Thursday, April 2, 2009

Consolidation of British Powers in the Naga Hills

With the annexation of Assam after the treaty of Yandaboo in1826, the British inheritated from the Ahoms , the legacy of hostile relationship with many hill tribes on the North-East Frontiers. Among these Frontiers tribes, the toughest and the most war like were the various tribes who were collectively known as the “NAGAS”. Theu inhabited the Northern slope of the Patkai and the Barai mountains facing Manipur and Cachar and also the low hills to the south of Sivsagar district beyong Naogaon and North Cachar.
The Anglo-Naga relation in the beginning of the British rule was guided primarily by three factors.
a) The bogey of another war with Burma.
b) Economic interest of the company
c) Administrative expectancy and security of Assam and Cachar Frontier.
The British first come into contact with the Angami country of the Naga hills in 1832, when Capt. Jenkins and Perbenton cross into the Naga territory during their strategic survey of the road communication between Assam and Manipur. The companies government which wanted to rule Assam cheaply did not want to burden their administration with further expedition on what the called “ Jungle beyond Assam”. That was why it was not part of early British policy to occupied the Naga hills. A policy of non-intervention was followed and the Nagas were left to themselves.
But very soon the British Government was confronted with the alarming problems casued by the frequent menace Naga raids on the British subjects of the Naogoan and Cachar frontier. The Angami Nagas used to carry out frequent raids and incursions like the Angamis , the Nagas in the east of the river Dhansiri were divided into a number of warring tribes. Under the sanction of Upper Assam ,these Eastern Naga tribes – The Ao’s, Lotha’s ,Rengma’s came under the sphere of British influence . But peace in Sivsagar and Lakhinpur frontiers was left by violated the inter tribal strife among the Eastern Nagas also by their out rigorous raids on the British Territories.
The protection of the British subjects on the plains and the security of the Assam frontiers, thus became the urgent concern with the companies government which wanted to accomplish these object by incurring minimum expenditure. Thus ,the task of checking Naga aggression was entrusted with the Raja of Manipur and the Cachar chief Tularam Senapati. The local officers including Capt. Jenkins ,commissioner of Assam began to pressurize the supreme government for annexation of the Naga’s territories but in views of the supported thread, it was considered expedient not to take any bold measures against the Naga’s. The government continued to depend on the Raja of Manipur and even encourage him to occupied the Naga territory lying between the Dhansiri and Dayang. As the British relation with Ava was not at all satisfactory, the policy of the government was to strengthen the vassal kingdom of Manipur as a bulwark against Burma and the Naga.
But these measures instead of solving the Naga problem aggravated it and the Naga raids went on increasing. The Naga raids were cause by various motives like procuring Human heads from the raids, capture of placement for slave trade, search of salt-spring at the foot hills, diminishing opportunity for trade in the plains after the advent of the English and their occupation of Assam and Cachar and also because of the oppression and out-rage prepetuarate by the Manipur soldiers.
The earlier policy of depending on Manipuri Raja and Tularam Senapati having prove unsuccessful, it was decided to adopt a policy of coercion and repression. Between 1839-50, the local authority sent as many as 10 military expeditions in the Angami country to show British power and seized and punished the Naga races. The British officers , one after another , went inside the Naga territories and tried all possible means to consolidate the Naga’s who shown extreme antagonism to any sort of British control. The impenetrable jungles and mountains afforded so much facilities to the Angami Naga’s that their apprehension or punishment by British forces became almost an impossible task. In 1847, Capt. John butler , Principal Assiatant of Naogoan succeeded in establishing an advance military post in Samagutin and place , one Bhogchand in-charge of the post. But Bhogchand was killed ,when he interfere in the internal quarrel of the Angami villages of Khonoma and Mozema. The murder of Bhogchand was followed by government retaliatory measures. To advents the death of Bhogchand, military operations were carried out in the Angami country in the course of which the government forces capture Mozema, demolishing the strong Naga fort of Khonoma and attack the Naga village of Kikrema. A bloody battle was fought in which hundred’s of Naga’s were killed. These operations resulted in wanton destruction of Naga villages, burning their granaries and field crops.
While the Commissioner of Assam was hopeful of extending British control over the Naga Hills after the successful expedition against the Kikrema village. The President-in- Council at culcutta directed the British troops to withdraw from the Naga Hills. In his minute of 21st February 1851, Dal Housie, was against establishing British sovereignty over the Naga’s. In ascertain the policy of non-intervention towards the Naga’s , Dal Housie kept in mind the commercial and economic interest of the East India Company. Explaining why the government should not attain to obtain control of the Naga Hills, Dal Housie emphatically stated,” our possession could bring no profit to us and could as costly to us as it would be unproductive”. Dal Housie pointed out that the plundering in road of the Naga’s od the low land of Assam and Cachar could be more easily and cheaply prevented by the establishment of effective means of defence in the British frontiers.
Accordingly, the Government withdrew its forces from Dimapur in 1851 and abstained from any kind of further interference in the affairs of the Naga’s. In 1854, Capt. S.H. Bivar was appointed Special officer(SO) to North Cachar with Asaloo as his headquarter. A condor of out-post was established along the whole of the Naga Frontier but attempts to enroll the Angami’s into the Local police militia meet with little success; also the attempt to armed the border villages failed. The British tried the policy of establishing Kuki colony to used them as buffer colonies against the Naga’s and the Kuki levy was also raise but these was not successful as raiders found it easy to by-pass them.
The laissez faire policy was followed for about 15 years. Dimapur was abandon and Porpathar became the forward post. At one stage , the British contempt abandoning North Cachar due to their inability to protect the area from the depredation of the hostile trib. The policy of absolute withdrawer encourages the Naga’s to become more positively aggressive.
Meanwhile, the rapid extension of tea cultivation along the Sivsagar and Cachar frontier and the tariff in rubber brought down by the Naga trader alter the situation and the Government began to see the opportunity for economic exploitation of the Naga hills. The annexation of lower Burma in 1852, remove the fear of any attack from the Burmese quarter. All these practice combine together to induce the government to abandon the policy of non- interference. Col. Hopkins, the chief commissioner of Assam decided to appoint again a British official at Samaguting and the Lt. Governor of Bengal Cecil Bedon agreed to his decision in order to assert British authority over the Naga and to bring them under the system of administration. Thus in 1866, Samaguting was re-occupied and it was made the headquarters of the Naga hills . The new district comprise of the territory lying to the west of Dhansiri, and the country on both the banks of the Doyang river. An European officer designated as Deputy- Commissioner (D.C) was place in-charge of the new districts of the Naga hills . This was the beginning of a forward policy directed towards the subjugation and controls of the Naga hills.
The permanent establishment of a British officer in the Angami territory had the effect for the time-being in stopping the annual raid upon the British settle- districts.Capt. Batler, the D.C. whose title , was in 1872 , change to that of political agent press the government for adoption of the forward policy and the commissioner Hopkins while forwarding Batler’s report wanted to occupied the whole of the Naga hills by the same method as of the Khasi’s hills was taken. In 1874, the Naga hills district was made over to the charge of a newly appointed Chief Commissioner of Assam. A survey of the whole Naga territory was taken with the purpose of not only exploitation of the hills but also for its political occupation. The Chief Commissioner Keating wanted to occupy the Lotha territory and protect Sivsagar frontier from Lotha raids. While proceeding with the survey party, Capt . Batler was meet with a serious opposition from the Lotha Naga’s resulting his death. The government, as a retaliatory measure , burned the village of Wokha which was responsible for Butler’s death. In 1876, Wokha was occupied and made a sub-divisioner head quarter. In the same year , the district head –quarter of the Naga hills was shifted from Samaguting to Wokha but after the occupation of Kohima in 1878 the district head quarter was transfer to Kohima and Wokha continued to remain as a sub-division . Once a secure footing on the hills had been obtain further territorial expansion became almost inevitable. After taking control of Angami’s and Lotha’s territory the forward policy was initiated in the Ao country which was incorporated in 1889.


