The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - 'Report of the Survey Operations in the Naga Hills 1875-1876' by Lt. R.G. Woodthorpe

caption: Appendix D. H.M. Hinde's report
caption: destitution found in villages east of Tablung; famine caused by plague of rats; opium addiction
medium: tours
person: Clark/ Mr.
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1875-1876
text: 6. The villages along the outer range eastwards from Tablung are all in a state of great destitution, and had Mr. Clark, of Sibsagar, alluded to them in his letter to the Chief Commissioner as being on the verge of famine, I could have agreed with him. I would have gone further, and said that they were actually suffering from famine. The chief article of food among them is the bark of the "Sewa" tree, which they dry in the sun, pound into powder, and eat in the form of chapaties. The Nagas assert that this scarcity is due to a plague of rats that destroyed their standing crops; but I think that it is owing to the fact that scarcely any rice cultivation is carried on at all, or has been for years. The reason of this state of things is the terrible hold that the vice of opium-eating has taken of these villages. The sole object of the Nagas is to get money to buy the drug, and, in consequence, their fields lie fallow, while they follow the more profitable occupations of gathering rubber and cotton and mat-making, and the money they earn is spent exclusively on opium, of which they consume enormous quantities. Hence, the poverty, misery, and starvation evident in these villages, compared with which the thriving, prosperous communities in other parts of the hills where opium is unknown, present a most pleasing contrast. In this, and in my former letters, I have not remarked on the habits, dress, religion, &c., of the tribes visited by me, as I believe they have been already described by the officers who have accompanied the surveys of former years.