TODAY -

Reminiscence of Usharba, an unsung hero
- Part 2 -

Joyshree Usham *



My father told me his great uncle, Pabung Usharba, accompanied Angou Sana, the Senapati and Nilamani Ayapurel, Major, to Thoubal during the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 that followed and after days of fighting, he returned with Ayapurel to the capital.

I regret not being aware of these facts in my past. The saying:'better late than never' comes alive when I stumbled upon these facts over a casual yet enriching conversation which I shared with my parents and especially with my Baba (my father) over our meals. I am grateful to know about these facts now at this stage in life and I wish I knew it before as a child, in my younger days in college.

My ancestral Uncle would have never even crossed in his mind and in his dreams that more than a century later his great great daughter (mashunupi) would be reminiscing about his involvement and his sacrifices with tearful eyes and writing this article.

He was only 36 years old when he along-with eight others namely Abungjao Yenkoiba, Chowbi Hidam Machahal, Ghun Singh Khongdram, Khamba Singh Laisraba, Dhojo Singh Mayungbam, Noni Singh Nepra Machahal, Trilok Singh Nongthoiba Satwal, Dhon Singh Sagolsenb were arrested and charged with the murder of JW Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam, Colonel Skene, Lieutenant Simpson, and Cossins and they were found guilty and directed that they should be hanged till death.

The order was passed by H Maxwell, Chief Political Officer, Manipur on 6th of July, 1891. This sentence order was to be confirmed by the General Officers Commanding Manipur field forces.

HM Collect in his order dated 8th July, 1891 directed that the 'Capital Punishment' should be reserved for those who from possession of rank and power in the State were able if they chose to exert a real influence on the course of events and should not be inflicted on persons, such as the accused, who were merely servants and subordinates.

Much thankfulness to the judgement as he didn't therefore confirmed, the death sentence was not passed on them. Thus the commutation of the death sentence was left in the hands of the Government. The Govt. of India, vide secretary order No. 1653 E dated 18.8.1891, the capital punishment was reduced to the transportation for life to the Andaman and Nicobar Jail. My dad on his accounts on Usharba said they were deported to Tezpur Jail on Sept. 4, 1891 and later finally to their exile destination at Andaman and Nicobar Jail.

Usharba leaving behind his three-month old pregnant wife, his dear parents, a sickly brother and his youngest brother Usham Amujao Singh ( my baba's grandfather) and other near and dear ones left for his exile never to return again.

It is said that Usharba was released from Andaman and Nicobar Jail in about 1896 and was allowed to settle at Tezpur of the Darrang District in Assam. I would like to mention here that his release year from Andaman and Nicobar Jail is reckoned as there is a saying that he left his last son three months old in his mother's womb and this son when about a little more than 3 years old accompanied his uncle Usham Amujao Singh, youngest brother of Usharba, to see his father at Tezpur.

The mixed emotions of immeasurable joy and pain my ancestral Uncle must have felt upon seeing his little one who had come all the way to see his father; the regret that he must have felt in his heart that he couldn't see him as a newly born, those cooing and babbling of the early years that he had missed and could never ever re-experience again. Those first tiny steps he had missed to hold his hands. These and many more he must have felt which is beyond my ability to express in words.

There is no historical account and it is for me to surmise the emotional conditions, Usharba and other convicts must have felt and experienced, not to forget the deep hurt the family members must have endured. We can only assume on humane ground what they must have gone through. That deep pain and hurt which they must have felt knowing that they will never see each otheragain breaks my heart even today as I imagine that bygone but inerasable era.

My dad also told us that his grandfather Usham Amujao singh had a flourishing business at Lamlong Bazaar and used to visit his brother there in Tezpur after his release from Andaman and Nicobar Jail. Some local traders also used to halt for the night at his residence at Tezpur when they went there for business. I have been told thatUsharba had done quite well in his business in Tezpur.

It is said that when the family deity kept at Adhikari Mayum, a Brahmin family of Thangmeiband Lilashing Khongnang khong where his descendants are nowliving, was stolen, he sent money for re-installation of the deity. It is also believed that some close relatives of Usharba deserted him fearing that they would be in trouble and didn't want to associate with him lest they would also be charged with the involvement of the murder of the Sahibs. Usharba's own younger brother was not arrested as he was sickly and suffering from an incurable disease and his youngest brother Amujao was too young to be arrested.

Though Usharba had earned enough money from his business there in Tezpur, he never remarried. Again here I can only surmise the pain and hurt he must have felt as he dearly missed his family and yearned to be back to his hometown. Money can't buy the bliss of being with near and dear ones. When he became old and infirm, his younger brother Usham Amujao Singh requested His Highness Maharaj Churachand Singh to allow his brother to settle at Radhakund, Vrindavan as he was already denied access to Manipur. Upon getting the requisite permission from the Govt of India, Amujao accompanied his brother to Radhakund where Usharba alias Usham Aru Singh breathed his last.

Separation from whatever maybe the reason, death or circumstantial is never easy. I believe in humanity, I believe in peace and harmony, I believe in love. Usharba did his part as was expected of a dutiful citizen to his motherland. Neither am I supporting the Sahibs nor other leaders of the war. I am just upset to see the loss of lives and the pains of separations from dear ones endured by both the parties.

As I read the book (My three years in Manipur) by Mrs. Grimswood , I could feel her pains too, theloss of her husband who was killed…as she writes towards the end of her book….but meanwhile hearts ache, and longings will arise for 'the touch of a vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still,' and the hard lesson will have to be learned that nothing is our own—no not even those who seem apart of our very lives, around whom all our tenderest interests and highest hopes cling.

And this I believe must have been the exact feelings my ancestral uncle and aunty must have felt for each other too when they were separated by the unexpected, unplanned and helpless circumstantial situations that destiny had laid before them. And that was the story of my great great Uncle Usharba who had no opportunity of returning to his beloved motherland Manipur, but breathe his last with the painful yearnings piercing through his heart in a foreign land.

Concluded....


* Joyshree Usham wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on September 04, 2016.



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