Nagas - History and Cultural Relations

While folk traditions regarding the history of the various Naga tribes abound, scholarly consensus has not been reached concerning their origin. Generally speaking, very littie is known of the origin of any of the Mongoloid groups whose southwesterly migration brought them ultimately to the sub-Himalayan region and northeastern India (e.g., the Bondos and the Garos). Their presence is attested in these areas as early as the tenth century B . C . What is known is that these tribes spoke Tibeto-Burman dialects and that it is probable that their original homeland was in the region between the Huang-Ho and Yangtze (Ch'ang) rivers in northwestern China. These peoples came in successive migratory waves for several centuries (after the invasions of the Aryans in western India). The geographic extent of these migrations was quite considerable; Aryan-Mongoloid contact took place in the centuries that followed. The Mongoloid tribes were not homogeneous. Their languages, social structures, and cultures were diverse, and in the early centuries of the Common Era they began extensive expansion, from their initial settlements in the Irawadi and Chindwin river regions in northern Myanmar (Burma), throughout Assam, the Cachar Hills, and the Naga Hills. From the thirteenth century onward, the Ahoms—rulers of Assam from 1228 until the British annexation of the province in 1826—had extensive cultural contact with various Naga tribes. The nature of the relationship Between these tribes and the Ahoms ranged from cooperative to antagonistic. Naga tribes living near the plains paid annual tribute to Ahom rulers as a sign of allegiance, for which the Nagas were given revenue-free lands and fisheries. These were granted with the understanding that the Naga would refrain from raids in the plains areas. Trade and commerce were also extensive, with the Nagas trading salt (a particularly Important medium of exchange), cotton, medicinal herbs, ivory, bee's wax, mats, and daos (adzes) for Assamese rice, cloth, and beads. At times, northern Ahom raiders attacked Naga villages, taking booty and demanding tribute. However, these incursions did not establish lasting Assamese rule over the Naga Hills region. The Naga retained their independence until the British annexation in the early nineteenth century. The British added Assam to the East India Company's Territories in 1820. In 1832 they attempted to annex Naga Country but met with sustained and effective guerrilla resistance from Naga groups, particularly the Angami tribe. The British responded by sending approximately ten military expeditions into Naga territory between 1835 and 1851. Guerrilla activity continued unabated and British posts were subsequently established in the Angami region. This marked an important point in the process of Nagaland annexation. A unified Angami response was mounted in 1878 with raids on British forces undertaken by villages and village clusters. The imperial response involved the burning of offending villages. Angami resistance eventually met with failure and they Eventually became an administered tribe under British rule. With the subjugation of this region, the extension of alien rule throughout Nagaland soon followed, further widening the cultural gap between the Naga and other hill peoples and the Indian inhabitants of the lowlands. British treatment of the Naga was favorable. They allowed no Indian to function as administrator of the hill districts and attempted to prevent exploitation of the hill peoples by plains folk. Christian missionary activity soon followed British annexation, with American Baptists assuming the lead. Rapid progress in conversion was made. Increased literacy and a growing sense of Naga solidarity—for which the official organ of expression was the Naga National Council (NNC)—resulted in the NNC's claim for regional independence in 1947. The departure of the British and the emergence of Indian self-rule made Naga political autonomy within a sovereign India a negotiable possibility. Total independence for the Naga homeland, However, was an impossibility. Violence erupted in Nagaland in 1955 as Indian forces tried to quell Naga secession efforts, and in 1956 the NNC declared the existence of the Federal Government of Nagaland. Conflict continued in spite of efforts to satisfy the call for Naga political freedom by the granting of statehood (a cause championed by the Naga Peoples Convention). In 1963 the efforts of this organization and the segment of the Naga populace which it represented resulted in the formation of the state of Nagaland. In spite of this action, hostilities continued. Under the sponsorship of the Baptist Church, a peace commission was formed and a cease-fire declared between the Nagaland federal government and the government of India on 24 May 1964. The cease-fire lasted until 1 September 1972 when an attempt on the life of the chief minister of Nagaland resulted in the Indian government's termination of the cease-fire and banning of the NNC. Armed resistance by the NNC continued into the 1970s and was not suppressed until the Shillong Accord was signed by representatives of the Indian government and the Nagaland federal government in November 1975. Isolated pockets of resistance persisted into the late 1970s, but effective resistance to Indian hegemony has since ceased. One very small Naga underground antigovernment operation existed in exile in Burma in the 1980s, but its influence in Nagaland at that time was minuscule.

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anurag bisani
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Jan 23, 2014 @ 5:05 am
THE AHOMS WERE a tribal community who estlablished a kingdom in a region of present-day assam.The original homeland of ahoms may have been china.

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