Accounts of Kabow valley – Naoroibam Indramani

Contd. From 9th December, 2018: Compensation to Manipur for the lose of the Kabow Valley: By the following agreement, dated 25th January, 1834, Manipur was granted 500 Sicca rupees monthly as compensation for the loss of territory thus involved :

“Major Grant and Captain Pemberton under instructions from the Right Hon’ble the Governor-General in Council having made over the Kubbo Valley to the Burmese Commissioners deputed from Ava are authorized to state —

First — That it is the intention of the Supreme Government to grant a monthly stipend of five hundred Sicca rupees to the Raja of Manipur to commence from the ninth day of January one thousand eight hundred and thirty four, the date at which the transfer of Kubbo took place as shown in the agreement mutually signed by the British and Burmese Commissioners.

Second — It is to be distinctly understood that should any circumstances hereafter arise by which the portion of territory lately made over to Ava again reverts to Manipur, the allowance now granted by the British Government will cease from the date of such reversion.

Thus an agreement was drawn up and signed on the bank of Ningthee river on 9 January, 1834 by the British and Burmese Commissioners. Subsequently an agreement was also signed by the British Commissioners at Langthabal in Manipur granting the Raja of Manipur a monthly stipend of five hundred sicca rupees as compensation for the enforced loss of the territory which continued till the integration of the state with the union of India. Gambhir Singh felt very deeply indeed in view of the overriding of his rights and deprivation of his territory from mere motives of expediency. An attempt was made to negotiate with him but Major Grant opposed the idea. When Gambhir Singh heard the final decision, he quietly accepted it, saying — “you gave it to me and you can take it away. I accept your decree”. The British Indian Government even admitted that the transfer was distasteful to many of the inhabitants including the Samjok Tsawbwa who were not consulted at all. The Kabow valley was handed over to the Burmese on 9 January, 1934 and on that day Gambhir Singh died.

The Manipuris have always considered the cession of the Kabow valley to the Barmese as an act of great injustice done to the land by the British. They are reasons to doubt the authenticity of Major Burney’s report and probably it was influenced by his desire to gain popularity at the Burmese court.

William Bentinck also preferred to placate the powerful Burmese ruler at the cost of Manipur and in consequence the British were required to pay the paltry sum of five hundred rupees per month. According to Johnstone, in his book “My experience in Manipur & The Naga Hills” writes — “the proposal ought to have been rejected with scorn and severe snub given to the Burmese officials. The advisers of the Government of India, however, being generally officers brought up in the Secretariat, and with little practical experience of Asiatics, the manly course was not followed. It was not realised that a display of self confidence and strength is the best diplomacy with people like the Burmese, and with a view to winning their good will we basely consented to deprive our gallant and loyal ally of part of his territories”.

Several attempts were made by the rulers of Manipur to reopen the matter. In 1885 king Chandrakirti represented an application to His Excellency the viceroy asking for the restoration of Kabow valley to him which was taken from him in the year 1834 and given to Burma. It reads — “My father in former days received and held the Kubo Valley from the Govermnent of India. Again the Government took it from him and gave it to Burma and awarded compensation in place of it. Now the Government of India has taken Burmah and I petition that I may again receive the country (Kubo Valley). For this reason may His Excellency the Viceroy give me the Kubo Valley. Having heard my petitions His Excellency will I believe grant it and give me back the Kubo Valley. My health is the same as before had but not worse. I am always praying god for His Excellency’s health and prosperity”.

The Political Agent of Manipur„ Sir James Johnstone the then Political Agent of Manipur accompanying the application forwarded to the secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Assam to lay the matter before the Government of India on 14th March, 1886 and forwarded the petition from the king of Manipur to His Excellency the Viceroy praying for restoration of the Kubo Valley to Manipur.

The Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of Assam, Judicial Department wrote to the Secretary of the Government of India, Foreign Department vide letter No. 722 dated Shillong the 14th April, 1886 forwarding the application (with translation ) of His Highness, the Maharaja of Manipur to His Excellency, the Viceroy making for the restoration of the Kubo Valley. Para 3 of the letter reads — “The difficulty which stands at present in the way of ceding this valley to Manipur lies in the fact that the Shan population which inhabits at are said by Colonel Johnstone to strongly object to the cession, according to the officer, they threaten to leave the country if the cession is made. The people of the Valley are said to be more civilized than the Manipuris, and are altogether a superior race.

