Controversy over Boundary Pillar No. 81 (New)
Before the rise of the Burmese as a power in the fourteenth century, most of the Upper Burma was within the territorial possession of Manipur, though it fluctuated from time to time. Grant Brown, ICS, in the book ‘Burma Gazetteer, Upper Chindwin District Volume A’ writes: “About the beginning of the present Burmese era (AD639) the place is said to have been destroyed by Manipuris and Chins, and a new seat chosen at Teinnyin with the assistance of the Mohnyin Sawbwa.” The place mentioned here is Newpet/Rajgyo, the then Head Quarter of Kale Sub-Division, nowKalewa. He further states: “During the reign of Tarokpyemin in the thirteenth century, when Burmese kingdom lost many of its outpost, it was subdued by the Manipuris, and seems to have paid tribute to Manipur until the conquest of that state by Alaungpaya (1753-1760).” Many historical records show that Manipur had extended its territorial boundary beyond the Ningthi or Chindwin River (now in Burma) from time to time.
Michael Symes, a Major in His Majesty’s 76th Regiment, recorded in‘An Account of an Embassy to the kingdom of Ava’ about the northwest frontier of Burma i.e. eastern boundary of Manipur (Kase): “On the N.W. it is separated from the kingdom of Cassay by the river KEEN DUEN.”The report was published in as a book at London in the year 1800.
Walter Hamilton, a renowned English historian, described the boundaries of Manipur in his report submitted to the British Parliament in 1820 thus: “Munnipoor (or Cassay) : This province is bounded on the north by Cachar, on the south by Arracan, and the rude tribes bordering to that country; on the west it has the Bengal districs of Tiperah (Tripura) and Silhet (Syllet now in Bangladesh); and on
the east it is separated from the original Birman (Burmese) territories by the river Keandwen, which taking a south-eastern course, unites its waters with those of the Irrawaddy, a short way above the town of Sembewghewn.”
Though, Ningthi Turel (Chindwin River) was the natural boundary between Manipur and Burma in the past, the advent of the British in the first half of the nineteenth century completely changed the geo-political landscape of the region. The Treaty of Yandaboo was signed on 24 February 1826 between the Burmese and the British India, the latter represented by Sir Archibald Campbell. This was done in the absence of any representative of Manipur, conveniently shaping the future of the region without dissent. The treaty mentions nothing about the boundary between Manipur and Burma, thereby resulting in boundary disputes. Subsequently agreements known as “Agreement Regarding Kabaw Valley” and “Agreement Regarding Compensation for the Kabaw Valley” were signed in 1834 and Kabaw Valley was transferred to Burma much against the will of the Manipuris.
Consequent upon the signing of the Agreement, three major surveys were conducted to identify the boundary between Manipur and Burma. The first was a demarcation conducted by Captain R Boileau Pemberton as Commissioner of boundary in 1834. The line demarcated by Pemberton is known as Pemberton Line. The second major survey on this sector was carried out by Sir James Johnstone, who headed a boundary commission and submitted a report in this regard in 1882. CheitharolKumbaba, the royal chronicle of Manipur, recorded this particular survey as: “taramanganisagolsendaSouwaijamchamanjorga sahib anigaAngochingkhongdaTinlenturelginongchupthangbadanungpeiduna lam khaiye. Awangthangbada Meitei lamne. Makhathangbadi Maharani lam 200di kabonakhoiginehaina lam yennarame. Chatlibasahebtinipannne…” The line defined by Sir James Johnstone came to be known as Johnstone Line. Neither of these two demarcations were acceptable to the Burmese.
However, after the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891, the Manipuris were compelled to agree with a boundary survey conducted by Captain MacNabb, the then Deputy Commissioner of Upper Chindwin District and Lt. Col. Maxwell, the then Political Agent Manipur. The report of the survey was submitted in 1896 to the competent authorities. Both British Burma and British India Governments gave their consent to this survey. It started from the north to a few hundred yards south of the Kongkan Thana village. Boundary Pillar (BP) No. 1(old) was placed on the Tuilut stream. It ended at boundary pillar No. 38 (old) which was located near an aqueduct connected to Tuisa or Tinzinriver on the extreme southern limits of Manipur boundary. Cairns were made for most of the boundary pillars. All the lines were straight except specifically noted otherwise. Proposals were made for erection of bricks as boundary markings, but this was not done for 4/5 months even after the submission of the report. As such cairns are taken as boundary marks of the 1896 survey. Neither latitude nor longitude can be seen in the hand drawn boundary map of 1896 attached to the report.
Thereafter, no major survey was conducted ( as per available records) on this sector till the boundary agreement signed between the Government of India and Government of Burma (now Myanmar) on 10th March 1967 at Yangon. In the agreement, boundary descriptions from Nat-tuang and Tuisa/Tinzin to Kongkan Thana are also given and they follow the same old numbers. Contrary to the boundary survey description of 1896, this time the description of boundary begins from south to north. The new BP numbers are said to have been allotted after a joint survey that followed the agreement. Thus, boundary pillar number 38(old) is given as boundary pillar number 60 (new) and BP No. 1(old) as BP No.98 (new).
With the development of cartography and introduction of new method of mapping in India, the hand drawn map of 1896 seems to have been upgraded many times in the modern lines. The new maps seem to be amalgamation of many hand drawn maps mostly printed/drawn during the British period. Mention may be made of map published by Surveyor General of India in 1921 during British India and 1957 after India’s independence. In both the maps, the controversial border pillar number 18(old) and 81(new) is not located at the right place as described in the survey operation report of 1896.
When asked what the basis of the boundary description given in the agreement of 1967 is, the Surveyor General of India, ShriGirish Kumar, stated that the answer is the survey report of 1896. The description given in the survey report of 1896 is as follows: “Thence in a westerly direction to pillar No.18 placed on the right bank of the Namjet or Nam-ma-ling stream which is the river following past Kondong or Kuntuong village and about 120 yards above its junction with the Anjunpha stream. This pillar is on the side of the road leading to the Naga village of Koatha or Kwatha and at the point where it crosses the aforesaid stream.”
Now, the question is whether the controversial boundary pillar (BP) No. 81 (new) is placed where it is stated in the survey report of 1896. The answer is no on three counts. First, the present BP 81 (new) is not placed at the ‘right bank’ of NamchetLok stream but located on the right side, some hundred meters away from the right bank where it is supposed to be fixed. Second, as per description of 1896 survey report, the BP No. 81 (new) is to be located some 120 yards above the junction of Namjupha stream and NamchetLok stream. The present pillar is not located at 120 yards above the junction of the two streams. It is located some 700 meters (aerial distance) deep inside Indian Territory. Third, the present place where the BP No. 81(new) is fixed is different from the location identified by the villagers. The place identified by the Kwatha villagers is almost similar with the position described in the survey report of 1896. So, if the present place where the BP number 81 (new) is fixed, is taken to be true, India would lose at least 1 sq km of land when it joins BP Nos. 80 (new) and 82 (new). This is lose is with regards to boundary pillar i.e. BP No. 81 (new) only.
Additionally, there is the matter of bypassing stakeholders, which as already stated happened during the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo. Any agreement made without the participation of all parties that will be affected by it will naturally be contested. As such, a re-survey of the whole stretch of land bordering Myanmar should be taken up with full knowledge of all stakeholders.
(The author is Writer & Politician)
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