The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

Typescript, J.P. Mills, Tour Diary, March 1927, with comments by Ursula Betts, 1986

caption: Land shortage for cultivation forcing migration; Kukis not to be allowed to settle; problems of jhum fires; terracing as remedy for land shortage
medium: tours
person: Bell/ Mr
ethnicgroup: Kuki
location: Laisong Kechebo Semkhor Hegokulwa Jenam R. Laisong
date: 8.3.19271940
person: Betts/ UrsulaMills/ J.P.
date: 3.1927
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: 8th.
text: To Laisong 14 miles. A steep pull up to the top of the range from Semkhor, and then down to Hegokulwa and along the valley of one of the branches of the Jenam to Laisong Kechebo. Thence along the bridle path, and up the Naga path to Laisong proper. Then down to the bungalow in the valley. We started soon after eight and were not in till four. Mr. Bell checked the mauzadar's figures for all three villages and found them correct.
text: I was very much struck by the shortage of jhum land on the one hand and the number of absolutely ideal sites for terraced cultivation on the other. The way the villagers are migrating is sufficient indication of economic pressure. Both Hegokulwa and Laisong only moved to their present sites about 8 years ago, forced to do so by the (9) shortage of land, yet Laisong has this year been compelled to split and send out as a colony Laisong Kechebo. The greater part of the land is very steep and absolutely useless for cultivation. The rest is being "jhumed" so hard that most of it is already a waste of thatching grass. I was told that some of the more level land in the valleys is even being cropped four and five years running. There is not enough of this land to support the villages by "jhuming", but were it terraced it would be more than ample. The sites are ideal, with splendid supplies of water. I will submit proposals of the whole question later. Clearly something will have to be done if the Nagas here are to exist at all. Meanwhile I have asked the Subdivisional Officer to do two things. First he should allow no Kukis to settle here. There are none at present and there is no room for them and their excessively wasteful methods of cultivation. Secondly he should insist on the villagers being more careful with their jhum fires. I noticed much land rendered temporarily useless by accidental fires. The people must be persuaded to adopt the custom of clearing the felled jungle from the edges of their "jhums" so as to leave a bare space (10) all round before it is fired. Fires which get out of control must be fought.
text: [UGB: Fires were still a menace in 1940/6. South of Laisong lay huge acres of uncultivatable thatching-grass, rendered useless by over-cultivation, and a permanent fire-hazard to the settlement.]