TODAY -

Kabo Valley: A brief history

Waikhom Manimohon *

Kabaw (Kabo) Valley
Kabaw (Kabo) Valley :: Pix - DocNelson/Flickr



There are now so many questions in the minds of the people of the state of Manipur as to why, how and on what pretext, such a vast expanse ofland known as Kabo Valley given away to the Burmese by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. Kabo Valley is the 'Jewel of Manipur', in the same line as when Nehru said, 'Manipur is the Jewel of India'.

The only plausible answer to all these questions is that it was a strategic move by the Indian Government, disguised in the eyes of the international community as a gift given in good faith, as a token of friendship while the truth is in fact a very selfish act on the part of the policy makers of the Indian Government, after only taking into consideration the long term prospect it presented in relation to future Indian politics and disregarding and ignoring the great loss it meant to the people of Manipur.

Despite having knowledge of the importance of Kabo Valley to the Manipuris and then by giving it away, isn't it the duty of the Indian Government to take up some special measures to compensate for the loss as it was to the people of this state. This negative stance of the Indian Government clearly shows the careless attitude of the centre towards this state.

But in retrospection, by looking into the past and analyzing the present, it is also unfair to put all the blame on the Indian Government alone in regard to taking up measures to solve and put an end to this long-standing issue, because it's also a fact that there has been much ignorance on the part of the people of this state. As we all know, India is the second-most populated country in the world but in terms of economic development we are far behind many other advanced countries and that we as an economy are not self-sufficient.

We are living in a country where we have to demand, shout, raise our voices in order to get something, achieve something. So, we the people of Manipur need to demand, protest for what is rightfully ours, then and only then will the centre take into consideration our plea. If not there is even no guarantee that the Burmese will not demand the border town of Moreh itself in the near future.

The Treaty of Yundabun signed on 26th February 1825 clearly shows that Kabo Valley is the rightful property of Manipur and more importantly the fact that Manipur has the right to reclaim this piece ofland.

In a recent article of the Manipur daily, 'Sangai Express', Haobam Sanajaoba has stated that even if Jawaharlal Nehru, as the Prime Minister of India at that time made a mutual agreement with the Burmese Government on this issue, according to Article 1,2,3,4 and 368 of the Indian Constitution, the agreement cannot be considered legal without the consent of Parliament.

According to the agreement signed on 25th January 1834, at Langthabal, between the British and Burmese Commissioners, the British Government had to pay a monthly stipend of 500 sicca rupees to the King of Manipur for leasing out Kabo Valley to the Burmese. And in keeping with this agreement the British Government had been paying this monthly stipend till 1949. This irrefutable fact shows that Kabo Valley had been the rightful property of Manipur.

Excerpts from the agreement:-

Agreement regarding compensation for Kabo Valley, 1834: Major Grand and Captain Pemberton under instruction from the right honorable, the governor general council having made over the Kabo Valley to the Burmese Commissions deputed from AVA, are authorized to state:

1st: That it is the intention of the Supreme Government to grant a monthly stipend of five hundred sicca rupees to the Raja of Munnipore to commence from the ninth of January 1834 ( One thousand eight hundred and thirty four ) the date at which the transfer of Kabo Valley took place as shown in the agreement mutually signed by British and Burmese Commisioners.

2nd : It is to be distinctly understood that should any circumstances here after arise by which the portion of territory lately made over to AVA again reverts to Munnipore. The allowances now granted by the British Govt. will cease from the date of such reversion.


*N.B At that time the spelling of Manipur was written as 'Munnipore' by the British and January also as 'Januwary'.

The contents of the above agreement cieariy shows that Kabo Valley is an undisputed part of Manipur. Also it is stated that the state of Manipur retains the right to reclaim this part of territory in case any such circumstances arise wherein the terms of the agreement is not fulfilled.

Kabo Valley is a part of Manipur and Manipur is a part of India, so the property of Manipur is also the property of India. Hence, it is the duty of not only the state government but also of the central government to look into this matter and strive towards fulfilling the wishes of the people of this state.

Kabo Valley measures about 7,000 sq. miles of land and had been a part cf the kingdom of Manipur from as early as 1450, as historical records show. From the 15th century by mutual agreement between the Pong king Khekhomba and Kyamba, the line of demarcation was drawn and agreed upon with Kabo Valley lying within Manipur territory.

After annexing the state of Manipur, the British, for strategic purposes leased Kabo Valley to the Burmese after consultation with Gambhir Singh, the king of Manipur at that time. For this the British Govt. paid sicca rupees 500 monthly as compensation to the king of Manipur. This compensation was given till the time Manipur became a part of India.

