Endless Kabaw Valley
(British created vicious cycle of Manipur, Burma and India)
- Part 6 -

By Dr Th Suresh *

Kabaw Valley
Kabaw Valley - Pix :: Yaruingam Kashung/IndyaRocks

B) From the time British left till merged to India (i.e.15/8/1947 to15/10/1949):-

In this important period of Manipur's history, the political steam generated during the previous years continued like a wild fire. Just before election, a new political party known as Praja Santi Party (PSP) emerged in political landscape. Many thought it was the brain child of Maharaj Bodhchandra. The political permutation and combinations are now crystallised into 3 distinct groups:-

1)The Praja Santi Party which is fiercely pro-Royal, but anti-Congress and anti-merger, the Manipur State Congress(becoming a part of Indian National Congress) which favours merger to free India and Irabot and co. led remaining party which is deadly anti-congress, anti-Royal, anti-merger but for an independent state.

2) The hot political steam was also found in the hills in 1947. Worth mentioning are :- formation of Manipur Zeliangrong Union, Zeliangrong council, the Kuki National Army(KNA), agitation by Mizo Union for a union of Kuki areas with Lusai Hills etc. Another important one was the coming of Daiho's Mao Naga Party under the influence of Phizo's Naga National Party (limited to a few in the beginning).

3) At this critical juncture, Irabot tried to form a United Front to fight the election with others viz, Shimray of Tangkhulong, Lunneh of KNA, Kakhangai of Kabui Association and some other valley organisations. But unfortunately it was not materialised. Had it materialised, the political landscape might have turned the other way. Unfortunate for us, unfortunate for Manipur.

4)August 1947 Standstill Agreement : It was signed with Interim Government of India( GOI). Defence, Foreign Affairs and Communication were entrusted to the GOI while the Maharaja and the people were left free to adopt any method for internal administration.

5) Instrument of Accesstion,11th August 1947 : This was also signed with interim GOI. The pen-driver is unable to find its details in spite of searching many books.

6) 1948 : The year saw establishment of state units of various national parties eg.the Socialist Party( it was formed inside the Manipur State Congress in 1946),the Communist Party( Irabot was still underground). The Manipur State Congress was recognised as a branch of Assam Congress Committee by the Indian National Congress in that year.

7) The 1st election, under Manipur Constitution Act of 1947, was held on 11th June-27th July, 1948. It was based on adult franchise and the 1st of its kind not only in Manipur but throughout the Indian sub-continental history. It produced a hung assembly with 14 seats for MSC,12 for PSS, 6 for Krishak Sabha and 18 for hill representatives. Hence a coalition Government led by Praja Shanti and supported by Krishak Sabha and Hill representatives was formed.

It was inaugurated by Maharaja Bodhchandra with M.K.Priobarta Singh as the 1st Chief Minister on 18th October,1948.But then, what is regrettable is that, while they were fighting each other for their political survival, every one forgot that there was a very important facet to attend to--that of Kabaw Valley. After the election if these people take up the issue by their own or force the Maharaja to negotiate with the congress leaders, or if the Maharaja by his own take up the issue as a true patriot at the fake end of negotiation when Sovereignty was lost, there was a very good chance to negotiate with the new Indian Government in our favour .But alas, that was not to happen.

c) Merger and Nehru's last hurrah (15/10/1949-30/3/1953):-

It is worth to mention here that the above inauguration was done after Manipur was merged to India on 15th October, 1949. The pen driver at present doesn't have any idea why inauguration was done 3 months after election. Perhaves there was a lot of pressure from a section of educated public, Manipur State Congress and Indian National Congress agents to the Maharaja for voluntary merger to the new free India with Sardar Patel also threatening to use force now and then. However the Maharaja resisted it for his own shake and survival. The unfolding of events was as follows:-

1) The Maharaja was called to Shillong, kept there under house confinement and an Agreement was signed with India on 21st September,1949 to be effective from15th October,1849. There was a story of the Maharaja crying a lot at Shillong, as many of us heard, before forced to sign the same. At this crucial juncture, two things were possible for the Maharaja and his advisors as a true patriot to undertake-

i) Before he left for Shillong and seeing the unavoidable merger, the Maharaja could have consulted all political players/public to bargain for Kabaw Valley in exchange for merger or,

ii) The Maharaja by his own, seeing the inevitable fate at Shillong, could have bargained and stood his ground at least for Kabaw Valley in exchange for merger. At that time we had a very very good chance. The new congress Government might have yielded to such pressure. The precious valley might have returned back to us. Manipur had missed the final Golden Chance. Pros and cons of the merger agreement is coming in the coming up chapter "various Treaties".

