In conversation with Makiko Kimura

By Anjuman Ara Begum,,

Makiko Kimura is a well-known Japanese scholar among the academicians in India. She has worked as Research Associate, the International Peace Research Institute, Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo. She arrived in India on a research visa as a research scholar in the JNU in 2000 and that’s the beginning and no stopping. As a sociologist, Makiko worked on crucial issues in north east India particularly in Assam on the Nellie massacre, internal displacement and land issues. Makiko spoke her mind to Anjuman Ara Begum of and shared her interests and works in north east India.

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Makiko Kimura

When was the first time you heard about north east India?

In 1997-98, when I started my research in Japan I wanted to study about the indigenous movement in India. I did lots of internet research and came to know about the Naga movement for independence. The first document I read about Nagaland was regarding some memorandum submitted to the United Nations’ working Group on Indigenous issues. I read in different journals about the struggles and the movement in 1950s and it was so much fascinating for me. My father was posted in Delhi when he was working in the aviation sector. I came to Delhi, went to different book stores and came to know about the Naga issues. I was wondering why these people didn’t get their demands met. They have even done referendums. So that became my topic for MA dissertation in Kiyo University.

Did you get enough material on the topic in a place like Delhi?

There are some books mostly from Indian academics, mainly by politicians and bureaucrats who were dealing with the issue. Reading those books gave me a clear idea of the sequence of events happening till the Shillong Accord of 1975. But I couldn’t get a clear idea of what happened after 1975. Also after 1980s, the Naga groups were operating from jungle. And also it was the time when organizations like NPMHR started using UN mechanisms. Indigenous People Declaration also came into being during that period. So I took it as an issue of further research and did my dissertation for MA in Japan.

What took you to India, particularly north east India?

I wanted to do my research on Nagaland and I am a sociologist. For a sociologist, field work is very important and people told me that being a foreigner, I cannot enter Nagaland. Getting restricted area permit to travel to Nagaland would be very difficult for me. So that was the time I switched to Assam. It was 1999 when I decided it and the AASU (All Assam Students Union) movement was peaceful and I thought it would not be a problem. I could do field work in Assam. I applied in the JNU and got fellowship. So that was the beginning.

Then what got you to Nellie?

I started studying how AASU started the mobilization process. I heard about Nellie and decided to visit the place. I had no previous idea that it was such a huge massacre. All I knew is that there was some attack.

What was your first impression about Nellie?

It was 2001. I stayed there for two months. My first impression is that it looked very cool and peaceful. I lived with a Tiwa family. They were very hospitable and always ready to help. On the other hand, I found the Muslims very reluctant to talk. If I asked something, they were hesitant and I would go here and there and wonder why. In the beginning, Muslim people found it difficult to talk about the incident. It was easy for the attackers to talk about the happenings but not the victims.

What do you think is the reason?

Well, it could be frustration. Also I had a Tiwa interpreter with me. So may be people were reluctant. Later I took a Muslim interpreter and that time people were easier to talk to me. But this kept troubling me to think why non-Muslims were easy to talk about it and Muslims reluctant. It’s also fear. I focused more why the Tiwa were so enthusiastic to talk about it. Tiwas informed me that after the movement they stopped calling themselves Assamese. Tiwa people told me that they did a lot of sacrifices for the movement.

What was the 2004 incident in which you were not allowed to deliver a talk in Guwahati?

I was supposed to deliver a talk at the Omeo Kumar Das Institute of Social Change and Development in 2004 on the Nellie massacre and Prof. Sanjib Barua invited me. But just half an hour before the scheduled talk, we got a fax from the Home Department asking to stop it as it may hamper the peace and tranquility in the state. It was stopped immediately.

What is the topic of your Ph.D.?

My Ph.D. is on the Assam movement and I did a chapter on Nellie on how people remember the massacre. I focused on how people narrate the incident after so many years. I completed my Ph.D. in 2004 from JNU.

Does it include media representation of the Nellie massacre? If yes, what is your view about the representation in the media about Nellie massacre and what people narrated before you? Do you find a difference?

Yes. I covered the Assamese and Bengali media reporting on the Nellie massacre as well as the pan Indian media. What happened and what was reported in the media were quite different. At that time too many incidents were happening. The Assamese media didn’t get hold of all the incidents happening. They were also not clear about what was happening where. Nellie was first reported in the pan Indian media partly because a journalist from the national media happened to be the eye witness of the whole massacre. Some massacres that took place in remote areas were not reported. Nellie was more or less accessible. The Times of India reported on Nellie.

Besides the Nellie research, what are the other issues you have studied on North east India?

After doing research I was interested to study land issues as lots of problems erupted from it. So I did my post doctorate on land issues in Assam. I did field work in Jonia, Nagoan district. I also studied about the encroachment of forest in Balipara of Sonitpur district.

What is your current focus?

I want to study on the displacement in BTAD (Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts) areas of Assam. I would like to write a book on it.

What are your hobbies?

I am a very boring person but I also engage myself on indigenous issues in Japan. I like swimming, reading and skiing in winter.