Photo of Naga guerilla organization shared as Kukis after 'Anglo-Kuki war'

By: Chandan Borgohain
April 2 2024

Share Article: facebook logo twitter logo linkedin logo
Photo of Naga guerilla organization shared as Kukis after 'Anglo-Kuki war'

Social media posts falsely link an unrelated archival image to the much contested Anglo-Kuki war. (Source: X/Screenshot)


The Verdict False

The photo actually shows a Naga guerilla organization formed between 1941 and 1946 by the British as a measure against the Japanese invasion of India.

Claim ID e7d362a5

One of the bones of contention between the two warring communities of Manipur, the Meiteis and the Kukis, that has contributed to unrest for several months in the Northeastern Indian state is the labeling of the latter community as 'outsiders' by the former. Claims and counterclaims about whether an 'Anglo-Kuki War' between 1917 and 1919 took place in Manipur forms an integral part of this narrative. Some Meitei organizations claim that no such war with the British happened, and the Kukis see it as an attempt to question and erase their history.

What is the claim?

Against this backdrop, a black-and-white photo has been shared by multiple social media accounts claiming that it shows some Kukis posing with their weapons after the end of the Anglo-Kuki War, which according to some beliefs took place between 1917 and 1919. One X user posted the photo with the caption, "The Kukis one of the most powerful tribes of Manipur, revolted against foreign domination. A number of Kuki villages were burnt down to ashes by the British but Kuki never surrender and bow down. Pic: Kuki Warriors posing with their Guns after the end of Anglo-Kuki War 1917-1919 (sic)." Here is an archived version of this post. The photo has also been posted on Facebook with similar claims (archived here) describing the visual as showing Kuki rebels that rose up against foreign domination.

Screenshots of social media posts sharing the viral image. (Source: X/Facebook/Screenshot)

However, our research found that the viral photo actually shows a Naga guerilla organization formed by the British to counter the Japanese invasion of India. 

What did we find?

A reverse image search led us to the blog 'Pitt Rivers Museum Photograph and Manuscript Collections' where the image in question was posted as part of a blog entry titled, 'FOCUS: Ursula Violet Graham Betts (née Bower) (1914-1989)'. According to the caption, the photo was captured by Ursula Graham Bower during colonial times in Dima Hasao district of Assam, another Northeastern state, between 1940-1946, The photo reportedly shows a group of Naga individuals recruited by the British to fight during the Japanese invasion amid the ongoing Second World War. It further stated that the photo shows "a guerrilla organisation, a unit known as "V" Force, whose job it was to recruit the hill-tribes as scouts', was used to defend against invasion into India by the Japanese."

The photo shows members of a Naga guerrilla unit formed during the Japanese invasion. (Source: Pitt Rivers Museum Photograph and Manuscript Collections/Screenshot)

Based on this, we were able to find the copyrighted version of the archival photo available on the website of Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University. Ursula Graham Bower was one of the pioneer British anthropologists in the Naga Hills who worked there between 1937 and 1946, the website said. When Japan threatened to invade India and enter the country via the Northeastern region, Bower was asked to form a guerilla organization of Naga scouts. The individuals seen in the photo were part of this resultant guerrilla unit nicknamed 'Bower Force.'

The contentious Anglo-Kuki War (1917-1919) remains a topic of debate between Kukis and the other communities in Manipur. While the Kukis claim this as their biggest uprising against British colonial rule, the Meiteis and several organizations representing the Naga communities dismissed it by claiming there was no 'Anglo-Kuki War' in Manipur's history. However, despite these claims and counterclaims, our findings conclusively show that the viral photo was not related to the 'Anglo-Kuki War (1917-1919)', and it was captured decades later during the Second World War. 

The verdict

The photo depicts members of a guerrilla group, 'Bower Force,' formed to counter the Japanese invasion of India between 1941 and 1946. The image has been wrongly shared as showing Kuki warriors after a war with the British between 1917 and 1919. Therefore, we mark this claim as false.

Read this fact-check in:

English , অসমীয়া

Would you like to submit a claim to fact-check or contact our editorial team?

Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before