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The Boundaries of Manipur

Chapter IV

The Southern Boundary (Contd.)  

The Kamhaw or Sootie Frontier :

The Kamhaws settled in the south of Manipur and east of the Manipur River, i.e., between the country inhabited by the Lushai proper and the territory of the Raja of Kule.17 The Manipuries considered the Kamhaws to be more formidable than the Lushais and they were terribly afraid of their raids.

In general appearance and language they resembled the Lushais, but they were usually taller and stronger, and had the notoriety of being much more turbulent as foes. They were unfriendly with the Lushais and had frequently come into contact with them. It was believed that they had a fighting force of two thousand strong armed with muskets18 supposed to be procured from Burma.19

The Kamhaws or Sooties were old enemies of Manipur. During the time of Nar Singh, several raids had been committed by the Kokatung section of this tribe on Mombee and Heeraway villages, in the territory of the Raja. In 1855 they again attacked Numfow and burnt down the villages20 and in 1856 they committed a serious outrage on the village in the bordering area of the State. When the news reached Chandrakirti Singh he himself advanced with a large force, consisting of their further advance. But the latter failed to secure their line of communications and after some skirmishing with the enemy, they fled, leaving the Raja behind and the operation ended in failure. On his return from the above unsuccessful expedition, Chandrakirti Singh, however, established a Thanna at Numfow and placed there two hundred sepoys to guard the frontier.21

In 1858 the Kamhaws made another attack on the Sitol Villages but were repulsed by a Manipuri troop under Subedar Moyna Singh. In that year an engagement also took place between the tribe and a Manipuri force at Kubalok Village. In the encounter a Kamhaw Chief and twelve other men were killed. Anticipating further troubles from the tribe, Chandrakirti Singh in 1859 strengthened Mombee and Longya villages with supply of arms and ammunitions to its villagers so as to defend any future incursions from them. By that time, two serious acts of aggression were committed by the tribe, one on the Manipuri subjects of the Haukip village near Shugnu, and the other at Saitol. In the Haukip village the raiders killed fifteen men and carried away fortyfive into captivity with their flocks and herds, and in Saitol they burnt down the village but none was killed or captured. Three years later Kykole, a Kamhaw Chief and one of his followers were arrested by Oina and Athokpa Subadars, who were at that time in the Numfow and Shugunu Thannas respectively, and brough them to the Capital as prisoners. With one of their chiefs in Manipur, the Kamhaws had lost their strength to a considerable degree. In 1865 the Chief of the tribe deputed two of his Muntries with seven men to Chandrakirti Singh to beg pardon from the Raja for the raids that had been committed on the villages in his State and for the release of Kykole and his man. Since Chandrakirti singh decided to establish peaceful relations with the tribe, Kykole and his man were released.22 But in 1869 the Kamhaws again committed a raid on Bombang Village, in the territory of manipur, and killed eleven men and carried away ten captives. Thus the relations between the Manipuris and the tribe were far from cordial, and the attempts that had been made by Chandrakirti Singh for establishing peace with them failed.

While the Manipuris were returning from the Lushai Expedition as stated above, they met a party of the Kamhaws and made fifty six of them prisoners along with their leader Kokatung. On the receipt of the news, the chief of the tribe sent Kykole, with some followers to Manipur to seek for the release of the captured leader and his men. When the embassy reached the state they were informed that no proposition of any kind could be entertained whilst a single Manipuri subject remained in the hands of the tribe, and that if the aforesaid captives were not released, the Raja would not listen to them.23 Kykole and his followers complied with the demand and peace was restored between the Kamhaws and the Manipuris. However, immediately after they left the State it was reported that the tribe required one hundred human heads for the performance of the funeral obsequies of their late Chief. This led Chandakirti Singh to believe that the villages in his territory would certainly be exposed to immediate raids from the tribe, if timely protection was not given to them. Instead of waiting for the arrival of the Kamhaws in his territory, the Raja desired to launch an attack on them as far as their territory. With this object in view, he invited cooperation from the British Government. The latter, however, thought it impolitic to authorize such an expedition against the tribe and instructed the Raja that while taking all necessary measures for the protection of his frontier, he should not commit any act of unprovoked aggression against that tribe. The Government of India being indifferent to him, the Raja abandoned his idea of launching an attack on the Kamhaws. However, no immediate threat or raid as anticipated by Chandrakirti singh was ever committed and peace was restored temporarily to that frontier.





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