In response to the news article titled “A rejoinder against Mezoma’s claims of Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty” by the Information & Publicity Cell, Naga Club, that appeared in Nagaland Post on 18/12/2022, the Mezomia Mechü Kehou (MMK) is constrained to address the objections raised against the commemoration of 142 years of the Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty at Mezoma village.
While acknowledging the decorated history of the Naga Club and its immense contribution in setting firm the historical and political rights of the Nagas in the past, the MMK is painfully dismayed to see the venerated name of the Naga Club being (mis)used to make unfounded allegations and petty claims. In the famous memorandum to the Simon Commission in 1929, the Naga Club courageously and truthfully declared the rights of the Nagas to the world. Should we not lament when the name of this revered representative organization of the Nagas has been invoked to engage in silly word games to muddle historical truths?
Two major objections are raised by the Information & Publicity Cell, Naga Club, against the commemoration of the Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty at Mezoma village. The first concerns the usage of the term “Peace Treaty” and the second concerns the participation of Mezoma village in it.
- The rejoinder maintained that the agreement between the British and the Nagas on 27th March 1880 was a “no-more-fight agreement” and that the usage of the term “Peace Treaty” is tantamount to “negating or even uprooting the political foundation of the unquestionable and unchallengeable Naga Political history and its rights” by which “the Naga National Soul would be compromised and colonized.” These are very strong objections but unfortunately based on a remarkably poor understanding of history and the English language. The rejoinder argued that the term “treaty” or “peace treaty” connotes not only a “written agreement” but also a “surrender” to a stronger nation. To sustain this argument, it provides two wrong definitions of the term “Peace Treaty.” It is regretted that the rejoinder set out with the claim to correct the “distortion” and “misrepresentation” of facts but stands guilty of the same transgressions. In the first instance, “Peace Treaty” is wrongly defined as “on something (formal) a long and serious piece of writing on a particular subject”. This definition was credited to the Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary when a simple search would show that the definition provided is that of “treatise” and not “Peace Treaty”. Treaty and treatise share the same root words which may have been the cause of confusion but they have widely different meanings. A treaty is a binding agreement while a treatise is an exposition (usually a written work) on a particular subject. The rejoinder made a blunder in wrongly assuming that these two words mean the same thing.
- The error is further exacerbated in point no. 2 which states, “the various dictionaries of the English language clearly define the term “Peace Treaty” which involved two or more parties whereby a party or a Nation or more surrendered and become the subject of another stronger and bigger Nation and allows the binding and obligations to rule over them as a subject of that Nation.” This definition is blatantly wrong and will not be found in any dictionary. While victorious nations are known to impose treaties on defeated nations, the essence and meaning of a peace treaty have never exclusively entailed surrender or subjection. The purpose of a peace treaty is in fact the exact opposite. Peace treaties are concluded in recognition of the sovereignty of both parties. The most commonly held understanding of a “Peace Treaty” is “an agreement for peace and cessation of hostilities between two nations” or in simple words “no-more-fight agreement.”
- In denouncing the term “Peace Treaty”, the rejoinder reacted as if this was the first and only time that the term has been used. In reality, the term has been accepted and widely used by Nagas for decades. It has to be clearly understood that the Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty is not a claim made by Mezoma village, it is a claim that has been made by the Nagas for more than a hundred years. So, the “burden of proof” is not the exclusive prerogative of Mezoma village but of the Nagas as a whole. The author(s) of the rejoinder either do not have knowledge of the rich oral stories among the Nagas that testify to the Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty or they are not willing to accept the veracity of the oral history of the Nagas. Either way, they stand against the weight of Naga history.
- The British deny that any Peace Treaty was concluded with the Nagas because the British did not recognize the Nagas as a nation with the right or power to conclude a peace treaty. Oral testimonies have however preserved the stories of this Peace Treaty through the generations. A recent book titled Life in Khonoma: A Documentation of Beliefs, Practices, and Polity of Khonoma published by Khonoma Baptist Church has reaffirmed the historical truth that “Peace was ushered in between the two warring groups (Nagas and British) by a treaty signed on 27th March 1880.” (emphasis added) Naga leaders have consistently maintained that the peace agreement concluded with the British at Mezoma village on 27th March 1880 was a “Peace Treaty” that brought peace between two sovereign nations; the British and the Nagas. The purported threat to the historical and political rights of the Nagas in the usage of the term “Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty” is nothing more than a flight of fancy and imagination. If the Naga Club unequivocally denounces and rejects the “Peace Treaty” as contrary to Naga history, it is the Naga Club who are making a new claim based on a flimsy interpretation of words.
- There is an alarming tendency in the rejoinder to regard the Peace Treaty executed with the rites and rituals of Naga customs as something of less weight and value than a treaty. This belittles the very essence of Naga tradition and culture. An unwritten treaty, concluded according to Naga customs, is as solemn and binding (if not more) as a written agreement. To say that it was not a Peace Treaty because it was not written is to fail to understand the historical importance of the peace agreement and the foresight of the Nagas who made the agreement with the British.
- The second objection concerns the participation of Mezoma village in the peace agreement. A gross misunderstanding is evident here which has fueled this particular objection. At no point has it been claimed by Mezoma village, in speech or writing, that the Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty was concluded between the British and Mezoma. The Peace Treaty was concluded between the Nagas and the British. The oral history in Mezoma village holds that a man from Mezoma and a man from Khonoma represented the Nagas in executing the peace treaty with the British. Stories tend to develop different versions and variations with the passage of time but as far as Mezoma village is concerned, we have never heard of anyone by the name of Kienitso Seyie in connection with the Anglo-Naga Peace Treaty. The MMK is sad to see the name of Naga Club being hijacked to make such petty claims.
- The MMK regretfully notes the cheap recourse to provocative statements in the rejoinder. The rejoinder labeled Mezoma village as a collaborator with the enemy because Mezoma village did not participate in the war with the British in 1879-80. A little knowledge of history would show that Mezoma village was one of the most prominent villages in resisting the British expansion into the Naga Hills. Due to the incessant troubles caused by Mezoma village, not least the daring raids on British military outposts in North Cachar, the British organized two major military expeditions against Mezoma village; in 1850 and 1877. Mezoma did not feature in the war against the British in 1879-80 because the British had completely destroyed and devastated Mezoma village in December 1877. It is beneath any respectful organization to throw dirt on a tribe, village, or clan by nitpicking lines from colonial records out of context. If every mention in the British records of a ‘friendly’ village or clan or the non-participation of a village in a war between the British and another village is to be interpreted as proof of collaboration with the enemy, no village would be spared from such allegations.
This is not the time or space to engage in speculations for the purpose of tarnishing the image of a person or village. The MMK is also not keen to enter into a war of words with the esteemed office of the Naga Club on this public platform. However, the MMK has felt the necessity of addressing the objections raised by the Information & Publicity Cell, Naga Club because these objections were not only without basis but downright silly and carry the danger of creating confusion with regard to the history of the Nagas, not to mention the harm caused to the glorious legacy of the Naga Club. Reposing its faith in the values and principles that the Naga Club stood for, the MMK expresses concerns if the name of the Naga Club is being misused by an individual or a group seeking personal gain and publicity at the expense of the Naga Club and Naga history. It has to be questioned whether the author(s) of the rejoinder who published under the name and guise of the Information & Publicity Cell, Naga Club had the approval and consent of the office of the Naga Club in writing and publishing an article that threatens to negate one of the most cherished and well-established facts of Naga history.
Media & Publicity,
Mezomia Mechü Kehou