TODAY -

Patriots' Day

L. Devakumar Singh *

Patriots' Day Observation at Heecham Yaicham Pat, Imphal on - Pix Credit :: Banti Ph
Patriots' Day Observation at Heecham Yaicham Pat, Imphal - Pix Credit :: Banti Ph



Every year, people of Manipur observe Patriots' Day in remembrance of all those patriots who laid down their lives gracefully for the cause of Manipuri nation challenging the mighty British Empire. They knew very well that defeat is at sight but that never deterred them (Jubraj Tikendrajit, Thangal General and others) thinking that living freely and independently for a moment is better than living in perpetual slavery.

Time has come for us to learn from our past history that familial feud opened up an opportunity for those opportunists who wish to colonise and suppress us. Jubraj Tikendrajit, Thangal General and Paona Brajabashi played a major role in the governance of the kingdom of Manipur in the third quarter of the 19th century. They were the heroes of the highest order who thought for the welfare and independence of the motherland.

This day - 13th August is very important and unforgettable day in the history of the Manipuri nation because the three prominent figures who played a dominant role in the political helm of the kingdom of Manipur and many unknown soldiers laid down their lives gracefully in order to save the nation from perpetual colonisation by the mighty British imperial forces. It was on this day in 1891 that is 121 years ago at Phaidabung known today to the people as Bir Tikendrajit Park, Jubraj Tikendrajit, Thangal General, Kajao, and Chirai Thangal were hanged before the very eyes of general public.

This very day remind us the brave sons of the soil. It is no wonder that such a small kingdom with little army stood against the British imperialism and sacrificed their lives as martyrs for the cause of the future generation. From the example of these brave heart leaders we must learn the true spirit of patriotism.

This is good to remember that our internal feud, unfit leader, disunity and non-compromising attitudes, greed and jealousy led to the lost of our dearest sovereignty. History is the clear example that if there is no unity in the country outside power would seize the opportunity to enslave and rule over them.

Here, let me illustrate the brief historical background of the Anglo-Manipuri War. Manipur and Colonial British India had a friendly relation right from 1824 to 1891. However, there were two stages in which possibility of confrontation between the kingdom of Manipur and British Empire could be witnessed. The first one was in 1834 when the disagreement between Manipur and British imperialist emerged over the issue of appointment of regent of the infant king Chandrakriti Singh. The then agent of the Governor General of India T.C Robertson intended to appoint Maharani Kumudini, the Queen of late Maharaja Gambhir Singh as a regent.

However, the then government of Manipur intended to appoint Nara Singh, the younger brother of Gambhir Singh as the regent of the infant king. The tense situation, however, subsided following the transfer of T.C.Roberstson and appointment of Nara Singh as the regent by Major Grant, the then commissioner of Manipur respecting the wishes of Manipuri subjects. Other serious differences emerged between Kingdom of Manipur and the British over the question of sending Tikendrajit in exile.

Nevertheless the proposal of the then political agent of Manipur, Mr.Grimwood, was declined by the British Imperialist government of India and thus the possibility of conflict automatically receded.

This was how the British colonial government slowly and gradually begun to meddle in the internal affairs of the independent Manipur. History is the clear example that our differences and callousness and greed for leadership provided a gateway to the British Colonial Government of India to accomplish their nefarious designs. However, the brave son of the soil Tikendrajit stood firmly against the mighty British Empire.

He is today remembered by the present generation for his fearless fight for the safeguard of the sovereignty of the kingdom of Manipur. For his bravery and fearlessness he is known as 'Lion of Manipur'. Manipur was an Independent kingdom till 1891. The internal feud and the seven years devastation in the hands of Burma became one of the reasons for the interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom of Manipur by the British.

In the First Anglo-Burmese war (1824-26), Gambhir Singh fought against the Burmese with the help of the British. As a result of which many returned home and Gambhir Singh was recognised as the king of Manipur by the British. However, most of the powers were usurped by the British. Meddling in the governance particularly in the external affairs by the British could not be prevented by the king of Manipur.

More Interference in the internal affairs of Manipur could be seen during the reign of Maharaj Surchandra Singh. Being a member of the royal family Tikendrajit knew quite well about the ulterior motives of the British. The spirit of freedom and love of motherland ran very high in the vein of Tikendrajit right from the very childhood. The untimely demised of Jhalakriti made Tikendrajit the Commander-in-Chief of the army.

