This is an extract from the speech by Sushri Aning Zeliang at the 3rd World Hindu Conference, Kumbha Mela, Prayag
I am from Naga society of Nagaland. Our country Bharatvarsh is still not fully aware of this Naga society. People have general impression that all the Nagas have become Christian and by virtue of conversion to Christianity they have become anti-Hindu and anti-India. It is a fact that nearly 85 per cent Nagas have converted to Christianity. This conversion has alienated Nagas from Hindu society. The Christian missionaries and British government did their best to keep Nagas away from Hindu influence. They entrusted Church with a task to propagate missionary education, primary health care and English language. They distorted our history and condemned our forefathers as wild, savage, heathen, naked, raw meat-eaters and head-hunters. They destroyed our traditional village institutions and customary control of elders over society particularly youths. They condemned our religion and culture. They encouraged the youths to disobey Naga elders. They dishonoured our customary laws and introduced foreign religion and strange culture.
Due to nexus between British government, bureaucrats and Church, general Naga people were frightened. They were stunned to see the cruel behaviour of ?messengers of Messiah? and ?preachers of peace? in white gown. Anybody who opposed British rule and Christian coversion was done away with. The Angami warriors of Khonoma, Mezoma and Kekrima repulsed British army and British missionaries from their territory. The people of Tuensang and Mon areas revolted against British expansion and foreign religion. Forty-eight Chakhesang youths of Thevopesumi village of Phek District were killed in one go for opposing conversion and insurgency. Haipou Jadonang was hanged for opposing British rule and Christian conversion. Rani Gaidinliu was chased by British army to kill her and some of the Christian Nagas were hired to spy against her. She was caught from Poilwa village and awarded life imprisonment. Pou N.C. Zeliang met the same fate. He was condemned for working for Naga religion, Naga culture and sovereignty of Bharatvarsh. Many Naga elders are the witness of all these tortures. I have been the President of Zeliangrong Heraka Pailei Baudi (Heraka Women Society). My colleagues and I have similar experience.
A decade ago, Naga insurgency was on the peak. Today, it is on decline. Factional killings, rampant corruption, carnal education and lack of spirituality have destroyed the vigour of Naga society. Naga people have realised that the fate of Naga society lies with Bharatvarsh. Naga leaders like Haipou Jadonang, Rani Gaidinliu and Dr T. Sakhrie have explained this to Nagas during their lifetime. Today, present-day Naga celebrities like S.C. Jamir, Dr Hokishe Sema and Pou N.C. Zeliang have been explaining this truth to Naga community. The intolerant section of our society opposed this thesis vehemently and reacted violently. But the reality cannot be suppressed. Today, Nagas have diverted their attention on quality education, economic development, virtuous living and to shun anti-Indian image.
Nagas have realised that their forefather'sreligion, ancient colourful culture, binding festivals, customary laws, traditional village institutions, mother language, glorious history, virtuous living, honesty and industrious Nagas have been replaced by one phrase??unique Naga history.? This is the reason that silent Naga society has risen against these excesses. They are silently working hard to restore the lost glory of Naga. They admire excelling of any developed society of our country. The hostility against Hindu society and Bharatvarsh has become a thing of the past. Nagas wish to live in complete harmony with Hindu society. Haipou Jadonang, Rani Gaidinliu, Pou N.C. Zeliang, Dr. Hokishe Sema and S.C. Jamir have shown the parth of harmonious living with Hindus society. They have built a bridge over gulf between Nagas and Hindu society. All Indian citizens?Nagas and Hindus?can cross the gulf of misunderstanding over the bridge built by Naga geniuses refered above through their selfless sacrifices. Zeliangrong Heraka Association has its on share of contribution in bridging this gap and rejuvenating mutual trust between Nagas and Hindu society.
Before the advent of Christianity, Nagas referred themselves as Hindu by religion and nationality. There are many common customs between Naga Hindus and Hindus of other part of the country. Nagas follow solar calendar and full moon has special significance in religious practices. Earth is regarded as ?mother? and sustainer of all the living beings. Our life is agriculture based, our festivals are agriculture based, our food habits and way of the life are also agriculture based, best suited in the given geography environment and eco-system. Nagas worship formless God?The Almighty. Pooja articles are agricultural produces and materials available in the surroundings. These are all common with Hindu practices in other parts of the country.
Similar practices prevail also in other Vanvasi communities of the north-east region. The way of worship in Lungpung festival of Khashis and Jaintias of Meghalaya, pooja system practiced in Mizo society and propagated by Nunnalal-chungkua in Mizoram and religious practices in other Vanvasi communities of the north-east region have many commonalities with larger Hindus society. These common bonds are required to be highlighted. The process of social assimilation should be accelerated and cultural exchange should be encouraged. But this is not enough. The larger Hindu society must come forward to the rescue of their brothers in the north-east region who are struggling for their survival in volcanic situation in the areas adjacent to international border.
(Sushri Aning Zeliang is former President Zeliangrong Heraka Pailei Baudi, Nagaland.)