Story of Naga Club and Simon Commision Petition
By Thepfulhouvi Solo
The Naga Club changed the History of the Naga. Many Writers have written about it, some overdosed, others underdosed. This Writer makes an attempt to bring it out ‘it is as it is’ for future generations to reminiscence it. If you like read on.
I. FORMATION OF NAGA CLUB
Many Naga assume the Naga Labor Corp that went to Europe in 1917, on their return at the end of the World War I, 1914-1918, organized the Naga Club.
Dr. Khosa Zinyü was the highest ranking Naga Officer that went with the Naga Labor Corp, his younger son Late Jasokie Zinyü, former Chief Minister of Nagaland told this Writer:
“The idea of forming a Naga Club was formed after seeing the European Club at the Town Hall Kohima, where all the white People in the HQ in those bygone days used to gather every evening for Drinking, Dancing, Singing and spending their leisure together in recreation”.
The building originally belonged to the Assam Rifles who had their Canteen in it. The erstwhile Doss & Co, then Government Provision Suppliers rented the Building and supplied the Drinks and Provisions the Club required.
“No Non-Whites, -Indians or the Naga- were ever allowed into the Club. It was exclusively for the Europeans only. The Native Government Servants took the cue to form a similar native Body”.
It is said Rheichalie Pienyü Peshkar (JH. Hutton wrote his name Hrichalie, later Copiers Hisale; translated some Aesop Fables in Angami first used as Primary School Book) of the DC Office was one of the first to moot the Idea of the Native Government Servants forming a Naga Club, -not the Naga Labor Corp Returnees. None of the Returnees except Dr. Khosa and Nikhriehu Peseyie are found in the list of the signatories to the Simon Commission Petition.
After their return, the Corp Members each walked to their own various Villages and understandably did not have much contact with each other to discuss forming a Body in those blissful simple days of ignorance.
The Naga Labor Corp that went to Europe in support of the allied War affords, dug Trenches, collected left-over ammunitions, empty Shells, Arms, dead bodies, carried abandoned materials, Boots, Helmets etcetera and did all the works of cleaning the litters of the War in the battle field, than did sight-seeing in France.
When Dr. Khosa Zinyü of Khonoma Village left, he had just immediately before married his wife who arrived in their house a clean shaven young girl in the tradition of the Angamis. In days of yore the shrewd Angami did not immediately live as husband and wife for a few months after marriage to ensure production of his own pedigree only!
After the War Dr. Khosa was taken to England and worked there for quite some time before he returned back. When he came Home, he found one young girl with long hairs doing various chores in the House. Khosa asked his mother who the young Lady was and she said: “she is your Wife!”
Doctor Khosa must have been paid very handsomely in the UK, he was a very generous Man and on his return to Kohima presented Rs. 13/-, -a very big sum in those days- to each of a few of his close friends including my father.
Khosa’s Parents were Pagans and once earlier he was in his Village for performance of an important Angami religious Rites for charmed good life that prevented him to go up to Kohima and attend the Baptism Program the Missionary had arranged. Khosa missed the occasion and never after took Baptism. At Heart Khosa appeared no less Christian and my father presented him a Bible.
Another educated Member of the Labor Corp was the well known first generation Naga Student in Shillong, Mr. Guizao Meru of Nakama Zeliang Village. He was the 1st Head Master of the Impur Mission School. He died at Impur in 1918 of the serious Influenza epidemic they contracted in Europe.
Naga Hills contributed 2000 Labor Corp force and out of the total, some 1000 were from the Sümi Community. The Group that went to their Villages through Kohima was a big group and many were suffering from the deadly influenza. They camped below Meriema on Kohima-Wokha Road near present Assam Rifle Station. It is said so many of them were suffering that there were not enough to even burry the dead.
The Naga Club put up a Building at Chotobosti first on the eastern side of the Mission Compound below Baptist High School (now Americanized ‘Baptist High’) at the site the Tsütuonuomia Thinuo buildings stand today.
