to co-operate with India only under the ten-year period of an interim agreement, details of which had earlier been submitted to Her Majesty’s Government and the Indian Government on March 27, 1947.


A further proposal was offered by the Governor of Assam, Akbar Hydari, called the Nine Point Agreement on June 27, 1947. However, even though the NNC was willing to co-operate with India under the provisions of the Nine Point Agreement, a dispute arose over the ninth point as to whether Nagas could choose their own political destiny at the end of the ten-year agreement. The proposal was later unilaterally abrogated by India.


The NNC next met Mahatma Gandhi on July 19, 1947 at Bhangi Basti in Delhi. After a thorough discussion of all the political and historical facts about Nagaland and India, Gandhi assured the Naga delegation that Nagas had every right to be a sovereign independent nation. Gandhi even promised the Nagas that in case the Indian Government tried to forcefully annex the Naga territories into India, he would be the first person to lay down his life in opposing the annexation.


Assured by the father of the Indian nation, the Nagas came back and declared their independence on 14th August 1947 - one day prior to India’s declaration of her own independence. A cable was also immediately sent to the United Nations on the same day and an acknowledgement was received from Salt Lake, New York. In order to further consolidate their intention in the light of India’s indifference, the NNC further conducted a national Plebiscite on 16th May 1951 where an overwhelming majority of the adult Naga population (99.9%) gave their verdict that they would not join the Indian Union of 1947. Prior to the Plebiscite, information and invitations were also given to the Indian Government to come and see the conduct of the Plebiscite with their own eyes. India never responded to the invitation. The result of the Plebiscite was sent to both the Indian Government as well as the United Nations. The result of the Plebiscite along with a long letter was given to Jawaharlal Nehru on December 29, 1951. In the letter Phizo, the NNC President had written:

…With the verdict of the Naga adult population embodied in the Plebiscite papers go our sincere feeling of goodwill to the Government and people of India. It is the prayer of the Naga people that the Government of India will respect the desire of the Naga people for having their own independent state, separate and sovereign. To allay the fear and suspicion of India, Nagas on their part will agree to accept an Indian national to be the President of independent Nagaland for a stated period


(Please note that, the Nagas far from trying to violently oppose India, offered themselves to be even governed by an Indian President for a stated period. This was in 1951. The Nagas took up arms to defend themselves only when, as B.N.Mullik put it in his book: troops moved into Tuensang by October 1955, and the war (of invasion) with the Nagas started from then). Italics mine.


When the NNC leaders later met Jawaharlal Nehru at Delhi on March 11, 1952, in the short interview given to them, Nehru banged his fist on the table and screamed:

Whether heaven falls or India goes to pieces and blood runs red in the country, I don’t care. Whether I am here or any other body comes in, I don’t care. Nagas will never be allowed to become independent.

Phizo, leading the delegation, replied: “Well, Pandit Nehru, you seem to know even more than God about our future. Goodbye.” The delegation returned to face the might of the Indian Army, which Nehru sent to suppress the Nagas. The Nagas on their part, in order to consolidate their position and also in accordance with legal norms of establishing a modern nation state, established the Naga Supreme Court on July 4, 1954. On January 14, 1956, the Naga Constitution (Yehzabo) was approved and on March 22, 1956, the Federal Government of Nagaland was established.


On the part of India, by November 15, 1954, Assam Armed Police and other Paramilitary Forces like the Assam Rifles had started killing innocent Naga civilians. This was followed by full-fledged Indian military troops moving into Nagaland by October 1955.


To cut a long story short, I will here again quote B.N.Mullik who was then the Personal Secretary of Nehru.

