Mizoram, 1872: North-Eastern Frontier

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This article is an extract from


THE LUSHAI EXPEDITION
1871-1872

BY
R.G. WOODTHORPE.
LIEUT. ROYAL ENGINEERS.

LONDON:
HURST AND BLACKETT, PUBLISHERS,
13, GREAT MARLBOROUGH STREET.

1873.


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Contents

North-Eastern Frontier

The North-eastern frontier of India has ever been a fruitful source of trouble and expense to the Government of this Empire. The history of each district on this frontier, whether prior or subsequent to its annex- ation as a portion of British territory, is almost the same. Bordered by, or forming part of hill districts, inhabited by fierce and predatory tribes for ever making raids on their neighbours' villages, burning and plundering them, and carrying off the inhabitants — it was not to be supposed that those under our protection should escape.

When, in consequence of outrages on British subjects, the Indian Government has been forced to take steps for their protection, its policy towards the offenders has generally been one of conciliation rather than retaliation. The success which has usually followed the adoption of this policy seems to be the best argument in its favour.

While, at the same time, establishing and maintaining frontier guards to check any out- rage as far as possible, annual payments are made to the chiefs of tribes, or, in the case of a democracy to the community — not in order to enable them to organize among themselves a force for the preservation of order, but that the well-disposed among them may influence the more turbulent spirits to the prevention of any infringement of the treaties or agreements made with them on granting the annual allowances.

On the annexation of a district, the rights of the Hillmen are always scrupulously respected, any losses they sustain being made good to them ; and by opening up fresh avenues of trade and commerce to them, they are led to see that a peaceable attitude towards us is more profitable for themselves than one of aggression.

Uncivilized Tribes

The allowances to those over whom we do not assume government, are supposed, in the words of the Indian Government itself, " to be sufficient to compensate the tribes, in their own estimation, for the advantage they might gain by the occasional plunder of a border village — an advantage which they well know is materially qualified by the risk of reprisals.’’

It appears that in the last century some fierce tribes, who had been the terror of the surround- ing country, and whom successive military expeditions had failed to subdue, were induced by an annual payment, conditional on good conduct, to become quiet and peaceable neigh- bours.

" What is of the utmost importance in dealing with uncivilized tribes is patience. No one supposes that their civilization is to be effected in a few years, and no one expects that, in endeavouring to conciliate them, the Govern- ment will not meet with occasional disappoint- ment; but the policy is none the less on this account sound and intelligible."

Thus spoke Government in 1865, and the policy thus indicated will be carried out with reference to the Lushais. Of course, a policy of conciliation would be ineffectual, without im- pressing on the tribes a conviction of our power to punish them if necessary; and in many cases, as in the present instance, we have been obliged to do so before adopting this policy of peace.

The Government does not wish to extermi- nate these frontier tribes, but by converting them into our allies to raise a barrier between our frontier districts and other more distant races. Supposing a tribe to be utterly crushed or exterminated, we should find ourselves no better off than before — probably much worse, having merely removed obstacles to the assaults of a fiercer and more formidable foe, whose very remoteness would render it difficult for us to conciliate or punish him.

Cachar Proper

I do not propose to enter into an account of the raids or consequent expeditions which have been made at various times in the different districts of our North-eastern frontier, but con- fine myself to a brief narrative of those which have taken place in Cachar since its annexation ; as to avenge the late raids there, and by securing the peace of that frontier, to enable the tea- planters, on Government grants, and their labourers, to follow their occupation in safety, were the objects proposed by Government to the Commanders of the Lushai Expedition of 1871-72.

The district of Cachar Proper, as it is called, was annexed to the British dominions about 1832, after the death of its legitimate rajah, Gobind Chundra* It is bounded on the north by the hills known as the North Cachar Hills; on the west by the British district of Sylbet; on the east by the western bank of the Jiri River to its junction with the Barak, near Luckipur, and thence by the western bank of the Barak as far as Tipai Mukh, where a stone pillar, erected by the Revenue Survey, marks the tri-junction of Munipur, Cachar, and the Lushai hills. The coast boundary line on the south is still rather indefinite.

