Mizoram,1872: Gnurshailon

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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

Gnurshailon

Since this time nothing seems to have occurred till January, 1862, when three villages were plundered and burnt in the neigh- bourhood of Adumpur, and evidence went to show that the leader in this outrage was Gnurshailon, son of Lalchokla, who had married a sister of Sukpilal.

No steps were taken by Government till 1864, when four captives made their escape from Cachar, and from their statements it appeared that Sukpilal, and two other Poitoo chiefs, Rungboom and Lalltolien, were also implicated, and that many of the captives were living at that time in the villages of these chiefs.

The local authorities desired an Expedition to be sent against them, but it was feared that this might bring down the Kookies on the tea-gardens, which are rapidly spreading south, and, before attempting force, Captain Stewart, the Deputy Commissioner was desired to open negotiations with Sukpilal to induce him to give up the captives in his possession.

The latter sent his muntri to Captain Stewart. He admitted his guilt in the Adumpur matter, but said that some of the captives had been sold to the Pois, a powerful tribe to the south-east of Sukpilal's territory.

Captain Stewart required the chief to come to him, bringing with him the captives, and swear friendship, on doing which he would receive fifty rupees a month, subject to a small annual tribute of certain specified articles.

The muntri said that Sukpilal's son should go in, as the chief was too ill to move, and agreed to the other conditions.

About the same time Captain Stewart. con- cluded a similar treaty with Voupilal, son of Mora, who had Succeeded his father as chief of the Kholal villages, whither the latter had removed after the destruction of his village by Colonel Lister in 1850.

A new rajah had in the meantime assumed the reigns of government in Tipperah, and to strengthen his position he offered to do all in his power to seize Gnurshailon and Sukpilal. His offer was, however, refused, as the negotia- tion with the latter seemed to promise fairly.

In December, 1865, however, it was reported that Sukpilal had not given up the captives, and no satisfactory reason being given for this non- compliance with the terms of his agreement, an Expedition was organised to compel their re- lease.

The rainy season setting in before it could start, the operations were postponed. During the rains. Captain Stewart was employed in in- quiring into the accessibility and position of Suk- pilal's villages. He considered that no approach could be made from the Chittagong side (this has since been proved to be a mistaken notion), and that at least four hundred men should be sent from Cachar. The idea of an Expedition was then abandoned.

Shortly after Sukpilal opened negotiations again, by sending in the annual presents, but no captives; but after much trouble four were at length sent in. Gnurshailon, it was said, through whom Sukpilal obtained muskets from Tipperah, prevented his sending in the others. Many of the captives were said to be married to Lushais, and unwilling to leave them. There was probably some truth in this statement, as we shall see from an incident which occurred during the late Expedition.

Towards the close of 1868, attacks were made on some Naga villages in Munipur, and Rung- boom's villages in Hill Tipperah. In the latter Sukpilal was supposed to be concerned; and at the same time the tea-gardens in South Cachar were threatened.

On the 10th January, 1869, the Lushais, under a chief named Lalroom, Youpilal's brother-in- law, burnt the tea-garden of Nowarbund and killed some of the coolies, and another party under Deouti, on the 14th, attacked the Monir- khal garden, where there was a stockade and a police-guard; he succeeded in destroying the buildings and plundering the garden.

Plan Of Operations

Early in February an attack was made on the Kala Naga stockade by Lushais, under Lenkom. . The stockade was taken, and a Munipur officer and some Sepoys killed.

Voupilal and Sukpilal were suspected from the first, though the actual raiders were not discovered till afterwards, and an attempt was made to punish them.

A large Expedition was set on foot, consist- ing of two forces of Military and Police, one intended to proceed up the Sonai to punish Voupilal, the other to reach Sukpilal by the Dullesur River. The Rajah of Munipur was also to have co-operated from his side.

These plans were altered considerably, and the Expedition was unsuccessful. The plan of operations to be carried out was this : — Simul- taneously with the advance of the columns from Cacbar, one composed principally of police under Mr. Baker, Deputy Inspector- General, was to march on Sukpilal from Koilashur through Rungboom's villages.

The Cachar column, under General Nuthall, which proceeded up the Dullesur, was obliged by rain, to turn back, before reaching the enemy's country, having only proceeded three marches from the furthest tea-garden.

Mr. Baker, whose orders were to effect a junction with the Dullesur column at Sukpilal's villages if possible, or if not to return by the shortest route to Sylhet, marched from Koilashur towards the middle of February. Notwithstanding the failure of the Tipperah Rajah's Minister to assist him with carriage and food, in accordance with the orders re- ceived from the Rajah, notwithstanding also the heavy rains which delayed him several days, Mr. Baker succeeded in reaching the Lushai villages.

