Anglo-Kuki War: Scholars rue 'forgotten tribal rebellion' against British Raj during WWI

Ruing that the Anglo-Kuki War remains a "forgotten chapter" in India's colonial history, several scholars Monday gathered here for a national seminar on the tribal uprising against the British Empire, which started during the First World War but was "brutally suppressed".

The seminar -- 'India's Frontier Uprising during First World War: The Anglo-Kuki War 1917-1919' -- organised by the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), also marked the centenary of the revolt that spanned over 6,000 sq miles from the Naga Hills in the north to the Chin Hills in the south in the north-eastern region.

Jangkhomang Guite, Assistant Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University's Centre for Historical Studies, said, "It was fought for three years and the colonial powers not only brutally suppressed the uprising but also imposed penal labour for the next five years, rendering the area backward. Even during its centenary time, it remains a forgotten chapter in India's modern history."

Guite, in his address during the opening session of the seminar held at the Teen Murti Bhawan, said the action against the uprising of the Kuki tribes was one of the longest military operations conducted during the colonial regime and felt sad that despite being a significant event its importance still remains in obscurity.

The JNU professor claimed that the operation against the Kukis was carried from "the Great War fund" and was eventually "considered a part of the World War I".

An exhibition of the history of the three-year war, the Kuki heroes, and weapons used from both sides has also been hosted at the NMML as part the event.

In Kuki language, the rebellion is called Zou Gal, and combined force of the Assam Rifles and the Burma Military Police were employed by the British to quell the tribal revolt.

Historian Sajal Nag, in his keynote address concurred that the Kuki rebellion remains a "forgotten chapter" in the colonial history.

"After the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny this was the largest revolt that threatened the British Empire in India... And, the tribal rebellion has almost not found mention in any of the books on modern India's history. Scholars have been shy of recording the history of revolts by peasants and tribals," he said.

A senior official of the NMML also said that the Anglo-Kuki remains a "relatively neglected" episode in the British history of India.

According to the exhibits displayed at the NMML, the war took place between March 1917 and May 1919, and the troops deployed included "6,234 combatants and 696 non-combatants".

The casualties on the British side numbered 60, including an officer, while the figure for the same from the Kuki side, stood at 120 (much less than the Kuki's estimate), according to the infirmation shared in the exhibition panels.

Guite said, "We need to tell to the world this forgotten history. It is an important event which cannot be missed out while charting the freedom struggle of India.

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi

October 15, 2018 16:45 IST

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