The boundaries of Manipur – Naoroibam Indramani

Contd. from March 3, 2019: In order to carry out the survey as rapidly as possible, two parties were sent out; one undertook the northern part, travelling eastward through Chattic Thanna. The latter party, with Colonel Johnstone himself, left Manipur on the 10th December; and the survey work was accomplished rapidly and effectually, meeting with no resistance, except that two parties sent to clear survey points in the Angoching range were turned back by armed followers of the Tsauba, or Chief of Sumjok. It was, however, found possible to dispense with these points.

Colonel Johnstone’s hopes that he would be met by Burmese officials to act in concert with the British Commissioners in laying down the fresh boundary were disappointed. The Pagan Woon Phoongyee of Tamu both wrote letters saying they had no authority to discuss the boundary question, and throughout the whole of the subsequent operations there was no representative of the Burmese Government.

The Tsauba of Sumjok showed hmself unfriendly on more occasions than one, and tried to stir the Chasad Kookies to attack the expedition but in vain; and no hostile action interrupted the work of the Commission.

Remonstrances were addressed to the Pagan Woon, to show the Sumjok Tsauba was subordinate, complaining of the obstructive attitude of the latter official, and the Woon replied by urging Colonel Johnstone to come to Tamu to talk matters over, although he had previously intimated that he had received no authority from the Court Of Mandalay to discuss the boundary question. Mr. Phayre was accordingly deputed by Colonel Johnstone to visit Sumjok and Tamu, and Major Badgley accompanied Mr. Phayre as far as Sumjok to take what observations he could without exciting suspicion. Mr. Phayre was to go on from Sumjok to visit the Pagan Woon at Tamu, and to return to Manipur via Moreh Thanna and the Aimole Pass. Mr. Phayre’s visit quite fruitless; the Sumjok Tsauba refused to have anything to do with the settlement of the boundary, saying he was without alithol ity from Mandalay. Mr. Phayre went on to Tamu, where he was received with great ceremony by the Phoongyee (Bishop), and by the Pagan Woon. The Woon, however, through showing a friendly disposition, declared himself powerless to act. During Mr. Phayre’s stay at Tamu he received news from Colonel Johnstone that the demarcation had been completed; on which, after impressing upon the Woon the advisability of the acceptance by himself and by the Sumjok Tsauba of the new boundary, he re-joined Colonel Johnstone, and the party after completing their work, left for Manipur, which they reached on January 10th. The result of the demarcation may be summed up as follows:

It was found the imaginery boundary known as Pemberton’s line had been incorrectly drawn on the map, for it neither agreed with the actual condition of things, nor did it carry out the terms of the Treaty of 1834; for, instead of following the eastern slopes of the Yomadoung or Maring Hills, and curving round the head of the valley, it cut off from Burma and handed over to Manipur a large portion of the Kabaw Valley. The Commission, however, laid down a boundary which agrees as nearly as possible with the terms of the Treaty, while it gives a fair and clearly-marked frontier. The boundary thus fixed follows the base of the eastern slopes of the Maring range, crosses the River Namia a few hundred yards south of Kongal Thana, thence turns east to the Talain river, follows that river upward to its source, and then proceeds down the Napanga river to where it passes through a gorge in the Kasom range. From thence it runs northward along the crest of that range. The points where the boundary intersects the Namia River and touches the Talain River have been marked with pillars, and a road has been cut connecting these two points. Some of the Chasad villages situated on the frontier formerly debated have moved westwards and peaceably settled down as quiet subject of Manipur, and thus removed the possibility of dispute as to whether they belong to Burma or Manipur territory.

The Northern boundary of Manipur:

Manipur was occupied by the Burmese during the Seven Year Devastation of 1819 to 1825. The Treaty of Yandaboo, 1826 marked the end of the Anglo Burmese War. It freed Manipur from the colonial rule of the Burma. The importance of Manipur in the policy of the British lies to the fact that Manipur to the Burma was the key to Assam and Cachar. So, the British was seriously considering the proposal to assign the defense of the Patkai passes to the government of Manipur. In pursuance of this plan, Gambhir Singh was asked whether could open up communication between Manipur and Assam. Accordingly early in 1832, he had sent an expedition into the intervening hills. For the first time Captain Jenkins and Pemherton marched from Manipur to Naga Hills with a party of 700 Man ipuri soldiers in January 1832. The party reached Ramasha on or about the 23rd January 1932. The party was opposed in their progress from Yang to Popolongmai by the Angami Nagas. The Nagas had no idea of the effect of firearms.

