The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter twenty. The Land and the People
caption: failure of terracing experiment among the Zemi while Kukis prosper
medium: books
person: Masang
location: Thingje
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: When terracing seemed a solution, several men tried it. But by then Mr Mills had returned to Naga Hills as Deputy Commissioner at Kohima, and North Cachar was sinking back again into its old neglect. The Angami wet-rice demonstrator scamped the work on the channels for Asalu's fields, and, in the first Rains, they broke repeatedly. Most of the Asalu experimenters lost their crop and were ruined. Grain was dear and wages small; they went to work in the fields of neighbouring tribes, Kacharis and Kukis. These made the most of the chance. A day's wage in grain was a pittance. To keep his family alive, an Asalu man must work all day and every day in his employer's fields, never seeing his own, and so in the following year had no crop and must work again, unless some wealthier kinsmen could redeem him.
text: Then, just about that time, a Thingje terracer died of dropsy. Right and left, the superstitious abandoned their irrigation. When coaxing failed to make them resume it again, an (154) impatient officer tried to use compulsion. He fined some men who had let their terraces go, and that was the last straw. Wet-rice - if they had known it, their one hope - was damned for ever as a racket, a trap. There was nobody to resolve the misunderstanding. The Zemi retired, bitter and hungry, behind their glass wall. The Kukis, unimpeded by any such mistake, went on with the irrigation, and took over, in many cases, irrigable land which the Zemi - fearing Government action - were only too glad to let go. While Kuki wet-rice demonstrators were trained and made available for their own people, the vacant Naga post - the Angami had been sacked - was given to Masang and turned into a political sinecure, and soil-destruction on the Zemi land continued unabated.