…Troops moved into Tuensang by October 1955 and the war with the Nagas started from then…


About the number of troops deployed at this stage he writes:

…Ultimately nearly two divisions of the Army and thirty five battalions of the Assam Rifles or Armed Police were in operation in the Naga Hills and Tuensang Frontier Division and in the adjoining areas…and though there were nearly one security troop for every adult male Naga in the Naga Hills Tuensang area, there never was a time when it could be claimed that the Naga guerrillas had been broken into submission…

            (B.N.Mullik, My Years With Nehru, 1948-1964, Allied Publishers, India, pp.308, 312, 313)


These Indian troops (fifty four thousand in total) between 1955 to 1956, burnt down to ashes six hundred forty five Naga villages out of eight hundred sixty one Naga villages existing in those days. All the village granaries were also burned to ashes and within one year over one lakh Nagas died from bullets, aerial bombardments, rape, torture, murder, starvation and disease.


On June 30, 1956, a totally devastated Phizo through his Ministers (Kilonsers) sent a long and desperate message to the Prime Minister of India. I quote here a few excerpts from that letter:

…People are being killed without ceasing. Houses and villages are being burned daily. What justifiable necessity impelled the Indian Congress Government in directing the Indian Army to start killing our Naga people and burning all our houses, we do not know. If these barbarous cruelties are meant to compel the Nagas to accept the Indian Constitution and be a member unit within the Indian Union, these acts of conscience-less inhumanity are highly improper. Village after village - has been surrounded and the people compelled to give their fingerprints as a token of loyalty to India and acceptance of the Indian Constitution. Nagas as a people and the Naga Government strongly condemn your policy now being put into practice in Nagaland.


Our Naga position must be understood. Naga people made the position of our country very clear to the Government of India from the very inception of the emancipation of the Indians and the starting of the Government of Free India. Nagaland belongs to the Nagas only and nobody else. We cannot feel ashamed to state this simple fact, or be frightened to stand on our national rights and defend our honour.


We wanted to part in a most friendly atmosphere with your goodwill, but failed. The controlling reasons for the Nagas to remain as a distinct nation, and thus enjoy national independence, need not be explained to the most eminent champion for the freedom of the dominated people and nations in Asia and Africa. The great author of “Discovery of India” and of “Glimpses of world history” knows that the Nagas are no more a peculiar people or unreasonable than any other virile nation.


We should not be misunderstood. And your great Government should not attempt to make this simple issue of the Naga case as having political or constitutional complications with the Republic of India.


You knew very well that Nagas did not participate in the Indian election. Your Government have been fully informed of our Naga position, either by telegram or through letters, on all the appropriate occasions.


Firstly, Nagas are not Indians, and we do not want to become Indians.


Secondly, Naga territory is not and has never been a part of the Indian territory. And we cannot give you our country. This is the actual position…


…If the Congress Indian Government is determined to wipe out the Nagas from the face of this earth, WHAT CAN WE DO? You have the capacity to do so. But is not killing people a horrible thing to do in spite of disagreement with you? Is it not contemptible to resort to terrorism for the usurpation of other people’s land? The ORDER TO KILL TEN MEN in each village, and to wipe out big villages, have been already made known to the Nagas…


…The ORDER and directives for DECIMATION and ANNIHILATION must be immediately called off, without delay.


Bombardment with 3-inch mortar shells against our people’s camps and people in the fields continues daily. Shelling the villages with cannon (type EXR.CE 9719. C.Co/2/44) started on June 28, 1956. All these must be stopped.


If killing the people, sniping the workers in the fields of cultivation, raping and molesting women and girls, and burning houses and villages are stopped, YOU MAY BE SURE that our Naga people, and our Home Guards, will full heartedly respond in real faith, as these are what we are against.


We are wholly and absolutely at your mercy. And, in the name of humanity, we submit this appeal to you to stop tears and bloodshed…

(An appeal to the Prime Minister, India, Urra Headquarters, June 30, 1956)


What happened afterwards is a story of blood and tears, sacrifices and heroism as a small nation fought against overwhelming odds for over half a century. As for A.Z.Phizo who wrote all the above words, he was first offered the Chief Ministership of Assam. When he refused, he was next offered to become a Minister in the Central Cabinet. This was followed by another offer to become the Ambassador to Malaya. He was next offered to ask anything from the Indian government including any amount of money. This offer was brought by Shri Prakasa, the then Minister of Natural Resources and Scientific Research. Phizo in his letter to S.C.Jamir from London dated October 31, 1963 wrote that he declined all these offers because he loved the Naga people more than anything else in the world. (S.C.Jamir, Reminiscences of Correspondences with A.Z.Phizo, p.21). When all these efforts to buy the Nagas with money failed, the Indian Government tried to militarily impose Indian nationality on the Nagas. When even this failed, the Indian Government again offered Phizo to become the next President of India in the early 1960s. Full details and a systematically chronicled account of many of the above stated facts can be found in the afore-mentioned book written by the author of the present article.