The second expedition into the Angami country of the Naga Hills was conducted in the cold season of 1833 by Lieutenant Gordon who was accompanied by Gambhir Singh with a sufficient force to overcome all oppositions. The Lost Kingdom refers to this expedition as follows – “On the 1st of Wakching (January), 1933, the Maharaja gained the battle of Thibomai (Kohima). Many of the Nagas were killed at the fighting. 7 captives were brought. The Maharaja stayed there for a month. They gave 100 bullocks to the Maharaja. On the 6th January, 1883 Joybir Singh left for Assam. On 8th January Thibomai Nagas gave another 100 bullocks to the Maharaja and their captives were released. Ngamai Khullen and Ngamai Khunou villagers came to the Maharaja and declared submission to the Manipur Raja and they gave 400 bullocks to the Maharaja and also an elephant tusk and 200 baskets of teel seeds.

On 25th Thursday, the Raja Gambhir Singh on the bank of water stream at Thibomai and his footprints sculptured on a stone in token of conquest with an upright stone bearing an inscription of lion and one wild bullock. The stone erection ceremony was performed with the Naga villagers in which 1 buffalo, 2 goats and 100 pigs were killed for the grand feast. On this day Mera Mechamai, Tonloi, Chamai, Pettemai Khunou and Khullen, Uttu Washamai, Wahamai, Khisamai villagers gave 600 heads of cattle as tributes. On Thursday, 2nd Lamda, Jubaraj Joybir arrived at Kohima from Assam. On Friday, 3rd Lamda Maharaja Gambhir Singh returns.”

In 1835, the British government proposed that the Manipuris should exercise control over the Nagas by establishing a post at place known as Semkhor. The object of opening the post at Semkhor was to prevent the Nagas from raiding the hill villages in North Cachar. lie post of Semkhor was subsequently withdrawn in 1837. In January, I H t() E.R. Grange, Sub-Assistant to the Commissioner of Nawgong led and expedition from North Cachar into the Angami Hills. He was not very successful but a certain number of chiefs responded to his friendly overtures and tendered their submission. A second expedition was proposed for the cold season of 1839-40 and in connection with this the question of boundary again croped up in the papers. Captain Jenkins, the Commissioner of Assam recommended to the Government that the boundary between Manipur and Assam and between Manipur and Cachar should be called upon to co-operate with British to subdue the Nagas. Government replied that it had no intention of getting more than a general political control over these tribes.

Lieutenant Biggs, Peincipal Assistant in charge of Nawgong was, however, authorized to enter the hills and make a leisurely and, if possible, friendly progress from village to village, conciliating the Chiefs by personal intercourse and bringing to bear on the people that nameless attraction which frontier officers were supposed, and often with justice, to exercise over uncivilized races. In 1841, Lieutenant Biggs carried out his tour. He met with no opposition, and concluded friendly agreements with most of the leading communities. A depot for salt was at their request opened at Dimapur. The Dhansiri was fixed as the boundary between the British districts and the Angami tract. The Government directed that a repetition of these friendly visits should be made from time to time, mainly with a view to the suppression of the slave traffic carried on by the Nagas with the Bengalis of Sylhet.

The boundary between the Angamis and Manipur was to be finally settled, to prevent irritation on that side, and a road was to be opened to Samoogoodting (Mao) from the plains. A nominal tribute was to be taken from the Nagas as soon as they could be brought to consent to its payment. To arrange the boundary, Lieutenant Biggs marched across the hills in the cold weather of 1841-42. It was decided, in conference with Captain Gordon, Political Agent at Manipur, that “commencing from the upper part of the Jeerie River, the western frontier of Manipur, the line of boundary formed (1) by the Dootighur Mountain, or that range of hills in which the Makru River takes its rise, east on to the Barak River; (2) by the Barak River up to where it is joined by the Tayphani River, which flows along the eastern line of the Popolongmai Hill; (3) by the Tayphani River up to its source on the Burrail range of Mountains; and (4) by the summit or water-pent of the Burrail range on to the source of the Mow River flowing north from that point towards Assam, was the best boundary between Manipur and the Angami country; firstly – because the Angami Nagas and all the inferior tribes subject to their influence occupy the mountainous part north of the boundary here given, and have together been the perperrators of all the acts of aggression which have been committed of late years both in Cachar and Manipur. Secondly – because along the western portion of the boundary here proposed, the whole of the villages south of it, which were before near this frontier, having been from time to time destroyed by the tribes from the north, and their inhabitants obliged for protection to locate themselves further south, a considerable tract of mountainous country in this direction was completely deserted. Thirdly – because along the portion of the boundary here proposed to the east of Popolongmai the Angami tribes are separated from the Nagas of Manipur by a lofty range of mountains, across which little, if any, communication takes place. Fourthly – because the Manipur Government not having at present any control or authority over the villages to the north, and the Angamis not possessing any influence over those to the south of this proposed boundary throughout its whole extent, its adoption would not disjoin connected tribes or separate any village from a jurisdiction to which it had been long attached, as would be the case were any portion of the country north of the line suggested made over to the Manipur Government.”

