Khiamniungan Nagas till the late 1930’s were the inhabitance of the territory so called un-administered and unmapped with its people flourished vastlyacross the Patkoiranges. Unexplored by outsiders and unreached by any colonial influences, lived self-sufficient and self-governed ethicrace claiming to havesprung out of the spring called Khiamngan.
The World War II(1939-1945) also known as the Global War served as destruction to the greater humanity. Yet in a far flung region of Khiamniungans, the impact of war experiences paved avenuesin exposing the race to modernity and the religion- Christianity. The aftermath, much not known thatwould inevitably unfurl the event which eventually outset a window of new beginning, a realm of conduct and behaviorin total contrast to the one that was in existence.
The story tellers call the war as Japan War and GoumchiEliin in native term. The arrival of the British men at Noklak on their mission to defense the Japanese invasion set up a transit camp at Dangkhiam which further extended their posting at DAN, International boundary of India and Myanmar near Pangsha.The British men, a total distinct feature in sight, the natives were even scared and hesitated when they heard a British man say“Come on”. Whenever the British fighter planes flew crossing their villages, they wondered in awe and observedAhnou- Genna where no one went to their fields. Seeing the unusual thing flying above them, they thought to be some kind of giant bird and called with the names of Thsongwaiom – gigantic bird or Ahngaaom- thunderous sound. Since the villagers couldn’t pronounce Americans or Britishers they called them Athaiukhaiunia- white people. The natives accustomed this encounter in hostility and cordiality and took the role of Apaotsang– taking care of the wounded pilots and soldiers, Thsakan– porting the essentials of the sepoys to the designated camps, and also a partaker in the battle as uniformed and armed soldier.
S.Mukom of Thang Village(Noklak), got enlisted as sepoy of the Allied Force in the year 1941. Beyond the confined mountains as he was taken with the company, the first astonishing and marvelous thing he saw was a house roofed with iron sheetsof which the reflections seemed much fascinating to him. On his journey, he learned the dialect of the neighboring tribe, Chang“AusangbÜ?” meaning “which village?” and the hindi word “Coolie” for “Thsakan”. After his encounter with the Britishers, he was referred to assist a company atImphal. It is told that when he reached Kohima, the place was in hideous and horrific condition. Narrating the appalling war scene in Kohima he said, “The bombs mixed the earth and the human flesh.” This experience led him to abhor Kohima even after the War was over. In 1947, upon the invitation to ex-servicemen by the Indian Government he participated in the Jammu and Kashmir Operation 1947-48.The memoriam testifying his service are being preserved by his loved ones yet one would find his army boots keeping in display at World War II Museum in Kohima, Nagaland.
Among the native partakers, Chillia recounted his experience as mediator, guide and porter for the British which he fondly exhorted till his death.Chillia was first called to be a mediator and co-ordinate others in the village. The coolies with the packed Chhitsan-tiffin that barely kept them till they reached the next camp, they marched towards Burma. To the ones behind, the line of coolies and the sepoysseemedstretching to an endless line hazily mounting up the hills. After the war was over when the time came for the British soldiers and the native porters to depart, asgratitude, all the coolies were presented dogmas. Sadly for Chillia this memoriam was stolen.
Sudem, about 84 years old narrates the war incidents of how the Britishers were camped at Dangkhiam and would journey towards DAN- International Trade Center accompanied by the tribesmen of Sangtam, Chang and Ao as Thsakan-Coolie. Carrying the loads in JahpaThsa-basket and sheltering themselves with a black umbrella they would march forth intoning working chants. He also recalls when the villagers were alerted with the news of Plane crush at Ko-ngaio. The villagers collected the debris and observed InchioAnoh- Genna. Later, another plane crushed at LÜpen, between Lengnyu and Tsuwao village. The injured pilots were carefully laid in a Khe and carried to the village where they were fed and treated. Unfamiliar with the names, the natives called the Britishers as Ajenap-Thsong and the Japanese as Ajepek-Thsong.
The Khiamniungans recalls three plane crush incidents that happened during this war time. A fighter plane with 10 British soldiers on board crushed at Shingnya-ngan, reserved forest of Thingniungan village, about 75 kms away from Noklak.In 1943another plane crushed at Chong- Üi,Lengnyu and the other incident at Taitham, Pangsha (Robert Lyman in his book Among theHeadhunters gives an account of British fighter plane, C-46 Flight 12420 that crushed at Pangsha). The relics and wreckage of the aircrafts like fuel tanks, bomb shells, propeller blades etc are found in the regions and also people still use someparts as kitchen toolsin many houses.
For the Khiamniungans today, to present the testimony of this historic war is to reminisce and revisit the event of cultural revival and reckonthe memories of those who witnessed in exhortation. This historical event that planted a wave of alien culture eventually bridged toaccess the outside world ofnew behaviours and custom, though in the hardest way.A history never to be forgotten but to be retold and celebrate the memoirs for the generations to come.The hillsthat was once filled by the chants of the headhunters, nowechoes the glorious hymns of victory.
(Extraction from the ongoing project)
Buhiu B. Lam
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