British Policy Towards The Zomi

In spite of the increasing raids on their subjects, the British constantly followed ‘policy of non-interference and conciliation’ because they did not see any opportunity for economic gain in administering Zo country. They conducted limited military expeditions like Blackwood’s Expedition (1844), Col Lister’s Expedition (1849), etc to control the incessant raids. However, the expeditions achieved limited success in so far as they stopped the raiding for only a few years.

By the end of the decade, the British changed its policy and adopted ‘forward policy’ for dealing with the Zomi. As CE Buckland put it:

“The policy unanimously recommended by the local officers was that raids should be met by condign punishment, in the shape of military occupation of the raiders’ villages during as long a period as possible, the seizure of their crops and stored grain, and the forced submission of their Chiefs; after that, by the steady endeavour of the frontier officers to influence them and promote trade; and finally, by a system of frontier posts combined with a line of road running north and south from Cachar frontier to the Chittagong.”

While Edgar, the Deputy Commissioner of Cachar was in the Lushai Hills pursuing the policy of conciliation with apparent success, a series of Zo raids on British subject took place. These were more systematically organised and determined in character than previous incursions had been. The first raid on the Chittagong Hill Tracts in December 1870 was followed in quick succession by nine raids on the Cachar plains within a period of 30 days in Feb 1871. Simultaneously, there were raids in Sylhet, Tripura and Manipur. An incident which leaves significant influence upon British Forward Policy was the attack upon the tea garden at Alexandrapore on January 23 in which the planter, Winchester, was killed and his six year old daughter Mary Winchester was carried off as a captive.

 

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