Issues Surrounding the Boundary of Manipur

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Rk Ranjan Singh

The significance of boundary seems to have eroded when one looks at the on-going process of globalisation, free trade, regionalism and regional cooperation. However, in order to protect a nation and its identity as a country or a nation-state, at least as a well-recognised territorial boundary is a must. For example, the native state of Manipur had existed for two millennia and her independent and sovereign status had been given international recognition since 1726 A.D. and 1826 A.D. onwards with the emergence of the modern nation system in the world.

Territorial Boundary of Manipur in Historical Perspective

Territorial boundary of Manipur has fluctuated from time to time through a series of historical events, malpractices and processes. In this context we may recall some of the historical description of boundaries of Manipur.

1. Available records shows that Kyamlamjao (Kabaw Valley) was within the territory of the Manipur (1475 to 1714). Then during the reigned of Maharaja Pamheiba the frontiers of Manipur extended up to the confluence of the Chindwin and the Irrawaddy River of the present day Myanmar.

2. The Anglo-Manipuri Defence Treaty of 1762 affirms that Manipur’s territory extended deep into Burma and even up to the banks of the Brahmaputra River in Assam. This is affirmed by Captain R.B. Pemberton in his “Report on The Eastern Frontier of British India” in 1835.

3. R.M. Lahiri in “Annexation of Burma” states that 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. In the same year Gambhir Singh, accompanied by Lieutenant Gordon, the then Adjutant, Manipur Levy, reduced to submission the Angami Nagas. Records show the fact that in 1835 the forest between Doyeng and Dhunsiri formed the boundary between Manipur and Assam.

4. In 1842 a kind of vague boundary, between Manipur and Naga Hills, was laid down by Lieutenant Bigge from the British side and Captain Gordon as the representative of the Government of Manipur.

Afterrmath of Treaty of Yandaboo

After the Treaty of Peace signed at Yandaboo signed on 24th February 1826, Burma recognised Manipur as an independent native State. However, difficulties over the boundary of Manipur did not end with the signing of the treaty.

As per agreement regarding the Kabaw Valley negotiated at Sunnyachi Ghat on January 9, 1834, British agreed to return the Kabaw valley to Burma. In 1833 the boundary along the foothills of the ranges to the west of the Kabaw valley was negotiated as the delimiting boundary. With later refinements, this boundary line has become a part of the present border. The boundary is referred to as Pemberton Line.

In 1894, the Manipur – Chin Hills boundary was demarcated, and in 1896 Col. Maxwell re-demarcated the Pemberton – Johnstone area, placing thirty-eight pillars on the ground.

After the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 the territorial boundary was changed as per the administrative convenience of the British. Subsequently, in the year 1894 the Somra Track of Manipur along with 12 villages of Tangkhul was handed over to Burma.

After the signing of Merger Agreement on 21st September, 1949, Government of India became the sole authority for the protection and control of the territorial boundary of the state. Then the Survey of India could make changes of name of places and boundary against the interest of the people of Manipur, creating series of conflicts with the neighbouring state and country. Endless boundary disputes are lingering in the areas of Dzuku Valley, Tungjoi of Senapati, Jessami and Wahong of Ukhrul with Nagaland and Jiri River of Jiribam of Imphal East District with Assam.

Further, Molcham in Chandel and Charo Khunou in Ukhrul have been bones of contention between Manipur and Burma (Myanmar). In this context we may recall some of the comment made by Late Maharajkumar Prya Brata Singh (Chief Minister 1948-49) that at the beginning of his tenure the then Burmese Army fixed their Flag just at the point of the present Custom Office at Moreh. He asked the Burmese troops to remove the flag immediately. After that the troop removed the flag and then fixed on the left bank of the Lokchao River where the present Burmese immigration office is now located.

India-Burma Boundary Agreement

Burma and India delimited the international boundary through a bilateral treaty signed at Rangoon on March 10, 1967. The delimitation did not respect the sentiments of the people of Manipur. On the spot demarcation for negotiation and agreement there was a not representative from the concerned state. However, it is said that the 1967 boundary follows the “traditional” line between the two countries while rendering with precision two formerly identified areas. Almost 60 per cent of the 1,643 kilometre long boundary follows water divides, both major and minor, while nearly one-third coincides with median lines of frontier streams and rivers.

