Prison Diary of Late Lamyanba Nk Sanajaoba
- Part 2 -

Aheibam Koireng Singh *

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

After somedays, Late Nongmaithem Pahari, who needed no introduction and Late Dr. Manimoham also joined in as prison inmates. They were arrested under FIR 350. That time, N. Pahari was still an employee of All India Radio. Dr. Manimohan runs a homeopathic Clini named 'Rapid Care' at Masjid Road. Dr. Manimohan was a person who played a major role for the emotional integration among the people (hill-valley) of Manipur as an activist of Manipur Cultural Integration Conference (MCIC) under the leadership of Late Maharajkumar Priyabarta.

Pahari and Manimohan was also accomodated at the same room, Room no. 12 with Sanajaoba and Tomchou. Pahari, since already well acquainted with Sanajaoba, three of them including Tomchou share the same bed. At that time, Pahari must be around 35/36 years of age. He seemed slightly senior to Sanajaoba. Pahari also treated Tomchou endearingly after knowing that he is a playwright and also sings popular song in his college life.

In the night time, Pahari spend his time singing at the request of the fellow inmates. Songs sung by Pahari at those times were 'Ho Ema Poknafam Ema Nangumbi Yaode Ema', 'Khonglam Laman Singamloi', 'Ahingda Khongbi Ho Tamna', etc. There was one humorously interesting anecdote about N. Pahari. The prisoner inmates in the jail were paraded and herded like poultry and let to enter one by one, after noting them, by the jail warder.

That day, the total inmates for Room no. 12 was 28. The following day, the warden, Luingam came and unlocked the key. He was a havildar belonging to the native hill community. He started parading some prisoners and counting them. Those arrested in 'revolutionary case' were excluded from the parade. They were counted in their respective bed. That day, the total number count was only 27. Havildar Luingam must have panicked as one number of inmate was less from the preceding count of 28.

The difference in the number count was because Tomchou with his diminutive physical stature went unnoticed as he laid down between physically broad statured and tall Pahari and Sanajaoba. Luingam from the doorstep of the room said, 'Ojha Pahari, the number of prisoner inmate is less'. It seemed Pahari must have realised the situation. He instantly stated, 'Eigi nakandei sirane' (whether the one besides me).

Tomchou also just pulled out his head from inside the blanket. Seeing that, the Havildar went saying, 'ok, ok, everyone please take rest'. Afterwards, they laughed remembering the incident. There was one jail staff whose name is Kondum. He worked as a typist clerk. In the night time, he used to share the meal and slept together with the prisoner inmates. Sanajaoba persuaded Kondum to secretively bring out a copy of jail manual from the staff cupboard.

It contained the rules and regulations which were to be followed in the jails of Assam and Manipur. Tomchou and Sanajaoba hurriedly hand copied the contents of the manual in a night and returned to Kondum. Sanajaoba became more agitated and dissatisfied after reading the jail manual. More importantly, the manual clearly mentioned the quality and quantity of food to be provided to the prisoners. Sanajaoba clearly noticed that all those provisions in the manual were not complied and followed by the Manipur administration.

To sum up, a prisoner should supposedly be given a meal costing Rupees Seven at the rate of those times. But it seemed, they were served with a meal costing only Rupees Three. It came to know that the prisoners were deprived of their due rights. Earlier plead to the Superintendent also doesn't pay any heed. This time also, some of them led by Sanajaoba made a verbal request to the jailor. But it proved futile. From that, Sanajaoba decided to take steps for hunger strike.

That day, they,( including some RGMs) were to produce before the Lamphel DC Court for remand. That morning, they all have decided to not have meal. Doing so, they all have turned up to go court without having meal. They all have walked out of the jail inner gate and paraded near the outside gate for boarding the vehicle. Since, those who went to court the previous days said they were not properly checked, Tomchou also joined in the parade, tucking in two completed scripts in his stomach. But that day was so unfortunate that, Jailor Saranthem Nodiachand was found sitting in a chair taking sun-bath near their parade.

Since he was present, jail staff started screening them one by one. Tomchou suddenly got alarmed, thinking that he would surely be caught this day. Continuingly thinking, what means should he find, he tried to stand at the last. Just at his back, there was one cupboard for keeping guns. He then steadfastly pulled out the scripts and kicked it underneath the cupboard. Nobody took notice of it. Then, all of them after getting throughly checked, lifted the vehicle.

After the vehicle started, he could still properly see scripts. Anxiously thinking whether it was him alone who wass seeing it, they reached the court. After reaching the DC Court, they all sat together in a room. In the meantime, Yambem Tijendra, the editor-in-charge of Lamyanba was just sighted outside from window. Sanajaoba steadfastly pulled out a bunch of paper and throw it outside the window. Tijendra picked it up and went away.

Tomchou was awestruck thinking how Sanajaoba managed to brought it unconcealed despite the rigorous check. Just after Tijendra went, Jailor came in a Jeep vehicle and Sanajaoba was isolated in a room and thoroughly checked. From that, it could be comprehended that, either there was something in relation to the hunger strike going on in the jail after they went or it was suspected that Sanajaoba posesses something in writing about the misdeeds of the government. And Tomchou, thinking of the scripts he kicked in underneath the cupboard, spend time anxious and restless.

After they were remanded at another date, they returned to jail. Tomchou felt a sense of relief when he found the script still there lying intact. During that moment, clerk Kondumba just came out. Tomchou terrifyingly told Kondumba to collect the scripts and bring in when he comes. Saying so, he passed in the inner gate and enter the jail. After reaching jail, they could feel that something had happened.

The authority already have come to know why the prisoners were fasting and who their leader was. Also, it came to know that the authority recovered some of the writings of Sanajaoba which he kept in hiding. It later came to light that it was due to the undercover jail staff among the fellow prisoner inmates. That was a very shameful day for Sanajaoba and other prisoners.

It was because all hunger strikers were herded to the kitchen and made to have their meal. They all ate unwillingly. Sanajaoba was publicly shamed for instigating hunger strike in the prison and also for writing 'Larei Lathup' (tr., Inconvenient Truth) in the 'Yukhal Marumda' column.

(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 11, 2018.

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