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 thirty. Looters
caption: Mohendra Dals (Nepalese State Troops); looters
medium: books
person: AlbrightKhuala/ Dr.Hailamsuong/ of HaijaichakGailuba
location: Impuiloa Hajaichak (Haijaichak)
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: Our only force, apart from the twenty scouts we had so far (215) armed with rifles, was an under-strength platoon of Mohendra Dals, Nepalese State Troops. One day a British officer had appeared suddenly in the doorway, with the heated look of one who had just come up Laisong hill, and said : " Are you Miss Bower ? "
text: " Yes."
text: " Well, I've got a platoon of Gurkhas for you."
text: Albright demurred. I was a civilian - there would be repercussions. But the stranger didn't care. His orders were to leave the platoon, and leave it he did, and it wasn't for us to look a gift-platoon in the mouth, especially just then. They hadn't been with us more than a few days when the main surge from the eastward came. I could do nothing with the stragglers without rank-badges. We split Albright's. He wore captain's pips on the left shoulder, I on the right. It was most effective.
text: " If anyone kicks," wrote Scotty, when he heard, " I suppose I can always laugh it off."
text: One morning we were down in the Jenam valley, practising ambushes along the old road. A thunderstorm came over, and we took refuge in the rest-house, Albright, I, the six Gurkhas, Namkia, and a couple of Naga scouts. It poured, it cataracted. The water fell off the eaves and we leaned up against the veranda-posts and gossiped with Khuala, the stout-hearted Lushai doctor, who was doing yeoman work for the people coming through.
text: " Here comes someone," said Albright, suddenly. " Gosh, they're wet ! "
text: Running in through the puddles were two Zemi. One wore a red cloth. Though by their hair-cuts they were of the Thingje group, their faces weren't familiar. They jumped up on the concrete plinth and in out of the wet. The taller stripped to his soaked and ragged kilt, and stood there, wringing the water out of his cloth as he talked to Namkia. He was very angry about something.
text: Namkia translated. They were the headmen of Impuiloa, (216) a village just across the Jiri Valley. Four or five of these ragged walkers-out had just been through the place and looted the headman's house, among others. He and his friend had run ahead by a short cut and were here before the gang, which ought, he said, to be at Haijaichak by now. We called the six Mohendra Dals and set off up the road. The Naik and five sepoys were armed with rifles; Albright and I had automatic weapons.
text: It was about four miles to Haijaichak, by a pleasant, winding road along a stream. We were nearly there, and trudging through the trees of the village copse, when two Nagas rounded the next bend like running deer. They slowed when they saw us and came up at a trot. One was Hailamsuong, head of the Haijaichak scouts; the other Gailuba, his lieutenant.
text: Hailamsuong had the worst job in Watch and Ward, and the most responsibility. Whichever way the Japs came, whether from Kohima, Kangpokpi or Tamenglong, he would certainly be the first to meet them. On him and his young band (they were the youngest group of scouts we had) depended the warning-system of North Cachar. Till the stragglers came he was managing pretty well, but now his men were getting beaten up by the looters almost every day. Each time it happened they left the observation post and resumed their watch for Japs from the hillside scrub, while somebody ran down to call us along. Evidently it had just happened again.
text: " H'm," said Albright, echoing what I thought. " That party must have arrived."
text: " It's more of those stragglers," said Hailamsuong, breathless.
text: " They drove us out of the look-out first and then went into the village. They started to loot the place, and the people ran for the woods. They're all in the village still, with what they've taken. There must be thirty of them ! Come and get them out ! "
text: Thirty of them. That wasn't quite so good. We went on (217) round the bend and out of the woods and slowly along the path below the village. There was no one about. An old Zemi came out of the woods above and shouted something, but whether entreaty or warning we couldn't hear.
text: Everything was quiet. We halted just below the col, at the foot of the short path leading up to the village. One or two of the scouts, who had been lying up in the surrounding bushes, came out and joined us. And at that moment an armed man strolled out of the village and looked down at us all.
text: There was a moment in which not one of us moved. The man walked off again, taking us, I suppose, for another band of stragglers. His tin hat bobbed away between the houses.
text: Albright pushed me behind a big standing-stone.
text: " You and the Naik and all the Nagas stay here. If we get in a jam - well, use your head and join in."
text: I didn't like being left out of it at all, but this was no time to argue. I, the Naik and the Nagas waited in cover by the look-out hut. Albright took the five sepoys and walked up into the village. We could see the Gurkhas rootling among the empty houses with fixed bayonets, perfectly happy to take on five to one.
text: I heard Hailamsuong's anxious voice behind me.
text: " Will there be shooting, my mother ? My wife and child are hidden in my house."
text: " The Captain Sahib is very clever," I said firmly. " He will take them without shooting if he can."
text: We all stood there, waiting for shooting to start.
text: Then there was Albright, walking back down the slope.
text: " It's all right," he said. " We got them in the morung."
text: As his party were searching the nearer houses, a Zemi had appeared and pointed them to the morung. Albright had tiptoed up and looked in through the window. They were all in there. They had cooked a meal and were eating it in the middle of the room, with their weapons stacked along the walls. He and the Gurkhas had stepped into windows and doorways, covering the men inside; and that had been that. (218) The prisoners were sitting there glumly when we arrived, thirty nondescripts from any part of India you choose. Another two were being brought down from the upper morung. As we entered, the Zemi came flooding back, having watched the proceedings from the hill above. We recovered a certain amount of looted goods, but there wasn't much else to be done. We impounded their arms and ammunition - twenty-one rifles, nine Stens, and three thousand rounds. They went off under escort in a depressed file, elated Gurkhas marching ahead and behind and Zemi porters carrying the collected weapons in firewood-baskets.
text: We gave Hailamsuong a Bren gun post after that. There were no more incidents at Haijaichak.