Stories of grit & glory

Records say the first member of the Chakhesang tribe to come to Shillong was Goyiepra Kenye in the late 1940s. Since then, many members of the tribe from Nagaland had come to Shillong in pursuit of a better life. The Chakhesang Students’ Union Shillong (CSUS) recently took all members of the tribe on a walk down the memory lane on the occasion of its golden jubilee celebration.
The Chakhesang, earlier known as the Eastern Angami, are from Phek district in Nagaland. But as the state plunged into violence, youngsters left home in search of opportunities in education and career. Shillong was the closest city that had all the facilities required to take the first step out of the region into greener pastures.
Students who came from humble background lived far from homes but never forgot their roots. It was this integrity and loyalty for the community which helped many young Chakhesang to shine in their respective fields of interest.

Coming back to the story of Goyiepra Kenye, who belonged to the priestly clan of Mewumi of the Khezha Chakhesang. Born in 1911, Kenye grew up to be a bright student at Chizami Primary School. After completing intermediate from St Edmund’s College, Kenye suddenly found himself haunted by the separatist movement in his state. For the British authorities, he was a ‘wanted’ man for allegedly “aiding the Japanese forces in the recently concluded World War II”, the souvenir informs.
Later, he would become pivotal in giving an independent identity to the Eastern Angami tribe, the Chakhesang. He was among the government advisors during the meeting between the Naga People’s Convention and the Centre.
The path that Kenye paved for the generations to come was followed by several bright students from the tribe. Melhupra Vero was among them. Born in 1934, Vero came to Shillong in the fifties and completed intermediate from St Edmund’s College in 1959. He became the first Naga MP in the Rajya Sabha for two consecutive terms and the second from the state to get a Padma Shri award.
Over the years, many members of the tribe who studied in Shillong became part of the state or central governments or excelled in other fields, like acting (Bollywood actor Zhokhoi Chuzho).

Currently, there are 210 Chakhesang students in the city. According to Dekhozo Rhakho, president of CSUS (a part of the Naga Students’ Union), the union “integrates the Chakesang students staying in Shillong… and guides the students” at times of crises.
“We also enforce rules and regulations to maintain discipline and make sure that no student is involved in any immoral activities,” says Rhakho.
Phek MLA Kuzholuzo Azo Nienu, who also studied in Shillong, was the chief guest at the jubilee function. Addressing the guests there, Nienu rightly pointed out that the celebration “is a time to reflect on the past achievements as well as to introspect and chart the path to meet the challenges that lie ahead”.
Identifying that today’s millennial youth live in a world filled with complexities, he said, “Do not allow the present day problems of this world to overwhelm or drown you.”
Nienu donated Rs 2 lakh to the union and released a souvenir that chronicles the stories of the last five decades.
The dedication and perseverance that the Chakhesang youths studying in Shillong had shown is still an inspiration for this generation.
Mewetsho-u-Dianu, who is studying English at St Mary’s College, says she is proud of the history of the tribe and those people who have strived to make the Chakhesang population proud. Mewetsho has her roots in Phek but grew up in Kohima.
“Many things, including education, have improved in our state. But for higher studies we usually come to Shillong,” she adds.
“The journey till date has not been the smoothest ride but I believe with all the ups and downs we have learned and advanced in every aspect we could and the recent jubilee culminates the 50 years of history and started a new chapter for the coming generations… To better improve and grow I believe we need to be more in one with the elders residing in Shillong. That way transparency is prevalent and trust is built,” says Rhakho, the young CSUS head, summing up the journey of the tribe and the union in the city and setting goals for the new generation.
~ NM

Photo courtesy: The CSUS golden jubilee souvenir

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