It is not within the scope of this paper to give even a summary of the ancient history of India stretching to over five thousand years. We can therefore only begin with the colonial British period for the purpose of our analysis. It must however be noted here that the development of ethnicity to nationality in India also began only during the colonial British period. This development began with A.O.Hume when he started the Indian National Congress in 1885. But though A.O.Hume had started the Indian National Congress in 1885, it took almost thirty years for true Indian nationalism to take root in Indian hearts. One possible reason for this very slow development of Indian nationalism may be because of the fact that prior to 1885, for more than four thousand years, the Brahmins of India had kept all of India’s intellectual, philosophical and scientific knowledge locked away in the Sanskrit language and texts. All the repository of Indian literature, science, medicine, law and religion were kept locked away within the Brahmanical sect. The Brahmins monopolised all these knowledge through the caste system by making it a sin for other lower caste to read or understand the Sanskrit language. Had it not been for 19th century Christian missionaries like William Carey and Alexander Duff, the Indian masses would still have been denied their own history and achievements even in the 19th century. Christian missionaries like William Carey, Alexander Duff and many others translated these sacred Sanskrit and Urdu texts into English and threw open India’s past greatness to the Indian masses. As one Indian Christian writer, Vishal Mangalwadi had argued in his book India, the Grand Experiment, long before the British colonisation of India, the Brahmins had for centuries so colonised the Indian mind that the seeds of freedom, progress and development could not sprout and grow.


I personally believe that had this reservoir of Indian knowledge been released even a thousand years earlier, perhaps India and not Europe or the West might have led humanity’s march into the modern world. After all it is partly true that while the Europeans were still nomads, the Indian mind had already analysed metaphysics to a very high level. The Indian zero (0) was also already in Indian mathematics from that time. (Unfortunately the Brahmin caste strangulation of Indian society was so complete, India stayed stagnant within this great zero for centuries!)


Coming back to the British colonial era, the Indian Congress was from the beginning, ridden with suspicions and prejudices of high caste and low caste feelings. The Dalits and the Muslims were always suspicious of the Hindu hierarchy that dominated the Indian National Congress. As a result of all these suspicions and prejudices, even though the British had by August 20, 1917 promised Indian self rule, even as late as November 11, 1917 the Indian National Congress was expressing its full loyalty and support to the British Government. These facts and resolutions can be found in their November 20, 1917 meetings in Bombay. There were of course some extremist and violent nationalist movements prior to 1917 in the persons of people like the Chapker brothers, Savarkar and Bal Gangadhar Tilak etc. These movements were however confined to Hindu religious groups rather then a universal Indian national movement.


No doubt, the early sparks of the development from ethnicity to nationality in India, had begun with the likes of Bipin Chander Pal and Gangadhar Tilak, but it took Mahatma Gandhi to awaken India to a consciousness of her national soul. Things began to move with vision and direction only when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came back to India in 1914. However, here too it took many years for India to come to a clear stand for the demand of sovereignty and independence. The first great movement was launched by Gandhi in 1921 in the form of the Non Co-operation Movement. But this mass movement was suddenly withdrawn in 1922 after the incident of Chauri Chaura in Uttar Pradesh. And though the movement continued through radical nationalists like Ram Prasad Bismil, Bhagat Singh etc, the national movement in a mass manner picked up momentum again only in 1930. This came in the form of the Civil Disobedience Movement. However in spite of all the Round Table Conferences from 1930 to 1931, the momentum was once again dropped in 1933 when the movement was again suspended. It was only nine years later in 1942, that on July 14, the Quit India Movement was finally and decisively launched. This final decision and mass movement finally led to the Indian Independence Act of July 18, 1947, and the declaration of India’s independence on 15th August 1947.





