The Process of Pacification

The colonial domination of the Indian subcontinent first by the British East India Company and later by the British Raj lasted for almost 200 years, from 1765 until 1947. The East India Company (EIC) not only controlled the Indian economy but was also responsible for public administration. The transformation of the British East India Company from a trading company into a de facto colonial state with the right to taxation (diwani) for Bengal and Bihar in the year 1765 represented the decisive epochal break (Wilke 1997: 19). In the second half of the 19th century, the subcontinent became an official British colony (raj). The rapid expansion of the railway network in particular facilitated access to economically important regions and the political-military domination of India. British troops increased significantly in size and armament at the expense of Indian taxpayers, and the Indian Army became increasingly well-organized.

The British colonial government organized the judicial, fiscal and policing powers in a three-tiered administrative structure with a central government, provinces and districts. While local communities were granted considerable autonomy in internal affairs, they were nevertheless firmly integrated into the administrative structure of the state, mainly through the judiciary (Wilke 1997: 39). The British pursued a policy of divide and rule, convinced that only a divided India could accept foreign rule. Maharajas, rajas or princes and other indigenous rulers were supported and strengthened by various measures, but also made fully dependent on the British colonial state. Also, most tribal chiefs were able to retain their positions and were integrated into the colonial administration. Certain areas designated as backward tracts, excluded areas, inner line territories and tribal areas were isolated from the national mainstream and served as buffer zones (Anand 1980: 34f.). Nagaland was one such area.

The annexation of the Naga territory was never based on purely economic calculations (Ghosh 1982: 85). The attacks by Naga warriors against the Assam and Cachar lowlands and the Sibsagar plains, however, forced the British to intervene militarily (Singh 1981: 10). The tea plantations in Assam in particular, over which the East India Company gained control in 1826 after the Anglo-Burmese war, were of great economic importance (Wilke 1997: 32). The Angami resided in the hills immediately adjacent to the Cachar plains, and often visited the local markets there. But occasionally they also raided and looted settlements in the plains. As there was no strong Indian state that could punish Naga raids, the plainsmen ultimately looked to the British for protection. In this way, Cachar formally fell to British rule in 1832 after the death of Raja Govinda Chander, who left no heir (Ghosh 1982: 83f.).

The British colonial administration - starting from the 1830s - time and again attempted to control the Naga territory with minimal effort in order to protect their border areas. It was only 50 years later, that the British finally were able to suppress headhunting and warfare and to establish peace and order (Ao 1993: ii). Nevertheless, they always operated with a minimal presence, owing to the poor revenues that could be gained from administering the Naga territory. The primary aim was, thus, a pacification with minimal costs, but the result was an only slow and -for a long time - unsuccessful subjugation of the Naga (West 1994: 63).

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