TODAY -

Endless Kabaw Valley
(British created vicious cycle of Manipur, Burma and India)
- Part 4 -

By Dr Th Suresh *



7. The Kabaw Valley Treaty; 1834: This dark spot in the history of Manipur is well documented and well-known to every Manipuri. The details will be dealt in the appropriate Chapter. However, the present Manipuri generation should be very clear as far as the following points are concerned. This is also kept for future generation:

i) The two British cheater Major Brown and Captain Pemberton, who were negotiating bounder dispute with Burma on behalf of Manipur, handed over this precious valley to Burma on 9th January, 1834, without the consent of Raja Gambhir Singh.
ii) The Manipur king had never signed this and hence this is an illegal treaty as far as Manipur is concerned. It cannot stand time-tested legal scrutiny. It also cannot stand in an international law court.
iii) The cunning fox-like British took full advantage of the then weak situation of Manipur and handed over the valley in the hope that the Burmese had been contained and war could not break out. That turned out to be false as shown by another to successive wars.
iv) Raja Gambhir Singh died of heart attack on hearing this bad news.
v) An important clause is however found in this treaty, that of "Manipur Government should get a compensation of 500 Sicca Rupees per months from the date of transfer. In the event of retrocession of Kabaw Valley to Manipur, the payment of compensation should also be stopped from the date of such retrocession". What this imply? Please read the subsequent chapter.
vi) The compensation was paid by the Britisher and not by the beneficiary, the Government of Burma.

7. Nullification of the arms and ammunition clause of the Jiri Treaty: Meanwhile 1 yr. after the death of Gambhir Singh, the Manipur Levy army consisted of 3000 Sepoys. British India Burmese border had been stabilised to some extent. The British (especially Governor General Lord William Bentinek), who was financing Manipur Levy, thought that financing such a large army is useless and wasteful of financial resources. Hence on 7th February, 1835, the British unilaterally stopped the arms and ammunition clause of the treaty. Manipur could not do much on this selfish act of the pseudo-friend British.

8. Establishment of a Political agency and appointment of 1st political agent: The Governor General who was always dreaming that the Burmese would not wedge another war with the British established a political agency by appointing a Political Agent around the same time stated at Sl. No. 7 above. The agent will also act as a communicator between British, Burma and Manipur to prevent any untoward incident between the 3 states.

Hence Captain Gordon, who was adjutant to Manipur Levy as lieutenant, was appointed the 1st Manipur political agent (Gordon took one Manipuri Lady as his spouse and died in Dec. 1844). The agency was 1st placed under Bengal Presidency, letter shifted to direct control of Govt. of India in view of foreign and independent status of Manipur in 1836. However from 1879 onwards, it was placed under Govt. of Assam in view of inter border related issue; the same arrangement continued even after merged to India in 1947.

Thus started the 2nd slow but steady interference of the Britishers in the affairs of the independent Manipur. The 1st one being the arrival of the 3 British officers for Manipur Levy as instructor-cum-commission in 1825. This is the turning point in Manipur history. This is the beginning of indirect British rule in Manipur. The stage is now set for further British interference.

Circumstances leading to a British Protectorate State (from the reign of Chandrakirti to the capture of Kangla Palace by the British i.e. from 1850 to 27th April, 1891):

9. This period started during the reign of Chandrakirti: For clearly of the reader, a brief note of the Palace intrigues after the death of Gambhir Singh is now required. Nara Singh put minor Chandrakirti to the throne just after the death of his brother Raja Gambhir. However widowed Maharani Kumudini plotted to kill Nara Singh, the Jubaraj and the Regent. Accordingly in the evening of 27th January, 1844, while he was praying at Langthabal Palace, an attempt was made to kill him. Though severely wounded, Nara Singh survived. Kumudini along with her son ran to Cachar and reached the same on 3rd Feb. 1844. At the insistence of the people, Nara Singh ascended to the Throne at 8 am. of 8th Feb. 1884 at the aged of 55 yrs. and reigned for a brief period of 6 yrs. upto 1850.

After Nara Singh death, his brother Devendra reigned for a brief period of only 3 months. By this time Chandrakirti attended majority, came back to Manipur, defeated Devendra and became king in 1850 and subsequently died on 20th May, 1886 after a long reign of 36 yrs. At the time of his ascent, Colonel McCulloch was the political agent in Manipur. To protect British interest, the agent recommended two things immediate posting of troops and formal recognition of the new king. The British Govt. informed the agent that they would stick to the non-interferance in the succession issue in Manipur; however he was authorized to announces the policy of upholding the Raja. Accordingly the agent declared the decision of the British Govt. to protect the Raja in a public avowal.

