TODAY -

Kabaw Valley Boundary
- Part 1 -

Yumnam Rajeshwor Singh *

 View of Kabow Valley from Kangkum Village in Kamjong District, Manipur :: 25th June 2022
View of Kabow Valley from Kangkum Village in Kamjong District, Manipur in June 2022 :: Pix - Khaba Kh



A detail report on the Kabaw Valley Boundary with Manipur was given in letter No. 124 SG. A., dated 11th September 1926 written by J.C Higgins, the then political Agent in Manipur to the Chief Secretary to the Government of Assam. The following is the copy of that letter. The file containing this letter is held with National Archives of India, New Delhi and is publish in the interest of the general public.

I have the honour to refer to the correspondence resting with your letter No. 997/2056 A.P., dated the 22nd April 1925, on the subject of the boundary of the Manipur State and Burma in the Kabaw Valley , and to report as follows.

2. The history of this portion of the State boundary has been reviewed briefly in paragraph 2 to 5 of my letter No-2-T/1417G.A., dated the 13th November 1924. A full description will be found at page 175 to 211 of " the History of the relations of the Government with the hill tribes of the North-East Frontier of Bengal." By Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

3. The Government of India has always insisted that the boundary should follow the definition stated in the "Agreement regarding the Kubo Valley, 1834," which was signed by the British Commissioners of the Government of India in the presence of the Commissioners of the King of Ava ( Burma) at Sunuyachil Ghat on the 9th January 1834. This definition will be found at pages 39 and 40 of "Aitchsonís Treaties" ( Fourth Edition), and runs as follows:-
"The eastern foot of the chain of mountains, which rise immediately from the western side of the plain of the Kubo Valley",

4. After the signing of this agreement, the boundary line appears to have been partially demarcated in 1834 by the British Commissioners, Major Grant and Captain Pemberton, and was shown in old maps of the Kabaw Valley by a line subsequently known as "Pembertonís line," I have no information whether this line was actually demarcated on the ground or merely marked on a map.

No copy of the old maps is available in my office, the records of which were entirely destroyed in 1891. The boundary Commission of 1881-82 in paragraph 23 of its report, expresses the opinion that "the tract in the north of the valley was never visited by the Commissioners, who settled the boundary of 1834, and ....., that the line as depicted in the old map and commonly called ĎPembertonís line,í was never drawn by that officer or sanctioned by him".

The first presumption may be true, but against the second is the fact that the Boundary Commissioners of 1896, in paragraph 4 of its report refer to a "map of the territory of Manipur, which part of the Kubo valley and Burmese Frontier" by Captain Pemberton to which they had access. However , from maps prepared by officers of the Survey of India attached to the 1881-82 Commission, and from paragraph 3 of the report of 1896 Commission, it appears that the "Pemberton line" conformed approximately, to the definition in the agreement, as far as north as latitude 24*30í.

From there, crossing Yu river between the northern of the two "Nepali khutis" and Chaungkan ( Sheet 83L./N.W. F6), it ran in a direction approximately E.N.E. to a point just south of the stream rising on the southern slopes of peak 2215 on the Augouching range of hills ( Sheet 83L/N.E; B6). Thence it turned due north and ran in a straight line through Thana ( Sheet83L/N.E., A5), to the foot of the hills east of Kongal Thana ( Sheet 83L/N.E., A4.)

5. The Boundary Commission of 1881-82, consisting of the Political Agent in Manipur, Colonel Johnson, as Commissioner, assisted by Mr. Phayre of the Burma Commission, was appointed by the government of India to demarcate the boundary in the mountainous country immediately to the north of the Kabaw valley which was loosely defined in the agreement of 1834. It was, therefore, not directly concerned with the boundary in the Kabaw Valley itself.

But it was necessary for the Commission to fix on a starting point in the Kabaw Valley. For this purpose, Colonel Johnstone rejected the "Pembertonís line" of the map, on the ground that it included in Manipur a large portion of the plain of the Kabaw Valley, in violation of the written terms of the agreement.

He accordingly assumed the true boundary to follow the foot of the eastern slope of the Mulain( Marring) hills, comformably to the definition in the agreement, and fixed as his starting point two pillars on opposite banks of the Namya river, where it debouches from the hills a few hundred yards south of Kongal Thana. From there he laid his line eastwards along the foot of the hills to the Taleyn(Tinaing) river, and up to the Tinaing valley northwards into the hills, not concerning himself with the boundary south of Kongal Thana.

