A Naga Sojourn
By Bhudeb Chakrabarti
Nagaland, well-known for its natural beauty and breath-taking pristine natural forests is also known for its warm and hospitable people. In December 1968, I was posted in Pfutsero in Kohima District of Nagaland, as Second-in-Command of a CRPF Battalion. The Battalion was deployed to aid the Government of Nagaland in maintaining Law and Order.
The State of Nagaland was formed on 1st December 1963.
The “Cease Fire” between the Security Forces and the Insurgents was in force when I joined my new Battalion. Our Battalion Headquarters were stationed in Pfutsero at a height of 7000 feet. It was the highest and the coldest among the inhabited places in Nagaland.
In view of the “Cease Fire”, we were asked to conduct ”Fraternization Programme’’ with the Naga people. This gave us the opportunity to observe and know about life and culture of Nagas. We made good friends, developed close contacts with the locals and participated in their social functions.
Knowing the Nagas
Our Unit was located in the area where the Chakhesang Nagas lived. It is said that the Nagas who migrated to this land first settled in this area, and from here spread to all parts of Nagaland.
Each Naga tribe has its distinct customs, language and dress.
The Angami Nagas and a few other tribes have beautiful terraces where they practise terrace cultivation. Konyak Nagas are known for their exquisite bamboo and wood carvings, and their ability to produce useful and artistic objects.
Naga villagers won our trust
Once we were invited to a marriage ceremony in a village. We went by our convoy up to a certain point where we were received by our local hosts. Having known about the honesty and uprightness of Nagas, we went to the village on foot, unarmed. We later came to learn that an underground group had camped somewhere near the village, but as we were their guests, they did not harm us.
It reinforced our belief in their trustworthiness and their open-hearted nature.
Settling of land dispute by Naga villagers
During one of my visits to the Circle Headquarter in a place called Chazouba, the Circle Officer, who was the local civil authority, told me that two adjoining villages had a dispute over some land, which they decided to sort out in a combat. He asked for the CRPF help to maintain Law and Order.
On reaching the place with our Force, I saw that the entire population of both the villages got together there. The village women served food and drinks to their menfolk to provide more strength to their muscles and sinews. After the necessary preparations, the warriors of both the villages faced each other in a spacious open area. Each village formed a compact body of men who pushed the other side with all their strength, almost like a tug of war.
As we meddled in between and tried to restrain them, they conveyed through suitable gestures that they did not want us to interfere. We stood aside and monitored the proceedings on the advice of the Circle Officer.
They were engaged in the unarmed combat for about an hour, but none of the groups yielded ground to the other side. Ultimately they decided to call off the battle vowing to meet again.
The episode revealed the fiercely independent character of the Nagas, their martial traditions and their indigenous ways of resolving conflicts.
My sojourn in Nagaland came to an end in Jan 1971 when I received the order of my transfer on promotion as Commandant. During the two years of my stay in Nagaland, we received wholehearted co-operation from the local population. Except for an odd incident of ambush by some disparate rebel elements, my tenure passed peacefully. I found Nagas to be one of the friendliest and most hospitable people I have come across.
I learnt from my tenure in Nagaland that success in endeavours depend on good teamwork and goodwill of the people we serve.
This article is contributed by Bhudeb Chakrabarti, Dy IG (Retd) CRPF. He has commanded several Operational and Administrative functions in the force and has imparted training to gazetted officers of CRPF and other central & state police forces.
Featured Image Attribution: https://www.mapsofindia.com/nagaland/
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