2) The merger left almost all Manipuris very unhappy. It also left a section of well educated Manipuri youths disappointed and disheartened. They felt cheated both by the Maharaja and by the interim Government of India. The land was fertile for the growth of various militant groups.

3) Meanwhile India's 1st Prime Minster was barking under the sunshine of non-alignment. Burma Prime Minister U Nu was extending a helping hand to strengthen Nehru's non aligned movement. India and Burma also signed a "Treaty of Friendship'' in 1951.However during that volatile period of Manipur, he was planning to hand over our Kabaw Valley to Burma without considering Manipur sentiments.

Amidst such atmosphere, he visited Manipur twice in succession. He came to Manipur 1st on 23rd and 24th October 1952, then 5 months latter again on 28-31th March, 1953. Manipur was already suspicious of his intentions. There were public cry and demonstrations etc. In the 2nd visit, Burmese Prime Minister U Nu also came down to Imphal. The two together addressed a public meeting on29th at Pologround( where the present State Museum and Fire Brigade stands) in the evening. His less popularity was shown by the dwindling crowd attendance from about 50,000 in the 1st visit to about 20,000 in the 2nd meeting.

The rostrum was pulled down by the crowd, fire crackers were seen and people were fleeing in all directions. These are eye-witness account of one S.Rajamani Sharma of Singjamei Waikhom Leikai who was studying at class vii at Johnstone High School at that time. They together went to Kohima on 30th and there Nehru handed over our precious Kabaw Valley to Burma on a platter even without the compensation clause. Manipur has lost Kabaw Valley, we have lost Kabaw Valley forever.

What is worst is that the already disheartened sections of Manipuri Youths became more pronounced and more hardened. The pen driver firmly believes that this is the 2nd major cause of springing up of various militant groups.

NB: Besides others cited in previous chapters, the additional resources of this chapter are
1) 'Revisiting Kuki Rebellion and Nupi Lan' by Lisam Henthoiba, and 'Colonialism and Movement for Democracy in Manipur' by Konthoujam Indra Kumar, published in Alternative Perspective, July-Sept.,2008
2) i) D-Day (2010 publication ) and
ii) The Fall of Berlin ( 2002 publication) by Antony Beevor
3)i) Pandit Nehru and Manipur " From My Records" by L.Joychandra( Editor Prajatantra) and
ii)'Jawaharlal Nehru and Political Development in Manipur'-by Dr. Ksh. Bimola Devi published in Nehru and Manipur,1889-1989 Centenary, Govt.of Manipur.

The total strength of the levy was 594 army including 40 cavalry. The bravery of the Levy was shown in the Tilian (South of Silchar town) war were the two brothers defeated the Burmese troops and checked their advance in the Cachar- Sylhet sector. The East India Company further wanted to pursue the Burmese up to Manipur and to drive them further. Accordingly, Brigedier General Suldham (chief of N.E. Command) was instructed to prepare a fighting force. The General did the same and proceeded to Baskandi (at the side of Jiri River) in February, 1825. However because of bad road condition, unfavourable rain and mosquito-borne diseases, the idea to proceed to Manipur was abandoned. Accordingly, the General sent a negative report to the Supreme Administrative Council of East-India Company on 11th March, 1825.

C) After recapturing Kangla Capital complex on 12th June, 1825 without much fight and freeing Manipur from Burmese York, Raja Gambhir Singh, who went to Sylhet, returned to Kangla on 23rd December, 1825, with sufficient armoury and the food stuffs. The Raja and his brother Nara Singh had a grand feast at Kangla with the Levy army. After the feast, in a gathering, the Raja declared the important terms and conditions for the Gumbhir Singh Levy as outline below:
i) From this day onwards, the Gambhir Singh Levy will be known as Manipur Levy
ii) Army strength will be increased from 500to1,500 and that of cavalry from 40to150 as agreed to by the British
iii) The expenditure of clothing, fooding, ammunition, medicine etc. will be borne by the supreme council and
iv) The British will stock these materials at Chandrapur of Cachar as Arsenal (Chandrapur was developed by the Raja's father King Bhagyachandra).

