TODAY -

Prison Diary of Late Lamyanba Nk Sanajaoba
- Part 1 -

Aheibam Koireng Singh *

NK Sanajaoba Memorial Observation on November 11 2013
NK Sanajaoba Memorial Observation on November 11 2013 :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao



Late Nongmeikakpam Sanajaoba popularly known as Lamyanba Sanajaoba is without question accepted by one and all as the pioneer of investigative journalism in Manipur. He took active role in the formation of Pan Manipur Youth League (PANMYL) in the year 1968. In 1969, he became the founding editor of the monthly journal, 'Lamyanba', brought out by PANMYL. Lamyanba emerged as a total diversion from the existing publications and periodicals of those times, as it pioneered the investigative journalism in Manipur. He was imprisoned in August 1969.

Many said, he was arrested for lampooning the then Chief Commissioner of Manipur, Baleshwar Prasad as 'Looter of Palace Gun', 'Amuraba Alibaba' (tr., Blackie Alibaba) in his write-up at Lamyanba Journal, and a publication brought out by PANMYL titled, 'What is wrong in Manipur' on charge of sedition. Athokpam Tomchou, a well known playwright, who was with him together at the prison said, all of them, who got arrested in the same month of August, were charged under the same First Information Report (FIR) charging them with various sections relating with 'sedition' and 'waging war against the state'.

They all arrested under FIR 350 (8) 69/ US 395/397/431/436/120B/IPC and 11 West Bengal Security Act & 25 @ Arms Act. NK Sanajaoba, along with some of those arrested in connection with sedition and waging war against the state was accommodated at Room No. 1. 'Raghu Gunda' of Singjamrei Kshetri Leikai, greatly famed for his notoriety, imprisoned in connection with the criminal activities, was a ring-leader of all the prisoners.

All of them fear him and was under his control. Even those who were years senior to him reverently called him 'Tamo' out of fear. It was at his room that Sanajaoba and Tomchou together were accommodated. Prisoners were served fish curry every Friday. The fishes meant for jail inmates, before being taken to the Kitchen room of the prison, considerable quantity of it used to be part off by Raghu and stoked alive for his personal consumption and nobody objected.

He ate it daily either fried or cooked at the kerosene stove in his room. NK Sanajaoba, being his locality elder, also, at his insistence used to have meal with him sharing his prepared fishes. All of them were freed after spending about 15 days in Jail.

One Sanasam Joychandra from Chingamakha was killed in firing by CRPF personnel in connection with the agitation for demanding statehood during the visit by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In its immediate aftermath, all of them including Sanajaoba who recently got released were again arrested under non-bailable warrant.

Most of them were accommodated at Room no 12 together with some of the convicted Meitei State Committee rebels. Since Raghu was no longer in the prison, they also ate what was being served for all. The meal served was pest ridden badly odoured filthy Usna Rice for storing long in the godown. Fish curry was served every Friday. Otherwise it was Dal most of the time though vegetables were occasionally served.

If at times, new prisoners were send in at the evening, the cook of the prison, just to make it sufficient, poured water at the vessel of the cooked dish. At that time, Ibomcha 'Mijaba' (tr., Man-eater) of Meitei State Committee, along with some other convicts cooked food for the prisoners. The quantity of meal for a prisoner was just a bowl each of rice and dish.

It seemed after having such food in the prison, a strong motive for protest and reformation was born in the minds of Sanajaoba. It afterwards came to greater light in the subsequent events. As first step, uncooked rice was distributed to each room in the morning before cooking. That was done so that prisoner could screen out the stones and pest from the rice grains for their consumption.

Sanajaoba stored those stones and pests screened out from the rice in an empty Vicks Can and kept it safely with him. He later showed those pests and stones to the Jail superintendent when he came for the inspection visit and protested with a demand for providing quality food. The Superintendent, before he went, assured stating, 'Yes, I'll look into the matter'. Even then, nothing happened and there was no improvement.

At that time, there was a trend of abusing the new-comer prisoners by asking their reason of imprisonment or by giving any flimsy ground. In the process, new-comers were physically assaulted, made to sweepbroom and wipe the room and clean the toilet. Sanajaoba objected such act and afterwards it was no longer done. All the prisoners respect Sanajaoba. Those others imprisoned in connection with 'revolutionary case' were also respected.

Tomchou and Sanajaoba, together decided to try writing by bringing in pen and paper, since they thought, they were going to serve jail time long term as they got arrested under non-bailable warrant. At that time, prisoners were forbidded from writing and posessing pen and paper. There was a criteria for providing specific number of blank paper to 'A' and 'B' Class political prisoner. But they were classed in 'C' category together with the ordinary prisoners.

So, pen and paper was forbidded to them. So, Tomchou and Late Sanajaoba decided to write secretively. Writing had been the heart and soul for both of them. At that time, Tomchou, as scriptwriter, had already to his credit about four stage plays and ten courtyard plays. Sanajaoba treated Tomchou with great affection and love. The pseudonym used by Tomchou in his writings as pen name, 'Atom Luwang' was coined by Sanajaoba while they were together in the prison.

That way, they started well set for the writing. One ink fountain pen was bought for him. And the paper was brought in by the convicted prisoners who were less censored by the jail staffs. As for Tomchou, at the day of his appearing before the court, some ball pen refill were brought in by inserting it inside the fly-chain of his pant. And a pen was made by putting the refill inside a 'Langchak' (tr., Bobbin).

But he still doesn't have any paper. Somehow, he had to find ways. He wrote a script of the play diagonally superimposedly against the parallely printed letters of the Science Reporter copy with a red colour refill. That script titled, 'College Girl' was (Courtyard) played by the yesteryears famous comedian, Oinam Babu and his party. After that, another play titled, 'Ningsinbidraba Ningthemcha' (tr., Forgotten Ningthemchas) based on the life of Ningthem Herachandra was scripted.

Another Drama titled, 'Keishumshang' based on his experience in the prison was also scripted. So, he altogether wrote three scripts during his prison life. Sanajaoba too wrote many essays for his 'Lamyanba' peroidical. Sanajaoba and Tomchou slept together in the same bed. Their bed was laid cornermost so that it would not be sighted at the vigil of the jail staff. They also persuaded the fellow inmates for not disclosing about their writing to the jail staff. They also distributed cigarettes and bought tea at the canteen for the fellow inmates to win over them.

(As told by Athokpam Tomchou, and also referred to his article, 'Jailgi Punsida Lamyanba NK Sanajaoba', 29-30 November 2005, Poknafam, Vernacular Daily, Imphal.)


To be continued....


* Aheibam Koireng Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The Writer is an Assistant Professor at Centre for Manipur Studies, Manipur University
This article was posted on May 05, 2018.


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