The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - memoir of time in the Naga Hills as a Deputy Commissioner, 1919-1920

caption: some cases
caption: fighting prohibited on main routes to allow trading and a case of head-taking
medium: articles
person: Injevi
person: Cantlie/ Keith
date: 1919-1920
form: private collection
refnum: loaned by Dr Audrey Cantlie
text: The eastern boundary of the Naga Hills was called THE INNER LINE. The range upon range of tree-clad hills lying to the east of for example the Tizu River were within our sphere of influence but we did not administer the area in those days. Villages were often at war with each other but few heads were taken. In one case two villages were at war for several years but only 4 heads were taken.
text: In one case of general massacre of one village by another a small force of Assam Rifles was taken across the border and the village was made to pay a fine of so many cattle. But there was one strict rule. Fighting and headtaking was forbidden on some main paths as the transfrontier villages had to get iron, salt, cooking pots and some necessities of life from the shops at Mukokchung and Kohima. Therefore these paths had to be used in safety. One day three men came to my room in my bungalow. One was a Sema dobashi clothed in the official red blanket and another man who could speak Sema besides his own language and a third man carrying a bundle of cloth who could converse with man number two in his own language. The dobashi could talk with me in bastard Assamese. I knew Angami but no Sema. The third man with the cloth bundle said that he and a friend were walking along a main path eastwards when they met a man carrying a basket on his back. They sat down for a talk and the stranger told them that a fierce fellow had quarrelled with him on the path and attacked him, having drawn his long handled axe which every Naga carries in a sling of wood on his back. To defend himself the narrator had to draw his dao. They fought fiercely and the narrator won and took the head of the attacker. The head was in the basket. The narrator and his friend gave some rice beer to the stranger and meanwhile the narrator looked under the cloth covering the contents of the basket and saw the head and also two feet. The feet are at times cut off but rarely. Now these feet were peculiar. They had six toes instead of five. So the narrator gave the stranger another drink of beer and made a sign to his friend to come to look into the basket. The friend said that he agreed with me that these were the feet of Injevi of our village who was a mild man not given to attacking anyone. So said the narrator "I whispered to my friend to give the stranger a drink of rice beer and when he stretches out his hand to take the bamboo mug leave the rest to me". When the stranger stretched out his arm to take the beer I drew my dao and off came his head. When I got back to my village the elders said I would get into serious trouble for taking a head on this main path so we called the Sema dobashi who was in the neighbourhood and he brought me to tell my tale to the Deputy Commissioner. I thought over the matter and said "I think your story is true. I will not punish you." He turned to go then came back and asked whether I would like to see the head as it was in the cloth. I had been conscious of an unpleasant smell in the room for some time but thought it came from my visitors as it was the cold weather when no rain falls to wash bodies. No, I did not want to see the head. He took it with him in triumph for he would be greeted as a hero in his village.