By: Z. Katiry (Ex-MLA From Meluri: 26 Jul. 2015 1:02 AM IST
(From previous issue)
6. Political boundaries demarcated by the Britishers
Verrier Elwin had written in his treatise ‘’The Nagas in the 19th Century’’, Henry Harvesham Godwin to read what -Austen’s name is mentioned in it, not only as an explorer and geologist, but also an expert topographical drawing of who first went to Burma (now called Myanmar) where he explored the navigable waterways of the Irrawady delta. In the early part of 1856, he was attached to the Trigonometrical Survey of India to assist the first survey of Kashmir. He surveyed the great Karakoram glaciers together with the giant mountains that enclose them. In 1862, he mapped the northern border of the Pongong District on the Western edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and the following year he proceeded to Bhutan for mapping the areas between Sikkim and Punakha and the neighboring regions.
Godwin-Austen’s next assignment came when he had to survey Assam where he commanded the party and fully engaged in the survey of the Garo, Khasi and Jantia and some parts of the Brahmaputra.
In 1872, after 2 years leave, Godwin-Austen returned to India, much to the relief of his department. On his arrival, he was appointed as Deputy Superintendent of Survey with the assignment to survey and lay fixed political boundary between the erstwhile Naga Hills and Manipur and also to explore Patkoi range. A host of British officers, namely :- Captain Butler, Dr. Gordon, J. Johnstone who was Boundary Commissioner 1881-82, Lieutenant Ridgeway, Godwin-Austen’s two associates – Hinde and Ogle who were Assistant Surveyors and may others involved in the survey operation as the situation was slowly stabilizing. Dr. Brown became Political Agent in Manipur in 1868, and in 1873, he went with the Survey Party to settle the boundary between the erstwhile Naga Hills and Manipur.
The British officers seemed to have acquired an indefatigable spirit of hill-walking only when they landed in our country and began survey operations by walking through difficult terrains and hostile environment which was physically and mentally knackering. But years after, they were accustomed to such vagaries of nature that, on one occasion J. Johnstone had to say “hill-walking no longer tired me”. He went on to say, “Life is never monotonous as I take long walk everyday round the hills for important works”.
In the early part of February 1884, J. Johnstone, accompanied by Lieutenant Ridgeway, an interpreter and some men had visited Meluri, Akhegwo, Lephori (the writer’s village), and thence to Somrah (now in Myanmar),Wahong, Nganchan, Lasour of Tangkhul area, and on February 13,1884, he revisited the place where he encamped on the ground they occupied in 1881-82, when he was Boundary Commissioner. The next day he inspected the boundary pillars he had set up in 1881-82, and found intact which he said was a satisfactory proof that the settlement was not unacceptable to either Manipur or Burma.
7. Why boundaries are needed?
It is well known even to a man in the street that boundary demarcations are the imperative need, not only between nations and states but also between the tribes, villages and individuals in order to avoid any conflict that might arise in the absence of it. It was not a thought-out modern concept but it was there since time immemorial, if we care to read Deuteronomy 27: 17, 32:8 and Proverbs 22: 28. The Bible warns us the danger of removing the ancient boundary pillars set up by our forefathers as it would invite God’s wrath. It is also equally important to know that if boundary demarcations are not done by taking the consent of people into confidence, it may cause prolonged conflict and can eventually lead to intense conflict between the parties involved in the dispute where the bullets would be flying freely as we have often witnessed in the past, if misrepresentations in the map are not rectified or done away through mutual understanding or an official adjudication.
The tragedy was that, in the case of boundary demarcations between the erstwhile Naga Hills and Manipur, and with other neighboring states, the British officers had done all in a haste in an arbitrary manner without the consent of the people affected by such demarcations, nor on demographic line but on watershed principle of Jigsaw puzzle to suit their day to day administration, with their extremely vile policy of divide and rule, and also for the purpose of revenue collection within the British administered areas as it is evident from what is written in “The Nagas in the 19th century ’’ at page 178 which goes like this:“In November 1875, the Chief Commissioner reported that the number of Naga villages tendering revenue to our political officers was increasing”.
The Nagas who were totally ignorant due to illiteracy at that point of time, did not oppose such operations but allowed things to happen according to their whims and fancies even though they could see their territories and its people being traversing out into different administrative segments only to be assimilated later on to the socio-cultural and political identity of the dominant groups in their respective States. Whereas, in the other parts, such operations were opposed physically and politically as Dr. Gordon-Austen, in his own words stated that they were “physically and politically opposed to such operations”.
(To be concluded)