1. Both Nagas and Indians were ruled by the British imperial power in modern history. The national souls of both the nations were awakened by this British rule. In the case of Nagaland, their first encounter with the British imperial might was in 1832, when Captain Jenkins and Pemberton marched across Naga country from the Manipur kingdom to the Assam kingdom via Zeliangrong and Angami regions. The British came with seven hundred troops and eight hundred coolies. This first British expedition into Naga country was met with fierce resistance from the Angamis and Zeliangrongs and the British lost several soldiers and many were injured. The Angamis and Zeliangrongs too suffered heavy casualties in this, their first encounter with guns. After this initial survey expedition, many other military excursions were undertaken by the British to subdue the Nagas. But in all these excursions, all the various Naga tribes relentlessly fought the British intrusion from 1832 to 1881. Khonoma village alone fought the British for thirty-five intermittent years (1845 – 1880). After the verbal peace treaty of Khonoma on 27th March 1880, the British were able to control about thirty per cent of Naga territory from 1880 – 1947. This sixty-seven years of British suzerainty over thirty per cent of Naga territories, was however interspersed with many confrontations against the British administration. As for the seventy per cent Naga territories that remained outside the British administered area, they continued hostile activities against British administrators up to 1947. Many punitive raids also had to be carried out by the British into these unadministered areas throughout their suzerainty over the thirty per cent Naga territories for sixty-seven years. In the light of these facts, it can be said that the Nagas defied British rule for one hundred fifteen years in the 19th and 20th centuries (1832 – 1947). The primary concern of the British throughout their many years of Anglo-Naga association was to protect their subjects in Manipur and Assam from the marauding raids of the Nagas.


In the case of India, the British entered the Indian sub-continent from the early part of the 17th century (1611). In the first British victory, Bombay surrendered to the British East India Company in 1668. By 1757, in the battle of Plassey, Robert Clive with nine hundred British soldiers backed by one thousand five hundred Indian mercenaries routed the Nawab’s Army of over sixty thousand soldiers. Following this victory, Robert Clive colonised a population that was larger than England. From the battle of Plassey the British went on to rule the whole of India for over two hundred years.


2. The first Naga defence of their land against British intrusion was in 1832. This preceded the Indian Mutiny of 1857 by twenty five years. Anywhere the British stepped into Naga territory they were consistently met with Naga hostility and defence until 1880 (or as stated earlier up to 1947).

3. The Naga Club was formed in 1920, after the 1st World War. This was done solely on Naga initiative alone. In 1929, the Club submitted the important Naga memorandum to the British Simon Commission. In April 1946 C.R.Pawsey, the Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills, established the Naga Hills District Tribal Council (NHDTC) to help the Nagas to rebuild their 2nd World War devastated economy and villages. Within nine months, on February 2, 1946, the members of the NHDTC had transformed themselves into the Naga National Council (NNC). The NNC, besides, the numerous important memorandums submitted to the outgoing British Government and the incoming Indian Government, went on to declare Naga independence on 14th August 1947, and also conducted the Naga Plebiscite on 16th May 1951. By July 26, 1960, its President A.Z.Phizo, after escaping the Indian dragnet was addressing the world press in London on the atrocities committed by the Indian Army on sovereign independent Nagaland.


On the part of India, though as early as 1885, A.O.Hume had established the Indian National Congress in order to train Indian intellectuals to give them political and administrative training in self-governance, it took until 1931 (forty five years later) for Mahatma Gandhi to finally reach London to attend the Second Round Table Conference. In fact there were many opportunities for India to have gotten her independence even as early as the end of the 1st World War. The British Government’s post - 1st World War intentions had been clearly stated by Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu on August 20, 1917. This was followed by the Government of India Act 1919. Had India seized these opportunities in a united way, she could have gotten her independence three decades earlier then August 1947.


