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The Boundaries of Manipur

Chapter III

The Northern Boundary

The territorial possession of Manipur in the north extended far and wide. Even in 1832 the Government of Bengal inclined to make over the whole of Sadiya regions to Gambhir Singh, the then Raja of Manipur.1 In the same year Gambhir Singh, accompanied by Lieutenant Gordon, the then Adjutant, Manipur Levy, reduced to submission the Angami Nagas.2 Records show the fact that in 1835 the forest between Doyeng and dhunsiri formed the boundary between Manipur and Assam.3 There are reasons to believe that the Manipuris had penetrated into the area now included in Nagaland and exacted tributes. During the time of Gambhir Singh several Angami villages were subdued, including Kohima, the largest of all4 and whenever a Manipuri visited a Naga village he was treated as an honoured guest at a time when a British subject could not venture into the interior without risk of being murdered.

In 1842 a kind of vague boundary, between Manipur and Naga Hills, was laid down in 1842 by Lieutenant Bigge from the British side and Captain Gordon as the representative of the Government of Manipur. But the Angamis had little regard for the Bigge-Gordon line. The Supreme Government also by that time were not very particular about enforcing laws on their side of the border. There was, therefore, a long standing boundary dispute between Manipur and the Naga Hills.

The British occupied Naga Hills area was under the administration of a Political Agent, stationed at Samagudting, but his rule was confined only to a few villages in the neighbourhood of the headquarter. In 1851 the affairs in the above area had reached such a state that the Supreme Government strongly desired to hand over its administration entirely to the Government of Manipur.5 Johnstone later observed : “… failing any intention on the part of the British to annex the hills, it would have been good policy to have reorganized the Manipur territory and to have aided the Maharaja to annex and subdue as much as he could under certain restrictions.” “Had this been done,” he continued, “the British should have saved themselves much trouble.”6

In March, 1854, a large Manipuri force, consisting of one thousand and five hundred soldiers, invaded the Angami country7 and destroyed the Mozuma village and threatened to bring all the hills under complete subjugation. One of the causes of the invasion was that some of them had been guilty of plundering Naga villages within the territorial jurisdiction of the Government of Manipur.8 The Mozuma Nagas and other headmen, Heekalay and Nephoo, appealed to the Supreme Government for their protection from the Manipuris9 but their request was turned down because the Supreme Council opined that Manipur being an independent kingdom could act independently.

In September, 1875 Togmemah village in Manipur was attacked by the Angami Nagas of Populongmai, Konomah and Mozuma villages. Many of them were armed with muskets and two men and ten women were killed and four wounded.10 On 31 January, 1876, another attack was made on Mukooelong village11; and towards the end of October of the same year Gwelong was again attacked by a party of the Semeneah clan of Angami Nagas of Konomah village.12 A well defined boundary was, therefore, keenly felt by both the parties.

To make matters worse, the Mozuma Nagas unfurled the standard of revolt against the British Government. On receipt of the news, Johnstone marched against the rebels with a strong Manipuri force under Balaram.13 Before his arrival news reached that the Manipuri Thanna at Kongal, in the Kabaw Valley, had been surprised by a party sent by the Raja of Samjok. Johnstone retreated to Manipur leaving behind major portion of his army to the aid of the Political Agent, Naga Hills, with instruction to stay in that frontier till peace and order was restored in the village. In the meantime, a delegation of the rebel Nagas came to Chandrakirti Singh and sought the latter’s aid against the British; the Raja declined and warned them that if they refused to surrender to the British immediately a strong Manipuri force would be deployed against them.14





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