The front page of two Nagaland weeklies, Nagaland Times and Citizens Voice reportage of Kohima Crusade from November 17-22, 1972 (Morung Photo by Arrangement)
Morung Express News
Dimapur | February 23
William Franklin Graham Jr., popularly known as Billy Graham, the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died on February 21, aged 99 in Montreal, North Carolina, United States.
Thousands of miles away, the citizens of Nagaland fondly remember the “Kohima Crusade of 1972” also known as “Kohima Miracle,” where the famous preacher addressed.
The Crusade, organised from November 17-22, was attended by over 100000 people from all walks of life.
The Morung Express walk down memory lane and take a peek into how the event was reported in the media, especially those based in Nagaland.
Unprecedented expectation, tumultuous times
Calling Dr. Billy Graham’s visit to Nagaland historic, the editorial of erstwhile ‘Nagaland Times’ on November 22 read, “All Nagaland was awaiting this happy and eventful occasion with unprecedented expectation and eagerness.”
However, it was a tumultuous time. According to Nagaland Times while the “underground set-up” declared the month of November as peace period in view of Impur centennial and the visit of Dr. Billy Graham to Kohima, the violent conflict continued.
‘Guns boom as Graham prays,’ read a headline of the erstwhile weekly ‘Citizens Voice,’ on November 23, 1972 while informing that one security was killed and 2 others injured in an armed encounter at Jotsoma By-pass, not more than six kilometer away from the venue. The Nagaland Times put the casualty at 2.
According to Nagaland Times, on November 14, there was an attack on an Army convoy killing one and injuring 11. The past three months had seen two deaths and 5 injuries, including a life bid on then Chief Minister, it added.
Despite such obstacles, over a hundred thousand people from all over India, Bhutan and Sikkim braved the biting winter chill and sat in rapt attention throughout the service every morning and evening, Citizens’ Voice reported.
“It was a marvel to see a human sea so calm and tranquil – not a single whisper to disturb the sacred tranquility,” it stated.
One hundred and eighty three scouts and guides moved throughout the service keeping the crowd in order and not a ‘single policeman had to be called up’ to aid them, it added.
On November 20, when Graham and his team consisting of ‘song leader’ Cliff Barrows and others arrived in Kohima by road from Dimapur, thousands of people who had come from all over the North East and from places as far as ‘Bombay’, lined the entire route from Para-Medical Colony to Police Reserve Junction.
All were smiling because three days of suspense and waiting had ended and the long-expected Dr. Billy Graham and his team were in Kohima to take over the crusade that started in November 17, Citizens’ Voice reported.
The Citizens Voice detailed report of the crusade informed that on opening night on November 17, over 30,000 prayed for safe arrival of Graham and his team. On November 18, the evening attendance was over 50,000. November 19 Sunday service attendance was recorded at 73,870.
The crowd had swelled as news of Graham’s arrival spread. On Monday morning service of November 20, the attendance was well over 80,000.
In the evening, “an expectant crowd of one lakh filled the Crusade Hall more than two hours ahead of the scheduled time,” the report stated.
The November 21 service, according to Graham “was one of the biggest meetings he had attended.”
On the last service of the Crusade on November 22, the report said that there was “an air of tension and concern” after a firing incident at Kohima-Dimapur road, but by 4 pm, the ground had packed to capacity.
“A disciplined gathering never recorded in the history of Nagaland listened to Graham’s messages in rapt attention braving cold winter night,” noted Citizens’ Voice.
Another report commented that the sudden shootout at Zubza, only 300 hours (on November 14) before the Crusade, was forgotten when Graham’s motorcade arrived on November 20. The crowd swelled from 80000 to 100000 overnight and Kohima’s own population vanished in the sea of endless stream of visitors from outside.
It put the final figure of last service at 103000.
Talking to UNI news agency after the crusade, Graham described his visit to Nagaland as “wonderful.” He said that people of Nagaland gave him a tremendous reception and thousands of them attended the six meetings addressed by him there, it added.