Thus unilaterally the British treated Manipur as a British Protectorate state and often referred to as an "Asiatic power in alliances will the Queen". This reference will be a very useful tool in future to proof that Manipur was a sovereign state and to further strengthen the argument that the Kabaw Valley treaty was a farce, unauthorized and cannot proof legally. Our new generation also should know the British did not declared Manipur as a British protectorate State on the request of the Manipur Raja and also due to the fact that the Burmese may exert move pressure on Manipur to jeopardize their interest in NE India.

The final act capture of Kangla palace complex and afterwords (i.e. from 27/4/189114/8/1947),

10. The Circumstances leading to this dark period is too recent, well documented and too common to repeat. Too much of this story is already in public domain to bear repetition here, but the writer cannot resist mentioning important highlights. Besides the two articles written by Dr. K. Ibochouba and Md. Badar Ruddin, as quoted above and Kulachandra Singh, other independent resource is Mr. Grimhood's book of 'My three years in Manipur (Delhi, Re-print 2008). These are the main resource of this chapter.

Chandrakirti was succeeded by king Surchandra. The mutual distrust and jealousy among the princes seen after the death of Garibniwaj and Bheigyachadra is again repeating during this period. Two distinct groups are well established one group is led by the king and includes his three uterine brothers Pucca Sana, Phaijao Sana and Gopal Sana, the other group is led by half brother Jubraj Kulachandra and includes Tikendrajit, Angou Sana And Zillangamba. The history becomes all the more intense is only because of the king's unbalanced siding with his uterine brother specially Pucca Sana:

i) At the instigation of Pucca Sana, the king ordered that Angou Sana and Zillangamba be arrested on 22nd Sept., 1890.
ii) The two accused princes got the news in the every of 21st, prepared for a revolt without the consent of Tikendrajit, they revolted around midnight of same Day. Tikendrajit, who came to defend the Citadel with his army knew who the revolters were, then, also joined the revolt.
iii) Surchandra took refuse at British residency along with Pucca Sana who came to defend him with some army. There he wrote the formal abdication letter and hending over the throne to his next brother Jubaraj Kulachandra who were staying on some pretext at Nambol Phoijing. Tikendrajit who had popular mandate to became king sacrificed the same and made elder brother Kulachandra king. Thus Kulachandra was crowned around 1.07pm of 23rd Sept. 1890. He made Tikendrajit Jubaraj and Angousana Senapati.
iv) On the same day Surchandra left for pilgrimage to Brindaband along with his other three brothers; reached Silchar on 3rd of October and found that the Chief Commissioner was not there. Hence he sent a telegram on 6th deneying his abdication theory. Sameday, Surchandra left for Calcutta and reached on 12th latter on, he submitted a detailed statement to the Viceroy on 12th there.

11. As stated in previous paras, the mind boggling scenario of killing 5 British Officers which led to subsequent Anglo-Manipuri war, is too recent, already in public domain and well documented. Hence the writer will touch only sensitive points and will try to present in a chronological, simplified order for the reader.

Let us see whether he succeeds or not:

a) After receiving detailed statement of Surchandra, the British camp was in a dilemma, to support Surchandra? To support or not to support Kulachandra? With Surchandra openly accusing the Political agent Mr. Grim Wood for siding with Tikendrajit, it became all the move complex. A section of the British also blamed Grim Wood for the palace revolt as he supported Tikendrajit.

b) However, careful reading of Mrs. Grim Wood's book, it is clear that her husband was only following the higher instructions, that of keeping good rapport with the king and the people. Her husband knew that Surchandra and his uterine brothers, specially Pucca Sana, were not liked by the people, Tikendrajit was very popular and loved by the people. And also the fact the king was very incompetent was noted by the Political Agent.

The fact that they had open friendship with Tikendrajit was in public domain. Mr. and Mrs. Grim Wood also liked the strong and mainly behaviour, the popularity, the kindness and keeping his words to the last behaviour of Tikendrajit. These are the traits rarely seen in a prince. Hence we can conclude safely that the Political Agent and his wife had a soft corner for the Jubaraj. This is human nature. That they had taken no action detrimental to the other side is also to be noted.

c) The divergent views of Viceroy Lord lansdown, Chief Commissioner Mr. Quinton and Political Agent Mr. Grim Wood were crystalised on 21/2/1891 with the Govt. of India giving final order as below:
i) recognizing Jubraj Kulachandra as Raja
ii) removal of Senapati Tikendrajit and
iii) making known the decision by personal visit of Mr. Quinton to Manipur.

