The term “Kacha Nagas,” originally coined by Western anthropologists during ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork in the then-Northeast Frontier, especially among the many Naga Hills people groups, seems to have re-emerged, albeit limited to social media.

This outdated term, primarily used for classifying people into tribes or sub-tribes, also appeared in a classified Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) file titled “The Nagas” in August 1963. The CIA research report was meant only for “CIA internal use”; however, it was approved for release, in other words, declassified, on August 24, 1999.

The pertinent question to ask perhaps is ‘not’ how the term “Kacha Nagas” found its way into a research report of the CIA, but ‘who,’ or ‘which’ people group were classified as “Kacha Nagas” in the findings of the CIA report.

Editorial | Nehruvian approach to the Nagas and Northeast India

It’s interesting to note that the U.S. government agency, primarily concerned with national security, in its research report on the Nagas of India, only lists a few Nagaland tribes. In file number, CIA-RDP85-00671R000200060001-5, it states, “The term Kacha Nagas refers collectively to several tribes or tribal divisions, principally composed of Zemi, Lyeng (or Lyengma, Liangmi), Kabui and Maruong people. Reports indicate that these four groups have been closely allied and have acted as a political unit for some years.”

Further, the CIA research report states, “Originally the Kacha Nagas were located around Mekroma, but subsequent migrations led them across the Barail Range, mainly in the directions of Tehema and Khonoma. More recently their reported locations have been the Naga Hills District, Manipur, and along the Barak River as far south as the North Cachar Hills.”

Kacha Naga

The CIA report does not include under the heading NAGA TRIBES OF MANIPUR — the Mao Nagas, Maram Nagas, Chiru Nagas, Maring Nagas, Tangkhul Nagas, etc. under the “Kacha Nagas” category.

Interested individuals and researchers may refer to the CIA file here | https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP85-00671R000200060001-5.pdf

On the contrary, the term “Kacha Nagas” in today’s usage is completely misplaced and unfounded. Like many burdens of the modern era, the term itself carries subtle stereotypical characteristics. Today, it is largely used in social media comment sections to antagonize certain sections of the Naga tribes spread over the Northeast region.

The ethnic tension between the tribal and non-tribal communities in Manipur state has perhaps given courage to those keypad warriors among the opposing groups to use the term “Kacha Nagas” as a munition. This term is employed to repeat the same treatment the colonial masters used, implying sentiments like “I’m your lord,” “I’m superior to you,” or hinting at a caste-like assertion, “I’m purer than you.”

The term “Kacha Nagas,” purely a colonial connotation, is also still in use among a section of Nagas in Nagaland State, often coined to insinuate similar ethnic slurs to certain Nagas of Manipur. This reflects a lingering attachment to long-gone colonial connotations where one race looked down on others as their inferiors.

The revelation of the CIA’s report should be a good start to correct the misnomer — “Kacha Nagas.” And for those not in agreement, kindly reach out to the CIA.

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