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Historical Demarcation of Nagaland-Assam Border

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By EMN Updated: Sep 29, 2021 12:19 am
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Rengma Hills was the backbone for the formation of Naga Hills District

The Rengma Hills was created vide political proceedings under section Nos. 79&80 on 18th April 1841 by the British Government of India. Geographically, Rengma Hills lies between Bora DikharuNallah, Ban-Inkhuparbat and Tarapung-BarpungNallah in the North, the Jamuna and Diphu River in the south, the course of Bora Dikharu and HoroDikharu in the west and in the east it is contiguous with Naga Hills. This territory was never subjugated till the advent of the British in Assam. Capt. John Butler, political officer in the Naga Hills wrote thus in his “British Memorandum on the Naga Country”.

          The Rengma Hills was then divided into two Mouzas-East RengmaMouza and West RengmaMouza. These two Mouzas, were created under the Revenue proceedings, vide section No. 116 to 118 in February 1861 for the purpose of revenue collection. After the creation of RengmaMouzas, Rengma were appointed as Mouzadars for collection of revenue. House tax was fixed at one rupee per house.

  1. Creation of Naga Hills District 1866

When the British rule was further extended into Naga territory it became necessary to set up administrative headquarters to look after the Naga administrative areas, thereby, a Sub-divisional headquarters was set up at Asaloo in 1852 to protect and administer the controlled areas, and the Sub-division was placed under Nowgong district. In the meantime, it became necessary to carve out a separate Naga Hills District from the plain districts, therefore, the sub-divisional headquarters at Asaloo was shifted to Samaguting (Chumoukedima) in 1866 and thus was formed the Naga Hills district encompassingRengma Hills,parts of Mikir Hills, N.C Hills andAngami and Zeliang areas. The boundary of the then Naga Hills Disrtict was notified in 1867 with Samaguding as its headquarters and Lieutenant  Gregory became Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills.

  • Boundary of Naga Hills District

When the boundaries of the Naga Hills District was first defined in 1867, some part of the Rengma inhabited area between the Kalliani river and TarapungNallah in the north was not brought within the territorial jurisdiction of the Naga Hills District. This omission was, therefore, rectified in 1875 when the boundaries of the Naga Hills District was redefined  merging the Rengma inhabited area between Kalliani river and TarapungNallah with Naga Hills District, leaving behind the Mikir inhabited area within the district of Nowgong.

After the formation of Naga Hills District, the Rengma Nagas of Rengma Hills came under the administrative control of Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills District,Samaguting, and they paid their house-tax of one rupee per house annually at Samaguting. In 1871, their house-tax amount was Rs. 459/- . Even after the Naga Hills District headquarters was shifted from Samaguting to Kohima in 1878, the Rengma Nagas of Rengma Hills continued to remain under Naga Hills District, Kohima and paid their house-tax at Kohima.

However, G.H. Damand, political officer of Naga Hills district, Kohima proposed that size of the district had increased and it was physically impossible to look after the plain areas of the district from Kohima, therefore, two RengmaMouzas-East RengmaMouza and West RengmaMouza be transferred to the adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar for administrative convenience. It was proposed without the Knowledge and consent of Rengma Nagas of Rengma Hills and also the Nagas of Naga Hills District.

On this subject Maj. T.B. Michell, Deputy Commissioner, Naga Hills District, Kohima, successor of G.H Damand, wrote to the Secretary of the Chief Commissioner, Assam vide his letter No. 1074, dated 18th May, 1881 raising his objection for the proposal to transfer these two Mouzas-East RengmaMouza and west RengmaMouza to the adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar. He wrote as follows, “The Rengma Naga villages in the Rengma Hills belong to this district (Naga Hills District) and I should be unwilling to see them transferred either to Nowgong or Sibsagar. At present they furnish a good many coolies for work both at Dimapur and Samaguting, and it happened more than once last year that large numbers came as far as Kohima with russud. They divided into two Mouzas, Viz. East RengmaMouza and West RengmaMouza. Their revenue is paid at Kohima. This year (1881) the amount paid was Rs. 742. It is impossible for the political officer of the Naga Hills to exercise any very vigorous control over people living so far away but neither could the Deputy Commissioner of Nowgong or Sibsagar, or even the Assistant Commissioner of Golaghat, on this whole, I would not recommend and change being made at present”.

However, despite strong protest from the political officer of the Naga Hills District, the Commissioner of Assam valley, issued a letter to the Chief Commissioner of Assam vide the letter No.432 Rev. R-3675 dated Shillong, the 3rd August, 1898 as follow:- “At present the greater part of the Rengma Hills and the whole of Nambor Reserve are included within its jurisdiction of the Naga Hills District and this arrangement was convenient so long as the headquarters of the district were at Samagudting, but it has become very embarrassing, since the transfer of the headquarters to Kohima. Proposal were accordingly made some years ago to exclude this territory from the Naga Hills District, but they were allowed to remain in abeyance pending the extension of the Assam Bengal Railway to this locality. The railway is now approaching completion and the necessity of exercising large gangs of coolies employed on construction works was brought prominently to notice during the last cold weather. Encouragement has also been offered to the extension of tea cultivation in the Nambor Forest along the side of the railway, and if practical effort is given to this policy, it is necessary that this tract of the country should be transferred to district in which the labor and emigration Act and other laws and regulations affecting labor and tea industry are in force”.

  • Transfer of Nambor Reserve, Rengma Reserve to adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar

Despite objection raised by political Officer of the Naga Hills District, the Chief Commissioner of Assam, issued a notification for transferring large hilly tracts and plain areas from the Naga Hills District to the adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar without the knowledge and the consent of the inhabitants of the areas. On 13th August 1898 the Chief Commissioner of Assam approved the transfer of Rengma Hills from Naga Hills District into the adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar, vide the Notification No.432, Rev.R-367 which writes, “The whole of the Large Reserve Nambor Forest would be transferred to that Golaghat Sub-division and also the whole areas of the Rengma Hills which now lies within the Naga Hills District.”

Thus, for the sake of administrative convenience large portion of Naga territories were transferred to the adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar in 1898, 1901, and 1903 without the knowledge and consent of the Nagas. With the advent of British in Assam, especially after the treaty of Yandabo 1826, the Rengma Nagas were placed under Nowgong administrative control till Naga Hills District was formed in 1866. When the Naga Hills District was formed with Rengma Hills as its main backbone, the Rengma Nagas of Rengma Hills came under Naga Hills District from the day it came into being. And thereafter, the Rengma Nagas of Rengma Hills continued to remain under Naga Hills district as one of its original constituents till 1898 and paid their house tax at Samaguting and then at Kohima; but without their knowledge, the Rengma Nagas were separated from the Naga Hills District and placed them under Nowgong and Sibsagar districts for the sake of administrative convenience. The Chief Commissioner of Assam turned a deaf ear to the protest made by the political officer of the Naga Hills, and issued a Notification for transferring huge hilly tracts and plains from Naga Hills to the adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar without the knowledge of theRengma Nagas for revenue and administration convenience. To this effect, the Chief Commissioner of Assam has issued a Notification order vide letter No.5646 R dated Shillong 9th December 1898 and order was notified for public general information on 1st January 1899. Thus the East RengmaMouza and West RengmaMouza were transferred from Naga Hills district to adjoining districts of Nowgong and Sibsagar was completed by Notification No.143 P. dated 11th April 1901 and Notification No. 988 dated 24th February 1903. In this way the Rengma Naga homeland was divided into three districts viz, Nowgong, Sibsagar and Naga Hills district by the British Government of India.

  • Conclusion

On the Assam – Nagaland boundary issue and the crude oil controversy,it’s important that we Nagasstand on the following grounds:

  1. The Naga Hills District boundary demarcation which was declared vide Notification No.3386p dated 24th December 1875, should be the boundary of Assam and the Nagaland. That Notification left the Eastern boundary undefined.
  2. The Rengma Hills which was created vide the political proceedings Section Nos. 79 to 80, on 18th April 1841, was a part of Naga Hills District when it was formed in 1866, and it continued remained under Naga Hills District, Kohima till 1899 and its traditional boundary was the boundary of Naga Hills District.
  3. All the areas of East RengmaMouza (now divided into three Mouzasviz, JamunapurMouza, BarapatharMouza and SurupatharMouza) should be restored to Nagaland. ONGC has been carrying geological survey in Rengma Reserved Forest, Nambor Reserve and its surrounding areas, since 1981-89 and the areas fall under East RengmaMouza, followed by exploratory drilling oil from the areas since 1988. Mool Chand, Regional Director, oil & Natural gas Commission, Eastern Regional Business Center, Nazira-785685 (Assam) dated 19th December 1990, wrote to Chief Secretary, Govt. of Nagaland that ONGC has been carrying out drilling and producing crude oil from Rengma Reserve Forests on the following locations:-
  4. Gholapani, Haldibari areas, Lisa goan, etc. about 5-6 Km away from Rengmapani village in the valley of Rengma river, and also from
  5. Nambor Reserve Forest areas, which falls under East RengmaMouza, and drilling and production of crude oil started from these areas since 1988.
  6. RengmaPathar areas, production of crude oil started from this area since 1988. All these areas, falls under East RengmaMouza and were a part of Naga Hills District, when it was formed in 1866. Therefore, the original boundaries of Naga Hills District which was formally laid down as in the Notification of the Foreign Department No.3386 P. dated the 24th December 1875 should be restored to Nagaland. The Rengma Naga and Govt. of Nagaland have legal right to claim land compensation, employment facilities and crude oil royalty from ONGC for drilling and producing crude oil from our land as mentioned in the areas and locations above. However, without knowing the historical realities, the Govt. of Nagaland agreed that all these crude oil producing areas fall under Disputed Area Belt (DAB). For the Govt. of Nagaland, the areas of RengmaPathar, uriamghat, Ghalapani, Haldibari, Rengma river valley, Rengma Reserve forest, Nambor Reserve Forest etc. are under Disputed Area Belt (DAB) whereas, for the Govt. of Assam, the so called DAB is their planning area for development and extraction of crude oil.
  7. We have to move to nullify the Naga Hills District boundary fixed on 25th December, 1925, notified on the basis of Inner line Regulation Act of 1873, which divided the Rengma Nagas and placed them under different administrative unit for their administrative convenience by the British Govt. of India. Under this 1925 boundary Notification, the entire Rengma Hills and Naga Hills Reserve forests were excluded from the Naga Hills District. 

Nillo Rengma

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By EMN Updated: Sep 29, 2021 12:19:59 am