TODAY -

The Glorious Exploits of the Manipur Levy
- Part 2 -

Prof Gangmumei Kamei *

Burmese Threat to British Indian empire : David Scott

Burma conquered Manipur, and then she conquered Assam and occupied the whole Brahmaputra. Burma had also conquered Arakan which was adjacent to Chittagong hills of Bengal. The Burmese aggressive postures created threat to Bengal.

And David Scott, the Agent to the Governor General for the North Eastern Frontier anticipated that Burmese forces would march from Manipur and Assam to Cachar for an onward advance to Sylhet and Bengal. Raja Govind Chandra on his failure to obtain the British protection invited the Burmese to march to Cachar to drive away the Manipuri princes.

And they invaded Cachar. Meanwhile there was a change of policy on the part of the British Government. And they made preparation to liberate Assam and Cachar and Jaintia in North East India.

David Scott made several plans to involve the Manipuri princes as allies to drive away the Burmese from Cachar. He had met the three princes, Chourjit, Marjit and Gambhir Singh and made a proposal in which Chourjit was to be the Maharaja, Marjit Singh, Jubaraj (Crown Prince) and Gambhir Singh as Senapati.

The proposal failed as the two ex-rulers expressed their inability due to old age while Gambhir Singh was a very ambitious prince to be the future ruler of Manipur. However Gambhir Singh made a close understanding with Nara Singh. And they helped the British in the fight against the Burmese: the battle of Tilian, Bikrampur and Dudpati. The British operation against the Burmese was successful. But Manipur was great a great problem.

David Scott and Gambhir Singh

David Scott was determined to involve Gambhir Singh in the liberation of Manipur; and Gambhir Singh was also intent to join the campaign. David Scott negotiated with princes. Ultimately, he decided on pensioning off Chourjit and Marjit in Sylhet (Rs 100/- p,m) where the two ex-rulers died. Gambhir Singh was interviewed by David Scott.

Sir James Johnstone writing many years later gave an imaginary account of the interview. He wrote, "One day, a young Manipuri prince waited on Mr. Scott and asked leave to raise a Manipuri force to fight on our side. He was short and slight and of indomitable courage and energy; and the agent to the Governor General recognising his ability allowed him to raise 500 men".

An assurance was given by David Scott in April, 1824 that in the eventual liberation of Manipur Gambhir Singh was to be restored to the throne of the Kingdom of Manipur. It was also made clear that Chourjit would not be made to share any power with him in the Manipur Government. David Scott knew him as bold aspiring soldier and a useful future ally.

Raja Gambhir Singh Levy

By April, 1824 David Scott and Gambhir Singh were closely involved in the operations against the Burmese. And the force of 500 soldiers was originally named Raja Gambhir Singh Levy. By July, 1824 recruitment was completed and military training was imparted to them at Badarpur which was supervised by one Col Inns along with Gambhir Singh and Nara Singh.

The original Levy consisted of the following categories and ranks
1. Cavalry : 40
(a) Sirdar : 04
(b) Troop : 36

2. Infantry : 460
(a) Subedar : 05
(b) Jamadar : 10
(c) Havildar : 10
(d) NaiK : 23
(e) Sepoy : 412

The recruitment was from amongst the Manipuri and some Kacharis. During the Burmese conquest of Manipur, a large number of Manipur refugees had settled down in different colonies in Cachar valley.

To be continued ...

o Browse picture gallery on Manipur Levy March on 5 Jan 2009 from Silchar to Imphal here.




* Prof Gangmumei Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Expres . This article was webcasted on February 16, 2009.

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