Naga hope finds a voice in Japan
For the past more than 50 years, the greater Indo-Naga political question has been birthing among others, a steady progression of wide-ranging attention from interests other than those political. The academic merits and scholastic application of the indigenous Nagas’ socio-political life have been explored in one and many ways, on one platform or the other, through a situation or the next.
‘Affinity with state-less peoples’
But an explicitly new perspective was given to the struggle of history of the Naga race – from India’s North East – when the subject matter of their socio-political existence was taken up as a comparative academic discourse in a leading Japanese university in Tokyo, the chief trade city of Japan, this December.
A sequence of creative and academic events was held in the Shirokane Campus of the Japanese university, the Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo. An earlier-held photo exhibition on the tribal Nagas culminated with a symposium on December 5 and the 6th. The Naga Photo Exhibition was organized as an introductory sequence to the symposium. A university scholar from Meiji Gakuin University informed that dissertations about Nagaland were exchanged and discussed comparatively with the situations of other “nations without states” such as Okinawa (or the Okinawans) in Japan and the Kurds in central Asia.
The symposium discoursed on the Naga people and their long-standing political “process” with India as with other ‘state-less’ peoples such as the much-oppressed Kurds. Themed “Different Voices for Autonomy and Self-Determination: Situation of Nations without States,” the symposium saw discourses from eminent academia. Speaking on the theme subject on the Naga people was Dr. Abraham Lotha of St. Joseph College. A session “Naga Nationalism and its relation with International Indigenous Rights Movement” was addressed by Dr. Abraham Lotha. Member of International Peace Research Institute PRIME, Takao Takahara, was the moderator of the session on the said discourse.
On December 6, Dr Abraham Lotha delivered a paper. His presentation was one of the first efforts to address Naga issues in Japan, and the audience there was very much impressed by his speech, said a research scholar from Japan. It was informed that there were a number of questions and comments on his presentation. These included response from Okinawan participants in the symposium.
The Okinawans have been suffering from the existence of US army bases – one testy subject that has fomented anti-Japan sentiments in Okinawa and have fueled the call for the Ryukyu independence movement from the mainland. The Okinawan participants felt encouraged by the struggle of the Naga people and their active participation in the United Nations and other international networks, a scholar who attended the event informed.
In February this year, a week-long study tour to Nagaland was undertaken by a number of Japanese students from the university led by a director of PRIME (International Peace Research Institute), Prof Takeo. “We have learned a lot about the history of the Naga people and your movement for independence during our tour. So after coming back to Japan, we’ve decided to hold a symposium on some relevant issue,” said a Japanese research scholar and teacher from Japan, who wished not to be named.
She said the theme “Different Voices for Autonomy and Self-Determination: Situation of Nations without States” (of the symposium) came out to think about the issue of Nagaland in comparison with Okinawa and Kurds, two other cases from Asia. “At the same time, we’ve decided to hold a photo exhibition so that we can inform more about rich Naga culture and society, and not only focus on political aspect,” she said.
The scholar said no future work has been planned for now, but so far the said events have attracted great amount of attention and some Naga residents in Japan are “willing to do something together.” “So this is just the beginning, but I also hope that there will be greater attention on Nagaland and Naga issues in Japan,” the scholar said.