Nagaland for Dummies

| Fri Apr. 30, 2010 12:00 PM PDT

A Mother Jones human rights reporter, a Berkeley Journalism School Rotary World Peace Fellow, and an NPR employee walk into a Bay Area coffee shop that offers vegan doughnuts and garnishes the baked goods with sea salt. I'm pretty sure the punch line has something to do with us lamenting American indigenous oppression and widespread South Asian insurgency.

Which, yeah, is exactly what happened. To the former discussion: It turns out Oklahoma is even more messed up than I'd thought—and I'm a person who was just scathingly tweeting about it the other day. The NPR gal, who used to call Oklahoma home, explained the festivities of Land Run Day: In commemoration of the 1889 afternoon that settlers ran around claiming (formerly Indian) property, kids in elementary schools statewide claim plots of a playground, set up cardboard general stores, and pretend to barter for cigarettes with student descendants of the Indians the original holiday displaced.

To the latter discussion: I now know that I need to buy a good book about Nagaland. Or write one. Or make an incredibly violent soap opera about it. This northeastern Indian state is apparently home to 130 armed groups, 2 of which are made up of former headhunters pretty recently reformed by the Baptists, one of which wants autonomy, one of which wants secession, neither of which is going to happen. Culturally distinct from many other parts of India—in Nagaland, they sacrifice and eat cows—Nagaland has long felt isolated and neglected. Some of the militias that formed for political reasons devolved into petty but bloody extortionist groups; the Indian army has reenacted an old British Empire law that allows soldiers to shoot any suspected law-breaker; one protester has been in jail for 10 years, since she saw Indian armed forces gun down 10 people who were waiting for a bus and was arrested for going on hunger strike.

See, you can learn a lot from well-traveled career-driven hippies. Also, sea salt is actually pretty good on chocolate chip cookies. If I get invited to a community-supported-agriculture dinner party anytime soon, I might impress my hosts by arriving with dark-chocolate-chunk cookies with a little salt on top. Pink Himalayan salt, obviously.

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