However, internal rivalry among the princes led to disunity, discord, dissension and division of royal family into two rival camps. The emergence of faction further promotes the cold war between Pakasana and Tikendrajit. Even though king Surchandra knew the situation he did not do anything to control the situation. On the other hand, the king Surchandra did not know the design of the British who are gradually tightening the noose of the administration of Manipur. As a result of which he joined hands with those like minded brothers and revolted against the king on 22nd Sept. 1890. This incident is known as the 'Palace Revolt' in the history of Manipur. Following this King Surchandra and his brother Pakasana took shelter in the British Residency.

It was there in the British residency King Surchandra expressed his desire to go on a pilgrimage and settle in Vrindaban. After spending nearly thirty six hours in the British residency he made a formal announcement of the abdication of throne in writing in favour of his brother Jubraj Kulachandra Singh. However, once he reached Calcutta, he changed his mind and put up a petition to the British government of India requesting to reinstate in the previous position which he stated was forced to abdicate.

After a due deliberation on the matter the British government in India made a decisive decision to recognize Kulachandra as a king of Manipur and send Tikendrajit in exile, who was considered 'villain' only because he was strong, powerful and intelligent. In order to intimate the decision of the British government of India, the Chief Commissioner of Assam, Mr. J.W.Quinton was being sent to Manipur with 400 soldiers. Soon immediately after reaching Manipur he called for a durbar.

Somehow Tikendrajit came to know that the durbar was a plot to capture him. So he returned home on the pretext of ill health. Therefore the durbar was held in the next morning at 8 O'clock but could not reach to any consensus. Subsequently the Chief Commissioner expressed his desire to return and asked for coolies and requested to arrange a Ras Dance. On the same night the British attacked the palace of Manipur but could not capture Tikendrajit. They tortured women, children and destroyed idols.

Following this there was hot exchange of fire between the Manipuri troops and the British. In course of exchange of fire Lt. Brackenbury was grievously wounded, and three Ghurkha soldiers were killed. Besides, Lt. Luggard and fourteen others were also wounded. As no other means was available Quinton sought for an armistice which was agreed to by both sides and the Manipuri also stopped fighting. Later Mr. Quinton, the chief commissioner of Assam, Col.Skene, Mr. Grimwood, Cossions and Lt. Simpson left residency for Durbar at the palace.

Even after a long discussion the two parties could not come to term. As no agreement could come the British Officers started for the residency but they were attacked on their ways by the irate mob and instantly killed Mr. Grimwood Lt. Simpson. The surviving British officers, after giving shelter for two hours in the Durbar Hall, were handed over to the public executioner and then beheaded before the Kangla Sha (Dragon). Thus the old prophecy that the heads of the white men would roll before the dragon comes true. About mid-night, the Manipuris again opened fire on the residency, and after a short interval Mrs.Grimwood wife of Political Agent and Captain Boileu fled to Cachar for life.

As soon as the news reached, the British authority sent three columns of army at once to Manipur and thus the Anglo-Manipuri war of 1891 began. Following the defeat of Manipur in the war the British became the master of our land and the Manipur lost their dearest freedom and became a colonised people. As a consequence of war, Tikendrajit, and Thangal General were arrested and hanged on 13 August 1891. The Regent Kullachandra, Angousana, Zillangamba and other important personalities were transported to the Andamans for life. Besides, Niranjan Subedar, Kajao and Chirai Thangal who speared Grimwood and attacker of signaller were also hanged.

Thus, this very day became an unforgettable day in the history of Manipur. This day, very often, reminds us those brave heart heroes who held sovereignty so dearly. Because of their sacrifice today we are able to stand firmly in our land.

Time has come for us to strive for a better and prosperous future by putting our selfless efforts. Let us uphold the dignity and independence of our nation. Let us mend the errors of the past and shoulder the responsibility of building a nation devoid of sectarianism, communalism and corruption. Let us bridge the artificial gap that is scheming since last couple of decades. Let us wipe out the communal politics that has crept into our society. Let us give up indoctrinated and paranoia-stricken mindset.

In my opinion the true tribute to our heroes is what you do for peace, progress and prosperity of the state. Let us remember and cherish those good deeds of our heroes.




* L. Devakumar Singh wrote this article as part of the Hueiyen Lanpao [English Edition]
This article was posted on August 12, 2013.



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