THE BATTLE OF KIKRÜMA

(Fought Between Kikrüma Nagas And Britishers in 1851.)

K. Puroh , 
Formerly Associate Prof.(Pol. Sc.) Kohima College

In the Middle of 19th century, a very significant and historical battle field took placed in the North Eastern Frontiers hills between the Britishers and the Kikrüma Nagas. Historically speaking, this was the only battlefield worthy to be mentioned as far as the Britishers adventured to this part of the Naga region. They fought the bloodiest Battle ever fought in the entire North- Eastern Frontiers hills on the 11th February 1851 at Kikrüma.

Kikrüma village is situated at the extreme south-west of the present Phek district of Nagaland. They belong the Chokri speaking group of the Chakhesang tribe. The Chokris called them Phügumi, meaning old village people, the Khezhas called them Swumi meaning people who lives in the centre. In Mao, Kikrümia means old village people. The name Kikrüma first appeared when Britishers were campaing at  a Mao village on their way to this battlefield. Since then, the village is officially known as Kikrüma. Interestingly, the people of this part of the Nagas in those days did not name their own village by themselves but the name given by the neighbouring  villages became their recognized name of the village. By then Kikrüma Village had more than 1000 households, having more than 2000 warriors. Among those warriors some had the records of having won more than 70 heads. They were dreaded by their neighboring villages, even the then most powerful Raja Gumbir Singh of Manipur was afraid to take on them.

It was sometime in early 1851, by then the Britishers were already there at Mezoma village, defending the Jabeilie clan against Neitholie’s Clan and already had contacts the villages around Mezoma, many became friendly except Khonoma village and  Neitholie clan of Mezoma. The people of Kikrüma having heard the affect of their stay at Mezoma sent message to the Britishers challenging them to come and fight, saying; “ Why not the Sipahees come and fight us?” Curious to know who were this people, on 3rd Febuary 1851, the Britishers under the command of Capt. Reid and Lt. Vincent along with 1st and 2nd Assam Light Infantry proceeded for the first time, with “two 3 pounder guns, two mortars and a hundred armed personnel” to discover the Kikrüma village. On their way, the Britishers came across the villages situated below the foothills of eastern side of Mt. Japfü, present Southern Angami and faced some minor resistances but eventually subdued them to their side and halted at Pudunamai (Puswumi) village of Mao tribe.

When Capt. Reid revealed his destination, the dreaded side of the Kikrüma Nagas was told to him by the local people. At one point of time, Capt. Reid decided not to proceed further under the pretext of difficulty in provisioning the troops and transporting the armors.

But on February 5th, 1851, two young men from Kikrüma Village brought a challenge from their people, to come to their village and prove who had the greatest power in these hills. Till then, there was no power known to have challenged the superiority of Kikrüma Nagas. The two men having no knowledge about the fire power of the Britishers, scornfully declared that they did not care for their weapons and said; “ Your Sipahees are flesh and blood as well as we are and we will fight with spears and shields and see who are the best men; here is specimen of our weapon,” and handed  over a handsome spear to Capt. Reid.

The Britishers too seemed afraid to take on them, because that was the first time they had been ever challenged openly by a Naga village in their history. However, to save the honour and image of the British Empire and mostly to avoid the injurious effect to return to Mezoma without accepting the challenge, which would have been attributed to fear, Capt. Reid determined at once to uphold the name and honour of his country, decided to accept the challenge. He immediately prepared himself with full caution by availing all the arms and personnel under his command. He also heard that four other villages might join Kikrüma Naga therefore, “the greatest caution was necessary”, so he sent for Lt. Campbell who was still at Mezoma. Lt. Campbell along with 50 armed personnel on their way to Mao mobilized 800 Nagas from those villages earlier subdued by his Captain to fight on their side. This was possible only because Naga Warriors of Kikruma had taken many heads of the many neighbouring villages in the past and these villages were waiting an opportune time like this to avenge their deaths.

Having fully prepared, Capt. Reid along with his forces marched out from the “Sopfüma village” on the 9th February 1851 and halted at Kidima village, a distance of 3 Kms from Kikrüma Village, with Sedzü river in between.