Accordingly Mr. Quinton left Golaghat for Manipur on 7th March, 1891, reached Manipur on 22nd March at 10 am. Tikendrajit received him with a guard of honour, 4 miles from Imphal. The commissioner after intering Kangla declared that a Darbar would be held soon. Inwardly he instructed Mr. Grimhood to capture Tikendrajit. To shorten, the sequence of events were as below:

Quinton sought a Darbar on sameday of arrival i.e. 22nd Kulachandra + Tikendrajit waited for long there was delay in translation of Govt. order brought by Quinton Jubaraj went back as he was unwell as found out by Grim Wood letter on in the meantime got smell of his arrest also Quinton ordered that Darbar could not be held without Tikendrajait GrimWood Simpson tried to see Jubaraj once in the afternoon and again in the morning of 23rd in the evening Kulachadra got a letter from Quinton through Grim Wood to hand over the Jubaraj, if not would be arrested Kulachadnra wrote back that a reply would be given after the Jubaraj recover his health as nobody came, Grim Wood was again sent to the palace to see Kulachandra or his brothers Simpson + Grim Wood again went to the palace with a letter to Maharaja threatening arrest from Quinton in case of failure of Jubaraj.

Grim Wood met Kulachandra, but his mission was unsuccessful. On way back, Grim Wood saw Tikendrajit who was ill and still refuse to attend Darbar Quinton took the fatal decision of arresting Jubaraj by invading his residence in early morning of next day (i.e. 24th) and gave order to Colonel SKene British played a dubious role of declaring Quinton would leave next day and see the cultural dance as planned about 4.45 am of 24th, British troops attacked Jubaraj's residence around 8 pm. Britishers were overpowered by Manipur shoulders, they sought ceasefire, it was agreed 5 officers led by Quinton met Jubaraj at Court Yard for an hour, informed their ungrateful action, also assured safe passage upto Kohima after depositing their arms which is to be delivered at Kohima The Officers disagreed to this proposal Suddenly mass reprisal followed.

  • The unfortunate political agent was pushed by Nepra Koot and Kajao speared him to death.
  • Quinton, Colonel Skene, Cossins, Lt Sropson and one bugler were taken to the green space in front of the Kangla Dragon and beheaded by the public Executioner under the order of General Thangal aid the Jubaraj.
  • Mrs. Grim Wood and her party of some army however escaped safely to Cachar.
  • The British reprisal was swift and fatal. 3 Columns viz, Cachar, Kohima and Tamu column moved to Manipur on 15th, 20th and 23rd respectively and captured Kangla Complex at about 10 am of 27th, April, 1891.
  • Might is right trial started by establishing a special court for Royal Family and 2 political officers were vested power for trial of other persons.
  • Tikendrajit, Thangal General, Niranjan Subedar, Kajao and Chanai Thangal were hanged publicly amidst heart rendering cries of thousands of men and women at polo ground, at the place where the present Sahid Minar stoods, on 13th August. Jubaraj Kulachandra, Angousana and other were departed to Andaman. Thus ended the unfortunate drama in the dark period of Manipur's history.
12. Award or two about Mrs. Grim Wood: Reading her book 'My three years in Manipur", the writer always feel sorry and unhappiness for this couple. No due had been given to them properly. They were true friends of the Manipuries. In their 1st stint as political Agent, Mrs. Grim Wood stated that every child dances in Manipur. The couple also visited Loktak Lake and its beautiful surroundings and were popular with the crowd/common Manipuries. She also stated that Manipuri women were much move enlightened and intelligent in consequences. Women folks were favourites of Mrs Grim Wood.

Their 2nd Stint, after the death of their success Mr. Health, was as disastrous as Mrs. Grim Woods superstitions ideas before coming back to Manipur. Somehow or other She never liked their 2nd posting to Manipur, but fate was otherwise. It is clear that they had no prior information of the empending arrest of the Jibaraj, Mr. Grim Wood knew it only on 21st March (Saturday) one day before Mr. Quinton and his party arrived. They always felt sorry for the Jubaraj for the consequences to follow. Her husband did what was told i.e. establish friendly feelings with the princes and learn their language so as to acquire an influence over the Maharaja and the state itself.

She also stated that there was a loss of dignity in her husband's friendship with the Jubaraj and wandered why those opposing this view never commented to approve or disapprove the same. Her husband, when ordered to arrest the Jubaraj at the close of the durbar, left very bitter. The British or Mr. Quinton thought that if Mr. Grim Wood deliver the message, the popular and powerful Jubaraj would feel less.

i) Ifs and buts: a) That idea was true and excellent. If Mr. Grim Wood was given some time and free hand, he could have definitely found an amicable solutions. b) the ugly incident occurred only due to Mr. Quinton's decision to invade the Jubaraj's residence to arrest him around 4.45 am. Of 24th March, 1891 and c) the entire fault lies squarely on the shoulder of incompetent Quinton.

ii) It is all the more disheartening to learn that exiled king Surchandra accused Mr. Quinton of disarming his troops without his content.

iii) It is further disheartening to learn that the opportunist king Kulachandra gave a statement stating that the British prisoners were murdered by his brother, the beloved Jubaraj, without his knowledge or consent.

iv) Mrs. Grim Wood's dreaded flight started after leaving behind the Residency at 2 o'clock morning of 25th and reaching Cachar on 3rd April, 1891. It is to our fortune that she was still alive to tell the true story of that dreadful period. It is to her greatness that she didn't accuse anybody, alive or dead, in her book. Even the Red Cross, awarded by her majesty, did not change her attitude. Let God bless her soul.

