The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - extracts on the Nagas from 'Census of India, 1931 - Volume III - Assam Report'

caption: Chapter I. Distribution and Movement of the Population. Naga Hills
caption: J.P. Mills' analysis of the census
medium: reports
person: Mills/ J.P.
person: Mullan/ C.S.
date: 1931
text: Nevertheless, Mr J.P. Mills, I.C.S., the Deputy Commissioner of the Naga Hills, is not at all satisfied with the present condition of things and fears that increasing contact with a foreign culture is having a most harmful effect on the primitive tribes of the Naga Hills. He has analysed the census figures by tribes and his conclusions are as follows:
text: "Taking 3.76 as the average size of a household the increase in houses is remarkably small compared with that of the population.
text: Villages being concentrated and regularly counted for purposes of taxation the census figures for houses were easily checked and are probably very accurate. The Konyak tribe, the least touched and most lightly administered, is the only one that shows a normal proportionate increase of both houses and population. The Ao tribe which shows the largest increase of all, has 3,377 additional members since 1921, but only 520 new houses, and in this tribe two families never occupy the same house. The Western Rengma figures are even more remarkable, the population having increased by 2,671, but the houses by 16 only. The Angami tribe, the biggest in the district, is almost at a stand still. The smaller villages are dying out, no fewer than 29 out of 103 villages of the tribe showing a decrease of population. Out of those that show an increase in population 26 show a decrease in the number of houses.
text: There can be no doubt that the increase is one of children rather than of established household, and in the conditions prevailing here such an increase must be regarded as a fluctuating and possibly temporary one, dependent on good general health and sufficiency of food. It is impossible to be satisfied with the state of things. Malaria there has always been, but the lassitude engendered by unbroken peace, the passing of old days and old ways, and the ceaseless assault on the tenets of a Faith which has satisfied the Naga from time immemorial has lessened his power of resistance. The lower villages are crumbling away now. The turn of the others may come later. The Lhotas of Sadr, with man villages near the plains, show a decrease of both population and households. The Lhotas of Mokokchung, who, on the whole, have healthier sites, have lost in households, but have gained in children who may or may not grow up. I have just visited the Naked Rengma village of Sahunyu which is on an unhealthy site. It held its own for years against enemies before we took it over. The population has fallen from 279 to 170 since the last census. The inhabitants are living scattered among empty house platforms, too listless to move to a better position."
text: A note by Mr Mills on the effect on the tribes of the Naga Hills of contacts with civilization is published as an appendix to this Report. I strongly advise every reader who has read so far to turn to it at once.
text: The density of the Naga Hills is 42 persons to the square mile. Although the Mokokchung subdivision (which includes the thinly-populated Melomi-Primi area) the Angami country in the Sadr subdivision is the most thickly populated part of the district. The Angamis have developed a really wonderful system of terraced and irrigated rice cultivation by which they get an annual crop of rice from the same fields. In the rest of the district, where jhum is the main form of cultivation, the land has to be left fallow for a number of years and this means that larger areas are required to support the population. The Deputy Commissioner reports that the pressure on the land is very great in the Sema country where the hill sides have been jhumed out. "To remedy this state of affairs", he writes, "two remedies have been applied. With the aid of an annual grant from Government irrigated terraces have been made where there is sufficient water. These not only give a crop every year, but relieve the pressure on the jhum land. Some villages have already been raised thereby from abject poverty to comparative opulence, and the area of the experiment will be extended. In addition to this colonies have been planted on the depopulated ranges near the plains. Heat and malaria are against them and they do not flourish. The whole of the cultivatable land in the hills is fully occupied and I think it would be impossible to plant a single other village anywhere".