At the risk of blowing our own trumpet too loudly and also at the risk of offending some of my genuine Indian friends, I have made these comparative observations. However, I have done it because I have met too many arrogant Indians who think their own history is glorious as compared to ours.







In this solution-seeking section, I want to state the Naga position regarding their right to sovereignty and independence very clearly. Here I do not need to say anything about Indian independence because India has already achieved her independence on 15th August 1947. The two nations – Nagaland and India – though incomparable in size and population awoke to their respective national destinies at more or less the same period of history. It took both the nations many years to evolve from ethnic backgrounds into multi-ethnic nations. However, the tragedy for Nagaland was that, India, that giant nation on receiving her freedom after two hundred years of humiliation, turned and trampled her tiny neighbour Nagaland into the dust. Today Nagaland’s cry for freedom and Nagaland’s rainbow and star (national flag) lies crumpled and blood soaked in the battlefields of the fifty-four year Indo-Naga war. Compared to India’s national martyrs of a few thousands, more than two hundred thousand Naga martyrs lie fallen in the various battlefields stretching to over half a century. But Nagaland has not suffered alone. India too has paid a terrible price both in loss of human lives and financial expenditures. This war must end, but it will never end as long as India refuses to recognise Nagaland’s right to her own sovereignty. So here then is a summary of what Nagas believe to be their national and geographical rights which can never be surrendered.





No nation on earth, no individual in human history has come into existence without a concrete geographical reference point. This is to say no nation on earth, no individual in the world has fallen into earth from outer space. All political histories of every nation have their origin from some concrete geographical lands. Within the boundaries of this geographical land the people of the land develop their national identity, their cultural identity and their political identity. The inhabitants of the land call the land their land. The Nagas, like any other nations on earth, call their geographical land Nagaland. Corresponding to this fact, there is a geographical land called Britain for the British, a geographical Russia for the Russians and a geographical India for the Indians. The Nagas on their part are not covetous of even an inch of anybody else’s lands.

But by a tragic twist of history, Nagaland in the 20th century was severed in two through a treacherous betrayal by the British Government. Burma was gifted with half, and the other half fell under Indian dominion. Those areas that fell under Indian territory were further subdivided into four fragments, namely - Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. Thus, within the Indian territory, large chunks of Naga lands and Naga people were put into three other states against the wishes of the Nagas. This was done to reduce the Naga political issue to the smallest possible geographical area. The present Indian State of Nagaland is comprised of only 16,557 sq. kms with a population of hardly over two million people.


However, in actual fact, the greater Nagaland including those areas in Myanmar is comprised of over 1,20,000 sq. kms. This area is located at 25 60’ and 27 40’latitude North of equator and between the longitudinal lines 93 20’E and 95 15’E. The total population of the entire Naga people of the actual Nagaland would be about four million. Thus, the actual Naga territory for which all Nagas have been fighting for, for all these fifty years is almost five times the size of Israel with a population of about four million people.


Throughout their history the Nagas had defended their lands against foreign invaders and aggressors. As far as her relationship with her neighbour India is concerned, prior to 1947, not to talk of Indian Kings or Princes having ruled the Nagas, no Indian King or Prince had ever even set foot on Naga territories. Also, prior to 1947, Nagas had no affinity with India whether racially, historically, politically, culturally, religiously or any other wise. Therefore Nagaland is not part of Indian territory neither are Nagas Indians.


Another point to be noted in this connection is that since all Naga territories never came under British suzerainty, the British had absolutely no right to hand over such territories to India or Burma after their departure from their South Asian empire in 1947. Similarly, India or Burma also has absolutely no legal right to claim these territories as their territories.


Even Jawaharlal Nehru understood this fact very clearly. On August 19,1946, in connection with the proposed British Crown Colony plan, he described the Naga territories as:

The tribal areas are defined as being those long frontiers of India which are neither part of India nor Burma, nor of Indian States nor of any foreign power.