On the way there, he passed the place where Rungboom's people had been treacher- ously killed by Lushais in December, and saw eleven skeletons in one spot. Rungboom him- self had escaped, but was pursued by the Lushais, who burnt his villages. They were repulsed by the police of the Adumpur guard, and compelled to retire, having killed about eighty or ninety persons.

Mr. Baker's column

On the 17th March, Mr. Baker's column arrived in sight of the Lushai villages, and there being no signs of the approach of that under General Nuthall, he determined, after consultation with his officers, to hold on for another day, and in the meantime to make a reconnaissance, to try to pick up some food, there being none then in camp.

A brush with Lushais took place, and our men returned to camp in the evening. It being evident that the Dullesur column had not advanced for some reason or other, and that with the small force at his disposal, he could not hope to cope successfully with the whole tribe, Mr. Baker determined to fall back on the Depot in rear, and the retreat com- menced the next day.

On the 2l8t, a telegram from Cachar informed him that General Nuthall and his column were back in Cachar, so there was nothing to do but to return with all speed to Sylhet.

Mr. Baker describes the country passed through by his column, thus : —

" The country traversed by us was alto- gether hilly, we passed no morasses, and ex- cepting the forest lying between the Karruntah range and the banks of the Deo, the country was found to be high, dry, and free from malaria at this season.

Small streams were met with at the bases of all the higher hills, and occasionally springs on the hill-sides not far from the tops of the ridges. The rivers crossed, the Munneo, Deo, Pakwa, &c., were from twenty to thirty yards wide, and about two or three feet deep, having firm sandy beds, easily forded; but in the rainy season they must become exceedingly deep and rapid streams.

‘Judging by their high steep banks, they are liable to great rises and sudden falls, and they are much blocked up with fallen timbers* On some of the ranges are sites of old Kookie villages, now overgrown with high grass, but there are still some fine trees left, among them a few lemon.

Appearance Of The Country

‘Game seemed to be abundant along the course of the rivers. Elephants are extremely numerous in these valleys, and there are deer, wild hogs, porcupines, and in the Langai valley rhinoceros are said to be found.

" The principal ranges of hills run north and south, but between these the smaller ranges are innumerable ; in fact, the entire country is a jumble of hills. The main fea- tures are, therefore, mountain ranges of one thousand to two thousand feet in height, at intervals of ten or twelve miles, trending north and south ; of confused lines of hills and spurs running down to the bottom of these intervening spaces; and lastly of deep and narrow streams flowing along the lowest levels from north to south, over sandy or rooky beds, and in very winding courses, often under high and precipitous banks. This very well describes the character also of the country south and west of Tipai Mukh."

Mr. Baker submitted among others the follow- ing suggestions as the results of his experience, and as likely to be useful in the case of a future expedition. Several of these were adopted, and it would have been better if some of the others had also been followed. " In expeditions of this nature the carriage of supplies and the clearing of a sufficiently con- venient path, are of course, the chief points to be alluded to. I believe the Lushais will fight on their own ground, and in their own desultory manner .... I would recommend —

" For carriage :

" Boats to the furthest point they can go up in November and December, afterwards coolies and elephants.

"To open roads :

'A company of pioneers, and attached to them a body of one hundred Kookie jungle-cutters.

" Half a battery of mountain guns, carried on mules in preference to elephants, would prove serviceable, and would save time and reduce the casualties in taking defended stockades.

"Every man in the force should be supplied with a kookrie, a dao, a water-bottle, and havresack capable of containing his ‘shalee,.’ ‘ lotah,' and some food.

Mr. Edgar

"Coolies properly organised and officered would prove more reliable than elephants, but a score or two of the latter would be useful. No tents should be allowed for either men or officers and their personal baggage reduced to a minimum.

‘The columns prepared in good time, say in November, should move steadily, if slowly, making the marches as little trying as pos- sible."

The portion of the force which went up the Sonai with Mr. Edgar got to one of Vou- pilal's villages, the headman of which, with his mother, went, and offered to make sub- mission, declaring that Voupilal, who had lately died, had taken no part in the raid on Munipur, which had been made by Poiboi alone. They gave Mr. Edgar very accurate in- formation about the other raids, and promised to do what they could to induce the Eastern chiefs to come to terms. The force then re- turned to Cachar.

The Munipur Contingent was prevented by stress of weather from doing anything, and thus ended this Expedition, from which such great results had been anticipated.

