Kabaw Valley Boundary
- Part 3 -

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.

Pillar No. 31 is approximately "in the same straight line as pillar No. 27 and No. 28," by the side of the "Mahalan" or "Lanmadaw" the "royal road" which traverses the Kabaw Valley from north to south. It is in the neighbourhood of the foot of the hills.

Pillar No. 28, No. 29, No. 30 and No. 31 excludes from the Manipur State a large area of the foothills. In my tour diary fro May, 1914, I wrote:-
"The boundary appears to take a tremendous re-entrant here, up the course of the Tuiyoung or Nanayang, with no apparent reason save that of giving a considerable area of teak forest to Burma."

What reason the Commissioners can have had in their minds, when making this re-entrant, it is difficult to conceive. In their report they refer to pillar No. 28 as being "where the stream leaves the hills." Yet they proceeded to place pillars No.29 and No.30 "a distance of one mile" up the stream, and consequently well inside the hills.

Pillar No. 32 is on the right bank of the Tuidim(Nainka) stream, at a distance of more than five miles from pillar No. 31. The line between these two pillars cuts off several teak- bearing spurs of the foothills. Colonel Shakespear’s comment is:-
"The more I see of the line, the more unfair it appears to Manipur. There is no pretence of keeping near the foot of the hills, as the Commissioners were directed to do. Two points far up re-entrants have been selected and pillars built there, and then the Commissioners say the line shall go straight from one to the other. This method cuts off considerable areas from Manipur, the line often passing a mile or more from the foot of the hills, and , as all the teal is close along the foot of the hills, Manipur loses e a good deal."

Pillar No. 33 is on the left bank of the tuiwang ( Sunle) river. The line to it from pillar No. 32 cuts off several spurs, and , according to Colonel Shakespear, "passes over a hill of considerable height."

Pillar No. 34 is on the left bank of the Auktaung river, "at the point where it leaves the hills." The line between pillar No.33 and pillar No. 34 cuts across two long sloping spurs of the foothills, and in his tour diary, Colonel Maxwell notes that pillar No.34 is "on a small spur".

Pillar No. 35 is on the right bank of the Auktaung river, some distance above pillar No.34.

Pillar No. 36 is at the junction of the "road used by the inhabitants of Malloo and Tinzin villages to bring minor forest produce from the hills." From Colonel Maxwell’s tour diary, it appears that the Commissioners were in doubt as to where to place this pillar, in the absence of an accurate survey.

He says:-
"Until the country is mapped, I am doubtful of the exact position where this cairn should be placed."

Of the line to this pillar from pillar No. 35, colonel Shakespear says:-
"It cuts off a considerable area of hills, which according to Pemberton’s line should have been in Manipur. Both the pillars are at the heads of re-entrants, and the line goes straight from one to the other."

Pillar No. 37 is at the foot of the Nattaung hill, at an altitude of 425 feet. The line between pillars Nos. 36 and 37 excludes a number of spurs from the foothills of Manipur.

Pillar No. 38 is at the sorce of the Nampankan stream, rising on the saddle west of the Nattaung hill, at an altitude of 1215 feet.

Pillar No. 39 is on the Tuisa(Tinzin) river, the southern boundary of the Manipur State in this locality, fixed by the Manipur-Chin Hill Boundary Commission of 1894. Pillars No. 38 and 39 do not conform to Pemberton’s definition, but as I have mentioned above, the Nattaung hill, which has sacred associations for the villagers of Tinzin, was included in Burma by the 1896 commission, in exchange for the inclusion of Yangoupokpi in the Manipur State.

11. From the above detailed description of the boundary, it is clear that the Commissioners of 1896 treated the Manipur State not only ungenerously, but unfairly. As the Commissioners remark in paragraph 6 of the report and Colonel Shakespear in his tour diary, the slope of the foothills in many places becomes so gradual, that it is a matter of very considerable difficulty to determine exactly where the plain ends and the hills begin.

But this is not the case throughout whole valley, and in many localities the line selected cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be held to conform to the definition laid down in the agreement of 1834, the discrepancy being invariably to the disadvantage of the Manipur State.