(Quoted from Phizo’s letter to Rajiv Gandhi, May 10,1986, p. 6)


How these long stretches of frontiers (which were neither Burmese nor Indian territories) could simply disappear into India and Burma after 1947 is the issue that has caused the fifty four year Indo-Naga war. What Nagas have been asserting and fighting for, for fifty years is exactly what Nehru had described. When we say we are Nagas and not Indians, we also mean we are neither Burmese nor Russians nor Africans; for our people and our land had never belonged to India or Burma or any “other foreign power.


As far as the Nagas under Indian dominion are concerned, Nagaland is not in India, but India is presently in Nagaland by invasion and subjugation. All these historical and political facts showing that Nagas were not Indians and would not join the Indian Union were conveyed to India, Britain and the world by the Nagas long before the emergence of the present Indian Union in 1947. Also when India and Britain did not take notice of these communications, the Nagas declared their independence on 14th August 1947 - one day prior to India’s declaration of her own independence.


The Nagas have been waging a war of self-defence for their geographical land for the past fifty-four years with India and Myanmar. This is because this land is their land and they want to live in their land without fear or domination as free citizens of a free country. The Nagas are fighting for their lands because they have no other lands on the whole face of the earth besides these 1,20,000 sq. kms. Therefore the question of surrender or retreat or migration to another country does not arise simply because they have no other land on the whole face of this planet earth. To retreat or run away from their land and occupy another land would be to claim other people’s land as their own. Hence the Nagas have no alternative but to stand and fight, even if to do so, could mean sure death. They have been fighting against India and Myanmar with courage born of desperation and against overwhelming odds for half a century.



Nagas not secessionist:


Contrary to India’s allegations, the Nagas neither consider it criminal nor their actions unlawful activities when they fight in self-defence for their sovereignty. The Nagas had never volitionally joined the Indian Union when it was offered to them prior to 1947. Their acts of self-defence are therefore not acts of secession. They are also neither guilty of breaking any Indian laws and thus deserving to be branded as perpetrators of unlawful activities by the Indian Government. As far as the Nagas are concerned the defence of their motherland is a moral and political duty. They owe it to themselves and their children and all future generations of Nagas to defend their God apportioned land with all their strength and might.

For them not to do so is tantamount to reducing themselves to refugees without a country to call as their own.


Hence they can never surrender their lands to India or Myanmar or any other nations on earth. India on her part must understand that Nagas are not secessionists or terrorists. The Nagas have absolutely no ill intentions of trying to destabilise India or create any problems for India. On their part they want to live in Peace with India as the most friendly neighbour.



1.     Watters, Thomas, 1904, On Yuan Chwang’s travel in India, London

2.     Mahajan, V.D., 1960, Ancient India, S. Chand & Company Ltd., Ram Nagar, New Delhi

3.     Elwin, Verrier, The Nagas in the nineteenth century, Oxford University Press, London, 1969

4.     Mullik, B.N., 1972, My Years With Nehru, 1948 – 1964, Allied Publishers, India

5.     Ao, Tajen, 1993, British Occupation of Naga Country, Naga Literature Society, Nagaland

6.     Palkhivala, Nani A., 1994, We the Nation, The Lost Decades, UBS Publishers Distributors Ltd., New Delhi

7.     Sanyü, Visier, 1995, A History of Nagas and Nagaland, Commonwealth Publications, New Delhi

8.     Mangalwadi, Vishal, 1996, Missionary Controversy, Letters to a Post Modern Indian, Nivedit Good Books Distributors, U.P., India

9.     Mangalwadi, Vishal, 1997, India the Grand Experiment, Pippa Ran Books, U.K

10.   Jamir, S.C., 1998, Reminiscences of Correspondences with A.Z.Phizo

11.   Langer, William L., 2000, An Encyclopaedia of World History, Surjeet Publications, Kamla Nagar, Delhi

12.   Colson, Charles & Pearcey, Nancy, 1999, How Now Shall We Live?, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., London

13.   Iralu, Kaka D., 2000, Nagaland and India, The Blood and the Tears, Kohima, Nagaland

14.   Iralu, Kaka D., 2001, How Then Shall We Live?, N.V.Press, Kohima, Nagaland

15.   Scott, Rev. Michael, The Naga Case – India’s Problem or the World’s? (Unpublished article)