Those who don’t believe that boiled
food can be both hearty and tasty have yet to try Naga food.
Unlike other cooking, oil is seldom used in true Naga cooking.
A typical Naga meal comprises mostly of rice, which is
generally eaten with meat of some sort and assorted
vegetables. Salt, chilies (both fresh and dry), a special
variety of garlic and ginger replace the varied Indian spices.
Other common seasonings include fermented soya bean, dried yam
leaves, fresh and dried bamboo shoots, and the resultant
pungent taste may be a difficult for first-timers. The
majority of the Nagas are very fond of chilies the most famous
and lethal of which is simply called ‘Raja’.
The common view is that Nagas eats everything that walks,
crawls or flies and a visit to the weekly “haat “ confirm this
for the unbeliever. Along with beef, pork, chicken, mutton,
fish, dog meat, wild birds and mammals are sold openly. Tubs
full of frogs, snails, bees, silkworms and larvae make an
interesting sight but not for the weak stomached.
But this is not
to say that every Naga home indulges in all of the above! Meat
like that of the Mithun is only consumed during feasts or
weddings. Occasionally the meat is dried or smoked and often
cooked with vegetables such as pumpkins, squash, varieties of
beans like soya.
Official prohibition means that there are no liquor stores or
bars but the traditional rice beer is easily available.
To claim that
hunting and trapping of birds and mammals in Nagaland does not
exist would be foolish. In our short visit we found enough
proof of both, we met several hunters, and saw enough evidence
of both guns and slingshots being used. A trip to the local
food markets reveals that wild birds and animals are openly
sold. We saw found several rare species of birds including
forest and game-birds, being sold strung together in small
bunches. Khalij Pheasants, laughingthrushes, Fairy Bluebirds,
assorted bulbuls were all seen and photographed by us. Mammals
included Leopard Cat, the highly endangered Brush-tailed
porcupines, Orange-bellied and Hoary-bellied Squirrels, Large
Indian Civets and Himalayan Palm Civets. Wildlife enforcement
seemed to be non-existent and most people were unaware that
hunting is totally prohibited by the laws of the land.
On the more
positive side, one source claimed that, in relative terms, the
hunting numbers were low and that it did not constitute a very
serious threat to the wildlife of the region. He went on to
argue that the forests were fecund enough to replenish all
that was hunted. Furthermore it is now claimed that
traditional hunting skills were in decline and the cost of
ammunition has gone up considerably.
We, however, felt that experiments like the Khonoma initiative
might prove to be a better substitute, as it provides the
villagers with an alternative source of income. The powerful
church could also be used to spread the anti-hunting message.
After we left Nagaland we learnt, with anguish, that
hunting had been re-opened in Khonoma, albeit for a short
duration. The village council having succumbed to local
pressure and the killing-fields were rampant once again.
Angulie later confirmed that he has recently seen and
photographed a dead Chestnut-vented Nuthatch in the local food
bazaar. We hope it is not one of the pair we saw!
A sad encounter
Kohima War Cemetery
advance into India was halted at Kohima in April 1944 and
Garrison Hill, a long wooded spur on a high ridge west of the
village, was the scene of perhaps the most bitter fighting of
the whole Burma campaign when a small Commonwealth force held
out against repeated attacks by a Japanese Division. The
fiercest hand to hand fighting took place in the garden of the
Deputy Commissioner's bungalow, around the tennis court, but
the heaviest casualties on both sides occurred after relieving
forces reached the Garrison and the Japanese were driven off
the ridge, so re-opening the road to Imphal. KOHIMA WAR
CEMETERY lies on the battle ground of Garrison Hill. No trace
remains of the bungalow, which was destroyed in the fighting,
but white concrete lines mark and preserve permanently the
historic tennis court. The cemetery now contains 1,420
Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. At the highest
point in the cemetery stands the KOHIMA CREMATION MEMORIAL
commemorating 917 Hindu and Sikh soldiers whose remains were
cremated in accordance with their faith. At the lower end of
the cemetery, near the entrance, is a memorial to the 2nd
Division. It bears the inscription;- "When you go home Tell
them of us and say, For your tomorrow, We gave our today." The
cemetery also contains a memorial to the 2nd Battalion, the
Dorsetshire Regiment and a number of other regimental
memorials have been erected on and near Garrison Hill.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission)