Title: Rev.Dr.I.Ben Wati’s falsification of parts of Changki History
1) The President,
Word (UK) Ltd.,
Milton Keynes, England.
2) The Chairman,
Ao Senso-Cultural & Literary Society,
3) Executive Secretary,
Ao Baptist Arogo Mungdang,
Impur, Mokokchung District, Nagaland.
Subject: A Tale of Two Books, Two Different Lies and Falsification of Changki Village History by Rev.Dr.I.Ben Wati of Emremchangki Clan,- Regarding.
1. Ours is a very ancient traditional village, and we run the affairs of our village in accordance to our own village customary laws, practices and usages, which now is given special protection for all Naga traditional villages under Article 371(A) of the Indian Constitution and various other laws enacted by the State Government of Nagaland in this connection.
2. Rev.Dr.I.Ben Wati of our village, the most highly regarded member of Emremchangki Clan had every right to tell his personal story (i) as narrated by him to V.G.Harley in the book “Out of Darkness: Stories from India” pages 170-184 (1988) in English, and (ii) his own autobiography titled “Impur Chanu” (1999) in the Ao dialect. For the veracity or otherwise of his personal story, he is accountable to his own Creator, and Changki Village Council or the Changki People’s Assembly has no comments to make on that.
3. This relates to the story of his grandfather Odangchetba, as narrated by I.Ben Wati to V.G.Harley in “Out of Darkness” and his autobiography “Impur Chanu”, touching directly on certain parts of Changki Village history, which are very serious falsifications and misleading accounts, quite different from what is known to us, and therefore to be expunged from the books. Changki history is best known to us, and I.Ben Wati was born and brought up at Impur, living most of his life away from our land.
(a) Odangchetba the Headhunter:In “Out of Darkness”, as narrated by I.Ben Wati, his grandfather “Odangchetba ran out of his house to see what was happening…..” that is, inside the village, at the southern part of Changki where Odangchetba lived, and a beautiful young girl’s head was chopped off and taken away by neighbouring tribesman, 30 miles away, as terrified Changki villagers looked on. Odangchetba and two others “crept from the village” and returned with an enemy’s head. This was in defiance of the British authorities, and prior to 1875 when Dr.Clark came to Changki, and Odangchetba, according to I.Ben Wati’s narrative, was tried by the British Authorities and imprisoned at Tezpur for three years. The historical recorded fact is that, the British administrative control over the Ao country took place in 1888-1889 only. So, how was Odangchetba tried and sent to Jail by the British prior to 1875?
In “Impur Chanu”, belying his own narrative in “Out of Darkness”, I.Ben Wati writes that killing of the Changki girl took place at the Northern and other opposite end of the village in the jungle, at least a few miles away from where Odangchetba lived, for he writes and says, “It was not in the village, but beyond the village gate and away from it the beheading took place; for in my village history no enemy ever invaded Changki village”. There was absolutely no possibility of Odangchetba running out of his house nor of the villagers living at the southern end of the village to have witnessed what happened at the northern end of the village miles away inside the jungle. Odangchetba, being the youngest, tells I.Ben Wati, accompanied two others as their baggage carrier, and an enemy head was taken near the BOC Fuel Pump, close to the present Mokokchung town.
(i) In “Impur Chanu”, I.Ben Wati gives graphic details, with names, both of the killing of the Changki girl, as also of the revenge killing of the enemy villager. Changki Village Council and Changki Citizens’ Assembly, not only strongly condemn but prohibit the narratives whether in songs or in writing about head-hunting encounters with other villages, more so the use of specific names of persons and villages who fell victim to such head-hunting exploits. We do not want our posterity’s minds to be poisoned by hatred against anyone, due to recounting of such barbaric acts of the past.
(ii) We do not know whether I.Ben Wati’s grandfather Odangchetba might have been a headhunter. What we do know is that in connection with the killing of this particular Changki girl, an entire age-group called “Riongsanger” from Changki had indeed set out for revenge, and encounters had taken place, but not near the BOC area as narrated by I.Ben Wati. Some enemy heads had been taken, so the story goes, and commemorative names among different clans at Changki exist to this day. One Tatongsuja from I.Ben Wati’s Emremchangki Clan participated in the second battle, but as far as Changki villagers know, Odangchetba was not involved in any of those two encounters.
(iii) It is indeed ludicrous to think that, as written by I.Ben Wati at page 119, 1st paragraph of “Impur Chanu”, the enemy village, for taking 4 heads from Changki was only imposed animal and other fines, whereas, as narrated by him in both “Out of Darkness” and “Impur Chanu”, of the three active accomplices from Changki, two were let off and his grandfather alone was singled out, tried and sent to jail for 3 years in Tezpur, – and that too before the Ao country was brought under British administrative control. Was the taking of one enemy head as revenge by Changki more serious than the taking of 4 heads from Changki as first provocation?
(iv) Besides, after British rule was imposed in Ao country, Changki never had any headhunting encounter with any other village or tribe. The only tragic encounter Changki had was within the village itself in 1897, resulting in the killing of five people. Eleven Changki villagers were sent to jail in the Andaman Islands, the village was occupied by a garrison of 30 soldiers led by Capt. Shakespeare and all the village abled-bodied men deported to Kohima for 40 days of forced labour on the newly developing playground at Kohima.
(b) Odangchetba the Headhunter’s Dramatic Conversion:
In “Out of Darkness”, I.Ben Wati’s narrative says that accompanied by nine neighbouring tribesman, Dr.Clark came to Changki in 1875, spoke of God’s love, laid a bamboo pole in the village square and asked the villagers to cross over the bamboo pole as a sign of their willingness to follow Jesus Christ. Odangchetba was the first to cross over the bamboo, followed by many others, transforming the lives of all those who did.
In “Impur Chanu” the same event took place, but this was “once upon a time” and Dr.Clark was accompanied by Godhula Babu and some Molungyimsen villagers.
(i) How we wish we had the honour of the first conversions to Christianity taking place from Dr.Clark’s own preaching at Changki, as described by I.Ben Wati! However, Dr.Clark never visited Changki, a fact substantiated beyond any shadow of doubt by a well documented book called “Nokinketer Mungchen” by Rev.L.Kijung Ao.
(ii) Godhula did visit Changki in 1883, but none accepted his preaching. The first convert to Christianity from Changki was one Tsüdiong (01/01/1896), followed by Odangba (1899) and his brother Impokumba (1900), all at Impur. Odangchetba too was a first generation Christian and, as per the Church record, was baptised on 10th September, 1905, which was 30 years after his and many of his neighbours’ conversion in 1875 in “Out of Darkness”. Changki Baptist Church was established in 1901 only.
(iii) What truly astonishes us is that I.Ben Wati was on the Editorial Board of writing the history of his native Church at Changki started by his ex-communicated father Imchaba which was published in 1997, as “Taochi Senmangertem”, Golden Jubilee (1947-97). Assuming, in “Out of Darkness” (1988), he did not know that his grandfather was telling a completely concocted story, why did I.Ben Wati repeat the same fiction in “Impur Chanu” (1999) with additional lies about Godhula Babu and some Molungyimsen villagers accompanying ‘Clark Sab’ to Changki, knowing fully well he was spinning yarns of lies about the birthing of God’s Kingdom in his own beloved village?
(c) Odangchetba the Red Blanket Wearer:
In “Out of Darkness”, prior to 1875, Odangchetba had spent 3 years in jail, and “on his release Odang was given a red blanket by the British, signifying his new role….”, which must have been a good two decades before British rule was effectively enforced in the Ao country, and so, by inference, was something of a fast forward appointment of the 1st Gaonbura ever among the Aos! From I.Ben Wati’s own clan, Imtajenba, writing in ‘Nagaland Post’ on May 7, 2008, said that of the batch of three Gaon Buras appointed by the British, one of them was Tekameta, from their clan, which happened in 1897.
Again, from the same clan, R.L.Jamir writing in his book, “Peril and Pitfalls in Public Service” (page 19) says that Odangchetba was the 3rd Gaonbura from his clan.
Then, in “Impur Chanu”, completely belying I.Ben Wati’s own narrative given in “Out of Darkness”, regarding the red blanket wearer, he writes and says that his grandfather was the fifth Gaonbura from his clan, from 1912-1921. So, in “Out of Darkness”, Odangchetba was the first British red blanket wearer in Ao country prior to 1875, but Imtajenba, President of the clan, dethrones him by claiming that Tekameta was the first Gaonbura from their clan appointed by the British in 1897, only to be demoted further by R.L.Jamir to 3rd place. There is, however, one very serious problem even with the humbler position of fifth Gaonbura assigned by I.Ben Wati. Changki’s Church records show that Odangchetba was a Church Deacon from 1905-1915, Church Treasurer from 1916-1918, and Church Treasurer again, from 1920-1924. At Changki, one can only be a Church Deacon or Treasurer and cannot be simultaneously holding the post of Gaonbura in the Village administration. It is, therefore, hard to reconcile with I.Ben Wati’s claim that his grandfather was a Gaonbura from 1912-1921. Being a very renowned Church leader himself, why wasn’t I.Ben Wati fully contended with the very important Church positions held by his grandfather from 1905 to 1924?
(d) I.Ben Wati’s Clan:
Sometime from 1995 onwards, I.Ben Wati’s Emremchangki clan, started making various concerted moves to change their clan name into “Changkiri”. We deeply regret that the much revered servant of God decided to sail along with the lie, and decided to use the “Changkiri” clan name for himself both in his Church Golden Jubilee publication and “Impur Chanu”. In “Out of Darkness” probably before his clan’s intrigue caught up with him, he said at page 171 “He (Odangchetba) became a leader and a spokesman in the village and head of the Jamir clan”. Several of his own brothers used the ‘Jamir’ clan title, including his youngest brother I.Imkong ex-MLA, who was I.Imkong Jamir, s/o Imchaba Jamir until he married a fine Jamir lady and continues to be married to a fine Jamir lady. At Changki, their whole clan is simply called Emremchangki. Within the Emremchangki clan, I.Ben Wati’s forefather Laluk came from Longsemdang village, and he could very well have been near the truth when he said that his grandfather belonged to the Jamir clan.
Were all those deliberate falsifications of Changki history “To the glory of God of the Beginnings” as I.Ben Wati dedicates “Impur Chanu”?
4. We write this to say that parts of Changki history as narrated and written by I.Ben Wati have completely falsified and outraged the truths as we know them, and ask that the following portions may be expunged and blocked out as follows: –
(i) From “Out of Darkness”, page 171, paragraph 2, starting “Odangchetba” to page 174, paragraph 2, ending, “hatred of their enemies”.
(ii) From “Impur Chanu”, page 114, paragraph 1 starting “(Aji 1885….” to page 122, paragraph 3 ending “…..1912-1921 tashi liasü”.
A booklet called “JANGJASHITSUR” by Baptist Church Changki is being enclosed on the two books.
( LENDIMENBA AMRI )
Chairman, Village Council
( IMODANGBA PONGEN )
Secretary, Village Council
Copy to: –
The Executive Secretary,
Nagaland Baptist Church Council, Kohima.