The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - Chapter IV 'Detailed Report on the Naga Hills Expedition of 1878-80', Capt. P.J. Maitland

caption: plans for the maintenance of an occupying force; lack of decisive action against the Nagas
medium: reports
person: Johnstone/ Lt. Col.Williamson/ Capt.Nation/ Gen.Bayley/ Sir SteuartMaxwell/ Lt.
location: Kohima Khonoma (Konoma) Jotsoma Mezema (Mozima)
person: Maitland/ Capt. P.J.
date: 1880
person: India Office Library, London
refnum: IOR L/MIL/17/18/24
text: It appears at this time to have been generally supposed that, as the stronghold of the Angamis had fallen, the termination of the expedition could not be far distant; and the civil authorities occupied themselves, somewhat prematurely, with the question as to what military strength it would be necessary to maintain in the hills after the Field Force should have been broken up. Some correspondence took place on this subject, and it was arranged that detachments aggregating at least 1,000 rifles ( including frontier police) should be left in the district, at all events until the commencement of the rains in May, when the strength might, it was thought, be reduced to six hundred. Proper shelter was to be provided for the troops at Kohima, Konoma,&c., and six months' provisions for the whole collected and stored in the various posts, before the rains rendered the country impassable to convoys. To settle these matters Lieutenant Colonel Johnstone, and his Assistant, Captain Williamson, left the front for Golaghat, to meet there the Chief Commissioner; and as the conduct of affairs was entirely in political hands, the operations, already languishing, appear to have come to a downright standstill. On the 9th (42) December Brigadier General Nation addressed the following letter to the Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Assam, at Gologhat:-
text: Sir, " I have the honor to inform you that several of the enemy have expressed a wish to give up their arms, and I should be glad to know if it would be contrary to Sir Steuart Bayley's policy to accept them unconditionally.
text: 2. To give up his arms is of course the first sign of submission on the part of an enemy; and I am of opinion that it is better to accept such offers and so weaken the power of the Nagas against us by depriving them of so many arms. It will also tend to the quicker isolation of the Konoma and Jotsoma men, &c., and to security of our convoys." ( No. 897, Field Operations, Camp Sachima, dated 9th December 1879.)
text: This was followed on the 13th December by another letter to the same address, in which the Brigadier General represents the difficult situation in which he was placed.-
text: Sir.- " I have the honor to request that you will bring most urgently to the notice of the Chief Commissioner the state of affairs as they seem to me now to stand in these parts.
text: 2. Since the fall of Konoma on the 22nd ultimo, no active operations whatever have been undertaken by the troops except the burning of an empty village or two. No Political Officer has been with my camp since the above date, except Lieutenant Maxwell ( who has not been invested with any power that I know of ) , and I am not aware that the Government terms have been proclaimed, or in any way made known to the country, and therefore I feel my hands tied, as my letter No. 897 of the 9th instant, regarding the surrender of arms, will have noticed.
text: 3. About the 29th ultimo, Colonel Johnstone left for Manipur ( Lieutenant Colonel Johnstone appears, however, to have returned to the front for a few days, as will be subsequently shown.) and has not been in my camp since, except for a few hours on his way to Gologhat. On that day (29th) I received a letter from Captain Williamson stating that Colonel Johnstone had given the lower Khel of Jotsoma permission to occupy their village, and that a dobashia had been furnished with a letter to produce when the villagers were reaping their dhan, so as to secure them from molestation by our troops. Frequently, on our sepoys going down to the Jotsoma fields to forage for the enemy's grain, a signal note has been given by some Nagas hidden in the jungles. Immediately every reaper has disappeared, and on several occasions shots have been exchanged between our men and the Nagas in the jungles. The dobashia now appears on the scene with his letter, saying all are friendly. Again, permission has been granted by Colonel Johnstone to the Mozima Nagas to reap their dhan, and they are seen wandering miles away from their own village, and getting in dhan from fields which I feel certain must be those of Sachima; but again I am powerless to put a stop to this, as they plead Colonel Johnstone's permission.
text: 4. I cannot but place it on record that these half measures are most baneful to our cause. There is no doubt that the village of Mozima and the lower Khel of Jotsoma, which are in close proximity to Konoma, though said to be friendly to us, are more so to Konoma, and that they supply the enemy up at the Chaka Forts with everything they require. Owing to the great difficulties of the country it is out of our power to prevent this; for with the slender force at my disposal it would be perfectly impossible to form a sufficiently close cordon of posts round the base of the hill on which the forts stand to starve the enemy out, as originally intended, especially as the Nagas will travel in the jungle by paths practicable to themselves and to cats.
text: 5. To remedy this state of things I would beg to suggest that such a heavy demand for dhan be imposed at once on every village within a radius of 20 miles of Konoma as to render it impossible for such villages to assist the enemy in the Chaka Forts with supplies.
text: 6. Should this, or some other stringent measure, not be adopted, there will be nothing left for me but to submit an application for two more regiments at least to be thrown into the country; for it is quite impossible that the present slender force at my disposal can carry out the subjugation of the country by mere force of arms, especially if operations should be extended over any lengthened period. For one third of the force is engaged in protecting our line of communications; another third garrisons Kohima; while the remaining third, 200 men, are employed in destroying Konoma, and the remainder ( Sic in original) are with me at Sachima, and at all these posts fever and dysentery are at work, owing to the very heavy duties imposed on the men.
text: 7. A copy of this letter has been forwarded to Army Head Quarters for the information of His Excellency the Commander-in- Chief, and a copy has been handed to the Political Officers in camp;" ( No. 909. Field Operations, Camp Sachima, dated 13th December 1879.)
text: It is not apparent what action was taken by Sir Steuart Bayley on these representations, but the Government of India observed with regret " that General Nation should have thought it necessary to forward copies of his (43) letter to the Chief Commissioner of Assam, to Army Head Quarters, and to Government, without waiting for a reply which probably would have appeared to him sufficient and satisfactory."