Conflict Resolution in respect of Manipur
- Part 1 -

Dr. A. K. Chishti *

While acknowledging the Second Administrative Reforms Commission for reposing confidence in the Association of Premier State College Seniors of Manipur (APSCS) and giving the privilege of making an effective representation of the people's interest about the State of affairs and the "Conflict Resolution" thereon by extending the time when the commission heard us at Imphal on the 28th July 2007, we wish to begin with a few words about our own Association, perhaps the first of its kind in the country.

It is a Body of the retired State Govt. employees who served the Premier State Colleges of Manipur academics of which were recruited on the recommendations of the UPSC and later the Manipur Public Service Commission. The Association was founded in the year 2005 with the main object to preserve old values and spirit of fraternity among the members and to further promote the Academic and Social causes by formulating and presenting views to the State or Central / Statutory Bodies etc.

In consonance with our objective, the Association made a point to submit a Memorandum to the President of India , during his visit to the State on the 16th Oct.2006 high -lighting the issues involving social and economic life of the people of Manipur that have been on the wane.

As a result, the Ministry of Home Affairs expressing its concern sent its letter (No. 6/35/2007-NE.I dated, 11th June, 2007) to the Chief Secretary of the State for appropriate necessary action and the submission of a report thereon. The Association is really grateful to the President for his concern for the plight of the people of this frontier state. A similar response also came from the Prime Minister; for that we are grateful to the Prime Minister too.

As is the common psychology, we have a deep sense of consternation over the issues involving discomfort, fears and negative associations that we generally do not address the issues in time. However, in reality, the issues weigh heavily on our psyche and public life as well , and it becomes too high a price to pay later. Hence, the demand for an effective and timely addressal. These two vital elements as we presume, are accounted for extending their adequate attention to the vexing issues the Association placed before them. Let it serve as a good beginning in the search for an answer to the problem.

And now with the Second Administrative Reforms Commission in conformity with the terms and spirit of the objective, we feel as though a new dimension is in the offing that would ultimately help in addressing the difficult issues in the best interest of all concerned. We have every reason to repose our faith in the Commission as much as it has in us.

As our representatives of the Association apprised the Commission already of some of the major problems afflicting the State, we now with a vigour, wish to submit this representation to highlight some of the major issues involving the present conflict that requires adept handling with a priority treatment. We begin with the diagnosis of the conflicts.

Symptoms of the conflicts

The present scenario-portrays a chaotic situation- a murderous atmosphere shaking the norms of society we live in at the root in an unprecedented manner with no sight of relent. All the symptoms of an anarchic State a long spell of disorder, conflicts, visible and invisible have all appeared for all to see. Where is the room for development for that the Centre is pumping huge amount of money unlike in the past when the State was normal and needed money most? Development of anti -incumbency sentiment for bringing about this situation and all can be comprehended in full only by an in-depth study of Manipur and her case is made at first.

Land and peoples of Manipur

Nestled between Assam and Burma (Myanmar), Manipur as a kingdom experienced a long tumultuous course of about two thousand years of history. The central valley which is about 1/10th the State size , is the hub of activities while the remaining comprises the mountainous region surrounding the valley and since time immemorial the mountainous range has been the home of medley of tribes. The history of human habitation of Manipur is a continuous one since the Pre-historic Stone Age.

For the last 2 thousand years Manipur existed as an independent kingdom with an uninterrupted record of the rein of kings, Maharajah Budhachandra Singh being the last. The territory of Manipur extended as far as the Southern China in the north, Thibomei (Kohima) and Sibsagar (Assam) included, Loijri in the South and Chandrapore (Cachar) in the West and Ningthi River (Irrawadi) in the East.

Manipuri is the language spoken by the valley and hill people in general and is the lingua franca of more than 30 tribes of Manipur speaking different dialects. The Manipuri language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of language. To-day Manipuri stands for different communities, tribes living in Manipur namely the Meetei / Meitei community, the Pangal (Muslim) community , the Naga tribe and the Kuki tribe etc.

The kingdom was known by different names to different people surrounding the State. The Burmese called it Kathe, the Assamese- Meckley, the Cacharis-Mogli and the Shans-Cassay. The present geographical area of Manipur is 8,650 Sq. miles. It was demarcated by Sir James Jhonstone the Political Agent in Manipur in 1882. Before this, the boundary of Manipur was demarcated in 1834 as reflected in the Agreement regarding the Kubo Valley.