The whole of the Northern half of Cachar is more or less under cultivation at present, and well populated. The country is tolerably level, broken here and there by low tilas (small hais) of about two hundred feet in height, and intersected by the Sonai, Rukni, and Dullesur rivers, which, rising in the southern hills, flow through Cachar to join the Barak. Large bheels, or swamps, high grass jungle, and bad roads, however, render communication between the different gardens a matter of some diffi- culty.

To the East rises the great Buban range, which, commencing a little south of Luckipur, and running nearly parallel to the general course of the Barak towards the southern boundary of Cachar, attains at several points an eleva- tion of four thousand feet, and is clothed throughout with thick forest jungle.

A few of the Lushai ranges rise in the south of Cachar, These are the'Noonvai and Reng- tipahar, and on the western boundary the lofty range of the Chatarchara; but between these the whole of South Cachar is a succession of dangerous swamps and low broken ranges, covered with the densest jungle.

Tea-Gardens

The tea-gardens, which were originally con- fined to the northern part of the district, have of late years been sweeping further and further south, as enterprising individuals have been found to take grants from Government for the cultivation of the tea-plant.

These isolated gardens, small clearings in the heart of the jungles, possessing few means of communication with the outer world, offer peculiar temptations to raiders ; especially as in the bungalows of many of the planters are kept large stands of ancient guns, to inspire confidence in the labourers in the gardens, but to obtain possession of which the Lushais would think few efforts and sacrifices too great; and it is in these gardens, as we shall see, that the principal outrages have of late years been com- mitted.

The lofty hills to the south of Munipur, Cachar, and a portion of the territory to the south-west of Cachar, known as Independent or Hill Tipperah, have been held by various families of the Kookie tribe from the earliest times of which we have any record.

The name Kookie has been given to this great tribe, as Mr. Edgar tells us, by the Bengalis, and is not recognized by the Hillmen them- selves. He says : —

" I have never found any trace of a common name for the tribe among them,' although they seem to consider different families as belonging to a single group, which is certainly coex- tensive with what we call the Kookie tribe."

The principal families with whom we first came in contact, were the Tangune, Chausels, Ladoe, and Poitoo Kookies. All authorities agree in stating that from a very early period, the tribes to the south have been gradually driving one another in a northern direction; formerly the Buban Hills and a portion of South Cachar were occupied by some members of a race called Nagas ; but these were obliged, by the Tangunes, to withdraw to the North Cachar hills.

The Tangunes, occupying their ground, were in their turn dispossessed and driven to the northern hills by the Chausels and Ladoes. These have likewise been compelled to retire northward by the Lushais.

The Poitoo Kookies inhabited the hills on each side of the valley of the Gootur river, and were supposed to be more or less subject to the Rajah of Tipperah. The relations existing between the Poitoo chief and the Eajah were, however, repudiated on occasion by each.

The Lushais first appeared on the scene about the year 1840, the first chief of whom we had any knowledge being Lalal ; from whom are descended the chiefs who have lately been the cause of so much anxiety to the Indian Government.

He had four sons. Of these, when we first hear of them, Mongpir was struggling in the west against the Poitoos, to establish himself on the Chatarchara range; Lalingvoom was ruling the villages south of the hill known as Peak Z, in the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India ; while Lalsavoong was striving with the Ladoes in the east for possession of the Chumfai valley and range to the north of it.

In 1844, an attack was made on a village of Sylhet by some Poitoo Kookies, under a chief named Lalchokla, when twenty human heads and six live captives were carried off. It was said that the raid was made to procure heads to bury with a chief who had lately died.

The Rajah of Tipperah was called upon by the Government to assist in punishing Lalchokla and recovering the captives; but as his co- operation was very unsatisfactory, and the steps he took manifestly inadequate to accomplish their object, a party of troops, under Captain Black- wood, proceeded vi& Koilashur, on the 1st of December, to attack Lalchokla's village.

Assisted by a Kookie chief, our troops ar- rived at the village and surrounded it, and by destroying the grain in the country around, the Poitoo chief was speedily reduced to submission, and surrendered on the 4th. He confessed to the raid, but professed ignorance of the fact that it had been made on British subjects. This plea of ignorance was not admitted, and he was eventually transported for life.