In the next raids, which took place in the cold weather following, some new Lushai chiefs ap- peared, and it will be necessary just to look back for a little at the changes which had taken place among the principal families.

Voupilal had died in 1869, and his people are divided in their allegiance between his mother and his widow. The former lives at Dollong, the latter on Vanbong Hill, whither the vil- lagers removed from Kholel on the death of Voupilal. The widow claims the regency on behalf of her infant son Lalhi. Khalkom, Sukpilal's son, has moved his village across the Sonai to the ridge on which Dollong is situated, and supports the mother against the widow, who is assisted by her brother Poiboi.

Lalsavoong having made himself master of the Chumfai valley and neighbourhood, died about 1849, leaving three sons who became powerful chiefs, of these vonolel proved himself the most powerful and ablest of all the Lushais ; and in his constant struggles with neighbouring tribes, was generally successful.

Sukpilal

He fought with the Pois and carried off large numbers, whom he settled in separate villages, or among his own people. He pursued the same policy with the Soktes, a powerful tribe in the East, under Kamlion, the chief of Molbhem. He was succeeded on his death a few years ago by his young son Lalboora.

Another son of Lalsavoong was Lalpoong, who had become head of the villages of Chelam and the others now belonging to Poiboi, his son, who is still a mere boy.

In December, 1870, Mr. Edgar went down to see Sukpilal, and settled finally the boundary fixed provisionally the year before. After seeing this chief, Mr. Edgar had great difficulty in returning, being without provisions, and re- ceiving no tidings as to the boats which were to have been sent down the Sonai, he was obliged to encamp for some time, while he sent men to get information as to his supplies, and the temper of the neighbouring Lushais. Suk- pilal's people treated him well, taking him such provisions as they could, till the arrival of a small party of the 44th, under Captain Lightfoot, enabled him to return to Cachar.

During his stay in the country, he received tidings of intended raids on Cachar, which at the time he did not believe, though he sent a messenger into the station to give warning; shortly afterwards, he heard that raids had actually Been made in various parts of the dis- trict, about the middle of January. These raids were as follows.

The manager of the tea-garden at Monierkhal, had received warning of a raid, and had removed his coolies ; but he with the guard of thirty-seven soldiers and police, and two other Europeans, remained in the stockade. They were reinforced by Mr. Daly, a police-officer, from Cachar, and about forty soldiers.

The Lushais, under Lalboora, however, be- sieged the stockade for two days, keeping up a very heavy fire. Mr. Daly twice made sorties, but each time was driven back with loss : the Lushais rushing on the slain and plundering their bodies. The Lushais are supposed to have lost fifty men during this attack.

At the same time Lalboora's cousin, Tang- dong, had made an attempt to reach Nowar- bund, but losing his way came out on the

Mary Winchester

Nudigram road, where they fell in with a guard of eight soldiers and a constable. The Sepoys behaved gallantly, but were overpowered, six being killed, and one wounded. They are said to have killed twenty-five of the enemy before being overcome. Tangdong, on his return to his village, found that it had been attacked in his absence and destroyed by a large party of Soktes under Kam- how, and his wife and a large number of his peo- ple carried off as captives. In these two affairs the Lushais got possession of thirteen muskets from the dead police and Sepoys, which caused them great exultation.

In South Hylakandy attacks had also been made on the gardens of Alexandrapur, Jhalua Chura, and Cantley Chura, by the Howlongs from the South, assisted by the Lyloos. At Alexandrapur, early in the morning, the Lushais emerged suddenly on the garden from the sur- rounding jungle, taking the people so much by surprise that no attempt at defence could be made. Mr. Winchester, who, with his daughter, was on a visit to a friend at this garden, and some coolies, were killed at once, the manager of the garden effecting his escape, and little Mary Winchester and several others being carried off as prisoners.

At the other gardens they were not so suc- cessful, the occupants having time to arm them- selves before the Lushais appeared, and the latter were repulsed with ease in each attack, and forced to retire altogether. It was against these Howlongs and Lyloos that the opera- tions of the right column, under General Brown- low, were directed, and from whom they ' succeeded eventually in obtaining the release of Mary Winchester.

While returning from Lushai land Mr. Edgar received a visit from Khalkom, Sukpilal’s son, who promised to assist us if an Expedition was under- taken against the Eastern Lushais, and stated that a path from Tipai Mukh, which might be made passable for elephants, led directly into their country.

Mr. Edgar recommended that, if an expe- dition was sent against Lalboora, Tipai Mukh should be adopted as the starting point, being nearer that chief's villages than any other place accessible by water.

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