TODAY -

Hijam Irabot - Our 'Icon of Revolution' in all walks of life

Dr L Shashikumar Yurembam *

File Photo of Hijam Irabot and his wife RK Khomdonsana
File Photo of Hijam Irabot and his wife RK Khomdonsana :: Pix - Hueiyen Lanpao / Kangla Facebook Group



Manipur was deprived of freedom after its defeat in the Khongjom War, 1891. Major Maxwell came as the British political agent to unite the princely kingdom and brought it under the British rule. Taking the law of the land directly into their hands, the British awarded capital punishment to Bir Tikendrajit and Thangal General for challenging the might of the British and trying to guard Manipur's sovereignty. This left a blazing fire burning in the heart of the helpless Manipuris who were already at the mercy of the British rule.

It was such a time that saw the birth of Hijam Irabot, the Icon of Revolution in Manipur. Born in a simple Meetei family on September 30, 1896 at Pishum Oinam Leikai, Irabot was destined to lose his parts, Hijam Ibungohal and Chongtham Chanu Thambalnganbi at a very young agre. He grew up and began his education under the care of his paternal aunt, Sougaijam Ongbi Ibeton.

After completing his seventh standard, he went to Dhaka for further studies with Sougaijam Somerendra in 1913. His stayed at Dhaka was short-lived and he studied only till the ninth class. In 1915, he wernt to Tripura and stayed there for some time. On his return to Manipur, he did not go back to his aunt's place but stayed at Wangkhei at the residence of Maibam Samdan, who was a member of the Manipur State Durban. By that time, India had also started revolting vehemently against the British rule.

Since childhood, Irabot had been a meticulous boy who always stood for the cause of truth. Whenever, he was free, he used to mingle with people in his society and came to know and understand more about their problems as well as their ways of livelihood. The seed of his commitment to the cause of the sufferings in the society was sown during this very crucial time.

He spearheaded movement towards this goal without turning back. His first and foremost strive was to free Manipur from bondage. Realising that the struggle for independence calls for able and healthy young sons of the soil, Irabot emphasized on upliftment of sports in the state. He was the one who initiated the organization of various sports tournaments like Football, Hockey and Cricket, which were first of its kinds in Manipur. He also focused his attention on the cultural and economic development of the State.

Much of the literary trends in Manipur also owe its existence to Neta Irabot. In 1922, he published 'Meetei Chanu', a journal, and thus laid the foundation stone for arts and literature among Manipuri daughters whom Irabot always held at the highest esteem.

Irabot was also the first who tried to cast the reflection of the western civilization in Manipur. As a dramatic persona, his place was unchallenged. He played the roles of women in various plays like the much acclaimed. In 'Nar Singh' of Lairenmayum Ibungohal, he was the Kumuda. In the play 'Areppa Marup', he played the part of Chandra Singh.

All his plays reflected his intense love for the motherland and always threw light on the mother-son relationship and the sorrows and pains there when the two are separated. The Manipur Dramatic Union was formed on 17 April, 1930. His intention behind all these activities was to instill in each Manipuri the love of motherland and to groom the younger generation and led them towards a common goal- to attain freedom.

By then, Irabot's personality attracted the attention of the royal family and the King's courtiers. Thus, he was offered the hands of Khomdonsana, Sir Churachand Maharaj's niece. Subsequently, he was made a member of the Sadar Panchayat which made him to leave his initial profession as a teacher. Even after his sudden change in social status, Irabot never betrayed his commitment to the cause of the common people. He tried his best to abolish discrimination in the society in the name of religion. Stories are still being told about the incidents in which Irabot personally involved in cremating dead bodies shunned by the Brahmins as unholy and conducted the Shradha ceremony by performing the rites himself.

One of the most important incidents with which we associated Irabot is the 'Nupi Lan' (Women's War). He was the man who left behind many unforgettable imprints on the pages of Manipur history. He also laid the foundation for 'Manipuri Krishi Sammelan', an organization for the farmers and helped them to voice many of their demands and wants. This was an eye opener for the farmers of the time and also ushered in the trend of public participation in the functioning and governing of the state.

Irabot believed in solidarity and the feeling of oneness among the Manipuris of the hills and the valley. For the first time in the history of Manipur, he instilled political consciousness in the minds of the public.

During the time of 'Nupi Lan' when shouting slogans were banned, he led the agiotation by singing songs that produced a dynamic effect on the minds of the people. Because of his involvement in the various social and political issues brewing up in the state, a criminal case was filed against him by the Manipur State Durbar. The idea of communism was born and he became an ardent communist while in prison. After being released from the jail, Irabot was barred from entering his homeland, Manipur. During these years, he participated in many conventions and meetings of the Communist party.

In 1948 at a Communist party meeting at Calcutta (now Kolkata), the idea of armed revolution was broached up and Irabot supported it. He later became a full-fledged member of Communist party when it became a National party. He was elected from Utlou Constituency in the 1948 election. Many youth and women came forth to join his party.

September 21, 1948 proved to be a milestone in Hijam Irabot's life as a revolutionary, popularly known as the 'Pungdongbam Incident'. This day saw the emergence of Neta Irabot as an underground activist. The Government announced a reward of Rs 10,000 to anyone who could tell Irabot's whereabouts. But there was no Manipuri who would betray his love and sacrifice. Even during his period of hiding, Irabot rendered his services for the development of the society. He went to Burma (now Myanmar) in 1950 and continued to work for the people at the International level. On the 26th September, 1951, in a remote village of Burma called Tangubo Sedo, Irabot breathed his last.

'Revolution' in Manipur in almost all fields was pioneered by Hijam Irabot. He strove till his last to build a firm and developed society as each day in Manipur unveiled more bitter experiences for the masses. Irabot, his life and person, has today become an indispensable memory. A leader and revolutionary like him is what Manipur needs now.


* Dr L Shashikumar Yurembam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on September 30, 2012.



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