Achungmei, who belongs to the Naga tribe in Manipur, shares some key aspects of her community, culture and identity.
“I am very close to my community. Wherever the Nagas come from – Nagaland, Manipur, whichever state, we feel as one when we get together,” Achungmei told us. The formation of Nagaland in 1960 divided the Nagas into four different administrative states, resulting in ethnic violence, movements for autonomy and factionalism amongst different revolutionaries. Ideally, Achungmei believes it would serve the Naga tribes in Manipur best if they could become a part of Nagaland, without having to leave their homes.
“There is always some tension in the hilly areas, because of everything that has happened here. There is a ceasefire now. But the Nagas have begun leaving Imphal to live in the hilly areas. It is still a little unstable. The tension hasn’t disappeared completely.” Achungmei studied and worked in Bangalore for a few years. She said, “I feel like I am a part of India. I feel like an Indian citizen. But I was treated differently. My classmates understood, but if there was someone I didn’t know, they would never think I was Indian. I know it’s impossible to have a separate country, but at least a separate state for the Nagas – I want this.”
Despite all the tension, the Nagas are a fun-loving community who enjoy singing, dancing and playing social games at various community functions. Tonight, as the majority of Nagas are Christian, there are Christmas Eve celebrations taking place. For the last two nights, Achungmei has been out carol-singing with her friends and family. This evening she will be attending the gathering in her town which starts at sundown and goes on till after midnight. They begin with the pastor opening the hall where the festivities are to take place, and a small mass. Then there’s dinner, dancing, entertainment programs, and another mass. “All the youth and the elders get together today. We sit and we pray for the arrival of Jesus Christ.” She wishes everyone a Merry Christmas!
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