All these facts show that Kabo Valley was owned by Manipur. And the 1834 treatise at Langthabai between Major Grand, Captain Pemberton and Gambhir Singh clearly shows that in any case Manipur has the right to reclaim this land. It was only on 13th January 1954 that Nehru finally handed the rights of this land to the Burmese, but it was without the consent of the people of Manipur.

And this prompted Budhachandra Maharaj to give assurance to the people of this state that he would do everything within his power to take back Kabo Valley from the Burmese. Even after 50 years of British occupation, Manipur was recognized as an independent state and not a part of India.

Hence it is not acceptable on the part of the Indian Government to give away a part of Manipur territory without proper consultation or consent of the Manipuri people. Recently the 27th December' 2010 issue of the Manipur daily, "Poknapham" carried an article stating that even now the border areas of Manipur are being encroached upon by the Burmese time after time.

Parts of very fertile land lying in the south-east part of Chandel District, Manipur are being occupied and taken over by the Burmese till today. Also half of Tuibang Village is now under Burmese control. According to the village chief and elders of this said village, the Burmese, after uprooting the boundary pillar no.66 in 1963 and removing the arrow engraved on the pillar no, 65 which showed the direction to this aforementioned pillar, i.e. pillar no.66, half of this village, in the south-eastern part, is presently under Burmese occupation.

And after a survey in 1969-70 by the Indo-Burmese Boundary Commission, the removed pillar no. 66 was not re-erected, and taking this passive stance from the Indian Government, it emboldened the Burmese to further encroachment. The inhabitants of this village include the Kukis, Thadou, Hmar and Haokip. They are Manipuris, and hence citizens of India; so why is the Indian Government not concerned about these outrageous acts of a neighboring country more importantly taking into account of the fact that India is now emerging as a super-power in world politics and is respected by every nation on this globe today.

Also it scorns ridiculous as to why the state government is not at all concerned about this bare facts and always turning a blind eye whenever such issues are put upon them. Isn't it yet time now to resolve all these issues once and for all?

Since time immemorial Manipur consisted of the hilly areas inhabited by the various tribes and the valley area, until now mostly inhabited by the Meiteis, but as of now, dotted by various pockets of the various tribes as well as other minor communities like the Meitei Pangals, etc. which clearly conveys the solidarity and oneness of the people of Manipur.

Only tne hills cannot make up Manipur; only the valley couldn't either, because we all lived as one entity, in harmony with each other. Manipur, as of now measures about 9,000 sq. miles, out of this, the valley area is only about 700 sq. miles with the remaining 8,300 sq. miles as hilly terrain.

Kabo Valley as of now occupied by the Burmese measures about 7,000 sq. miles, and it is known for its wood products, like teak, etc and its soil fertility. Prom the above facts, it is quite obvious as to the magnitude of the loss the people of Manipur felt when Kabo Valley was snatched and handed over to the Burmese.

Taking into account all these, if there is to be a next session of the Indo-Myanmar Boundary Commission, the Indian side need to remind their Burmese counterparts that citing the Second Article of the Agreement of 1834, if at any time after the agreement the territories transferred to Burma happened to revert to Manipur again, payment would be stopped from the date of such reversion .

That the above statement clearly indicates that Kabo Valley was never owned by the Burmese at any point of time, but was leased out to them during the British rule over Manipur. Kabo Valley had been the economic powerhouse of Manipur and had sustained most of the needs of the Manipuri people since time immemorial, and made Manipur a self-sufficient economy.

Now, with the increase in population but lack of resources, there is unemployment and poverty everywhere, and failure in every department acting as an indicator of economic development. There is chaos everywhere and problems a galore. It is now up to the Central authorities to try and solve all these problems before it finally goes out of control.

Also it is now not time for the State Government to remain as mere spectators anymore. People of this state are losing hope in themselves, be it the Meiteis, the various Tribes or the various Minority communities, and also losing hope in the central or state authorities or for that matter any kind of public authority.

So, finally it's time now for them to do away with their lackadaisical attitude and approach to the problems of the Manipuri people and take up some concrete measures to rekindle the lost hopes and also bring back faith in these people, in themselves and in the government as well.

At this point of time, there is also something very important to be always kept in mind i.e. the role of the people of this state in bringing about this change. For whatever measures the central or the state government may take up, it is finally in the hands of the people to carry forward and fulfill any plans or policies formulated by the government in regard to solving the current problems in this state and region.

Most importantly we need to always remind ourselves that we elect and form the government. And if we want the government to do something for us, we have to elect the right candidates, at the right time, and when the government does something against the wishes of the people we have to take full responsibility for it because "we" are the root cause; we, the people have elected the candidates who finally form the government. If we want change, it is finally upon us to bring about that change. For after all, 'we get what we reap'.


* Waikhom Manimohon wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on May 11, 2018.


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