In 1942, English anthropologist Ursula Graham Bower organized Indian hill people against invading Japanese

Originally published at:


@orenwolf the usual embedded audio player isn’t there.
and as usual a very interesting episode.

ETA: fixed now thanks to our ever busy sysadmin/moderator


Worth noting that some in the Indian independence movement saw the Japanese as potential liberators from the British. For example, the Indian National Army of Subhas Chandra Bose, which fought alongside the Japanese against the Allies in Burma and even in India itself (Battles of Imphal and Kohima).


And here’s another woman who led the Naga in armed resistance against invaders:

She openly rebelled against the British rule, exhorting the Zeliangrong people not to pay taxes. She received donations from the local Nagas, many of whom also joined her as volunteers. The British authorities launched a manhunt for her. She evaded arrest by the police, moving across villages in what are now Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. The Governor of Assam dispatched the 3rd and 4th battalions of the Assam Rifles against her, under the supervision of the Naga Hills Deputy Commissioner JP Mills. Monetary rewards were declared for information leading to her arrest: this included a declaration that any village providing information on her whereabouts will get a 10-year tax break. Her forces engaged the Assam Rifles in armed conflicts in the North Cachar Hills (16 February 1932) and the Hangrum village (18 March 1932).

She was 17 at that point.


That was pretty standard for Japan, though–they had all the opportunity in the world to rally anti-colonial sentiment against the UK/France/US/Dutch/Etc, but proceeded to act exponentially more brutally than any of the European colonial powers and more than offset any of that early local support.

Turns out it’s tough to sell the liberator message when you’re shipping off women to sexual slavery and using prisoners for bayonet practice.


I’m not saying they were right, just that the situation was a bit more complicated than is commonly appreciated: British rule was unpopular enough that some considered a Japanese “liberation” an improvement.

And the British were no slouches on the brutality front: e.g., the Amritsar massacre, the Bengal Famine (four million starved while rice exports continued). On occasion, we also liked to tie political prisoners to cannon and blow them to bits.

ETA: British atrocities during the Mau Mau Rising in Kenya (1952-1960) included torture, rape, the displacement of a million people, and maybe a hundred thousand deaths. When now-elderly survivors tried to sue the British Government, its response was that the legal successor to the colonial regime was the Republic of Kenya, and they should seek compensation from that instead.


Does that include turn-of-the-century Belgium?

(Content warning: sickening cruelty.)


Oh, I absolutely agree re: the British being willing & able to brutalize–that’s why Japan’s practice of being much much worse than the British (or any other colonial power, and it wasn’t all that close) is such a wasted opportunity from Japan’s standpoint.

And yes, Belgium was incredibly brutal in its colonization, that’s not even remotely up for debate for anyone who knows anything about history. And yes, Japan was worse, by just about any measure. It’s not wholly unlike Germany’s behavior in occupied Soviet territory–the ground was ripe in a lot of places for Germany to come in as the liberators from Stalin’s oppression, and instead Germany decided “nah, we’ll just kick things up a few notches and make people forget about all that other stuff.”


Jesus. I thought I knew about Japan’s enormities in WW2 (and the Sino-Japanese War immediately before), but if you’re saying they were not just worse but much worse than the Congo Free State – which until today was second only to the Holocaust in my list of appalling things that human beings have done to other human beings – then I clearly have some reading to do.


Essentially what Germany did to Russia, Japan did to China. Plus they had a 10 year head start on the Nazis. They were also the only combatants in WWII to use chemical weapons. Germany avoided doing so because it was too easy for Allies and Soviets to hit back with reprisals of the same.


Nanjing & Unit 731 & Three Alls & a laundry list of others–the Chinese stuff is so enormous I think it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around and it doesn’t get taught the same way that Nazi war crimes are taught (for a lot of reasons, some a lot less charitable to us in the US than others). And that’s just the Chinese stuff leaving aside Korea & Malaysia & the Philippines (and a host of other places).


Not helping things was the scarcity of documentary film from the Chinese and Japanese about the conflict. The Germans, Allies, and Soviets all had pretty well developed film industries and military film units recording battles. The Chinese didn’t. Most of what we see in the Sino-Japanese conflict filmwise comes from the Japanese and there isn’t much of that archived and still around.

Its mostly dry historical accounts or first person narratives. In the West we had to rely on what was translated (sometimes second hand) as the number of English speaking historians fluent in Japanese and Chinese dialects is far fewer than those conversant in European languages.

Mao’s control of China right after WWII and involvement in the Korean Conflict didn’t help matters much either. Especially when it came to access to Chinese historical records on the subject.

A lot of my personal interest comes because of family history. I have in-laws who fought on both sides of that conflict. My wife’s maternal grandfather for the Japanese, my brother’s wife’s grandparents were with the KMT (Chinese Nationalists)


Thanks, fixed!


Hey first comment on BoingBoing in years and years of reading.

I haven’t listened to the show and I won’t, because even the title suggests that it’s well off the mark and below the standard I’d expect of something reposted on this website.

A few examples of the very off-putting framing from the title:

  • “Indian hill people” instead of Indians
  • framing an anthropologist from the 40s as the protagonist, when that’s already raising flags about the persons’ ethics and class
  • the idea that they ‘organised’ the indigenous people suggests a sort of willing cooperation, when in fact our protagonist is a coloniser.

Particularly tone deaf given the ongoing protests on racial justice and reparations right now in America. I really think this post and podcast should be retitled, and maybe re-released to include a discussion about the occupation of India.


This is some quality concern trolling, I gotta say.

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