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-six. Recruiting
caption: recruiting in Hangrum fails
medium: books
person: Namkia
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: It was about a week before Namkia and I went up there, as I had a bad leg and wasn't fit to march. In the meantime Paodekumba, lately my scullion, called in at the camp; and, hearing of the scheme, volunteered as a scout at once. For the next fortnight he was our one and only recruit.
text: The Hangrum headmen, when the scheme was put to them, registered disapproval and consternation. But they didn't say no outright; they said they'd put the matter to a village meeting. So Namkia and I sat at the rest-house for a week and nothing happened. Then Hangrum called a public meeting at last and invited us to come and thrash it out.
text: (187) The meeting-place was the open space in front of the headman's house. The audience, of whom there were about forty or fifty, mostly householders, many with babies on their backs, sat, stood or squatted round it. Namkia and I sat together on a bench facing them. The headman was beside us, acting more or less as chairman of the debate.
text: It was a clear, cool day, such as one gets in the hills in the early autumn; a sky like pale silk; all dust, all haze dissolved out of the atmosphere, so that the farthest hills stood out crisply. Behind our opponents was the village street, sloping here in a broad fan, and on the far side, towering over us, so that with the sky behind it looked like an operatic backcloth, was the sweeping, smoky-grey prow of the lower morung.
text: The headman stood up and briefly announced why we were there. Then Namkia rose, and, in a short, forceful speech, stated our case.
text: To me, sitting there largely as a spectator, the whole procedure was ridiculously like an opera. There was the sweep of the street upstage to the morung, on which even the sunlight looked like a stage effect. There sat the male chorus opposite; and the debate itself took oratorio form. We leapt up one after the other, hurled accusations and denials at each other and as abruptly sat down.
text: A Hangrum man up :
text: " You'll take us away ! It's a trap ! "
text: Namkia up in answer :
text: " No ! It's an honest offer ! "
text: " Why should we fight for the Sahibs ? We didn't fight for the Kacharis, we didn't fight for the Manipuris - why should we fight for the British ? "
text: Namkia again :
text: " Why shouldn't we ? Did the Kacharis or the Manipuris stop the Angamis raiding ? Haven't the Sahibs done that ? Haven't they given us roads and salt-markets ? Haven't they given us protection and peace ? Don't we owe them some- thing for that?"
text: (188) I tell you it's a trap ! They want to take us away ! What about the Lushai War ? We sent porters for that. How may returned ? "
text: (He was right. Most of the Zemi porters had died of cholera.)
text: Up went Namkia :
text: " That was fifty years ago ! They've got new medicines now. You can get injections now against these things. Don't quote the past at me ! You won't be taken away. It's all for service here. Here, in your own village. You'll be paid. You'll get guns. This is our country, isn't it ? Why shouldn't we look after it ? "
text: Opponents were hopping up like fleas now, one after another, as the debate grew hot; Namkia and I jumping up in turn to reply.
text: " Lies ! Lies ! Lies !" A man with a child on his back, stepping up to shout it at us.
text: " It's no lies, but the truth ! " (I was up now). " If you Zemi won't do it, then the Kukis will ! Or else there'll be troops here to do the job for you, and how will you like that ? I'm offering you guns - guns ! Where are your own guns? When did you last have them ?"
text: " Bring your troops in ! Let them do it ! "
text: " All right ! You didn't like it before, did you, when the troops got off with your girls ? Don't squeal at me later if things go wrong ! Fools ! We've got guns for you ! You've been disarmed for ten years. If you do the job well, you'll have a chance to keep them. Fools ! "
text: "Lies ! Lies !"
text: " Truth ! "
text: " You'll take us away ! "
text: " You'll serve here ! "
text: " Lies ! "
text: " Truth ! "
text: " You'll take us away !"
text: " We won't ! "
text: (189) It was developing into a nursery shouting-match.
text: " Lies ! Lies ! You'll take us away ! "
text: " Truth, truth ! We won't ! "
text: The meeting ended, as Zemi meetings do, by everyone just getting up and going home. We hadn't carried our point. There had been nibbles privately to Namkia, but the main body of the village was all against it. They weren't going to play unless they were forced to.