Monday, August 27, 2012

‘Great Game East: India, China and the struggle for Asia’s most volatile frontier’ by Bertil Lintner

"The only outsiders who ventured into the Naga Hills after Burma's independence were missionaries from the Kachin Baptist Convention. As the Kachin had been converted into Christianity at the turn of the century, and the new religion had spread rapidly among them, they decided that it was their duty to convert other tribes in the area too. They began to work through the schools that did exist in a few Naga villages along Ledo Road, where the first Kachin missionaries to the Nagas – Labwi Hting Nan, Zau Tu and Tinghkaw – arrived in the early 1950s. They based themselves at Shingbwiyang, a small town on the road which had been a major base for the Americans and other Allied forces during World War II.'
"Zau Tu baptised the first batch of six Naga schoolchildren in 1954, followed by another group of twelve young converts won over by Tinghkaw the following year. But the real pioneer in the field was Labwi Hting Nan, who opened a new school in Rangkhu Sumri in 1956, and another in Kalawn three years later. This was well south of Ledo Road, inside the actual Naga Hills where there were not even proper mule tracks. He remembers seeing 'plenty of skulls in the villages, especially in long houses belonging to chiefs.' But even the Kachin missionaries did not dare to venture into the wildest area of them all: the mountainous country between the Namphuk River and the Indian border. That was where the Nagas from the Indian side later established their base area.'
"'Thieves, adulterers and prisoners of war were sacrificed to the spirits and their heads kept for ceremonial purposes,' Labwi Hting Nan told me when I met him in Kachin state in 1986. People believed there was spiritual value in a head, and the cutting of heads was the ultimate celebration of victory in war, or for a young warrior to show his manliness."
(pp. 256-7, 'Great Game East: India, China and the struggle for Asia's most volatile frontier' by Bertil Lintner – Harper)

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