The Boundaries of Manipur – Naoroibam Indramani (Part 2)


Historical events relating to the southern boundary:

The following is a rough sketch relating to the history of the Burmese and Manipur boundary taken from Mackenzie’s History of the North-east Frontier of Bengal:

“The first record we have is in 1823, when the British Government opened communications with the Manipur State in order to arm her, so that she in conjunction with British troops, might resist the attacks from the Burmese who at that time had devastated Manipur mid had turned Gumbheer Sing and the ruling family into Cachar, and subsequently in 1826 at the treaty of Yandaboo, the king of Ava gave tip claim to Manipur. From this date the right to the Kubo (Kabaw) Valley became a subject of dispute, because for many years it had been changing hands from Burma to Manipur. At the date of the treaty it was held by Manipur, but in this treaty there is no mention of the Kubo Valley, but the boundary was supposed to be the Ningthee (Ningthi) or Chindwin river.

To this, however, the Burmese objected very strongly, and the British Government, seeing that the king of Ava was very anxious to possess this valley and also that it was of little real value to Manipur as being unhealthy, and there being always a necessity to send armed parties and numerous coolies to carry supplies when any European Officer might happen to go there, it was determined to cede this valley to Burma and in 1834 Captains Grant and Pemberton were ordered to proceed to the Kubo Valley, there to make it over to the Burmese Commissioners. Distinct orders were given to the British Envoys, and the foot of the Muring hills, supposed by the Burmese to be the Yoma Daung range, was selected as its western boundary. Pemberton was also ordered to point out to the Burmese Commissioners the northern and southern boundaries of the Kubo Valley. Curiously enough, in these orders no mention was made about the southern border of Manipur and it seems difficult to understand why the boundary was extended on beyond the source of the Numsailung. Pemberton, from enquiries, found out that the southern border of the Kubo Valley was the above named river, but probably had no idea where its source originated.”

Anyhow although not ordered to do so, Pemberton ran the boundary of Manipur across the hills up to the Manipur river, as we see in the second paragraph of the Agreement of 1834:

“On the south, a line extending from the eastern foot of the same hills” (i.e. Muring) “at the point where the river, called by the Burmese “Nansaweng,” and by the Munniporees, “Numsaeelung” enters the plain up to its source, and across the hills due west, down to the Kathe Khyoung or Munnipore River.”

Herein lies the difficulty, because the Yoma hills in reality were to the east of the Kabaw valley and were not the Muring hills (as the Burmese said) and from enquiries made by Mr. Porter, Deputy Commissioner, Upper Chindwin, in July 1893, the present Nansawin, i.e. the Manipuri “Nansaweng” and the Burmese Numsailung of the treaty rose in these hills and flowed west into the Khanpat river, Mr. Carey, however, elicited on the spot at Tinzin that the southern boundary of Manipur was always supposed by the Burmese to be the Nanpalaw, or in Chin the Tui Pu, which flowed from the west into the Kabaw valley south of the Tinzin Chaung. There was no doubt that at the time of the Agreement of 1834 very little was known about the position of the hills on either side of the Kabaw Valley, nor of the rivers in it, and Pemberton did not go down there to determine it for himself as the Agreement was signed on the banks of the Chindwin. In compensation for the loss of territory, the Government of India granted to Manipur a monthly payment of Rs. 500.

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Several times after this was the boundary visited by the Political Agent of Manipur – in 1849, in 1871-72, in 1881-82 – but these visits were towards the northern border of the Kubo Valley and did not affect that part we are now concerned in.

When however, after the occupation of Upper Burma in 1881, we entered the Chin Hills, it is verily become more necessary that a border should be fixed between the Chin Hills and Manipur. For, as the boundary then stood, it ran the Kubo Valley (this much was more or less defined), but the remainder, which turned west and ran up the Nanpalaw to its sources and from there, with an imaginary line to the Manipur river was really unknown. From there the boundary was supposed to go up the Manipur river to a certain point, and then west to the Lushai and Cachar border, thus giving a large enclave on the east of the Manipur river to Manipur and now known as “Pemberton’s Enclave.” Anyhow the Chins never regarded the boundary as at all binding on themselves and had never been consulted in the matter.