In that the Kubo Valley of 7,000 Sq.m was made over to the Burmese Government on the condition that the Supreme Government pays a monthly stipend of five hundred Sicca Rupees to the Rajah of Manipur vide the Agreement mutually signed by the British and Burmese Commissioners on January 25,1834. In case of reversion of the Kubo Valley to Manipur , as per the Agreement, the allowance thus granted will cease from the date of such reversion .

In research, works done earlier is taken as very important to understand what is under studies now. To know Manipur, its evolutionary aspect of the history is relevant to the issues under discussion i.e." the Conflict Resolution in respect of Manipur". For the purpose, the entire history of Manipur can be conveniently divided into the PRE-MERGER PERIOD and the POST-MERGER PERIOD, on the basis of Manipur's status as- an independent Manipur before the Merger with the Indian Union in 1949 and the post independent Manipur after the Merger.

Pre Merger Period

Historians and Scholars are one in describing the land and people of Manipur as a unique kingdom. This kingdom in the East, with about two thousand years' glorious history behind it had already found a berth in the comity of nations. The people of Manipur defended their territory and the kingdomhood from repeated invasion by the aggressive neighbour, Burma. They fought against the mighty British Imperial Force in 1891. The Anglo- Manipuri war or the Khongjom war of 1891is remembered every year in memory of those who laid down their lives in safeguarding their homeland in a manner beyond description .Manipuri also joined the Indian War of Independence in 1857.

As defined earlier the Manipuris comprise the Meeteis, the Pangals (Muslims), the hill tribes etc. and they were always united and fought shoulder to shoulder in keeping their motherland in tact. The old adage holds true in case of the kingdom. Enemy within , was more dangerous than the enemy outside. Infightings among the royal bloods for the throne and power marked the history of Manipur here and there.

Entry of the Britishers in Manipur and taking share in running the affairs of Manipur in the beginning was not through invasion or war. The episodes of infighting and the seeking of outside military help paved their way. Nevertheless, the kingdom though small could never be subjugated by any force or power.

The kingdom got rid of the British colonial yoke in 1947 by a sheer luck after it became inevitable for them to withdraw from India Burma etc with the end of II World war in 1945. People of Manipur rejoiced over this return of complete Independence, the State sovereignty in full. To some a frission of fear descended however. Before this of course there was every -ground of fear for an endless war- the Second World War or Japan War as is popularly known to the Manipuris.

We all know that Manipur was the centre stage of the War ; repeated and heavy bombings of the State by the Japaneese forces to drive out the British forces and other allied armies brought havoc and devastation. Manipuris suffered most during II world war; no other Indian States suffered so much as Manipur suffered. The Indian National Army (INA) hoisted its flag in the soil of Manipur before the Japaneese force was repulsed from Manipur and Kohima and the two Japaneese cities- Herosima and Nagasaki were atom bombed and destroyed. The II World War came to an end in 1945.

The two War Cemeteries at Imphal and one at Kohima bear the witness of the war atrocities. The INA Museum at Moirang is another war memorial in Manipur. For the people of Manipur, the end of II world war in 1945 and the termination of 56 years' British occupation of Manipur in 1947 could have been the best opportune moment to emerge as a new nation with sufficient experience of exposure had it not been otherwise the case of merger with the newly born nation - the Union of India in the year 1949.

In that two interested forces worked in collusion to effect the integration; from outside the Indian National Congress and from within the Manipur Congress Party founded in 1946. At the same time the Maharajah of Manipur Shri Budhchandra Singh also failed to assert his full authority even as the Political Agent, Mr. G.P.Stewart in a charge handing over meeting in the midnight of 14th and 15th Aug.1947 at the Residency, Imphal declared already as "Your Highness, the British Paramouncy over Manipur State lapse from this moment. The State of Manipur is handed over to your Highness", and consequent upon this the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 was also already proclaimed. His Highness was also the Head of the Council of Ministers .

However, failure on his part to control the situation was a clear message of his weakness that the young and ambitious politicians became more active in their attempt to oust the king and enthrone themselves with the help of Nehru Government with that they had political clout already. The AICC also had already declared the policy in open in 1945 with respect to the question of cessation that no Indian States would be allowed to cede from the newly independent country and if any one tries to do so will be treated as enemy sounding that force will be used.

