The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter twenty-eight. The Hangrum Incident
caption: search for wreckage of 'plane
medium: books
person: PerryPaodekumbaTsevo
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: Then, some days later, after we returned to Laisong, the Kuki wet-rice demonstrator came panting in. He had a porter with him who carried a knobby sack. Out of this he tilted, over our feet, a load of aircraft wreckage - of splintered, grey-painted plywood. Ferreting through it, I found a varnished strip with Japanese characters.
text: " Where'd you get this ? "
text: It was down in the jungle, he said, near the Jiri Jenam confluence. There was a lot of it. It had come down burning. The local village-people had all run - they had been (201) terrified by the gunfire, anyway, and had all hidden under their houses for fear of bombs, which, they believed, could blow whole mountains away.
text: I sent a note to Perry to say that something was down, and then called Paodekumba and sent him out post-haste with a patrol. He was to find the wreckage and look for survivors. He went off as though shot from a gun. It was too good to miss, and Perry and I, coming up by divers routes, met in Baladhan the day the patrol came back. Our luck was out. It was only a shot-off wing.
text: " Bother," I said. " I thought we had something there."
text: Namkia, like a spectre, appeared beyond the fire.
text: " There's a Hangrum party in to report," he said.
text: It was Tseva and his co-leader, the wild, wall-eyed hunter of the lower morung. That afternoon, they said, a party of ten men armed with rifles and one man who seemed to be their officer had arrived suddenly, without pass or guide, at Hangrum. He didn't know who they were or where they came from. They were camped at the rest-house.
text: We looked at one another.
text: " It wasn't a whole machine - - -"
text: " Well, perhaps the rest of it came down somewhere - - -"
text: We sent off Paodekumba with all the men we could raise. Perry gave him a written order; if the strangers tried to clear out after seeing that, they were to be stopped - somehow. Paodekumba left with his torchlight patrol and we packed ready for a dawn start. Next morning, marching along the ridge behind Hemeolowa, we were met by two bucks with a note. As Perry opened it - - -
text: " That ends the Jap theory," he said.
text: It was from a lieutenant of a Railway Operating Unit, sent out to look at the wreckage.
text: He met us outside the bungalow half an hour later. He was a small half-caste in a very large hat.
text: " Hallo ! " said Perry, startled, looking past him. " What on earth's all that?"
text: (202) In the hollow where Tseva had flung the egg, ten men in uniform, with rifles, stood beside half a dozen loads of baggage, and round them were nearly fifty Hangrum men. There were the headmen, there was Paodekumba, there were the scouts, and there was a goat and two large fowls in a basket. Most unusual of all, there was, right in the middle, a long-poled bamboo carrying-chair.
text: " Why the litter ? " asked Perry. " Has one of your men gone sick ? "
text: There was a hesitation in the reply which made us both look at the small lieutenant.
text: " My Naik's got fever," he said.
text: We sensed something suspicious about the whole affair, not least the little lieutenant's haste to go. But it was then too late for porters to march and return, so Perry persuaded him to stay the night (he was most reluctant) and we all went into the bungalow for a cup of tea.
text: A few minutes' conversation with the lieutenant were a revelation. Never had we heard such a tale of muddle and ineptitude. He had been sent out to report on the aircraft wreckage, but was wholly mis-informed as to the route and conditions prevailing on it - so grossly misinformed that we thought his C.O. had been joking, though it turned out later that is was not so. He had had from the start no mind to fulfil his mission, and, not knowing that we were ahead of him there, would have turned back as soon as he reached Hangrum, leaving any Japs there were to take care of themselves, had not the Nagas delayed him. Worse than that, he was in a state of sick alarm at the thought of being out among Naga head-hunters. By his own confession, he spent his service life in a state of transfer, flung, one imagined, from unit to unit by one disgusted Colonel after another. It was all such a mess that we were shamed and sickened. Seeing Paodekumba waiting outside, I left the rest-house and went off with him to hear his report.
text: He had arrived in the small hours and delivered the note, (203) but the lieutenant, next day, ignoring Perry's message, had badgered the headmen for porters. They procrastinated as long as they could, but at last, fearing he would use force, they apparently agreed while actually putting Paodekumba's plan into operation. What we had come upon - in the nick of time - was its penultimate stage. As soon as the officer laid his hands on the farewell gifts, that is, the goat and chickens, the supposed porters, carefully briefed, were to jump the whole party, one man of each group wresting the rifle away while the others seized the sepoy. A hand-picked set and Paodekumba himself were all ready to collar the lieutenant.
text: " Good work," said I. " But weren't you scared to tackle the Sahib and his men?"
text: " Sahib ! " said Paodekumba. " Call that a Sahib ! He's the laughing-stock of Hangrum ! Didn't you know he was carried up in a litter ? He told the headman he was over forty, and too old to walk." (The headman was over sixty, and could outwalk me.) " He's too scared to sleep in the bungalow, because of the ghost. He spent last night in the kitchen, with his men. What d'you suppose the disaffected are saying ? They've been asking me how the Sahibs will beat the Japs if their officers are like that. What am I to answer ? Tell me that ! "
text: " But he told us the litter was there for his sick Naik !"
text: " His Naik's sick all right, but it's not his litter. That man was carried, and the Naik walked. Since Perry Sahib asked, he's ashamed to say, and he's just asked the headmen to make him a second litter for the Naik."
text: I went back to the rest-house, got Perry aside, and told him what Paodekumba had said. As far as propaganda went it was a disaster, a wicked destruction of all that Rawdon Wright's courage had done. We had not been so bitter and angry for years.
text: The poltergeist manifested twice that evening, with a little help from Paodekumba and Namkia.
text: (204) The lieutenant, his face a light grey, spent the night lying fully clothed on his bed with a loaded revolver beside him, and an electric torch, which he switched on whenever the bungalow creaked or rapped; which, after its custom, it did frequently, even without assistance from " V " Force. When he marched in the morning he left the house on foot, but the Nagas told us later that he had the two litters waiting out of sight. He stepped into one, his Naik took the other, and so, on active service, was borne away. Even then I think we'd have called it quits, but on following up we found he'd cleared the country of produce at his own valuation. Perry sent him in a bill for the difference, and somehow, in a very few days, the story ofthe poltergeist was known to every other unit on the line.
text: He was transferred again at the end of a week.