History shows how the Kanhows who lived in the hills to the south of the Manipur plain gradually pressed their claims northwards, takiiir, the villages of Haulkam and Hianzan and three other villages which then existed between the Tui Pu and the Tui Sa. In 1856 an expedition was sent from Manipur to investigate a raid that was supposed to concern the villagers of Pinzing, the result was however, that the Manipuris were defeated with sever loss, and to flee back to their valley. After this, for a period of about 14 years more seems to have been a fairly quiet time among the hills on the borders. Manipur, while the Kanhows pressed on and inhabited the villages just south of the Manipur valley, but behaved quite peaceably. In 1871 they raided a Manipuri village, and the next year an expedition was sent against the Lushais under General Nuthall, who, on returning, captured in revenge for the raid the year before a large number of Kanhows with their Chief Kokatung, known to us as Nokatung. This act upset the Kanhows who deemed it as an act of treachery, and ill-feeling has existed between the Chins and Manipuris up to this date. Throughout the whole time the Chins in no way recognized the Manipuris as their masters. Such being the circumstances, when the matter of a Boundary Commission between the Chin Hills and Manipur was first mooted the Political Officer, Chin Hills, on being asked, gave the following proposal:

First – That the boundary should run from Tammu to Dimpi peak, thence to Howbi peak, and from there to the highest peak on the Kailam range. This would run through the villages on the south of the Manipur plain, leaving some for Burma and some for Manipur but keeping all the Kanhow tribe intact for Burma. The advantages were that the Chin Hills would border the whole of the Kubo Valley as far as Tammu and that if raids were made from this part of the hills, it would be very easy to take necessary action from Burma or the Chin Hills„ that Manipur would not be responsible for a large area of hill tract, which, considering who is a poor state, would be a great gain to her. The disadvantages were that it would give a much larger area to Burma to legislate for, composed of mixed tribes, i.e. Yoes, Nwites and Thades, and that a large portion between these tribes were inhabited wild country. Manipur’s objection was that it took away from her a large and possible valuable portion of hills which had been given her in 1834, which might be of great mineral wealth, which (Manipur Stated) contained upwards of 90 big villages, and which, in the event of a railway running through Manipur to Burma„ would be valuable.

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Second – That the whole of the Upper Chin Hills should be handed over to Manipur by running the boundary about 20 miles north of hills Tiddim. The advantages were that a large and partially uninhabited tract of hills would be given away, thereby saving expenses to Burma. The disadvantage was that a large area of the Kubo Valley would have Manipur on its border instead of the Chin Hills. Manipur objected that this gave her too much, and that she would have to legislate for country she had no real authority over.

Third – That Pemberton’s enclave on the east of the Manipur river should be exchanged for the enclave on the west of the Manipur river. The advantage was the same as in Proposition 2. The disadvantage that the boundary line would not be straight. Manipur objected that this took away her country that was given her in 1834 by Pemberton’s agreement and gave her in exchange and uncultivated and uninhabited tract of hills.

It mattered little to Burma where the boundary ran so long as the Kabaw Valley was properly protected, and she thought that by having the Chin Hills on the boundary, the Kabaw valley would be safer than if Manipur were its neighbour. Anyhow it was eventually decided, after much controversy, by the Government of India that the boundary should be selected with reference to natural features in about the latitude of Pemberton’s line, but drawn so as to exclude Lenacot from Manipur, and then run due west, that no compensation would be payable by either side and that Manipur would be responsible for presenting raids into the Kabaw Valley. On 20th January, having been appointed W.H. Dent, Intelligence Officer, 2nd Battalion, (Princess of Wales’ Own), Yorkshire Regiment, Intelligence office, to the Burma party of the Manipur and Chin Hills Boundary Commission, He proceeded to Kalemyo, where he met Mr. Carey and Lieutenant Trydell and 50 rifles 1st Burma Battalion and on the 20th January, 1894, they left for Tinzin in the Kabaw valley and Manipur Boundary Commissioners. The road led five and half miles along the main route to Kalewa, which was made some time ago by troops, and was being improved by the Sappers and will form a cart-route to Fort White.

