At the outbreak of the First world war, the British who were ruling over the Naga hills, enlisted approximately 2,000 Nagas, mainly through the initiative of Deputy Commissioner Herbert Charles Barnes, for what was designated as the Naga Labour Corps. The first batch was dispatched on April 21, 1917 for France, and they sailed for that country on April 26, 1917.
Arriving in France in two main groups (688 men on June 21, 1917 and 992 men on July 2, 1917), they were initially divided into the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Naga Labour Companies but to avoid confusion with other Indian Labour Corps units serving in Mesopotamia at that time, these companies were renumbered as the 35th, 36th, 37th and 38th (Naga) Labour Companies. The Naga Labour Corps worked in various places around France and Belgium on salvage work, road repairs among others. They returned to India in mid-1918 A.D
As agreed upon earlier Kuhoi Zhimomi son of a legendary Sumi warrior chief Sukhai Zhimomi was chosen to command over the Naga Labour troops, Hekiqhe Awomi of Surumi village as his assistant, and KHAKHU DIGHALI of Lazami village was choosen as the leader over whole coolies of the Corps.. They were each directed to carry a set of traditional attires along with their spears and machetes, they were divided into groups and made to swing their machetes and spears high into the air and vent out their typical Naga war cries while thumping their feet on the ground. Meanwhile, the Britishers were keenly taking every pictures of this flamboyant movements and later on this pictures was circulated into the Germans territory and made a propaganda that the Britishers have bought an extraordinary race of people called the Nagas from the North Eastern side of Indian sub-continent to fight against the Germans. The British used the Nagas in their psychological game against the German.
It is worth mentionening here that, out of the 2,000 Naga Labour Corps, 1000 belonged to Sumi Tribe and out which 50 was from Lazami village alone.
“Enlisting 50 men from a particular Naga village during the time is no less significant”.
The ablility to gather as many as 50 labourers from a single Naga village is due to the fact that Lazami village was one of the largest villeges in the whole of the Naga Hills even during those days. Moreover, there was one popular and influential Doobashi (Interpreter) at the Deputy Commissioner’s office, Kohima Elakha by the name KHUPU KHUWO who also happens to be the First Doobashi (Interpreter) among Sumi Naga tribe. Perhaps, the D.C used this man’s popularity to enlist as many as labourers from his native village.
Men who returned from France formed a socio-political association called the Naga Club with branches in Kohima and Mokokchung immediately after their return in 1918,”. It was this association that submitted a representation to the Simon Commission in 1929 to “Leave Us Alone”, conveying the right of choice of self-determination of the Nagas when the British left India. Thus, The Lazami village had contributed no less in the shaping the present Socio-Political condition of the Naga people.
List of WW-I Participants from Lazami Village and their brief biography:
1. Khakhu Dighali:
Khakhu Dighali was the third and youngest son of Zashena and Tijili. During the first world war he was appointed as the head over all Coolies in the Naga Labour Corps. When the team was sailing towards their destination in Europe, the ship in which they were travelling came under heavy bombardment. In the ensuing battle, Khakhu Dighali saw one Brithish officer (Anonymous) on the brink of drowning. Seeing his officer in distress Khakhu Dighali yodeled “aeu-he-he” (Sumi War Cry) and saved the officer’s life. Therefore, after the war, the officer send a recommendation letter to the then Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills District at Kohima to reward Khukha Dighali for his bravery. The recommendation was complied and Khakhu Dighali was appointed as “Doobashi” in 1918 A.D. He served as doobashi till 1948 A.D.
After retirement from Doobashi, Khakhu Dighali continued to serve the Naga people in different capacities:
Some of the position held by Khakhu Dighali after retirement from Doobashi are listed
a. SDO Mockokchung : Just before the departure of British from the Naga Hils, Khakhu Dighali was given charge of SDO Mockokchung for Few months. This information has been traced and confirmed from the Centenary Jubilee Souviner of Mockokchung Township. However, the date and year in which he discharged SDO duties is vague.
b. 1948-54 : First Chairman, Bench Court, Pughoboto 1955-59.
c. First Angh (Governor) in the NNC from Pughoboto Range.
d. Died 20th July 1964.
2. Khupu Khuwo:
Around 1845-47 The British Expedition team arrived at Lazami Village for the third
time in little over a decade after the first British Expedition team under Captain Jenkins and Pemberton set foot in the Naga Hills. The team was lead by Major John Butler (sr). During their period of stay at Lazami Village, an Orphaned boy Khupu Khuwo use to fetch water for the Expedition team in exchange for a day’s meal. In course of time, Khupu Khuwo learned Assamese, the language that was a medium of communication of the time. Learning Assamese language proved to be very crucial as it Broke language barrier between the Villagers and the expedition team. Thus, suddenly, an orphaned boy became the most important person in the village as his service was required by both sides for communication. Nevertheless, before any significant development took place, the Expedition team was recalled to Assam due to Dalhousie’s non-intervention policy towards the Naga Hills.