Some Years after its formation, for the first time on 10th January 1929, some 20 Interpreters and Employees of the Government at Kohima HQ submitted a formal Petition to the Simon Commission in the name of the Naga Club. None of the Labor Corps members is among the signatories except Dr. Khosa Zinyü and Nikhriehu Peseyie, Government Doctor and Interpreter respectively.
The Absence of the other labor corp. member among the signatories of the Simon Commission Letter gives an indication the Naga Club was composed of the Government Servants only and no other civilians, not even village Gamburas.
Once they returned, the Members went to each of their villages and lived like other Villagers as before a simple cultivator without much contact with each others.
II. SIMON COMMISSION PETITION.
Late Teacher Rüzhükhrie told this Writer:
“One early morning, I saw some Dobashis coming one after another together in a line to my house (at Mission Compound, Kohima). I asked, ‘what are you People together up to this Morning?’
They said, “‘we are coming to request you to write something of what we would like to tell a very high Visitor said to be coming soon to Kohima from Outside. The ‘Borchaha’ (angami for the DC, JH, Hutton (1917 – 1935)) has informed us a High Officer is coming soon from outside to find out how the Naga would like to be governed in future.’
‘You are the only one at the moment in Kohima educated in the white man’s Language and therefore we have come to you to write in their language of how we would like us governed in future and give the Petition to the Officer when he comes.’”
Teacher Rüzhükhrie had just then done his Intermediate Arts from Saint Paul’s College Calcutta and was serving as Assistant Teacher at the Government High School Kohima now known after his Name.
The DC Dr. J.H. Hutton told Neihu Rame the Head Dobashi at the Court of the Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills, that a big Officer is coming to Kohima to enquire how the Naga would like to be looked after in future.
Neihu told the DC that he (Neihu) does not speak the language of the white man and therefore that the DC may please tell the Visitor the Naga would like to live like they were, before the white man came to their land.
The DC replied he is not a Naga Dobashi and that the Naga should themselves tell or write in Paper what they would like to say and give it to the Visitor.
Teacher Rüzhükrie drafted the Letter with a Pencil and together with the Draft they went up to the DC Bangalow. (Generations later Ramuni the Commissioner of Nagaland, took the Draft from Rüzhükhrie and never returned it back).
Rüzhükhrie said he greeted the DC: “‘Good Morning Sir’, but the Borchaha did not acknowledge my Greeting in English and only talked with the Dobashis in Assamese and said “itu ‘kukur yat ki kuri ase?”.
The Writer’s father in the early days, once while going up to Mokokchung saw the SDO in the Road coming down to Impur. He gave way to the SDO and his entourage and greeted him in English from the side of the Mule Tract, but the SDO did not acknowledge the greeting, and simply passed by. My father never greeted him again afterwards!
(The principle Policy of the colonial Officials in those days was to keep the White Men of the Sarkar in awe of the Natives. Every white Officer was to maintain himself aloof from familiarity with the Natives and guard the Natives from their propensity to imitate the Whites.
Nearly a generation after, a friend went to America for Training and came back married with a young English Lady and narrated to me how when he met Mr. Hutton in retirement at London, was a completely changed person, very friendly, civil and nice to him).
Jasokie said a Khasi Officer, Hariblah, an EAC at the DC Office Kohima assisted in the Petition to the Simon Commission.
Many years after, in 1990s, Vilavor Liegise, the so-called Secretary of Naga Club said Teacher Rüzhükhrie also narrated to ‘him and his group’ of his drafting of the Simon commission Petition.
