By Philip Ngwazah, First published in Sentinel Assam on 7 Dec 2010. Used with permission from the author.
This two article series is in response to discussion in AP Times Readers Forum, titled as Spare Vijaynagar by Bhumi Upadhayaya, It was Dawodi not Vijoynagar by Philip, Actual facts about Vijaynagar by Advocate Gyan and others — Liahey.
During World War II the Allied forces flew their aircrafts from Chabua in India to Putao in Burma through the Phunga Pass (186 Border Post) and Chaukan Pass (183 BP). While crossing Phunga Pass the pilots followed the Frontbase river valley which is called Ma-Ji-Wa-Lo (never melting snow mountain) in Lisu and while crossing over the Chaukan Pass they followed the Noa Dehing River, which is known as Shi-Di River to the local people. Border Post 185 at Mu-Ga-Phi and BP 184 at Wa-Phu-Kha were not convenient for aircrafts to cross over to Putao. The Frontbase (Ma-Ji-Wa-Lo) meets the Noa Dehing some 34 miles from Miao. As you move along the Frontbase river valley, two valleys diverge from one point just before reaching Phunga Pass. During the war many aircrafts of the Allied Forces had crashed after hitting the rocky hills when due to poor visibility, the pilots mistakenly navigated towards the left valley. The safe way was to follow the valley on the right which leads to Phunga valley, finally reaching Putao in Burma. Another way was through the Ma-Ji-Wa-Lo (Frontbase) valley up through the Shi-Di and Da-Wo-Di valley (Vijaynagar) over the Chaukan Pass and over the Putao valley eastward over the Eastern Himalayan mountains (what became known as the HUMP) between Gongshan and Fugong. They couldn’t fly south of Fugong for fear of the Japanese who had come as far north as Hpi Maw (Phiama).
But flying along Shi-Di river valley (Noa Dehing) route across Chaukan Pass to reach Putao, took double the time of the Phunga Pass route. Therefore the Allied Forces preferred the Phunga Pass route to transport rations, arms and ammunitions for the soldiers and used the Chaukan Pass route less. Many aircrafts crashed along the Phunga Pass route but the number was relatively less along the Chaukan Pass route — two in Indian territory and three in Burma (Pe-No-Zo).
Geoffrey Tyson in his book Forgotten Frontier (1945) had mentioned the rescue expeditions by British officers GDL Miller and another expedition by Renold Jardine. During the expeditions, two Lisu men namely Hi-Che-Chu Lisu and Akhi-Tue Lisu had accompanied the British officers as porters-cum-local guides. The British officers told the two Lisu porters that they were also looking for a rare kind of flower which grows only in the rocky hills. During these rescue expeditions they trekked along the following valleys: Frontbase River valley, Phunga Pass valley, 185 BP Mu-Ga-Phi valley, 184 BP Wa-Phu-Kha valley and finally crossed over from Chaukan Pass (183 BP) to reach Putao city in Burma. Till today these valleys are devoid of population. From Putao the two Lisu men accompanied the British officers till Myitkyina (a beautiful city in Kachin state, Burma) and from there they came back to Shi-Di village via the Burmese towns of Tannai, Namyung and Ngalunga and finally reached Shi-Di (Gandhigram village). In Renold Jardine’s expedition the names of villages and rivers mentioned by Geoffrey Tyson such as N’Pyen Gamang, H’Pangma River, Kamho, Mackrell’s camp and Dapha River were all located in Burma near Putao area. Therefore, the rescue expeditions indicated by Geoffrey Tyson did not necessarily and conclusively refer to the valley along the Shi-Di river where the Lisus have been living for long.
When Nari Rostomji (the then advisor to Governor of Assam) illustrated the immortalizing of Major General Late AS Guraya’s (Rtd) children by giving their names to the villages in the valley, his information was based on stories narrated by the Late Major General who masterminded the settlement of Ex- Assam Rifle Personnel in Lisu/Yobin land. The Late Major General had deliberately suppressed the true historical facts by narrating that Vijaynagar valley was a population-less and nameless tract. On the other hand, Late Major Sumer Singh who led the Chaukan Pass expedition resulting in the discovery of Lisu/Yobin people on May 7, 1961 did not receive any credit for his heroic expedition. It got overshadowed under the plans of Major General Guraya. But for the Lisus/Yobins, Major Sumer Singh was no less than a hero, for it was he who brought us under the Union of India thus acquiring a new national identity as Indians.