6. Owing to raids and disputes a Boundary Commission was again appointed by the Government of India in 1896, consisting of the Political Agent in Manipur, Colonel Maxwell, and Captain Macnabb of the Burma Commission, to demarcate the boundary in the Kabaw Valley itself, from Kongal Thana to the Tinzin river, with instructions "to adhere as far as possible to the definition of the boundary as laid down by Pemberton".

This they subsequently reported that they had done with modifications at Nattaung, near Tinzin, and at Yangoupokpi, rejecting the "Pembertonís line" of the old maps north of Thap or old Sumjok, and laying the line along the foot of the hills, in accordance with the wording of the agreement.

7. The line laid down by the 1896 Commission was demarcated at the time by stone cairns and masonry pillars. It is not clear from the report of the commission whether any of the pillars coincide with the pillars, if any, laid by Pemberton, or to what extent the 1896 line differ from "Pembertonís line" south of Thap. The 1896 line remains the de facto boundary to the present day.

In 1913-14 it was cleared, surveyed and demarcated with stone prisms, without any alteration, by the Political Agent in Manipur, Colonel Shakespear, and the Deputy Commissioner of the Upper Chindwin, Mr Fowler. The stone prism were placed on mounds built on the actual sites of the masonry pillars of 1896, which had become damaged, and were, in some cases difficult to trace.

8. Until recently, the boundary line laid down by the 1896 Commission was not questioned, and the claim of the Commission to have adhered to the definition of the agreement of 1834 was assumed to be correct. For eleven years after the Commission, the Manipur State was administered by the Political Agent, in his capacity as Superintendent of the State on behalf of the minor Raja.

After His Highness the Maharaja came of age in 1907 and took over the administration of the State, no Manipuri official of any standing ever had occasion to visit the dense forests at the foot of the hills, inhabited on the Manipur side over a distance of upwards of sixty miles in an air line by only four small hamlets of wild hillmen, with one small Manipuri Village.

The fact that the line departed very materially from the definition in the agreement of 1831 came to my notice, when , as President of the Manipur State darbar, I toured along this boundary in 1914 and 1916, in connection with the lease granted to the Bombay Burma Trading Corporation for the extraction of teak from the Manipur foothills.

But I took no steps to bring the matter forward, being aware that the Political Agent had come to the same conclusion in 1913, when demarcating the 1896 line, and assuming, from his inaction, that the line was regarded as "res judicata".

In his tour diary from January-February, 1913, Colonel Shakespear commented strongly on the unfair treatment accorded to the Manipur State by the Commission of 1896, and noted his intention to consider the advisability of reopening the question of the boundary, but I cannot find that he took any steps to do so.

9. During the past three cold weathers, His Highness the Maharaja has periodically visited the Kabaw Valley and the Manipur foothills abutting thereon, in connection with kheddah operations. In the course of his tour in the foothills, His Highness has personally noticed the discrepancy between the actual line and the boundary as defined in the agreement of 1834.

He has on several occasions expressed his dissatisfaction with the existing boundary, and complained of the fact that it cut off and included in Burma considerable areas of teak forest, which should rightly belong to his State. He also complains that his kheddah operations have been appreciably hampered by the withdrawal of the boundary up the lower slopes of the foothills, and the exclusion from the State of the re-entrants of many streams flowing out of the Manipur hills.

In February 1925 His Highness requested me to represent his complaint to Government, which I did. He also intimated that he wished me to visit the boundary with him. Accordingly, in your letter No. 298/93, A.P., dated the 24th February, 1925, to the address of the Director, Eastern Circle, Survey of India, you stated that the Government had decided that the demarcation of the boundary in the new survey sheets should be provisional, until after it had been inspected by His Highness, in company with me and his formal complaint received.

Last spring I visited portions of the boundary with His Highness, the Maharaja, and I will describe it briefly, nothing the principal points at which His Highness claims that the line has been laid to the disadvantage of the Manipur State, and adducing corroborative evidence from the report of the 1836 Commission, from Colonel Shakespearís tour diary, above referred to and from my own personal knowledge.

To be continued .....


* Yumnam Rajeshwor Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at yrs001(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 04 2023 .



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