Fresh complications also speedily arose with reference to the Manipur boundary and the interference of that State in certain parts of the hills. The boundary laid down in 1842 had been in 1867 re-asserted by the Governnment, but was little regarded by Manipur. Moreover, as British officers were prohibited from directly controlling the independent Nagas within the limits of the Hills District, the assertion of such a boundary line merely prevented Manipur from retaliatory raids on what was nominally British territory, while the Nagas had no scruples in violating that of Manipur. This furnished a standing excuse for Manipur reprisals. Manipur also objected to the line as robbing it of villages that had for years paid willing tribute. The Administration Report for the Hills District for 1868-69 noted the progress of survey operations in the Naga country, the difficulty of procuring supplies and carriage, and the pressing importance of finally demarcating the boundary between Manipur and the Naga Hills. The Lieutenant-Governor Sir W. Grey was doubtful as to the advisability of pushing on regular survey operations at the present stage, but agreed in the necessity of settling the boundary question.

The leading Naga villages of Konemah and Mozemah had complained of attempts made by Manipur to levy contributions, and it was clear that, if raids were to avoided, such interference with the Nagas within the Hills District must cease. The Government of India concurred in this view, holding that as they had resolved on avoiding encroachment from British side upon the Naga communities, Manipur also must be restricted to the limits laid down by Gordon and Biggs in 1841-42. Captain Butler, the Deputy Commissioner of the Hills District. and Dr. Brown, Political Agent at Manipur, accordingly met in the cold weather of 1869-70 and endeavoured to trace out the boundary line. They differed, however, in opinion as to the position of part of it, and it was decided to appoint a Boundary Commissioner to go over the ground again and settle all disputed points. Into the details of his enquiry it was not necessary to enter. The boundary was, after much correspondence, eventually settled in July 1872.

The line of 1842 was maintained in all essential points so far as it was clearly identified. A few villages on the dividing ridge of the water-pent, over which Manipur had acquired supremacy, were demarcated as belonging to that State; and from the termination of the line of 1842, at point called the Telizo Peak, eastward the watershed of the main line of hills which divide the affluents of the Brahmaputra from those of the Irrawaddy as far as the Patkoi Pass was declared to be the limit of Manipur on its northern frontier. The Naaa Hills District was advanced to march with the boundary of Manipur as thus determined. The Kuki colonies on the Langting were brought within the limits of the Naga Hills District – a inetsure rendered necessary by their having commenced a course of active hostilities against certain Naga villages. Manipur afterwards objected to the boundary, but its objections were overruled.

It had been stated above that from the Telizo Peak, eastward the watershed between the affluents of the Brahamputra and Irrawaddy was to be the boundary of Manipur on the north. In December 1872 Major Godwin-Austen was deputed to explore this boundary up to the Patkoi Pass.

The result of the expedition was not altogether satisfactory. The actual demarcation of the line was carried up to the Telizo Peak, and a considerable area of unknown country was surveyed. But beyond Telizo Peak it was found impossible to proceed with the demarcation. The Manipuris threw every obstruction in the way of the party, and the want of labour made further advance hopeless. It was not even decided in what direction the boundary would lie. Two distinct ranges, a considerable distance apart, inclosed between them the broad valley of the Lanier. These ranges were traced for some distance in a north-easterly direction, and named, respectively, the Kopamedza and Saramethi mountains.

The latter and more southerly range was apparently the more considerable, and the presumption was that the boundary line would lie along its watershed. Major Godwin Austen was of opinion that the Lanier river maintained a northerly source, and emerged from the Naga country as the Dikkoo which flows past Sibasagar into the 1 tralimaputra. But it was possible, on the other hand, that the Lanier iind Dikkoo might be separate rivers, and that the Lanier might be, in l’act, an affluent of the Irrawaddy. The question involved was one of considerable importance. If it turned out that the northern range was, in fact, the watershed dividing the affluents of the Brahmaputra from those of the Irrawaddy, and if they determined to adhere to that watershed as the boundary, Manipur would be at liberty to annex the whole tract of Naga country lying between the two ranges, and to confine them to a narrow strip running up the eastern bank of the Doyeng and along the southern frontier of the Sibasagar district.