This was very much in contrast with what Jawharlal Nehru declared in the Parliament that integration of States with the Union of India was not at the level of the Government, it was at the level of the people. The commitment given to the States was never honoured. Such a carrot and stick approach of the Union Government could not be understood by the people at that time not only of Manipur but also of other States. They rather believed the words of Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru who led the Nation and laid the foundation of a strong democratic nation as the holy words.

Merger of Manipur on the 21st Sept. 1949 at Shillong and a hectic strategy of negotiation between the officials and Budhachandra Singh, without the due approval and the backing of his subject as it should have been done in a democratic manner, could never be justified and accepted by any standard that the sense of betrayal is still in the psyche of those witnesses still alive and the children left behind by the departed ones. The event will always remain as a jeremiad for the people of Manipur.

The genesis of all conflicts in the State today surely lies buried in this act of infamous Agreement of Manipur's merger with India in 1949 at Shillong a venue outside the State in a pre-planned manner. The then leaders of India, the Maharajah of Manipur and the politicians who fought for the merger are now no more alive to rue the Agreement act. Perhaps all those involved in shaping the event never anticipated that the State of affairs in which a cause produces an effect which itself produces the original cause and so on.

The growth and development of the frustrated feeling and sentiment since then was taking place underneath as a tuber does in the nature. It is now seen in the set of symptoms that have appeared after the Merger that we will discuss under the Post Merger Period of the history.

Post Merger Period

Whether the hope and aspirations of the freedom loving people of Manipur was taken care of by Delhi and those who have been running the show with their help to the extent necessary to assuage the deeply wounded feeling of the desperate people, is naturally the first question to discuss in the moving scenario after the Merger.

To put the record straight

After the Merger Agreement was signed on the 21st Sept. 1949. Shri Budhachandra Singh to mark the event of the Merger and also handing over the charge of the state's administration, hoisted the tricolour Indian Flag at a thinly attended public ceremony held on 15-10-1949 at Imphal Pologround and also took the salute. The function was attended by Major General Rawal Amar Singh former Dewan, and some officials attached to H.H.

In the announcement made as per an order issued by the Ministry of State, New Delhi dated 15-10-1949, Major General Amar Singh was declared appointed as the 1st Chief Commissioner of Manipur, now a small border state with the putting of a Chief Commissioner to command over it. By another notification issued on the same day, the Chief Commissioner issued an order called the Manipur Administration Order 1949 in the Gazettes of India -according to that the Ministers of Manipur State ceased to function and the legislature stood dissolved.

In a dramatic turn of event, Shri Rawal Amar Singh the 1st Chief Commissioner of Manipur suddenly left the State on the 18th instant after 3 days in the office. His departure was said to be connected with a serious complaint lodged with the Governor of Assam by Shri Budhachandra Singh former Maharaja of Manipur over the unbecoming behaviour shown to him on the next day of his assumption of office. In response to an invitation Shri Budhachandra Singh accompanied by his former P.S and ADC went to Mr. Rawal Amar Singh at the Commissioner's Bunglow at the appointed time.

However, surprisingly the Commissioner was not found in his office, Shri Budhachandra Singh who was the king of Manipur before be handed over the charge felt insulted by Mr. Amar Singh . When Mr. Amar Singh came to Shri Budhachandra Singh's residence the later was so angry and passed the serious remarks " Mr. Amar Singh should understand that one's life is nothing; only a shot is enough to finish it". This was the beginning of an open Conflict after Merger.

Manipur's political History after Merger with India is a tale of series of set-backs. The kingdom was independent before Merger , now the nomenclature is changed with the Merger - though the people remained the same. What is this that the State is now called the Chief Commissioner's Province of Manipur w.e.f. the 23 rd January 1950 with the issue of an order signed by the Governor General, Shri C. Rajagopalchari?

Then it was made the Part 'C" State - next an Union Territory before it attained the Statehood in 1972 through a long struggle. Where is the Merger Agreement? Are all these things in line with the Agreement?

What will support these series of unpopular actions of the Centre? It has indeed been a shoddy treatment to the freedom loving people of this land who expected to share democratic value while joining the Country destined to be called the greatest democracy on earth. The Centre was not supposed to forget the fact that the small kingdom before Merger had its own Constitution and the Constituent Assembly under the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 and the Status of the State should have been respected.

To be continued......

* Dr. A. K. Chishti wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Huiyen Lanpao (English Edition) This article was webcasted on June 07, 2010.

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