The reason for the line selected by the Commissioners is probably to be found in a laudable desire to restrict the number of pillars as far as possible, with a view to cutting down the expenses of demarcation.

The sites of the pillars were, doubtless, chosen on low hills, with the object of rendering them more easily identifiable in the thick jungle. Moreover, it is probable that the Commissioners imagined it would be sufficient if the line, running as it does through almost uninhabited forest, were to approximate to the foot of the hills, and that a slight departure therefrom would not be very material.

But having carried the line in so many places across the spurs of the foothills, the Commission might, with advantage, have endeavoured to equalise matters by refraining from taking the boundary up the re-entrants of streams, as was done in the following places:-

(1) Between pillar Nos. 6 and 9.
(2) Between pillar Nos. 9 and 11.
(3) Between pillar Nos. 11 and 13.
(4) Between pillar Nos. 14 and 16.
(5) Between pillar Nos. 17 and 19.
(6) Between pillar Nos. 22 and 24.
(7) Between pillar Nos. 28 and 31.
(8) Between pillar Nos. 34 and 36.

12. I have suggested that the Boundary Commission of 1896 probably considered that the demarcation of the boundary in strict and accurate accordance with the definition laid down in the agreement of 1834 was not a matter of essential importance. But from my own personal knowledge I can vouch for the fact that the Manipur State has been deprived of a number of valuable patches of teak- bearing forest, which should rightfully belong to it.

This is confirmed by the extracts from Colonel Shakespear’s tour diary quoted above with reference to the situation of pillar Nos. 4,5,31 and 32. Other localities where I know loss to have been caused to the State are in the neighbourhood of pillar Nos 7, 8, 10, 15, 18, 23,29 and 30 and there may be still more. The inadequacy of the area granted to Manipur in the vicinity of Yangoupokpi, in exchange for the Nattaung hill, has already been mentioned, as well as the restriction of His Highness the Maharaja’s kheddah operations.

Further, there is a possibility that certain of the foothills, excluded from the State by the present line may contain valuable minerals. The Darbar has recently granted a mining lease for the extraction of copper ore in the neighbourhood of Kongal Thana, and the Maharaja of Manipur once worked copper on a small scale near More Thana and elsewhere in the foothills. It is clear, therefore, that the demarcation of the boundary should approximately more closely to the definition laid down in the agreement of 1834 than it does at present.

13. His highness the maharaja claims that the debatable sloping ground, known in Manipuri as loiroi, lying between the flat plain proper (Tampak) and the unmistakable hills(ching), should , by the terms of the agreement of 1834, belong to Manipur, and the definition refers to the hills as rising ‘immediately from the western side of the plains."

As I have pointed out, the exact determination of the "foot of the chain of mountains" is often extremely difficult, and His Highness’ claims in this respect can only be settled after a careful examination of the whole length of the boundary. His Highness has also suggested that the "Mahalam" or "Lanmadaw" the "royal road" referred to above was once regarded as the boundary. But this road does not constitute a suitable line.

It does not conform to the definition of 1834. Iot runs through a number of villages, admittedly in the Kabaw valley, which under the first clause of the agreement of 1834, are explicitly included in Burma. And finally, the alignment of the road has recently been changed in several places and is liable to be changed again.

14. Whether or not the claims of His Highness the Maharaja are completely justified, there can in my opinion, be no doubt that the present line, laid down by the Boundary Commission of 1896, departs from the agreed definition of 1834, in contravention of the orders of the Government of India, and that the Manipur State has suffered by the departure.

The Manipur Darbar has, therefore, undoubtedly strong grounds for urging the reconsideration of the boundary. A line more in accordance with the definition of 1834 could certainly be selected without in any way causing inconvenience to the Government of Burma or to the Thaungdut State, or their subjects in the Kabaw valley. Such a line could be demarcated, assuming a spirit of give and take on both sides, without unduly increasing expenses bybthe multiplication of pillars.

15. In the event of the Government deciding to appoint a commission to relay the boundary, I consider it most desirable that the Darbar should be represented on the Commission, as well as the Government of Assam and Burma.

Concluded .....

* Yumnam Rajeshwor Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at yrs001(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 15 2023 .

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