Hearing the terms and conditions, the Levy army was in great joy. In fact, the whole of Manipur were overjoyed. This is a milestone in the history of the Anglo-Manipuri relationship on two events. The 1st one is - the expansion and subsequent training of the Levy army led to the recapture of the Kabaw Valley. The 2nd and more disastrous one is - this further led to the handing over of the Kabaw Valley to Burma without the Raja's consent by the two British negotiators and cheaters, namely, Major F.J. Grant and Captain R.B. Pemberton (already described in detail in Chapter I and will again be described in the Chapter - Various Treaties.

4) Treaty of Yandaboo, 24th February, 1826 :-

It is attested as an Annexure III. This is a treaty signed between Burma and British India with Manipur not taking part. The worsening Anglo Burma relationship led to the declaration of first war against Burma by Governor General Lord Armhurst on 5th March, 1824. However the war ended in February 1826. At the end of the war, the two counties signed a peace treaty on 24th February 1826. The treaty consists of Article 1 and 2. Article 2 is relevant to Manipur at Para two, it states that "with regard to Munnipore, it is stipulated that should Gumbheer Singh desire to return to that country, he shall be recognised by the King of Ava as Rajah thereof".

The treaty implies that Burma recognises Gambhir Singh as a sovereign King of a sovereign State. It also implies that when Gambhir and the Nara Singh took back the Kabaw valley, Burma also recognizes Kabaw valley as a part of sovereign Manipur, in fact at the time of signing this treaty, Raja Gambhir Singh was already in possession of Manipur and the subsequently of Kabaw valley on 23/1/1826.

Here however lies a confusion, either in the date or in the wording: the possibilities are
I) the wording was wrong, or
II) The signing of the date of the treaty was wrong, or
III) Deliberate attempt by the two countries to hand over Kabow valley in future

To the suspicious mind of the writer, the last one seems the most possible one and i) and ii) the least possible one.

5) Jiri Treaty, 18th April, 1833 :

An agreement was signed between Raja Gambhir Singh and Commissioner F. J. Grant representing English on 18th April, 1833. Latter on this is commonly referred to as Jiri Treaty, It consist of 8 clauses and is attested as Annexure IV. The various clauses can be clubbed together under 3 sections, viz:-
i) Political (1, 4 &5 clauses) : Substance - Gambhir Singh will withdraw his Thana from Chandrapur and post it on the eastern Bank of Jiri River in exchange for transfer of Kalanaga and the Noon-jai hill ranges to Manipur. The Jiri River and the western bank of Barak River is the inter-state boundary between Cachar and the Manipur. The Raja will also undertake construction and the repair of Jiri- Khaupoom Road and the supply of Nagas for further extension, if needed.

ii) Trade (2 & 3 clause) : Substance - The Raja will not obstruct any British trade nor impose any heavy duties.

iii) Defence (6, 7 & 8 clause) : Substance - Each other will protect their territory i.e. either Manipur or eastern frontier of British India in case of war with Burma. The Raja will get arms and ammunitions from the British for this purpose and will give a monthly statement of expenditure to the British officer attached to the Levy.

Further, the content of the Clause 6 is very relevant and requires re-emphasis. It states that, "if required the British will send troops, either to protect that country or to advance beyond the Ningthe". What it means? It is a logical end that the British recognizes Manipur's border beyond Ningthe River at least at that particular period of time. Any quarrel? Any argument? The answer is a definite 'No'.

NB: In the quoted resource book, the year of agreement is given as 1835 and 1983. Similarly in the memorandum of arguments on the behalf of Kulachandra and Tikendrajit submitted by Barrister Manu Mohun Ghose, the year again is given as 1893 in the beginning while in the end (i.e. sign &seal section) the year is given correctly i.e. 1833. After reading other articles it is presumed that some printed mistakes might have occurred and hence the writer took 1833 as correct year and corrected accordingly.

6) The Kabaw Valley agreement: 1834:

This most important, most controversial, most emotive one consists of two agreements. One, regarding the Kabaw valley and another regarding the compensation. Again these agreements are commonly referred to as Kabaw Valley Agreement by all of us. This is not fair; it shows our lack of interest/knowledge about these agreements. Henceforth, the pen driver will be referring to as Kabaw Valley Agreement for the 1st and the Kabaw Valley Compensation Agreement for the 2nd one. The pen driver also intends to discuss a little bit in detail in view of its importance and emotive one. These two are attached as Annexure V & VI respectively.

The 1st one is in respect of boundary and sign on 9th January, 1834, the day Gambhir Singh died of heart attack. Is the date coincidental? No, it was definitely manipulated. The Britisher must have heard that the Raja's death and manipulated the same for future advantage. It consists of five clauses.