After the withdrawal on Non-Intervention Policy in 1866, the British expedition team started constucting Kohima-Tseminyu-Wokha-Mockokchung road as part of the design to contain restive Nagas tribes of the Barail Mountain range and to protect Assam plain from raid by these Naga tribesmen. A small connecting road meant for horse-drawn cart was also constructed connecting Kohima-Tseminyu-Wokha-Mockokchung road from Kasha junction till Lazami village, and a Bangalow was aslo constructed at Lazami village. In a nutshell, this road was constructed around 1870-75 A.D. It may be mentioned that Khupu Khuwo asssisted the British team and played a major role in constructing the above mentioned road.
By the time Captain John Butler (Jr.), the Political Agent of the Naga Hills Distrcit arrived at Lazami village, Khupu Khuwo was already a household name. It took no time for Butler to identify Khupu Khuwo and their friendship blossomed in no time. Together, they constructed a motorable road from Kohima-Tseminyu-Wokha-Mockokchung road to Lazami village. This road was called
“JOHNY LAGHE” meaning “JOHNY’S ROAD” named after John Butler Jr. and can still be seen at Lazami village. In all probability, Khupu Khuwo was appointed “DOOBASHI” by John Butler Jr. around 1875-76 A.D. Thus, KHUPU KHUWO’s name is etched in history book as the first person among Sumi Naga tribe to be appointed to the acclaimed post of Doobashi.
When the First world war broke out, Khupu Khuwo was serving as Doobashi in the Kohima D.C office under J.H Hutton. He took active part in enlisting the Naga tribesmen in the Naga Labour Corps. Probably, it was due to Khupu Khuwo’s influence and leadership that the Sumi tribe, numbering 1000 men, consituted the single largest tribal representative and Lazami village (Khupu Khuwo’s Native village) numbering 50 men consituted the single largest village representatives in the Naga Labour Corps.
It is also worth mentioning that, Khupu Khuwo was a personal friend and colleague of J.H.Hutton. He was also one of the three interpretors of the Author of “the Sema Naga” and “J.H Hutton’s Tour Dairy in the Naga Hills”. In the acknowledgement note of the later, J.H Hutton wrote, “I am indebted to my friend Khupu Khuwo of Lazami village….”
After conclusion of the First World War, Khupu Khuwo was awardeed “The Medal for Faithful Service” by the British Empire. The photograph of the Medal is enclosed herewith at Annexure-I
3. Kiviye Khuwu:
Kiviye was the eldest son of Khupu Khuwo. Answering to the call of duty, Khupu Khuwo enlisted his eldest son in the Naga Labour corps much against the wishes of his wife and the villagers. Thus, the father-son duo bravely represented Sumi Naga Tribe in the Naga Labour Corps.
There is no record about Kiviye Khupu returning to the village after the war . Hence, in all probability he was killed during the war.
4. Akhalu Sakhama:
No other detail infrormation about Akhalu could be furnished. However, The “BURMA STAR MEDAL” awarded to him is still being preserved by his offsprings. The Photograph of the Medal is attached herewith at Annexure-II
5. Musalho Tsuipu:
He was appointed as Military Interpreter (M.I.) after First World War. He probably died
without a natural heir.
6. Chinisho Tsubohu (Futhena Clan):
7. Khakhu Shukupu:
8. Chinisho Zalipa (Kappo Clan):
9. Khumtsa Amiyi:
10. Ghuzhui Kithonu (Futhena):
11. Asau Saghunu:
12. Asapu Lokunu (swunetho)
13. Khulu Ghuzhukha:
14. Inatha Kulhoba (Tijimi Clan):
15. Zashaena Kurubo (Futhena):
16. Asapu Kuhoyi:
17. Axhi Shelaba:
18. Kupfuna Kamtho:
19. Hethana Swu (assumi):
20. Punaha Tsubaxa:
21. Punumixi Muzakinu:
22. Ghucho Baghu (Kappo):
23. Khulu Kilivinu (Futhena):
24. Kupuna Chuwokha (Assumi):
25. Asapu Jikhapu (Wotsa):
26. Khulu Tuyinu:
28. Nishena Wozami:
29. Khupu Saishe (Tsuipu):
30. Ghukhana Inaghonu:
31. Nishena Ghileshonu (Tsuipu):
32. Kikhu Ghuzuinu:
33. Khumtsa Munumixinu:
34. Punaha Kholau (Kappo):
Although there is no dispute about the figure ”50”, the names and details about the rest 26 men could not be furnished at the moment due to paucity of information and lack of time. However, the Lazami Village Council and every individual citizens shall endeavor to collect the name of the remaining WW-I participants from our village and submit to the concerned Authority in the near future.
(NGUKATO K. TSUIPU)