E-Pao! Manipur - The First Annual Administration Report

The First Annual Administration Report
of the political agency of Manipur
By:- Usham Dhananjoy Singh *

The annual administration report is a very valuable document. As the name indicates, it is published annually except in case of war or natural calamities. For instance, the annual administration report for the year 1890-91 could not be published due to the internal disturbances of 1891 as all the relevant documents/ materials were burnt down.

Similarly no administration reports were published for the year 1941-42 and 1942-43, the records of this period being, owing to the Second World War, incomplete. The main events of these years were, however included in the administration report for the year 1943-44.

The first annual report of the Political Agency was written by Assistant Surgeon R Brown FRCSE, Political Agent, Manipur. It was submitted to JJ Wheeler, Esq Assistant Secretary to Govt of India Foreign Department. It was submitted in accordance with instructions conveyed in the officiating secretary Foreign Department's letter No 305 of 29th March 1867.

The political agency was established in 1835. An extract from a minute by Lord William Bentinck, dated 7th Feb 1835 reads 'The Preservation of a friendly intercourse and as a medium of communication with the Manipur Govt, and as occasion may require, with the Burmese authorities on that frontiers and more especially to prevent border feuds and disturbances which might lead to hostilities between the Manipurians and the Burmese, it may be necessary to return as officer in the character of political agent in that quarter.

Lieutenant Gordon whose ability, intelligence and local knowledge have more than once been brought favourably to the notice of Govt, seems to be well qualified for this situation and I beg to propose that he may be appointed to it on a consolidated salary of Rs 1,000 per mensem.

Lieutenant Gordon will receive his instruction from and correspond directly with the Secretary to Govt of Bengal in the political department (A Mackencie - The North East Frontier of India, p 153 Delhi 1989). Thus the political agency was established in 1835, but the first Annual Report was published in 1867 only. It contains 50 paragraphs.

Paragraph 7 of the Report described about the road from Silchar to Imphal. It reads: The length of the road from the station of Silchar to the capital of Munnipore is about 103 miles, about 25 of this distance lies in British territory, the rest in Munnipore.

The first stage of the road is from Cachar, nearly due east, to Luckipore, about 14 miles nearly midway the Barak river (the river on whose banks Silchar is situated) has to be crossed by ferry boat, and near Luckipore, the Siree Khal, a nullah crossed by a temporary bridge in the dry season and ferry boat in the rains, this part of the road is nearly level throughout.

At Luckipore, although in British territory, the Munnipores have a small station or thannah with a soobadar in charge. Leaving Luckipore and still proceeding in the same easterly direction, the road almost immediately enters a low range arable hills, whereon tea cultivation was formerly carried on to some extent, but is now entirely abandoned.

Immediately before reaching the Jeree River, which constitutes the boundary at this place between British and Munnipore territory the road passes through a large tea garden extending quite to the river. On the western or British side of the frontier, on the river's bank, is situated a small stockade occupied by a few police and immediately opposite, the first of four large rivers which have to be crossed before Munnipore is reached, is easily fordable in the dry weather, and when crossed by me in January was furnished with a bamboo bridge, with supports in the river sufficient to allow the passage of footmen.

Paragraph 20 of the report described about a merchant of Somarcand, in Central Asia selling his goods to the Raja of Samjok. It reads: A case of considerable interest, and which has existed for many years lies between a merchant residing in Munnipore and the Raja of Samjok.

It would appear that merchant who is not a Munipore but a native of Samarcand, in Central Asia came to Munnipore 12 or 13 years ago, with a venture of cloth else worth about Rupees 3000, he proceeded towards Burmah, but while at Sumjok the Raja of that place offered to dispose of the goods and became responsible for the price thereof. This was agreed to, but after the good had been parted with; much difficulty was experienced in realizing the cash for them.

After a great deal of trouble, and after the political agent had taken the matter up, the money was, with the exception of Rupees 1,300 recovered for some reason or other the case seems to have been allowed to rest at this stage for a period of seven years and on the matter having have again revived by me, it is alleged by the Sumjok Raja that the claim has been settled.

As there would be no use in representing the mater further in that direction I have informed Bahadoor Khan, the merchant in question, that should he still wish to press his claim, his best plan will be to lay the case before the nearest Burmese official, supported by what documents or witness he may have to bring forward.

Paragraph 27 of the Report confirmed that Theebomi or Khima belonged to Manipur. It reads: Being anxious to gain as much information about the State of the case as I could, I communicated with Colonel Mc Culloh, who from his long residence here might be supposed to know to whom the village belonged.

He wrote me, 'Khee or Theebomi and Kotinema are one and the same, it belongs to Munnipore, was reduced by Raja's father and as you will see from paragraph 8 of my letter No 2 of 9th January 1867, has always been recognised as belonging to Munnipore.

The following is the paragraph in question which forms part of a letter to the commissioner of Assam:-

'8. I am quite unacquainted with the new scheme of administration about to be introduced in the Naga Hils, to which you refer in your letter No 398, dated 10th October 1866, to the address of the secretary to the Govt of Bengal, but if in prosecution of it, it be necessary to advance the British boundary, I have shown that the line of 1842 could not be claimed as a right, and within, that is, north of that line, are villages such as Khebomi, Tuengal, Phweelong, which have all along been recognized as belonging to Munnipore and there may be others, but I can find no one in this country acquainted with the line in its whole extent; such villages could not of course, be assumed'.

Para 5 of the Report reads as follows:

'Since my arrival in the country I have been serupulously careful not to interfere in any way with the internal affairs of the country, although I have, when occasion offered, always stated my opinions freely when felt called upon to do so. If I have erred in my duty, I believe it has rather been on the side of doing two little than too much, thinking this the safest plan in any case where one's knowledge of the country is necessarily imperfect.

WS Seton - Karr, Esq Secy to Govt of India, Foreign Dept with GG wrote to Assistant Surgeon R Brown FR CSE, Political Agent Munnipore, vide letter no. 1064 dated 19th Sept 1868 that he had laid before the Viceroy and Governor General in Council the first annual report of the Agency.

And he was directed to communicate the observations and order of the Viceroy and Governor General in Council. Regarding the concluding paragraph of the report, it reads: 12. With reference to your concluding paragraph, His Excellency in Council desires me to state that he approves of the course pursued by you in not interfering with the internal affairs of the country, except when invited to do so.

As, however, you again experience of the Rajah's management of his habits and of the feelings of the people generally, it is obvious that questions may present themselves in which you can offer useful advice or interpose successfully, with that moral influence which a political authority is often enabled to exercise with independent States and chiefs'

* Usham Dhananjoy Singh wrote this article on The Sangai Express.
This article was webcasted on 16 March 2006.

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