In 1882, a Boundary Commission was apppointed to examine the boundary or rather only a part. If it, i.e. that part north of Kongal Thana, Colonel Johnstone who incidentally was a staunch supporter of Manipur’s claims to the Kubo Valley was appointed on the Manipur side, but Burma did not co-operate in the matter and the Commission did its work without their assistance. The Government of India accepted the findings of the Commission and the Secretary of State approved of them in his dispatch No. 8 of 31st January, 1883.

In 1896 a joint Boundary Commission on which Colonel Maxwell represented Manipur and Captain MacNabb represented Burma explored the boundary between the two countries south of Kongal Thana upto the Tinzin river. They defmed as for as possible the boundaries laid down by the agreement of 183, their conclusions were accepted by the government of India in their letter No. 1262-E. B., dated the 16th July, 1896, and the Chief Commissioner of Assam accepted the boundary in his letter No. 478-For.-3299-P. of the 5th August, 1896.

In 1924, Maharaj Churachand Singh raised the question again regardless of the long period which had elapsed since the boundary was last defined. His main point was that the existing boundary did not follow that which had been agreed on in 1834, there followed a long correspondence between Manipur, Assam, and Burma. In a letter dated the 5th June, 1928 the Governor in Council expressed the opinion that the matter ought to be dropped. Maharaj Churachand, however, persisted and on its being again represented to them, the Government of India in a letter dated the 3rd October, 1929 said they would be prepared to reconsider the matter. They referred it to Burma and said they would be prepared to appoint a Board of Arbitration. Burma expressed the strongest opposition to the re-opening the case and incidentally pointed out that if it was reopened then they could not avoid in fairness to refuse to re-open also the claims of the Thaungdat Sawbwa in the territory lying to the north of Kongal Thana. Assam agreed entirely with the view taken by Burma and informed India accordingiy. His highness, however, expressed a wish to visit the area in person and there the matter rested. The Maharaja never in fact found it convenient to make the proposed visit.

In March, 1932 the question of reopening the matter of restoration of Kabow valley to Manipur, among others, formed the subject mater of a memorandom submitted to the states Euquiry committee which was set up in connection with the Federation. The committee held that the matter was outside their terms of reference. The matter was raised again in August, 1932, when the Maharaja of Manipur again addressed the Government of Assam on the subject. In forwarding the representation to the Government of India in April 1934, the Government of Assam strongly advised against action to reopen the matter being taken or even contemplated and the hope was expressed that the Government of India would decline to consider the proposed retrocession of the Kabow valley. The matter was finaly disposed of in the Government of India’s letter No. F/453-p134 dated, the 11th April, 1935 in which they said’ “The agreement of 1934 could not be revised at this late stage and the Government of India is unable to agree to an enhancement of the rate of compensation which had been which had been fixed and enjoyed for a period of hundred years”.

On 25th Nov. 1952, Shri L. Jugeshore Singh a member of Parliament from Manipur asked Dr. Katju, Minister of State for Home affairs and states about steps taken by the Government of India for the reversion of the Kabow Valley. He also asked if the Govenment of India was still paying the conmpensatory to the Government of Manipur.

Mr. Katju, Minister of State of Home Affairs and states replied that in 1834 the British Government decided to restore the Kabaw Valley to the King of Burma. As compensation for the loss of territory the British undertook to pay to the Ruler of Manipur a sum of Rs. 500 sicca per month which worked to Rs. 6270 per annum.

He further told that when Burma was separated this compensation became liability of the Government of Burma. After the transfer of power the amount was given to the Government of India who in their turn passed on the amount to the Manipur State. On the merger of Manipur State with the Indian union the assets of Manipur State Darbar became the assets of the Government of India. The amount which the Government of Burma were continuing to pay was therefore credited annually to central revenue.

Shri L.J. Sing also asked if the Maharaja of Manipur requested the Government of India for reversion of the Kabow Valley to Manipur after the India Independence Act, 1947 was passed.

Dr. Katju replied that he did make some representations but the Government of India thought that his case was very weak.



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