Meanwhile, the Kikrüma Naga warriors were preparing themselves to fight from the west, at a particular location which give them great advantages and their enemies were expected to come from that direction, they had to climbed a steep hillocks in order to reach their village. Accordingly, boulders and logs were dumped on the edge of the hillocks, to be pushed and rolled down at their enemies as and when they come up from that direction. But Capt. Reid took notice from Kidima village that the people of Kikrüma were busy in making impediments from that direction, so he decided not to attack from that point and proceeded further north towards Kezoma village and encamped below that village on the bank of Sidzü river on 10th February night.

The much awaited and only expected entry point of their enemy did not take place and at one point of time the people of Kikrüma thought the Britishers were not coming because they were seen marching downwards beyond their village at the same time they never except that their enemy would take on them from the Northern end of their village.

However, on the 11th February morning British troops along with their Naga allies headed towards Kikrüma from the northern end for an inevitable battle that had been awaited them. This time the Kikrüma Naga warriors decided to fight their enemies within their village boundary, because they had not prepared or arranged any other mean of fighting from any other direction other than west end. Meanwhile, in the presence of the British troops the Naga allies of British moral was high and in the process advanced much ahead of the main troops and got themselves engaged in fighting with the Kikrüma Naga warriors. At that point, many of the Naga allies were killed. A Naga warrior Müsüri by name had single-handedly killed scores of the allies of Britishers, however, with the arrival of the main troops the warriors of Kikrüma were taken by surprised by the 3-pounder guns mortars and musketeers which they had never come across in their life.

The battle lasted the whole day, leaving more deaths on the side of Kikrüma Nagas, about 300 of their Warriors including Musuri were killed. The Soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Assam Light Infantry drove out the Naga warriors from their village with great difficulty. Although, Capt. Reid had objected to burning of the village, his Naga allies actuated by the feeling of revenge, set the village on fire from all sides and soon the greater part of the village was burnt along with huge quantity of paddy and other households, only about six houses situated in the middle of the village were saved.

Since the battle lasted that whole day, the troops and its allies had to spend the night in the village. So determined and brave were the Naga warriors of Kikrüma, throughout the night they kept their enemy attack from all sides of the village and killed many of them in the darkness. The troops and its allies had to spend and suffered a miserable night without water for the injured and for themselves. In desperation they had to fire the 3 pounder guns and mortars blindly so as to scare away their enemies. It has been told that the troops and their allies did believed that the universe; the moon, the stars and the sun too listened and obeyed the wishes of Kikrüma Nagas, because, to them that night the moon and stars seemed to be standing still making the night much longer than ever.

On February 12th 1851, the next morning, as the troops and its allies were retreating after having fought the bloodiest battle through the south-west end of the village gate, they came to noticed the presence of hundreds of old men, women and children in a secluded paddy field located outside the village where they had been kept while their warriors were fighting their enemies. The “ruthless barbarian allies” showed no mercy and once again actuated by the feeling of revenge for the many of their friends killed on the previous day “murdered and exterminated” those defenseless people. The Britishers had to forcibly stopped Naga allies in committing the murder of the innocents. It is believed that the number of murdered that took place on the fateful morning of 12th February was much higher than that of the previous day killed. However, this ugly side of the history was not mentioned in any of the book or writing because, if so, then, their history of British in Naga hills would have been different.

Thus the Britishers and its allies left Kikrüma village on 12th February 1851 after having fought the “Bloodiest Battle ever fought in the North-East Frontier Hills” on 11th February 1851 ending the 10th and last military expedition in Naga Hills.

In the real sense of history, battlefield or war, the only incident worthy to be considered and called a Battlefield in the 19th century between the Britishers and the Nagas is the Battle of Kikrüma. Such is the importance of this battle, but it has never been highlighted as it should have been by the Historians as well as the Governments, both centre and state..

The effect of the battle had caused much concerned to the Britishers, consequently in the month of March that year the British Parliament adopted the Policy of Non- Interference towards the Nagas, thus leaving them to decide for their own destiny. And since then, the incidents that took placed in the Naga hills were only in the form of ambush, attack and punitive measure but not war as such, except World war II which was fought in and around Kohima. 

Published by :- Chairman, Kikrüma Village Panchayat Phek District, Nagaland