The 20 Government Servants that appended their Signature to the Naga Club Petition for the Simon Commission are:
- Neihu, Head Interpreter, Angami. (Neihu Rame Kohima)
- Rheichalie, Peshar, Angami. (Rheichalie Pienyü, Kohima)
- Neisier, Master, Angami. (Niser Meru, Khonoma)
- Khosa, Doctor, Angami. (Khosa Zinyü, Khonoma)
- Gepo, Interpreter, Kacha Naga. (Irapeung ZeliangNakama)
- Vipunyu, Potdar, Angami. (said to be Vipon Poda, Visema)
- Goyapra, Treasurer, Angami. (Goyiepra Nakhro, Jotsoma)
- Razhukrie, Master, Angami. (Rüzhükhrie Sekhose, Kohima)
- Dikhrie, Sub-Overseer, Angami. (Dikhrie Sekhose, Kohima)
- Zapuzhulie, Master, Angami. (Zapuzhülie Sekhose, Kohima)
- Zepulie, Interpreter, Angami. (Zepulie Suokhrie, Kohima)
- Khatsulo, Interpreter, Angami.( unknown Village)
- Levi, Clerk, Kacha Naga. (Levi Liegise, originally Khonoma)
- Nuolhoukielie, Clerk Angami. (Nuolhoukielie Pienyü Kohima)
- Nizhuvi, Interpreter, Sema. (Nizhevi, Shenakusami)
- Apomo, Interpreter, Lotha. (Apamo of Phiro)
- Resilo, Interpreter, Rengma. (Resilo, of Tsemenyu)
- Lengjang, Interpreter, Kuki. (Lenjang, Tening)
- Neikhriehu, Interpreter, Angami. (Nikhriehu Peseyie, Jotsoma)
- Miakra-o, Chaprasi, Angami. (Miakra-o, Rüsoma)
(The Writer followed the names and the list from ‘REMINISCENCE’ by T. Aliba Imti, the First President of Naga National Council 1946-1948 for the reason that the spellings of the Angami Signatories are surprisingly correct –something of an unconscionable Mill Stone in the neck of every Ao, and hence taken as an authentic copy of the Original. Corrected name and Village in Italic under Bracket are by the Writer after extensive search under the whole sky from reliable sources)
The Petition ran as follows:
The Indian Statutory commission,
We the undersigned Nagas of the Naga Cub at Kohima, who are the only persons at present who can voice for our people have heard with great regret that our hills were included within the Reformed Scheme of India without our knowledge, but as the Administration of our Hills continued to be in the hands of the British Officers, we did not consider it necessary to raise any protest in the past. Now, we learnt that you have come to India as Representatives to the British Government to enquire into the system of working of Government and the growth of education, and we beg to submit below our view with the prayer that our Hills may be withdrawn from the Reformed Scheme and placed it outside the Reforms but directly under the British Government. We never asked for any reforms and we do not wish for any reforms.
Before the British Government conquered our country in 1879–1880, we were living in a state of intermittent warfare with the Assamese of the Assam Valley to North and West of our country and Manipuris to the South. They never conquered us, nor were we ever subjected to their rule. On the other hand we were always a terror to these people. Our country within the administered area consists of more than eight tribes, quite different from on another with quite different languages, which cannot be understood by each other, and there are more tribes outside the administered area, which are not known at the present. We have no unity among us and it is only the British Government that is holding us together now.
Our education at present is poor. The occupation of our country by the British Government being so recent as 1880, we had no chance or opportunity to improve in education and though we can boast of two or three graduates of an Indian University in our country, we have not got one yet who is able to represent all our different tribes or master our languages much less one to represent us in any council of a province. Moreover, our population of the plain numbering 102,000 is very small in comparison with the population of the plains districts in the province, and any representation that may be allotted to us in the Council will be negligible and will have no weight whatever. Our language is quite different from those of the plains and we have no social affinities with either Hindus or Muslims. We are being looked down upon by one for our ‘beef’ and the other for our ‘pork’ and both for our want in education which is not due to any fault of ours.
