In the mid year of 1917, during the Kuki punitive measure or the Anglo-Kuki War of 1917-1919, as the Kukis call it, history was being written at Ngahui Village (Awangkasom), in Ukhrul district. Naga and Kuki scholars, and researchers differ on the appropriateness of naming the Kuki punitive measure, but the collective historical consensus agree it was Kuki uprising. The British termed it as rebellion. One thing is clear, it wasn’t a conquest nor it was a crusade. And since, in today’s world, identity politics thrives, especially in a tribal historical framework, history for the Ngahui villagers, who were at the other end of the muzzle-loaded gun (musket), the villagers unaware of such weaponry, and who fell on the village front yard, cannot be re-written by mere change of recent historical narratives.
There are numerous sources to this recorded incident from different sources of those times. Kuki Inpi Manipur, insist there was no aggression towards the Nagas during the Kuki Rebellion. Kuki National Assembly (KNA) letter to CM N Biren saying the Anglo-Kuki War, surrounding the tussle with the state government over the monolith inscription, as KNA suggest, illustrates the war was between the English and the Kukis. KNA President, Mangboi Haokip in the letter wrote “the Anglo-Kuki war occurred after the 28 years of the downfall of the kingdom of Manipur in the Anglo-Manipur war of Khongjom War 1891”.
According to Ngahui Villagers, the massacre was not the first of such targeted ruthless attacks by Kuki rebellion. Advocate Sira Kharay, in an article written in 2018, narrated the extend of the Kuki rebellion, saying “unprovoked Kuki aggression is not new to the Nagas. James Johnstone reminisces that the Kukis “were a ceaseless trouble” to the “Nagas” and according to B.C. Chakravorti, during the “Kuki rebellion of 1917-1919, the Kabui Nagas suffered very badly at the hands of the Kukis. In the month of February, 1880, the Kukis attacked another “Tankhool” (Tangkhul) Naga village, namely “Chingsow” (Chingsui) village, and mercilessly massacred 45 persons. The attack was in defiance of British order and policy as it “appeared that a demand has been made by Tonghooj the Chussad Chief, that the Chingsow Nagas should submit to him and pay tribute, but they, of course, refused (emphasis added)” (Johnston J., My Experiences in Manipur and the Naga Hills, p. 185)”.
Sira Kharay wrote, “as per the accounts of Sir Robert Reids, the Kuki mercenaries massacred about 176 persons of Goitang village and total of about 76 houses were completely razed to ashes. More than 250 Kharam villagers were butchered and their houses burnt. About 70 of Makoi villagers were massacred, properties plundered and houses burnt. About 10 of Dailong villagers were butchered, over 70 houses torched and properties plundered. Whole of Mongjarong Khunou village was razed to the ground and about 39 were massacred (Facts about the Naga-Kuki Conflict, p. 5-6). According to B.C. Allen, the Kuki mercenaries made another ferocious attack on “Swemi” (Chingjaroi) Naga village in about the month of December, 1892 and as per the village account, more than 600 villagers were ruthlessly massacred. And the list goes on”.
One of the chilling accounts of Ngahui massacre while speaking to a village elder said (most of the village elders who knew much about the massacre are no longer alive) that the massacre took place on the last week of May 1917. The attack was carried out at dawn.
An interview with Awo (elder) Shanphung Kasomwoshi said, translation: “The Kukis started capturing the Ngahui villagers at the break of dawn in front of Luiyor and Ngaitheng’s front yard. They were captured and encircled by the Kukis. During that time one Lanotla Kasomwaoshi went out to fetch water near by the pond. While she was returning one Kuki attacker tried to grab her by the hand but she threw away the sopkai (bamboo basket) and managed to escape and ran inside her house. She was chased into the house but the attacker gave up chasing seeing a buffalo tied to the barn just next to the kitchen”.
Awo Shanphung continued, “she escaped from the back yard of the house. After that, people started screaming as the Kukis started killing the villagers one after another. A villager who was ill and bed ridden, who was lucky enough not to be noticed by the aggressors, after hearing the loud screeching noise, Awo Thingnam Zingkhai escaped to Kive (a place name) and survived the massacre. A brave woman Lashila Zingkhai who tried to face the aggressors walked up to them, but she also ran away jumping past a Longhei (fencing). It was customary for the Kukis to capture and take back a survivor from villages they blunder and attack as a proof of war victory to showcase to their village chief. That particular person after many years returned to the village. Ngahui villages will prove this to you”, said the elder.
The villagers of Ngahui hasn’t forgotten till this day, the massacre, where as per research suggests, only 4 survived. This article is written not to incite hate or polarise tribal conflict between the two communities. It is written so that wronged history can be right, to restore historical order. Ngahui village is not asking for a reparation, an apology, but the Kuki apex organization should admit that during 1917-19 rebellion, Anglo-Kuki war, or Kuki punitive measure, however one want’s to name it, wiped out a generation of Ngahui village. And that historical account cannot, and should not be obliterated from the annals of Manipur history. That acknowledgement, without evading history, will set the tone right to mutual respect as communities.
Disclaimer: This article has in whatsoever manner does not relate to the 1990’s communal conflict.
The author from Ngahui village, Mr Kasomwoshi can be reached at email@example.com