13. Establishment of British Reserve: Before capture of Kangla Complex, a British residency was already there since Gambhir Singh's period. However after the last battle, the Master was searching a safe and complex place both for their subjects and the Military. Hence a 'British Reserve" was established in and around Imphal town measuring about 310 acres in September, 1891 by extending The Cantonment Act, 1889 and the Cruelty to Annimals Act, 1890. The 'British Reserve included the cantonment (old palace complex), and the Residency, the state Thana, the Post and Telegraph office, the state Treasury, the State Jail, the Civil hospital and the land at Kangchup. The hospital, public offices and bazar area were not reserved and people were allowed to use those.

14. Churachnd Maharaja's reign: On 29th April, 1892, minor Churachand Sings, aged five, were put to the throne, he attend majority in 1907. Departing from earlier norm, for the 1st time a British was appointed regent to the minor Raja. Thus major Maxwell, the political agent also became regent.

After attaining Majority, the state administration was transferred to the Raja assisted by Manipur State Durbar. The sequences were as follows:
i) The Raja was made ex-officio president of the Durbar
ii) The British made different rules for the valley and the hills for administrative purposes.
iii) The Durbar was bestowed move power then the Raja under the Manipur Administration Rules, 1907.
iv) A British officer was made vice President of the Durbar, he was made more powerful than the Raja.
v) British India had full control of the Durbar, both Valley and Hills,
vi) The Maharaja and the Durbar was given power only to administer the valley, had no power to administer the hills. The hills were administered by the political agent and the assistant political agent (vice president of the Durbar)
vii) The rule was amended on 1916 to made the vice President as President. The Raja can overvide the Durbar only with the consent of the political agent. The president was also given power to administer hill areas on behalf of the Raja.
viii) Only in 1931, abler the Naga unrest, a Manipuri as appointed as assistant to the president of the Durbar.
Thus sum total is all powers are vested to the Britishers, they tried to divide the hills and the valley to bring disunity for their convenience, and the Raja was only nominal head. After British left Manipur is August, 1947, the legacy was transferred to the independent India Government who got into the shoes of the British Masters.

15. A native state vs the subordinate state: This chapter cannot be complete without discussing this underlying idea. For all practical purposes, as stated in the proceeding paras, the state administration was run by the Britishers with the Raja as nominal head. However, Manipur was not annexed and remained a native state. The matter was thoroughly discussed in British Parliament. Assam Chief Commissioner, Mr. Ward was strongly in favour of annexation. However ex-Viceroys of India, Lord Ripon and Lord North Crook, and Lord Derby were against it. Public opinion in India and Britain was also against it.

This was clearly stated in the government of India's Resolution of Manipur, dt. 21st August, 1891. Though become liable to the penalty of annexation, the British had not exercised it. The proclamation stated that ".. had graciously assented to the re-establishment of the native rule under such condition " The Viceroy Lord Landsdowne, finally remarked that Manipur had not been annexed as a mark of clemency. What proof one want now? Is not it legally binding? Is not it enough to stand legal scrutiny?

16. The culprits: From the various discussions given in the preceding paras, we can now safely conclude that two persons, one Manipur king and another a Britisher is responsible for the unfortunate incident that took place. They are:-
i) The incompetent king Surchandra who sided with his uterine brothers, especially Pucca Sana, instead of taking a neutral and reasonable stand in the various palace fights among the princes.
ii) The another person is unworthy Assam Chief Commissioner Mr. Quinton who ordered invasion of Tikendrajit's residence to arrest him instead of trying to have an honorable negotiated settlement.

These are ifs and buts, the readers will have more in the coming chapters.

(An indepth analysis is a attempted for Kabaw Valley under different sub headings i) boundary - Past and Present, ii) Anglo-Manipuri relationship iii) Manipur - Burma relationship, iv) Indo-Manipuri relationship, v) various treaties and finally vi) what we can do; being published serial wise - editor)

To be continued ....




* Dr Th Suresh wrote this article for Huieyen Lanpao (English Edition) .
The author is an MD. WHO Fellow (Holland and UK), and Ex Director of Health Services, Manipur & Chairman, Dr. Suresh Centre for Foreign Studies & Placement
This article was webcasted on April 07, 2011.


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