For the settlement of this question it was accordingly arranged that a survey party under Captain Badgley should, in the cold weather of 1873-74, follow up the work begun by Major Godwin-Austen. The main object of the expedition was to trace the Lanier either to some point in the Saramethi range or northwards into the Dikkoo. No boundary was to be demarcated. In view of the great concession to Manipur which would be involved in the acceptance of the Kopamedza range, Government was anxious to obtain accurate information without pledging itself by any demarcation. Captain Butler and Captain Badgely were ordered to collect all the informations they could, and meanwhile to avoid any reference to the British boundary. The boundary when laid down would be between Manipur and the Nagas, not between Manipur and British territory. How far they might choose to extend their frontier southwards was a matter for further consideration and had nothing to do with Manipur.

With these instructions the party started from Kohima on the 1st of January, 1874, and a successful exploration was made. The Lanier was followed up to the village of Thetchuma (latitude 25° 50′ longitude 94° 49′), where it was met by an equally large river flowing from the north north-east, bent round in its course, and made for a point in the Saramethi range some 12 miles south-west of the Saramethi Peak. The Lanier therefore was an affluent of the Irrawaddy, and the Kopamedza range was the actual watershed. It remained to be seen where the Dikkoo rose. As the Chief Commissioner of Assam pointed out there seemed to be no area left for that river to drain. But this question could not be solved during the season. The party succeeded in surveying 2,000 miles of new country, and returned to Samoogoodting (Mao) on the 23rd March, after two brushes with the Nagas, who turned out in some force to attack, and were driven off with some loss. These small affairs however caused little anxiety. The Chief Commissioner expressed regret that the necessity for hostilities should have arisen. But he seemed to think the village feuds of the Nagas made such encounters inevitable, and he was rather disposed to attack fresh value to the expedition on account of its having been “strong enough to defy opposition.” The result he believed would be to lessen the chance of such affairs in future. The military force attached to the expedition consisted of 70 men of the 43rd Native Infantry.

Meanwhile a survey party under Major Lance had been demarcating the southern boundary of the Sibasagar District. The line to be laid down was to be the limit of their civil jurisdiction; and the broad principle on which Major Lance was working was the distinction of the lowlands from the hills. He had met with consederable difficulties from the nature of the ground, and had only succeeded in detemining ten miles of the boundary out of a total length of 120 miles. In the summer of 1874, the Chief Commissioner suggested that this boundary survey should be discontinued. There was, he thought, no neccessity for an immediate demarcation, and there were many reasons against it. He proposed therefore the merging of the boundary survey in the general survey of the country lying south and east of Sibasagar and Lakhimpur. It would be time enough to fix the boundary of their civil jurisdiction where they knew something of the country. Meanwhile the unexplored tract might be opened up by two parties – starting – the one from Samoogoodting, and other from Jeypur, and working to meet one another. Such an exploration could not fail to discover the source of the Dikkoo and filled in the gap between the Sibasagar frontier and the lately surveyed portion of the Naga Hills.

The suggestion was approved. It was decided that Captain 13adgley should accompany Lieutenant Holcombe, Assistant Commissioner of Lakhimpur, and work in a south-westerly direction from Jeypur, while Captain Butler and Lieutenant Woodthrope of the survey struck out to the north-east from Samoogoodting. Both the district Officers were instructed to proceed with the upmost caution. They were to avoid all chance of hostility with the savage tribes, and to retire if it became evident that they could not proved without imminent danger of a hostile reception. Captain Butler was provided with a military guard of 70 men. Lieutenant Holcombe’s guard was at first fixed at 30 men, besides police. It was afterwards raised to 40 men.

From the very beginning of operations the Nagas showed a hostile spirit. The eastern survey party under Captain Butler marched from Samoogoodting on the 23trd December, 1874. On the 3rd January, 1875 they reached Wokha, a large village on the western slope of the Wokha Peak. The following day a coolie was murdered. Some useless negociation followed, and it was clear that mischief was meant. About 7 P.M., when it was quite dark, the party was startled by the Naga cry and some shots. It soon appeared that the camp was entirely surrounded, and some confusion took placed among the non-combatants. As soon as they were in order, Captain Butler with a detachment of about 40 men sent straight at the village, drove the Nagas through it, killing some twenty men, and returned without loss, after posting a police guard within the village with orders to patrol all night. The village was in great measure destroyed. The upshot of the whole affair was that the murderers of the coolie were surrendered by the Wokha men, and on the 20th January Captain Butler marched out of the place.

In reporting the matter the Chief Commissioner wrote that Captain Butler had again been warned to proceed with caution. He had no fears for the safety of the party, and the Chief Commissioner himself was inclined to hope that the lesson given at Wokha would be enough to deter Nagas from any further opposition. Captain Butler accordingly went on with the survey, and a large tract of country was mapped out before he received orders to close operations and join the expedition which was about to start to revenge Lieutenant Holcombe’s murder.

The northern boundary of Manipur eastward of Telizo was not settled until 1878 when a line was finally laid down and accepted by the Manipur.

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