Views & Reviews
Surviving As a Nation in a Dangerous Political and Ideological World (Part 1)
The very fact that Nagas have been able to withstand and exist as a nation despite 72 years of bloody conflict with India and Burma from 1947 to 2020 is a unique record in itself. However, every Naga must know some facts of modern history so that they do not become victims of some of the modern political ideologies that have devastated their neighbouring nations in the 19th and 20th centuries. Let us begin with our immediate neighbour China.
Someone had rightly said that China meant “land”, “people” and “history.” Historically, China is one of the oldest civilisations at par with the Sumerian civilisation (of Mesopotamia) dating as far back as 4000 B.C. Geographically; it occupies more than 14% of the entire earth’s surface area (Some say 20%). As for people, China’s population today, stands at 1.39 billion. This means today, 1 in every 5 persons in the world is a Chinese man! This is why China is, in global terms-“People,” “Land” and “History”. As for its historical achievements, even smaller powerful nations have never been able to build a “great wall” across their territories like China did. From within these walls, Chinese ingenuity built the first ship rudders, the compass, steam engines, the stirrup and most destructive of all-gunpowder and dynamite. Europeans borrowed and harnessed all these Chinese inventions and mass produced them in their factories during the Industrial Revolution. They next, conquered almost the whole world with these technologies and ruled the world for the next nearly 500 years.
But in spite of all these innovative inventions to its credit, as the Second World War dawned on China in 1937, China was found hopelessly divided and weak. When the Japanese attacked first Manchuria in 1931 and Nanking in 1937, the Chinese government collapsed like a deck of cards. China’s main weakness at this period of history, was a weak central government surrounded by a multitude of provinces and dynasties with their own independent armies!
Japan’s plan of course was to capture China’s huge mineral resources and rule Asia and as much of the world as possible. As they launched their plans, cities after cities in China were destroyed both from massive aerial bombardment and ground action. The world at that point had never seen any such destructive actions from both the air and the ground. Besides Manchuria and Shanghai, the attack on Nanking- the then capital of China- alone, killed over 100,000 civilians in one week (some say 300,000). In this orgy of violence, no women were spared the indignity of being raped. Some Japanese officers even competed with one another in beheading their victims.
Japan’s intention at Nanking was to destroy China’s spirit of resistance from within its very heart. But these atrocious acts produced just the opposite reaction. The former fragmented China was suddenly united into one very strong nation determined to fight back and save itself from mass destruction. In this move, even the communist forces (CCP) under Mao Zedong and the nationalist democratic forces under Chiang Kai-shek (KMT), who had been fighting an internal war for dominance, also united under the banner of a unified China.
At the outbreak of war, China’s defence equipment on the ground, air and naval forces was no match at all against Japan. As a result, by mid 1938, most of northern China along with all its big cities and railway lines were under Japanese control. Though China had the overwhelming manpower, realszing that a counter attack was impossible due to lack of arms; a general mass retreat of the entire un-occupied Chinese citizenry was ordered by the government. They were ordered to retreat into the western province of Chungking across the mountains. This retreating force was also ordered to dismantle and carry all the industrial equipment necessary for building arms and ammunitions. Suddenly, the whole of China was on a retreating move. Every means of transport was utilised from bullock carts to automobile and trains. The rest walked on foot dragging equipment through every available big river like the Yangtze. As this mass exodus moved west ward, they blew up all the road and railway tracks in order to prevent the Japanese troops from pursuing them. They also left behind guerrilla bands to ambush and harass the enemy.
As soon as they reached the Chungking Mountains, they dug huge tunnels into the igneous rocks where all their industrial machineries were installed. Other huge caverns were also dug to accommodate the civilian population in case of a second aerial bombardment. Eventually, when Chungking was heavily bombarded for several days, there were very few casualties from the bombardment. The Chinese were saved in their caves now, but the Japanese naval forces had completely blockaded the Chinese seas so that no foreign assistance could reach the entrapped citizens of China. There were also no roads leading from this western sector of China to neighbouring countries like Colonial Burma or India where the British and even Americans were ready to help. When the question of building a supply road through the mountainous terrains of Burma was raised, the western sympathizers said that such a project would take at least six years. The Chinese government, desperate for western technological assistance to rebuild their army and air force resorted to the only resource available to them. The entire population went in to build the road with their bare hands and chisels. As children and even mothers carrying infants on their bags went to work with the men folk, a truck able road with only inches to spare from cliff falls was constructed within twelve months! Through this road, western assistance poured into China. China was thus saved from a most possible Japanese colonial occupation of their country.
However, after a bloody victory in the Second World War, China was again plunged into and even bloodier civil war when one of their own leaders- Mao Zedong- threw the whole country into a bloody internal revolution. Mao Zedong was of course led by his Marxist-Leninist communist political ideology. (By the end of the 2nd world war in 1945, China’s death toll stood at 9.13 million civilians dead and 3.2 million soldiers’ dead). China would be further plunged into greater deaths when the communist launched their so called cultural and industrial revolutions.
N.B. This article is a portrayal of the political events in the 1930’s to the 1940’s in South East Asia which affected the Nagas too through the battle of Kohima in 1944. A second article will try to analyse the political ideologies that led to these political events of which Nagas too must be aware of.
Kaka D Iralu