Tuesday, June 22, 2021
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Naga Hills in the 19th Century

The history of the neighboring Kingdoms of the Ahom and Manipur in the 19th century, affected the NAGA HILLS so much that a nano account of the kingdoms may do well for a short preface to the Write-up of the history of NAGA HILLS in the 19th century.
To make the nano account clearer, only the causes of anarchy and turmoil in the two kingdoms have been brought out. The causes are: primogenitor system of succession, the Rajah owning all the lands of the kingdom, citizens render free annual service to the King, the tyranny, oppression and mismanagement of Gaurinath Sing, the reigning monarch of Ahom kingdom in 1788, were the immediate causes of the anarchy in the State.
The position of the reigning Rajah became so unstable that he bought the help of the King of Ava [Burma] to prop him up on the throne on annual payment.
The payments were costly, and the behavior of the invited Guests soon became unwelcome; even burdensome but king could not make them leave his kingdom.
The ‘Maans’ –Burmese- were so cruel and insolent that they even ripped open woman’s abdomen, take out unborn baby and throw it at mango trees to shake down the fruits. They wrote insolent communications to the British at Calcutta for the return of run-away fugitives who have taken shelter in the British Territory of Bengal Province. They also began to look at the East India Company territory beyond the border of the Ahom kingdom with coveted eyes.
Near in the neighborhood, Manipur invaded the Angami country in 1833, and claimed vast catchments of the Doyang and the Dhansiri of the Naga country down to the foothills touching the Assam plain.
In the four centuries of the establishment of the Ahom Kingdom -1228 to 1700- in the sleepy hollow of the Brahmaputra valley, the martial well organized Shan leader Sookapa who founded the Ahom -the peerless or unequaled- kingdom in 1228, adopted Hinduism, its caste system and the martial characters of a master Race that they were, degenerated low to that of the ordinary man that they were far from before. Many descendants of the founder of the Kingdom claimed the right to the throne. The three principal elector Gohain chiefs, Prime Ministers of the Provinces; only less than the monarch: some of them supported the primogenitor system and others for Talent & Efficiency, in the selection of the Rajah.
By 18th Century, Sookapa’s descendants grew so large with many probable candidates for the throne; and like the Sunnis and Shahs of Islam, the differences between the supporters and opponents of the Systems tore the Ahom and the Manipuri Kingdoms into uncontrollable turmoil.
The biblical saying: “brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against Parents and cause them to be put to death” [Mt.10:21] appeared true in the Manipur and the Ahom kingdom and fratricidal murders and eliminations became rife in the States.
By the second half of the 18th century, Gumbhir Singh of Manipur fled to Cachar and the governance of the kingdom fell into disarray.
In addition, the indigenous martial Moamarias of upper Assam, the Ahom dynasty’s ancient enemy, rebelled against the Rajah’s mismanagement and injustice and drove him out of ‘Gowhatty’, the Capital city.
The Rajah Purunder Sing, went to East India Company Authorities at Fort Williams and got British help to regain his throne on promise Rs 50,000/- [Rupees fifty thousand] payment per mensem.
The British brought him back and installed him on the throne in 1832 with unrestricted powers but he could no longer manage the Kingdom. He failed to pay the Company the arrear payments, countless ruffians, the lawless from Bengal and Cooch Behar flocked into Assam to robe the cultivators who ran away to the jungle. Countless peasants and the poor died of starvation, misery and complete lawlessness, descended on Assam. The king abdicated the throne.
In the mean time, in Burma the white foreigners were subjected to ill treatment and harassment. So much so that Nathan Brown, the Pioneer of the Shan Christian Mission left Burma and came to Sadya, upper Assam on promise of all possible help and protection by the Army Officer, to continue the Mission. A Burmese spat at one of the white Merchants on the Bank of the Irrawadi River and when the Company demanded explanation; the king did not give any notice. The Calcutta government reminded again but Burma did nothing and kept silent. On this, the supreme Government at Calcutta sent an ultimatum to the King of Ava demanding punishment of the Culprit before 24 February 1826, and on failure, consider himself at war with the British Authority at Calcutta.
British Forces sailed up the river Irrawadi and engaged a flotilla of Burmese forces at a place Yandaboo, 20 miles from Yangoon. The Burmese were defeated and the King of Ava was made to sign the Treaty of Yandaboo. It was actually a treaty of submission, though the Kubo Valley under Manipur was returned to Burma. The King agreed to dozens of impositions and pay War Indemnity of Rupees One Crore to the Government of India. And Burma came under the British colonial rule till it got Independence in 1948, 122 years after the treaty.
The Burmese finally left India; they took away some 30,000 slaves from Assam to Burma; this gives an idea of the life they had in the land they nearly took over including the Naga Hills, had the white man came 10years later.
The Treaty of Yandaboo has Supplementary Treaty for the Kingdoms of Manipur and of Ahom. The Rajah of both the kingdoms was made to sign the Supplementary Treaty of their State.
Gumbir Singh and Purunder were both restored to their throne; but the Supplementary Treaty made it mandatory for the Manipur Durbar [Court], to have a permanent white Resident Political Agent Representative of the Supreme Council at Calcutta and the King’s power of extreme arbitrary corporal and capital punishments were no longer allowed, unless with the approval the Political Agent.
In the case of the Ahom kingdom, the failure of the King to keep the Treaty Agreement, and complete collapse of law & order made the Government seize, in 1838 through Notification in no uncertain Terms declaring the Seizure of the whole Kingdom: “your Kingdom does not extend beyond the northern bank of the Dhansiri River” and it was taken over into British possession for direct governance by the colonial Power.
Raja Purunder Sing was pensioned off to Rangoon where he spent the remainder of his life. The British Government seized all the land, and started collection of the Revenue in Assam directly by themselves.
Thus an important period of history of the Ahom and the Manipur Kingdom came to an end.
Thepfulhouvi Solo. IFS Retd [Rr-68].
Former Principal Secretary, Nagaland.

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