Ultimately, it came down to the Battle of the Tennis Court during World War II when Allied troops doggedly hung on to the hill leading up to the residence of the Deputy Commissioner in Kohima, ultimately forcing the invading Japanese forces to withdraw and indeed, turn the course of the conflict in the region.
Penguin Random House India has announced the acquisition of a rare historical account of the significance of the battle, tentatively titled "His Majesty's Head Hunters", by Aspen Fellow and Naga poet Mmhonlumo Kikon that will be released in late 2022.
Providing a unique viewpoint, this book uncovers the untold story of how Kohima, now the capital of Nagaland, went from being a nondescript small hillock to becoming the political and administrative headquarters of the British Government and inadvertently ended up as a site of the world-changing war.
Western scholars often refer to the Battle of Kohima, which culminated in the Battle of the Tennis Court, as the Stalingrad of the East. Historians even say that this was the last real battle of the British Empire and the first battle of the new India. However, the real history left behind by the Japanese army led by Japanese Lieutenant General Kotoku Sato and the Allied forces remains to be told.
Commenting on the upcoming book, the poet turned author, Kikon says: "I am delighted that Penguin Random House will be publishing my first book of nonfiction. The dialogue with our past must continue in the light of the present and be constantly reviewed by revisiting history, and that is what I will be doing in the book. The Empire manifests itself in many aspects of our policies and we must keep exploring these as new vistas of history get written."
"I hope that my work will add to the body of existing work. It is an opportune moment to explore the various dimensions of the events which shaped world history and which situates current discourse within a new spectrum," he adds.
Associate Publisher at Penguin, Premanka Goswami, who also commissioned the book, says it "will open a window to the ultimate sacrifice of the Naga community, which completely changed the fate of World War II and significantly impacted the course of world history. We're thrilled to have Mmhonlumo on board and we sincerely feel that the book will not only interest a wide spectrum of readers in India but also enthusiastic readers throughout the world.
Mmhonlumo Kikon is an Aspen Fellow and the author of three poetry collections: "Slingstones" (2021), "The Village Empire" (2019), and "The Penmi Poems" (2018).
He grew up in Kohima and has been writing for journals and newspapers since his college days. After completing his master's in English literature from Delhi University, he pursued development studies with various organizations and was actively associated with social service and community welfare. An MLA in the Nagaland Legislative Assembly, Kikon is a BJP National Spokesperson. An ardent footballer, he played for his college team and regularly promotes the sport in his home state. He lives in Kohima with his wife, two daughters, and son.