Friday, September 29, 2023
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Saga of the Nagas: 50 Glorious Years of the Head-Hunters

The Naga People’s Convention (NPC) at its Mokokchung session in October 1959, had unanimously adopted 16 Points to form the basis of negotiation with the Government of India for the Naga political settlement. The delegates of the NPC led by late Dr. Imkongliba Ao met the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on 26 Jul 1960 and presented to him the memorandum containing the 16 Point Proposals. Subsequently the provisions of the 16 Point Agreement were embodied under Article 371-A of the Constitution. A proposal for the formation of a Naga Regiment had also been included in the 16 Point Proposals which the delegates of the NPC had placed before the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.The object of a separate regiment, as stated in the proposals of the Naga People’s Convention demanded formation of a separate Naga Regiment, in order that Naga people could fulfil their desire of playing a full role in the defence forces of India, for which raising a separate Naga Regiment should be duly examined for action.
Nagaland attained its statehood in 1963 but the law and order situation took some time to become conducive for raising of the new Regiment. Accordingly the Naga Regiment was formed seven years later on 01 Nov 1970, after Mr Hokishe Sema, the Chief Minister of Nagaland, had revived the idea of Naga Regiment. The Central Government agreed to the raising of a Regiment with one Battalion and ordered that as many as possible of the erstwhile hostiles be absorbed in the new regiment. Many Battalions of the Kumaon Regiment had been associated with Nagaland in their tour of duty, therefore it was decided to affiliate the new regiment to the Kumaon Regiment. General SHFJ Manekshaw, MC** then Army Chief took personal interest in the raising of the new regiment and he selected Lieut Colonel(later Lieut General ) RN Mahajan, of 14 KUMAON to raise and command it. The first Subedar Major of the Battalion was Subedar Major( Later Honorary Lieut) Yimchat Sung Ao who was drafted from the Assam Regiment. Colonel Tinu Ao a serving Naga officer with the Indian Army was inducted into the new Naga Regiment.
The 1st Battalion of the Naga Regiment was raised at the Kumaon Regimental Centre, Ranikhet, Uttarakhand, on 1 November 1970 under the command of Lieut Colonel RN Mahajan, VSM. Being the only battalion, it was then designated as the Naga Regiment. Lieut Colonel RN Mahajan undertook recruitment tours of Nagaland to personally select the Soldiers.He selected 69 Nagas who were enrolled directly from rehabilitation camps of underground Nagas and also 107 Nagas were selected from different parts of the State.There was great enthusiasm among Naga youth to join the new Regiment and by Apr 1971 the authorized strength had been made up and further recruitment was stopped. The composition of regiment’s troops were to be 50% Nagas and 50% of an equal number of Kumaonis, Garhwalis and Gorkhas. As mentioned earlier that since many battalions of the Kumaon Regiment had been associated with Nagaland, particularly in the years preceding the raising of the Naga Regiment, it was affiliated to the Kumaon Regiment for all regimental matters but the regiment was to have a distinctive and separate uniform. The Nagaland State Government took a great deal of interest in its raising and Mr Hokishe Sema, then CM of Nagaland himselfvisited the Regiment in May 1971.
Initially the Naga recruits experienced difficulty in communication but the problem was soon overcome by the Recruits learning the Hindi Language. The next challenge was integration of personnel inducted from different Regiments. Accordingly two rifle companies, namelyAlfa and Charlie Companies had an exclusive Naga composition and other companies had mixed personnel. The surrendered rebels were also directly enrolled as Junior Commissioned Officers and Non Commissioned Officers.
The Regimental Crest of the new regiment integratedthe traditional Naga weapons ie ‘a pair ofcrossed Naga spears and a dao, with a shield in relief bearing a mithun head ,which represents the strength, steadfast courage and determination of Nagas.The Flag of the new regiment bears the regimental crest in gold on dark green background. The Regiments Colours are Gold, Green and Red symbolizing the gold of the rising sun, the green of the infantry and red, the colour of authority among Nagas. The new dress and the flag were introduced from 15 Jun 1971.Later permission was accorded for a golden coloured hackle to be displayed on the Hat and the Soldiers were allowed to carry a Dahwhen wearing uniform. The Naga Regiments due to their fighting prowess and the fear they created in the adversary, acquired the nickname of ‘Head Hunters’.
After the raising of the new Regiment was completed, Maj Gen(later General)TN Raina,MVC, Colonel of the Kumaon Regiment was approached by the Naga Regiment to accept their ‘Colonelcy’ and on 08 June 71he was appointed Colonel of Naga Regiment. It was a unique distinction for him to be the Colonel of two Regiments in post- independence India.In the last five decades the Naga Regt has grown by leaps and bounds and its performance in operations has been enviable and commendable. The Naga Regiment has now grown to three regular infantry Battalions, namely the 1 NAGA, 2 NAGA and 3 NAGA and a I64 Territorial Army Battalion(Home & Hearth)located at Zakhama, Nagaland.(To be continued).

Colonel Prakash Bhatt(Retd)
Former Deputy Commandant Kumaon Regimental Centre
and Former Additional DIG Assam Rifles(Nagaland)

(The views expressed by the author are his personal)