The 2nd one is in respect of compensation and was sign on 25th January 1834 at Langthabal palace. Who authorized the two Britishers needs further research and discussion. Or was it done without any authorisation? The answer is a definite 'Yes'. This one consists of two clauses.

In part 1, the pen- driver has described who Lt.R.B. Pemberton and Captain F.J.Grant are and how they came to Manipur. They were associated with Gambhir Singh and Nara Singh from the beginning of Tilain war (south of Silchar) during the 1st Anglo-Burma war (1824-1826). Pemberton came as an observer, on his own, during the two brothers' campaign to drive the Burmese out of Manipur and was a witness to the liberation of Kangla Capital Complex on 12th June, 1825. After the liberation of Kangla, Gambhir Singh went to Sylhet on 24th June, 1825 to take sufficient food stuffs, armoury and for detailed discussion with the Britishers. When he came back to Kangla on 23rd December, 1825, Captain Grant also came along with the Raja

The two were witnesses in various campaigns of the two brothers including recapturing of Kabaw Valley( Shamjok, khampat, Kale, pong etc.) on 23rd January,1826.They were also witness to the famous flag-hoisting ceremony by the side of Ningthe on the same day. Because of their knowledge and close friendship with the two brothers, the Raja appointed them as our representatives for the negotiation of Kabaw Vally with Burma.

In the beginning of the Din-Dong battle like negotiation, they really represented Manipur interest like a true friend and bargained hard to maintain our boundary at least up to the Ningthe River. As stated in chapter 1, Pemberton also did a lot of research work on Shan Chronology and countered every Burmese argument against our Kabaw Valley with hard facts and figure. These favourable tights were seen during April 1828 to January 1830 negotiation meetings.

Latter on and towards the end, they shifted their stand and handed over our precious Kabaw Valley to Burma on 9th January, 1834 without the Raja's consent and knowledge. They were hard pressed by their masters as seen by their Government's order to the Resident of Alva dated 16th March, 1833.

This does not absolve them of their crime. Even under pressure, they should have told their masters that they could not sign it on their own and requires the Raja's consent; and hence could have come to Manipur to consult with the Raja. The two were great cheaters; Manipuris should never forget and forgive these two.

Regarding the 1st one i.e. Kabaw Valley Agreement, there is nothing much to write except to re-emphasis that the priceless Kabaw Valley has been lost and the Manipur boundary has been shrunken to the present level.

The 2nd one i.e. Kabaw Vally Compensation Agreement is very important for us. It is the Jugular vein for the Burmese and a strong foot for us. The clause one gives us a compensation of 500 Sicca Rupees per month from the date of transfer. Manipur was getting it till Nehru handed over the valley to Burma in 1953.The clause two has far ramifications. It states that in case the valley reverts back to Manipur, the monthly allowance granted by the British will cease from the date of such reversion.

Whether the buck stops here? No, the buck doesn't stop here, it continues. See the points below :-
a) Can the British sign another treaty with Burma involving Manipur?
i) No, the British cannot sign any treaty with a 3rd party without Manipur's consent. This is clearly stated at clause (8) of the 1st Treaty (Jai Singh's period) which was again rectified in the 2nd Treaty ( Gaurashyam's period).
ii) Article 2 of the Treaty of Yandaboo also clearly states that Burma recognises Gambhir Singh as a sovereign King of sovereign Manipur. At the time of the signing of this treaty, the two brothers had freed Manipur, including Kabaw Valley, from Burmese York. Hence Burma can't lay any claim on Kabaw Valley according to this Treaty.
iii) Clause 6 of the Jiri Treaty also clearly states that the British will send troops, if required, either to protect Manipur or to advance beyond Ningthe River. It implies that British recognise our border beyond Ningthe at least at that particular time.
iv) When British, by their own, declare Manipur as a British Protectorate State and an Asiatic Power in alliance with the Queen (see sl. no. 9), they treated Manipur as a Sovereign State. Naturally they can't sign a treaty on behalf of Manipur without our seal.

(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 August 14, 2011.

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  • Meira Rally against Drug Traffic #2 :: Gallery
  • 57th Hunger Marchers' Day #2 :: Gallery
  • Reception of Linthoi Chanambam :: Gallery
  • Jiribam Train station [15 Jun] :: Gallery
  • Haipou Jadonang - Martyr Day :: Gallery
  • 13 August observed by CSOs :: Gallery
  • Mirabai Chanu: gold @ Commonwealth Game
  • Rules of English Pronunciation : Download
  • Sub-Syllables in English : Book Download