Expedition Organized

It has been said that one of the conditions of his surrender was that his life would be spared. This he took to mean a free pardon; consequently the Kookies looked upon his trans portation as a breach of faith on our part. This is alleged as one reason for the difficulty ex- perienced during the late Expedition in inducing chiefs to come in personally to make their sub- mission.

We next hear, in November, 1849, of some raids made simultaneously in Sylhet, Tipperah, and Cachar. The raid in the latter district was made by Lalingvoom's son. Mora, on some Ladoe villages not far from the station ; and to punish these outrages an Expedition was organized, and the command entrusted to Colonel Lister, Political Agent in the Khasia Hills, and Commandant of the Sylhet Light Infantry.

The Expedition started from Cachar on the 4th of January, 1850, and marching nearly due south, on the 14th, arrived at the large village of Mora or Moolla, which Colonel Lister at once at- tacked and destroyed. Most of the inhabitants managed to escape, but about four hundred captives were released; and proofs were found identifying the villagers with the Sylhet raiders. Colonel Lister remained a short time on the range, but deeming his force too small for any further operations, he returned to Cachar on the 23rd.

The Lushais, during his stay, annoyed him by firing into his camp, endeavouring to cut off his communications, and when he retired, followed him, killing any straggling coolies they came across.

Colonel Lister considered that, in order to make a permanent impression on the tribes, a force of not less than three thousand men would be required, " and to command their villages, a road would have to be carried into the heart of the country, along one of the ridges of hills which ran north and south. As a protective measure, the establishment of armed outposts of friendly Kookies along the frontier was advocated.

This question of opening a road through from end to end of the country, is again being urged upon Government as one of the first things necessary, in order to reap permanent ad- vantages from the success of this last expedition of 1871-72.

Colonel Lister's Recommendattons

Colonel Lister also recommended the forma- tion of a Kookie levy to be employed as scouts in the southern jungles, to collect information concerning the Lushais, and the events which were occurring on the other side of our frontier, as well as to keep a watch over the Kookies in our own territory and Munipur.

Government approved of all Colonel Lister's recommendations, and suggested opening up ne- gotiations with the Lushai Chief* The Kookie levy was raised in June, 1850.

The special objects for which it was raised seem to have soon been lost sight of, as we find the establishment of the Kookie scouts abolished in 1860, and the levy handed over to the police. In the endeavour to make them well drilled soldiers, they gradually lost their special quali- fications as scouts and trackers, and the Kookie constables who accompanied the left column, proved utterly useless for the work which should have been theirs, and for which they were ex- pressly intended.

The consequence of the abolition of a body of scouts was the increasing ignorance on the part of the authorities of what was going on among the Kookies and Lushais — for information con- cerning whom they were obliged to rely upon one man, a kookie, named Maujihow, who, as it has since been discovered, deceived them on several important occasions.

The results, nevertheless, of Colonel Lister's Expedition were very great, as no raids occurred either in Sylhet or Cachar till 1862 ; and in the meantime negotiations had been conducted be- tween the Cachar authorities and the Lushai chiefs.

In October, 1850, five Lushai chiefs sent de- puties into Cachar with friendly overtures to the Superintendent, who sent a party down to meet the Lushais. This party returned, accompanied by the Muntri (ambassador) of Sukpilal, the great chief of the Western Lushais.

When the Lushais returned to their own country, the Superintendent sent an emissary with them, with friendly messages to the chief, and as- surances that if he went into Cachar he should not be injured nor detained.

Sukpilal

Sukpilal was supposed to have visited Cachar in December, but Mr. Edgar thinks, as this visit is denied by all the Kookies, that finding that presents would only be given to Sukpilal himself some one was got to personate that chief. The result, however, was the establishment of trading relations between the natives of Hyrapandy and the Lushais.

In 1855, Sukpilal sent in to the Superin- tendent for assistance against some neighbour- ing chiefs. Government, however, refused to interfere in the quarrels of tribes living beyond our frontier.

Mora also sent in a deputation for help to secure the exchange of prisoners between himself and the Munipuris, on whom some raids had been committed; and this help we were ready to afford him.

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