HC Deb 16 June 1927 vol 207 cc1176-8

"In a Memorandum dated the 26th August, 1925, which was communicated to the League of Nations, on Slavery in the Hukawng Valley in the neighbourhood of the Burma frontier, an account was given of the plans for emancipating slaves formulated after a visit of the Governor of Burma to the Valley in the preceding January. Sir William Vincent in a speech in the Assembly on the 25th September last made a brief reference to the carrying out of these plans, but it may be of interest further to record that as the result of an expedition to the Valley in December, 1925, to April, 1926, Mr. J. T. 0. Barnard, C.I.E., the Civil Officer in charge, was able to report that 3,445 slaves were released at a cost of Rs.1,96,163, paid either as compensation to their owners or by way of a solatium to the headmen of the tracts in which ownerless slaves resided. Each and every slave was actually seen at the time of release and not a single slave remained in the Valley after the Expedition. Much useful medical work was done during the tour amongst the inhabitants, who came in large numbers for treatment. Mr. Barnard himself returned by way of Assam, the Government of which Province are co-operating with the Burma Government.

"The slaves in the Hukawng Valley having been released, the Government of Burma reported that the only other important area in which slavery existed to any marked extent was that known as 'the Triangle,' lying roughly in the bend between the Mali Kha and Nmai Kha rivers north of their junction to form the Irrawaddy river (between latitudes 25° 35' and 27° 9' and longitudes 97° 30' and 38° 15'). It was estimated that the district contained about 5,000 slaves and it was considered that their emancipation ought to follow closely on the action taken in the Hukawng Valley, adjoining it on the west. It was recognised that this would be a considerable undertaking, but it was decided to send to the district an expedition for the purpose on a scale sufficient to achieve its object and to provide for the safety of those composing it, at an estimated cost of Rs.9,15,720. The expedition which was timed to last six months was to be in charge of Mr. Barnard, assisted by three other civil officers, and an experienced officer of the Survey Depart- ment, a Burman; and an escort was to be provided, consisting of 300 men of the Military Police, under five British officers, with the necessary followers.

"On the 10th January, 1927, the Governor held a Durbar Myitkyina and announced to the 120 Kachin chiefs or their representatives then present the unalterable decision of the British Government to abolish slavery, after payment of compensation on the same soak as in the Hukawng Valley (i.e., on an average, Rs.60 a slave). The expedition started on its work, and on the 29th January the first slave in the 'Triangle' was released. According to the information last received the Expedition has resulted in the release of over 4,000 slaves. It is estimated that some 400 or 500 remain to be released next cold weather, by reason of there having been a temporary interruption of the operations of one of the parties into which the expedition was divided by a treacherous attack made upon it towards the end of March by some 60 or 70 Kachins from a disaffected village. By this, Captain West, a very gallant officer, an Indian noncommissioned officer and one follower, met their deaths, exemplifying in a striking manner by the sacrifice of their lives the risk faced by the Indian Government in its efforts to introduce into backward regions the beneficient usages of a more settled civilisation.

"Simultaneously with the expedition to the 'Triangle,' another, but much smaller expedition has been working in the country to the west of the Hukawng Valley, and also visiting in the Valley itself the slaves released during the previous season. It is in charge of a civil officer, Mr. T. P. Dewar, with an escort of 75 Military Police, under a British Officer, and medical subordinates. It is reported to have found the released slaves settled comfortably in newly-established villages and content, some of them having taken to rice cultivation with success. An important object of this Naga Hills expedition, in addition to visiting released slaves and the settlement of blood feuds, is to get in touch with the Naga Chiefs, whose country is unmapped and unknown, and obtain from them promises to refrain from the revolting practice, known to prevail under the sanction of their religion, of human sacrifice or supplying victims therefor. The expedition which was timed to last five months and estimating to cost Rs.1,29,391 has been co-operating with the Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Mitchell, from the neighbouring district of Homalin, and according to the most recent reports assurances of the kind desired were being given by the Chiefs.

"To sum up, it may be stated that, as reported by the Governor, slavery has now practically ceased in Burma, on the eastern side of India, just as, on the western side, the Government of India were able to report to the League of Nations last March its final abolition in the Kalat State (Baluchistan), through a decree signed by His Highness on the 4th November, 1926, de- claring that from that date private property in slaves had there ceased to exist."14th June, 1927.

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