Post Mortem

The Pioneers (WW-I Naga Labour Corps 1917-1918)

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/25/2018 11:23:12 AM IST

 (From previous issue)

6. Blargies Communal Extention Cemetery France

1. Rhumeha Naga (Khumgha) Labr.4065 ILC died on 10th Jan 1918 Naga Hills Assam.

(Grave list compiled by Vikashe Murumi and Khekaho Zhimomi)

We should be enormously proud that our ancestors took part in one of the greatest war in human history, courage displayed by them is audacious on favourable opportunities, one such profound occurrence is when their ship brushed with an accident in one of their voyages in the Mediterranean sea, Nagas however inclined towards their customary fortitude were undaunted and calm, on the contrary hundreds of them; Indians, the Chinese, the Ceylonese and others were badly jittered by this catastrophic adversary and that were quite taken by the Nagas stance, they later on asked in what deity do they confide in. Their courageous spirits can be signified by this kind of attributes.

It is disheartening and unfortunate that the repository which holds the records of the Naga labour corps was razed during the Japanese invasion of Kohima (1944) but their accounts and anecdotes of their experiences have been preserved by verbalizing from progenitor to his kith and kin and so on in which they clearly affirmed their diligence towards their stint as a labour crops in France and the post war in Naga hills. It will be our endeavor and our belief that one day we could extricate and comprehend all the significant past which we could not fathom now or seen the lights yet.

For millions of contemporary world the first world war was a scripted concept of despair and anguish but for those Nagas who went to serve the war in France was an odyssey full of advent and discovery into the realms of unknown dimension for they have never seen or ventured into the advanced civilization as their contact with the outside world was limited during that time. Their affiliation and experiences with the outside world assimilated and bring forth many imperative impacts into our society, it induced oneness among the Nagas because prior to the formation of Naga labour corps most of the Nagas were not even aware of the existence of diverse Naga tribe, as their contact with each others were limited within their occupational territories. It acted as a catalyst in accelerating towards modernization; terrace cultivation was familiarized, many fruits and vegetable seeds were brought from Europe, barter economy slowly began to perish, clothing and hygienic system was improved, and most importantly political consciousness was imparted to the mass resulting with the formation of pan Naga association called the Naga club in November 1918 which subsequently after 10 years lead to submission of memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929.

Indeed the 1929 submission of memorandum to Simon Commission was the Magna Carta of Naga political liberty, so was the 1917-18 Labour Corps expedition to France the Genesis of Naga evolution.  In 1929 when Simon Commission chaired by sir John Simon and Clement Atlee also as a member arrived at Kohima, they asked Nagas to cooperate with the new reformed scheme under the state of Assam. Prior to the submission of memorandum there was a huge dissonance among the Naga leaders some contended that how could we Nagas determine our own future, it’s impossible, while others were of the view that when they left us we could and so shall we live on our own. In that meeting Nizhevi Sema Naga a Dobashi (interpreter) Kohima and Luzukhu Sema Dobashi Mokokchung who were both festooned in traditional attires started yodelling “Aeu–he-he” at the same time fluctuating their spears and daos into the air and then Nizhevi stomped his feet on the ground and candidly proclaimed Nagas have been existent from time immemorial, Nagas have relied on no one for self sustenance even before the influx of British people so leave the Nagas as they were way back and we Nagas will determine our own future. It is said that Juvihe Sema who at that time was studying in mission school too overheard and witnessed Nizhevi’s verbal altercation in the meeting, these lines is Dr Piketo Sema’s personal interview with Luzukhu Dobashi and Juvihe, an excerpt from the notes of Sumi Kiphimi Kuqhakulu (SKK) Golden Jubilee souvenir. Nizhevi Sema Naga is regarded as one of the noteworthy pillar from where our nationalistic ideal stands today. He was a 1917-18 Naga Labour Corps returnee from France and was a signatory in the petition to Simon Commission 1929.

Legitimacy and contention over the Naga Club should not be the issue as it belongs to every Nagas, but can we live up to their ideals and fulfill the aspirations envisioned by them is what we should ponder upon. How fortunate are we to stand here in the present context we could visualize, rationalize or reason out the past present or future but our moral value should not allow us the liberty to misinterpret the past or alter the future, yesterday we tread the same trails gone through the same turmoil, today we are diversified, failing to acknowledge one another, disparity over trivial matters, tomorrow could be an abysmal of endless uncertainty. The machineries and entities responsible for revamping our history have failed us miserably which otherwise have been only for posterity, unlike our neighbor state Manipur who has retraced all the WW-I Manipur Labour Crops who died in France and celebrated centennial jubilee of their arrival in much zeal and jubilation with dozens of dignitaries from UK. The proposal to build a museum and war memorial park in remembrance to the Naga Labour Corps is procrastinating to forever and other thing that confounds me is the absence of the Naga Labour corps in the timeline of Nagaland history curriculum, the younger generation rightfully deserves to know the contribution of Naga Labour Corps in the first world war and participating in one of the greatest war justifiably worthy to get berth in Nagaland history curriculum. We solemnly need to re-examine, recapitulate and summarize the salient features and roots of the history. Dear Naga brethren, let’s dispel our insignificant differences away and start appreciating, acknowledging each other’s effort and together let us withstand all the negative forces and strengthen the unanimity among us. 

(Concluded)

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