The Battle of Khonoma was the last battle that the Angami’s fought to check the British aggression. The circumstance leading to the battle could be trace to the policy of consolidation followed by the British. The Angami’s were not prepared to submit their freedom to a foreign power. The Bhogchand affair has also strain the relations between the Naga’s and the English. Capt. Johnstone interference in the internal feuds of the Naga and the extension of British protection to the village of Mozephema and Siketama made the Nagas more suspicious of the British designs. British protection has been extended to 17 Naga villages by 1878. The people of Mozema and Khonoma . the two leading Angami villages resented these as they thought that they too would be force to submit to the might of the British power. Enraged, they attacked the British and murdered Butler, the British sent an expedition and the people of Mozema surrendered. The people of Khonoma became restless and prepared to face the English . Mr. Damant , the local British officer went against the warning of the interpreter and went to Khonoma village on a consolatory mission and was killed. When the news of is murder reach the British , a column was sent from Manipur under Johnstone and the another from the Khasi hills. On 21st December 1879, huge military troops arrived at Khonoma . On 22nd December 1879, they attacked Khonoma , after days of resistance the people of Khonoma fled and took to guerrilla welfare . However , on account of their supplies being cut they surrender on 27th March 1880 and the war came to an end.
The battle of Khonoma led to the ultimate subjugation of the Naga hills.The 13 rebellious villages were punished . The people of Khonoma were reduce to a state of homeless wanderers and deprived of their fire-arms . A head men was appointed ineach villages by the British which made it easier for them to control the Naga’s.

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