The Simon Commission Memorandum revisited

Kaka D. Iralu

Compared to today’s confused Nagas, the drafters of the memorandum to the Simon Commission seems to be a more educated lot. Unlike so many educated Nagas of today, the drafters of the memorandum had no confusions as to who they were in their national and geographical identities. After narrating our history and geography as a distinct people, they ended by stating:

 

“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 were never subjected; but to leave us alone to determine ourselves as in ancient times.”

 

The wordings of the memorandum were never an imagined document or a fairy tale about a people who had existed as ghosts in some unknown territory. Yet today’s Nagas are talking about a “Naga people without borders!” What country is there in this world without borders? At the time of the memorandum’s submission, there was no Assam state or Manipur state or Arunachal state. Neither were the Naga territories in Assam and Manipur called “Assam hills district” or “Manipur hills district.” On the contrary, both the Naga territories in Assam and Manipur were called Naga Hills Districts with a different administrative system. The British administered us separately because they knew we were neither Ahoms nor Meiteis. On the part of the drafters of the memorandum, mention was also made of:

 

“The state of intermittent warfare with the Assamese of Assam valley to the north and west of our country and Manipuris to the south.” It went on to say,” They never conquered us nor were we ever subjected to their rule. On the other hand, we were always a terror to these people.”

 

But now with the backing of India and a now defunct British legacy, some leaders of these two neighbours are threatening us with words and slogans like “Not an inch of Manipuri territory (or Assam) will be surrendered to Nagaland.” The political and geographical question therefore is: Can these neighbour leaders, show us a single historical document to the effect that the present mountainous areas inhabited by Nagas in their present Indian backed states were ever ruled by any of their Kings with the acquiescence of the Nagas prior to the coming of the British and Indians into our Naga lands? Or is there any document to show that any Ahom or Metei Kings had leased the present Naga inhabited lands to Naga forefathers in the past?

 

Historical records show that these two neighbour kingdoms also fought the British but were eventually subjugated by them. As for Nagas, only 30% of Naga lands came under partial British administration. The rest 70% Nagas fought the British on till they left in 1947. In this context, we Nagas must be very clear of the fact that South Asian history and Naga history did not begin with the coming or going of the British into South Asia from the 16th century to the mid 19th century.

 

Here, with all due respect to our neighbour kingdoms of Assam and Manipur, we Nagas have a history that stretches to two thousand years back and even beyond to the B.C. era. As for Manipur’s history as a Monarchy, as far as my knowledge goes, it began only in 33 A.D with King Pakhangba, while that of the Ahom Kingdom stated from 1228 with the march of King Sukhapa and his people across the Patkai range of the then already inhabited Naga lands. (Assam’s history before the Ahoms, of course stretches far beyond 1228 A.D.). It is also a historical fact that Meiteis being the younger brother of the Tangkhul tribe, every Meitei king used to ascend the throne in the presence of his elder brother- the Tankhul. There also exist many historical accounts of how Naga forefathers gave shelter to Ahom kings when internal rivalry for kingship resulted in some Ahom Kings fleeing to the Naga Hills seeking refuge. Such historical and friendly neighbourly relationships should be maintained for all times to come.

 

(For further details, refer to: “The 54 year Indo Naga War: An internal Indian ethnic conflict or a conflict between two nations?’ or “South Asian history did not begin with the Indian Independence Act of 1947.” Both the articles can be found in Kaka Web at nagas.sytes.net/~kaka/ under the caption “Articles.”) Finally, this article is written on the sole capacity of a Freelance Journalist and not on behalf of any official government or organization.