Our country is poor and it does not pay for its administration. Therefore, if it is continued to be placed under the reformed scheme, we are afraid that new and heavy taxes will have to be imposed on us and when we cannot pay them all our land will have to be sold and in the long run we shall have no share in the land of our birth and life will not be worth living then. Though our land at present is within the British territory, Government have always recognised our private rights in it, but if we are forced to enter the Council of the majority, unsymphathic council may extinguish all these rights, the majority of whose member is sure to belong to other districts. We also have much fear the introduction of foreign laws and customs to supersede our own customary laws to which we now enjoy.
For the above reasons, we pray that the British Government will continue to safeguard our rights against all encroachment from other people who are more advanced than us by withdrawing our country from the Reformed Scheme and placing it directly under its own protection. If the British Government however, want to throw us away, we pray that we should not be thrust to the mercy of the people who could never have conquered us themselves and to whom we are never subjected; but to leave us alone to determine for ourselves as in ancient times. We claim (Not only the members of the Naga Club) to represent all those tribes to which we belong: Angamis, Kacha Nagas, Semas, Lothas and Rengmas.”
III. THE NAGA CLUB BUILDING.
The first Naga Club Building was in Chotobosti after the World War I (1914-1918). The building was destroyed during the Japanese war and Lhounyü, the Head GB of Tsütuonuomia Thinuo, the original Land Owners got the site for construction of their Chapru for a Resting place for unknown visitors from the interior Areas with nobody to host them at Kohima and who had come for Salt or other merchandise, so that they could cook, eat and sleep at night while in Kohima.
Jasokie said the Naga Club building at Chotobosti was about 40ft by 20ft and double Storey and when he was very young his father Dr. Khosa use to hold his hand and take him there where his father spent the Evening reading paper and discussing things with his friends.
According Mr. Ziekro-o Theünuo, in those days Rheichalie Peshkar in the DC Office looked after the Club from the inception to 1942 as President, Secretary and Treasurer on contribution of 4 Annas for Clerks and 2 Annas per Month of the Members. Then in ’42, Mr. Krusiehu Belho was President and Ziekro-o Treasurer in DC Office was also Treasurer of the Naga Club. After WWII, it was shifted to Kohima Town Committee Building sometime in 1944.
Let me quote the Treasurer Ziekro-o:
“The Naga Club building which houses the KTC office now used to be the Assam Rifles Canteen. During 1944 this building was purchased with Rs.10,000/- taken from fine fund for the Naga Club. At that time I was treasurer in the D.C’s Office Naga Hills Kohima. Mr. CR Pausey D.C and Mr. Levi Head Clerk took the money from me and in my presence handed over the amount to the Commanding Officer of the Assam Rifles”.
The NNC Body met there on 14th August 1947 at the Town Committee Building and Jasokie, then Jt Secretary Publicity went to the Post Office and sent Telegram to:
- Governor of Assam; (Sir Akbar Hydari)
- Premier of Assam; (Gopinath Bordoloi)
iii. Mr. Nehru;
- The President of Constituent Assembly.
The telegram said:
‘“Naga Hills cannot be considered part of the Indian Union until heads of proposed agreement between the Governor of Assam and the Naga National Council is accepted to the letter for execution, with No. 9 modified as ‘at the end of this period the Nagas will be free to decide their own future’”.
In 1946 the present Naga Club Building was constructed free of charge by one Punjabi Contractor Jodhu Singh who built the DC Office after the World War II at the request of Philip Adams in 1946. The materials were given by a British Officer at Dimapur out of the dismantled and disused materials of the War, his wife presented the Screens for the Windows and Lt Mr. Kevichüsa, brought them to Kohima for the Naga Club Building.
The Building was completed and used from 1946 to 1953 by NNC Leaders and Elders of the Town who used to read News Paper and spend their time discussing various things there, but remained underutilized. The Ao Woman Church at Kohima started from the Building.
For a short period of 6 years from 1946 to 30 March 1953, the day Jawaharlal Nehru, Independent India First Prime Minister’s disastrous visit to Kohima accompanied by Prime Minister Unu of Burma, the building was mostly used by the NNC.
