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: article on Naga case from 'The Statesman', August 1947
medium: diaries
date: 6.8.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: Yesterday The Statesman concisely reviewed the Naga case and urged a greater show of sympathy in Congress circles. A leading article said, 'Legal arguments lately used in the Constituent Assembly are hardly likely to affect the Nagas one way or the other about proclaiming independence - as some of them plan to do for August 15th. These remote hill people are uninterested in the intricacies of constitutional procedure; (30) their ideas are simple and direct. They say - rather like their fellow hillmen of the N.W. Frontier - that they did not know foreign influence until the British came; therefore when the British go they expect nobody to take the British place. Most Nagas have no interests beyond their terraced rice-fields, and foresee no administrative problems following the foreigners' departure. For others, however, the war has much expanded horizons - and ambition. They believe they largely stopped the Japanese from getting into India in 1944, and 14th Army Commanders have applauded their prowess. The cry of Naga freedom rang through the hills then, its echoes have not died yet in Naga hearts, and present legalities will not hush it. Nagas - even those whose own fathers were headhunters - say, "Better poverty than bondage", and it would be a mistake to consider this parrot-repetition of a mere phrase. Consequences might be grave unrest in a country with a huge, forested, unadministered hinterland stretching to the east of it, and with tribes of uncertain temper to the north.
text: Such things are possibilities; but we do not at present foresee that they will come about. The Nagas, for instance are not united in what they want, and the distrust between their northern and southern tribes is well known. The authority of the delegation recently in Delhi is uncertain, and deserves to be probed. Nevertheless discontent such as has already been voiced could find ready echo in ignorant but proud Naga hearts charged with traditional distrust of the plainsmen, and those newly entrusted with deciding the future of this hill region should keep that in mind.
text: Indeed, some observers infer that failure to do so quite recently is responsible for recalcitrance now. The Nagas' demand for independence has become loud only after the visit to their hills of the Tribal subcommittee of the Constituent Assembly and, following that, of the Governor of Assam. What appears to be intelligent anticipation of the sub-committee's (31) report indicates that distrust derives not from the administrative arrangements - a reasonable continuation of the British system, which has worked well - but from the Nagas not having been offered a chance of deciding for themselves, after an interim period, whether to come into the Indian Union or go out. Their territory lies far from Delhi, and the future geographical connection, after India's subdivision, seems likely to be frail. Such an offer of a breathing space might have been but a small concession, in terms of future administrative problems, for the sub-committee to make, and its potentialities could have been rich, for it would have given time for the growth of faith between peoples still largely strangers to each other. Opportunity for facilitating understanding now rests with the Indian Constituent Assembly, which perhaps will go into the matter when it meets again.'