Leaving the main road at the Burma village of Indaing, they went north-west passing on the right the site of the small and deserted village of Myingtha, which was raided and burnt by the Siyin Chins last year they arrived at Ahteywa, where they camped for the night, distance nine and half miles. In the Kale and Kabaw Valley the villagers, which used to be scattered about and were generally small, had been collected together and were of some size; stockades had been built round them and they were better able to resist attacks and raids by Chins. Military police were stationed there. The Nyanzia Chaung supplied water for the village and camp and ran about 300 yards to the west.

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On 21st January, they started at 6:30 A.M., the escort arrived at Kyetpanet in four half hours and transported in 6 hours, distance being about eleven half miles. The road was good throughout and ran through very rich paddy cultivation mingled with bastard teak jungle in great numbers. The road passed the sites of Pall and Inbaung, which were deserted and form part of Ahteywa, and then ran through Kangyi, which was a fairly large stockaded village and to which the villagers of Sitha and Kantha had migrated. They encamped in sheds outside the village. Camping-ground in the neighbourhood was large enough of hold big bodies of troops. In the village was a Pongyi Kyaung in which the officers put up. In this village there was only Pongyi, who formerly was a slave of the Chins, who treated him somewhat badly. There, as well as in Ahteywa, Burmans who had been slaves before their occupation of the Chin Hills came to pay their respects to Mr. Carey; all seemed very grateful and pleased to be back again in their own valley.

On 22nd January, they marched to Yazagyo, distance 5 miles. It was very fine old village and formerly used to be the residence of the Sawbwa of the Kale Valley. They housed their escort for the night in the old place, which was capable of holding a large number of men. Yazagyo was situated on a sort of natural plateau raised nearly 40 feet above the surface of the ground and formed a very strong position. A detachment of 40 military police was stationed there. The road from Kyetpanet was very good, but Nyanzia, a small stream about 20 yards wide, had to be crossed three times. Height of Yazagyo 570 feet.

On 23rd January, they marched to Pyambok, leaving behind cultivation and open ground. The road led through teak jungle. After marching about 9 miles they crossed the watershed of the Nyanzia and the Nanpalon Chaungs, which would naturally form the boundary between the Kale and the Kabaw valleys. Pyambok was nothing but a small camp in the middle of dense jungle, and was very damp and confined. There were three permanent sheds. Distance was 12 miles, road good.

On 24th January, they marched on to Khampat camp, which was situated on the left bank of the stream of the same name and to the north-east of the site of the old village of Khampat. This village was destroyed by Chins a few years ago. The camping-ground was not large and was surrounded by jungle on three sides, while the river ran past the fourth.

On 25th January, they marched into Tinzin, distance 6 miles from Kalemyo. Tinzin was a Burman village of about 60 houses, and had a quarter in it where Chins live. They camped just outside the village in some houses on the left bank of the Tinzin Chaung. Tinzin was surrounded by a strong stockade and had a large amount of cultivated ground round that. That was 520 feet.

On 26th January, that morning they heard that Mr. Porteous, Officiating Political Agent, Manipur, and escort would arrive next day. The 25th had been the day of a rising in a hill village near the Manipur plain.

On 27th January, the Manipur party arrived on that day at about midday, having marched in hills to the north of Tinzin. Captain Longe R.E. Survey of India, also arrived from Kendak to join their party and shortly afterwards Mr. Porter, Deputy Commissioner, Upper Chindwin, came in to see Mr. Carey.

To be continued.


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