The Naga en mass walked out of the Meeting. From that evening 30 March 1953, the Assam Rifles and the Police began to search and arrest the NNC Leader vanished underground.
There was no positive practical result out of the July 29-31 of 1947 NNC discussion of the 9-Point Sir Akbar Hydari Agreement and the 14th August 1947 NNC Telegram.
The NNC elected Mhondamo Lotha, Khelhoshe Sema and some others as Minister to run the NNC Government but the Government of Assam threatened them not to. Phizo was arrested in Shillong in 1947 but released in 1948 on humanitarian Reason of his wife’s serious vehicle accident.
The NNC on 16 May 1951 conducted the advisability of Naga Plebiscite on the advice of some Muslims Leaders who expected to influence Nagaland to join East Pakistan.
The Plebiscite was conducted from the Naga Club Building witnessed by Observer from India. The Plebiscite Papers were printed at Imphal in Manipur and not in Assam perhaps as a precaution against prevention by the Authorities of Assam who were not in favour of the Naga Movement.
One Late Mr. Sovizo Iralu told the Writer he (Sovizo) went to Imphal and brought the Papers to Kohima in his Vehicle. Regional Representatives took the Papers to the remote interior Naga Hills. The Plebiscite continued for months up to 7 months.
After the Naga Walked-out en mass of Nehrus’ first public Meeting with the Naga in 30 March 1953; the same night, Armed Soldiers and Police began to search for the NNC Leaders who went ‘Underground’.
Jasokie told this Writer, the NNC Leaders were hounded so much
by the Police that for some time he slept in the middle of the Local Football Ground at night in sound sleep without any fear of anybody finding him. Since then Naga Club Building became highly stigmatized with the name NNC and people were hesitant to use it.
The Army for some time camped there until a semblance of normalcy arrived to Nagaland becoming the 16th State of India on 1 December 1963.
Then 10 years after, erstwhile Naga Hills and Tuensang-Mon part of NEFA now Arunachal, were carved out into the 16th State of India as NAGALAND on 1st December 1963.
Then the Naga Club Building was occupied by the Government for the New Office of the Director of Forests. Who gave the building on Rent was not a matter of any difficulty for the State Government of the time particularly when the Government of the Naga National Council was hiding in unknown places of the Jungle.
Lt. PD Stracey of the former Imperial Forest Service was the first Director and the Forest Department used the Building from 1963 onwards to 16th April 1983. And with the expansion the Department, it slowly cannibalized all available surrounding spaces unethically “in Public Interest” and expanded their building themselves.
During 1983 the Government decided to take over the Building for the establishment of the more important Education Directorate and pushed the junglee Department towards the Puliebadze jungle where Agriculture Department have some of their Offices.
As soon as the Department vacates the Buildings, the DC Kohima was to occupy it for the Education Department. This information was secreted into the ear of Peselie Suokhrie, an NNC veteran Released from Jail and Azüto another National Worker who were offered the task of collecting two Taxi loads of local Youths for less than the whole wealth `600/- of an anonymous Person and an oversized Lock to lock up the entrance to the Building before the Police arrived.
Old grey haired Peselie and equally grey haired Azüto did as was secreted to them. When the DC’s Police came, they found the Youths and an unconscionably disproportionately large Lock barring entrance to the Building and left saying: “Oh, it is locked”.
The Naga Club finally returned to its long Dead Owners.
Then in 1983 Nagaland Football Association under the Chairmanship of Mr. Mezhur whose son is the President today and the Secretary Mr. Neilakuolie Belho, claimed ownership of the Naga Club but a rather big gathering of Naga Elders under the Chairmanship of Peselie Suokhrie met at Kohima Panchayat Building on 24 August 1983 and in no uncertain terms dismissed the claim of the Association.