The remainder of the border comprises straight line between the previously established boundary pillars. However, Kangpat Khullen Villagers reported that the present BP no. 94, 95, 96 and 97 were erected against the traditional boundary line by the Burmese Army. As a result five villages namely Mantaoram, Cheiteram, Sekawaram, Sanamram and Karatram have been included in the Burmese territory. After the signed of India and Burma boundary agreement then formally delimit and demarcated the entire boundary between two countries. Both the governments again rectified the Agreement and the Instruments of Ratification were exchanged in New Delhi on 30th May 1967.

After India-Burma boundary delimitation was done on maps, and actual physical delimitation took place along the border was conducted on 5th April 1975. The then Indian officials who represented on the spot, misinformed the PMO with the intension of swapping Molcham and surrounding villages, with areas of equal area elsewhere along he Indo-Burma border viz., areas at Choro and the paddy field to the east and adjoining the Moreh market, where the areas the Burmese would hand over Manipur in lieu of the Molcham and surrounding Villages.

Accordingly, the Survey General of India issued maps with De-facto boundary line in the Molcham and surrounding villages. It is also fact that the Old BP No.33 stood to the east of the village Tuivang and thereby locating villages well within the Manipur Territory. It is also reported that in place of the old BP No.33 new BP No.66 was installed and put into missing BP so that the line between BP No 64 to 68 marked as De-facto boundary in the area.

Choro Khullen is on the slopes of the hill running parallel to the border line. Its off-shoot Choro Khunou is situated at the foot-hill beside BP No 6 (old) no new number is still replaced the old one. Except in the quarter inch map issued in 1976 Choro has been shown in Manipur. However, the metre scale map issued in 1973 show Choro on the Burmese territory.

Till today Choro of the Kamjong-Chassad Sub-Davison of the Ukhrul District while Molcham and group of villages in the Chakpikarong Sub-Division of the Chandel District of Manipur are revenue villages of the Government of Manipur. Under what circumstances these villages currently administering by the state government is to be handed over to other country? The boundary line of the country in the location of these villages how could be De Facto boundary of India and Burma. Consequently the responsibility of boundary conflict in the Indo-Burma particularly in the Manipur sector should be the sole responsibility of the Survey General of India. It is also fact that the villagers of Molcham are all Indians their Chief is receiving a freedom fighter`s pension. Similarly villagers of Choro are good Indian. These are all against the principles of a democratic country, India.

Yangoupokpi Lokchao Wildlife Sanctuary

As the demarcation in the tri-junction of India, Burma and China towards the end of McMohan line at Diphir near Rima is still unsettled, the bilateral demarcation of border between India and Burma should be considered null and void. Moreover, the bilateral demarcation of boundary between India and Burma, especially along the Manipur sector failed to ensure participation of affected communities of Manipur.

Even the new demarcation line contradicts and altered the earlier traditional boundary lines of Manipur and Burma and omits the existing boundary pillars. This has led to arbitrary transfer of Manipur`s ancestral land to Burma without the knowledge and consent of the people of Manipur. The current boundary should be settled by consulting appropriate international institutions and if necessary, through the international court of justice.

Problems Related with Border Fencing

Indulgence of a paramilitary group in an international matter and the exclusive and arbitrary nature of Assam Rifles` role and involvement in Border fencing renders the existence of the Government of Manipur a complete mockery and disrespect to the people of Manipur.

The application by the Assam Rifles for diversion of forest area of Yaingangpokpi Lokchao Wild life Sanctuary to the Ministry of Environment and Forest for border fencing further undermines the role and responsibility of the Government of Manipur to maintain and to protect its territorial integrity. This again is a clear insult to the people of Manipur. The act of the Assam Rifles painting boundary pillars with AR logo and templates is again a sheer act of irresponsibility. The forest clearance accorded by the MoEF for diversion of the wildlife sanctuary without organizing a single public hearing is again a violation of international human rights laws, primarily the need to take the free, prior and informed consent of communities before any processes affecting their land as stipulated under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007.

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