Irawat the Legend
- Part 3 -

Joyshree Usham *

A Statue of Hijam Irabot as seen at Jiribam town in second week of October 2014
A Statue of Hijam Irabot as seen at Jiribam town in second week of October 2014 :: Pix - RC Mangang

With India's independence and the overthrow of the British Raj there was a fresh breath of air and this had reached Manipur too. Finally, Irawat was able to return to Manipur. Upon his arrival, he started organising a number of mass organisations like the Praja Sangh, Krishak Sabha and also the communist Party.

In order to unify the struggle of the hills and plains people, Irawat called a meeting of representatives of nine parties and associations of the tribal people on 30th November, 1947, which came to a common understanding about their various demands. This I would say is the act of a true son of the soil, a selfless leader unlike our many present generations leader fuelled by their selfish drives and greed trying to take advantage of the various diversities we have in our state.

The first Great Patriots' Award for the year 1986 was posthumously awarded to Irawat on the Patriots' Day, the 13th August 1987 for his supreme sacrifice for the great cause of our people and Motherland with the spirit of patriotism and peaceful co-existence Irawat also won the first election held in Manipur in 1948 conducted under the Constitution Act of 1947.

He was among the five candidates who won out of 23 candidates put up by the Manipur Krishak Sabha party. He contested from the Utlou Assembly constituency. It was around this time that Sardar Patel was going ahead with the proposal of forming a north-eastern frontier province under the name 'Purvanchal Pradesh' including Manipur, Cachar, Lushai Hills and Tripura. There was a strong protest in the state against this and thus the government banned all meetings.

A protest meeting was organised by Irawat and his followers on 21st of Sept 1948 at Manipur Dramatic Union Hall, Yaiskul. People from all over the state started coming there. The police attacked the procession where several members of Krishak Sabha and Praja Sangha from the eastern part of Imphal Valley were proceeding on foot to the reach the venue of the meeting.

One such clash took place at Pungdongbam wherein a police officer was killed. Irawat was at his residence preparing to go for the meeting when all this happened. On the pretext of this incident, ban orders were passed and arrest warrants were issued against Irawat and many other leaders of Krishak Sabha.

Thus, Irawat and other leaders went underground. Despite the government's announcement for a cash reward of Rs. 10,000 on Irawat's head, he couldn't be arrested and he continued his work from underground. It is said that when the British paramountcy was about to lapse in India one Reginald Coupland, Professor of Constitutional History of India at Oxford University, had written to the Political Agent of Manipur to keep the hill regions of Manipur as British Territory like Hong kong under colonial rule, and to this Irawat vehemently protested and stood for the territorial integrity of Manipur comprising both the valley and the Hills as an independent state.

During his underground period, under the influence of sectarian line followed by the party, many armed struggles were going on even in other states including Manipur. Thereby the government set up police camps in all the villages. Irawat in order to get help to this movement was sent to Burma to contact the guerrillas functioning there. He started his journey in the hot summer of May,1950, and stayed there for almost a year doing works for liberation for his motherland. He tried to seek help for his cause. At that time Civil War was going on in Burma (now Myanmar).

The Communist Party of Burma under Thakin Than Tun, the Burmese Communist Party under ThakinSoe, the People's Comrade Party, the karens, Mons, Shans, Arakanese, and a host of other armed groups were fighting among themselves and against the reactionary regime of U Nu. There he met all the revolutionary leaders and convinced them to unite against the common enemy and a tripartite unity conference of the CPB, BCP and PCP was held on June 1951.

Irawat also convinced them to materially help and support the Manipur's Struggle. After his mission in Burma, Irawat decided to return to Manipur to his parent unit. But unfortunately he was attacked by Typhoid fever when he reached the twin Burmese village of Tangbo-Shwedo and died on 26th September, 1951 after a short illness of just five days. He was no doubt given a funeral with military honours by the Burmese guerrillas.

Hemango Biswas (Irawat's colleague and friend) recalled that when he went to a village nearly 8 km from Imphal to attend a rural cultural gathering in 1955 which was organised by the Kisan Sabha , none believed that Irawat was dead, "Irawat will come", was the general feeling.

He said he was moved to tears when he heard a song on Irawat sung by a soprano in the traditional KhullangIshei in a doleful tune.

Irawat, our beloved leader
Manipur wants you to come back
You have sacrificed everything for us
14 Irabot Day Observance 2016 Irabot Day Observance 2016 15
You have suffered for us
Oh! You come back.

It is said, 'You are not rich enough until you have something which money can't buy.' Hijam Irawat Singh our versatile leader, the son of the soil, the visionary leader of Manipur might not have accumulated wealth and properties like the leaders of our present day, but he would be the richest man because he got something which money can't buy and that is the love, respect and admiration of his people.

His deeds and sacrifices will be remembered for ages to come. He will live forever in the hearts and mind of his children, his people. He is a legend and legend never dies.

1. Irawat –Sentinel of the East
2. Immortal Heroes, Lives of Communist Leaders
3. Souvenir of Birth centenary celebration of Jananeta Irabat Singh,1996
4. Resistance Tuesday October 5, 1976
5. Select Documents of Jananeta Hijam Irawat vol-1, Manipur State Archives
6. Freedom Fighters Records in the Manipur State Archives, 1986


* Joyshree Usham (M. Sc. Applied Psychology, B. Ed.) wrote this article for a booklet publication of Irabot Day Observance Committee Delhi 2016
This article was posted on October 13, 2016.

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