The Naga Football Association was first named to obtain Entry Tickets for a few from Nagaland –T. Ao, Z. Obed, Father, this Writer, Neilakuolie and another Ao. They went to Culcutta to see legendary Pele come to India for the first time and play an Exhibition Match at the Eden Garden Calcutta.
When the news of Pele’s Cosmos Club of America coming to play with Mohan Bagan, Calcutta, reached the Papers in India, it was like the end of the world with excitement for all football lovers in India, every Bengalee went insane with excitement.
- Belho went to the Mohan Bagan Office to buy the Tickets but was refused on the ground the Tickets are issued sparingly only to recognized State Football Associations, Nagaland was not!
- Belho returned to Nagaland House Shakespear Sarani and got a Letter of Recommendation from T. Ao, the famous former Captain of Mohan Bagan and India’s bare foot Olympic Captain in 1948. With T. Ao’s letter, a few Tickets were issued to Nagaland. As far as this Writer, who contracted the Football Disease inherited from his Parent and who played for the State and the District, remembers formal formation of Nagaland Football Association was made comparatively recently.
In 30 April 1990, one of the greatest events that ever happened in Nagaland happened with the demise of NNC President Mr. Zapuphizo in London. The NNC Secretary Tobu Periatsü Kevichüsa initiated an unprecedented Public Meeting at the Naga Club building.
The Public formed a Funeral Organizing Body FOC and arranged in bringing the dead Body to Kohima in a chartered Airplane to Dimapur and after an unprecedented Funeral Service at Local Ground where every one Mourner passed his immaculate Coffin every 3 Seconds from day break to Noon 12 O’clock buried the Late President in the hillock near Nagaland Secretariat, Kohima on 12 May 1990.
From 1 May to 12 May the Naga Club Building was the gravitational Centre of Naga humanity Activities; the Phone Bill of the Building alone came to `18,000/- in the Week.
In the year 1982 Mr. Peselie Suokhrie convened a meeting of some concerned Naga Elders at Kohima Village Panchayat to revive the Naga Club and elected:
Azüto as President.
Vilavor as Secretary and some others as Office Bearers to Re-Establish Naga Club.
They called themselves Naga Club and carried on its name to date.
Thanks very much to them for their concern and carrying the burdens of the Office to date but perhaps it is most appropriate the Descendants of the Simon Commission Signatories are involved in the revival of the Naga Club of their Parents.
The Naga Club did not and does not belong to ANY particular Tribe or Religion; it belongs to all Native Communities in Nagaland.
Yet Naga Club Members originally consisted only of GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES.
It would therefore be most pertinent for the living descendants of the Original Signatories to be involved in the Revival of the Club today and not by others however sincerely concerned some may be.
If not, it would be like grafting beautiful Lemon Tree on a live Teak Stump and calling it a Teak tree!
(The Writer acknowledges with Thanks the corrections contributed by the followings:
- Dr. SC Jamir, Governor of Odisha for the date of Nehru and Unu’s visit to Kohima and the date of Nagaland State inauguration.
- H.K. Sema, Retired Supreme Court Justice, for giving the correct name of his Uncle Nizhevi Interpreter of Senakusami, a signatory to the Simon Commission Petision.
- The Grandson of Azüto for providing the correct name of his Grandfather.
- Mr. Lhouvitsü Speaker Tatar Hoho NNC for reminding the forgetful Homo the time of death of President Zapuphizo.
- The Vice Chairman, the Secretary of Jotsoma Village Council and the Head GB of Jotsoma Village, for their additional inputs.
**On the Question of who seeded the Idea of Naga Club first, It is perhaps more probable and plausible to give weightage to the version Jasokie Zinyü gave, mentioning the European Club at Kohima Town as the incentive.
It is improbable any of the Labour Corps Members have seen much of an European Club when they were in battle grounds in Europe just like most of the countless Naga man and woman who visits the West every year have not seen much of European Clubs when they were in the Foreign Countries.