The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: British Colonial administration in the Naga Hills
medium: diaries
location: Kohima Mokokchung
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: In order to understand the political developments in this diary it is perhaps necessary to sketch the main outlines of the administrative system which governed these primitive tribes. The Naga Hills formed a district of the province of Assam. Like other areas inhabited by primitive tribes, the Naga Hills under the Government of India Act of 1935 remained an 'excluded area'. That is to say the Nagas were not represented in the Assam Assembly and the Governor of Assam was personally responsible for their welfare. No Assam or Government of India legislation automatically applied to the area but the Governor could extend it to the Naga Hills if he thought it suited to the primitive peoples living there.
text: The District was divided into two subdivisions - Kohima and Mokokchung. The Deputy Commissioner with his headquarters at Kohima was in charge of the whole district but under him was the Subdivisional Officer at Mokokchung. The Kohima subdivision was inhabited by Kacha Nagas, Angami, Kuki, Kachari, Lhota, Sema and Rengma tribes while Mokokchung included Sema, Lhota, Ao, Konyak, Chang and Sangtam, as well as a few Yimchungr and Kalyu Kengyu villages. The work of the D.C. and the S.D.O. consisted of assessing and collecting taxes, settling disputes and generally looking after the welfare of the Naga tribes. In most parts of the district taxation amounted to Rs2 (about 3 shillings) a year on every house. Exemption was given to village headmen, to Government servants earning less than Rs a month,[sic] to the aged and sick and to men who had served for more than three years in the army. The D.C. and the S.D.O. were continually checking the house lists, examining the exemptions and granting fresh remissions. The head-men collected the tax in their villages and received twelve and a half per cent of their collections as commission. Indirect taxation consisted in all villages of keeping bridle paths clear, carrying loads for Government officers when they were out on tour, supplying rice when it was needed, and bringing in timber and thatch for the repair of Government buildings. All these materials and this work were paid for at current rates known to all Nagas.
text: In return Government gave the Nagas free justice (there were no pleaders or judicial fees), free education, free hospitals and dispensaries with free medicine and food. There was a free veterinary service and engineers provided bridges and aligned roads. No villager within the administered area was allowed to take heads and a battalion of the Assam Rifles was kept at Kohima and Mokokchung to protect villages against head-hunting raids by villages over the frontier. Additional safeguards for the Nagas existed - no Naga could alienate his land without the permission of the D.C. and no outsiders such as Gurkhalis or Marwaris were allowed into the Naga Hills without a pass. In this way the Nagas had been protected from exploitation by money-lenders and traders, which in other parts of India, such as the Santal Parganas, had led to such shocking abuses.