CAN ROCK'N'ROLL END THE LONGEST RUNNING INSURGENCY IN ASIA?
Nagaland. This tiny pocket of jungle-covered hills sandwiched between India and Burma is one of the most remote and mysterious places on earth. The Naga, as the tribal people who live here are called, once had a reputation as fearsome head hunters. Although Indian citizens, in their appearance and folkways the Naga have little in common with their countrymen in Mumbai or Delhi.
Nagaland is a place of paradoxes - simultaneously Christian and pagan, traditional and cutting edge, dependent on largesse from New Delhi and yet craving for independence.
On ceremonial occasions, the men dance wearing feathered headdresses adorned with wild boar tusks and colorful cotton loincloths. Much like Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest, they carve animal figures into totem poles. They live in log houses decorated with buffalo skulls.
All this is on display at the annual Hornbill Festival, where the state's 16 tribes show off their traditional ceremonial dress, dances and cuisine for both gawking tourists and locals, some of whom are far more attuned to Western fashions than the Western visitors.
The festival also features a national rock contest - a battle of the bands that attracts aspiring young musicians from throughout India. The contest has been promoted by the state government as a way to connect young Nagas with the rest of India and build a viable music industry. By providing fresh opportunities for talented Nagas, the state hopes to lessen the attraction of underground insurgent groups. These groups have waged war against the Indian government for more than 60 years - making it perhaps Asia's longest running insurgency. But lately the two main rebel factions - each of which has a ceasefire with the Indian government - have engaged in fraticidal killings and extortion, resulting in many deaths and scaring off desperately-needed outside investment.
Text: Jeremy Kahn