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Nagas and their formalin fish feasts for the past decades

Kaka D. Iralu

The image of all Nagas sitting in their respective kitchens feasting on dead fishes preserved in formalin for the past 30 plus years has not been able to leave my mind since I read the papers this morning. And here, I say “all Nagas”, because even in the most interior villages, I have seen villagers relishing Pankaj, the non-local fish, which had mostly been supplied from outside for all these years. I have also often thought how this fish suddenly made its appearance in Nagaland after so many years, because we never saw this species in our markets till the late 1980’s. Now, we all know that fishes caught even in our own rivers rot in a single day. How then have we not realised that fishes transported from Andhra Pradesh or West Bengal could still reach Nagaland fresh even after four, five days across scorching India? May be, we all presumed that ice never melts, once fishes are packed in them! And to think that for all these years Nagas have been feasting on a dead body preserved in formalin which is a poisonous germicide and preservative chemical.

Both politically and economically, we Nagas were a most independent people in the world. Our political and legal systems were unsurpassed in human history. Our economic distribution of land ownership was also unique and unparalleled. However after statehood under India in 1963, a slow but sure downwards slide began to destroy our own proud culture and history. Today we are not only consuming formalin preserved Indian Pankajes, but are also consuming Indian potatoes, tomatoes, dal, brinjals, rice, oils and what not. All these foodstuffs can easily be grown in our most fertile soil and climate, but we have instead become a lazy people helplessly dependent on India even for our foods and economic survival. As for Indian suppliers who are doing huge business in Nagaland providing all these foodstuff, I hope Nagas are not naively thinking that they are supplying us with the best quality foods. As far as most of these businessmen are concerned, they are not feeding their own kith and kin, but some wild head hunting tribesman who had slain many of their own fathers and sons in the killing fields of Nagaland.

Lastly, besides eating formalin preserved Indian foods for all these years, have we Nagas, in the political dimension too, been feeding on a “Formalinised” Indian political food for all these past 55 years since statehood? If so, such a foreign imported political food would be a most poisonous food for the mental wellbeing of a nation. May God awaken the Nagas from their more than half a century sleep from political and economic responsibilities.

Author: Kaka D. Iralu

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