Constituent Assembly Of India & North East Frontier Agency
- Part 1 -

Dr. Karam Manimohan Singh *

The first issue of Irabot's weekly journal Anouba Jug was produced on Sunday, the 13th April, 1947. It was a handwritten cyclostyled journal having 8 (eight) pages. Due to lack of a proper technical skill the result was not of a good quality and sometimes the handwritten print was found illegible. Also backed up by a great deficiency in the arts of journalism the paper did not have a good scope of reading public and so it could not last long. But the quality of the paper was that it contained the most challenging news of the political situation and a healthy criticism on the Government policy in its Editorial columns.

In the first issue of the journal Irabot wrote an article under the heading Manipur State Constitution-Making Committee:
As a matter of fact, most of the Manipuri subjects do not realize the manner in which the Constitution-Making Committee was formed. They requested to postpone the election for a few days more, but the State authorities in a most undemocratic way and without heading to the public demand had assembled in camera, and immediately formed the Committee. Also in the manner of formation, there was no mention of the responsibility for voting rights, no representative of the minority section, no applied rules of general elections. Members of the Committee had been selected on the 20th January 1947, and His Highness's announcement on the formation of the Committee was addressed on the 10th March, 1947.

This Committee has been playing double roles by overriding the existing democratic principles. Moreover, the Manipur State Congress have joined hands with the Committee would have the right to give administrative advice to His Highness the Maharaja; but now the Maharaja has confessed in his royal declaration that the Committee would suggest administrative advice to the State Darbar only.

It is not the proper time to realise the great loss of our national democratic rights, but the people will one day clearly understand their past mistakes when the proposed resolutions of the Committee have been approved by the Governor of Assam and the Governor General of India.

The Committee had their meetings consecutively on the 24th, 25th, 27th and 29th of March, 1947. Some candidates of the Manipur State Congress expressly announced that all resolutions adopted by the Committee and their meetings held at the Maharaja's Darbar Hall would be made public. Now it has been proved to be apparently a Private Council in the State Darbar Hall giving no permission of entrance even to the Press-men. The Manipur Praja Sangha in this connection openly express that the Committee is not an assembly of the Legislative Members, but a soft cover to throw dust in the peoples' eyes.

The committee held their meetings for 4 days, but still the Government Representatives or the Congress candidates have not revealed the proceedings so far. Dr. Leiren Singh editor of the Bhagyavati Patrika, who is also a member in the Committee has not published the resolutions in his paper too.

The Manipur Praja Sangha held their 3rd Session on the 16th and 17th of March, 1947, at Khurai under the President ship of Irabot. Some 230 representatives' and people from distant areas of the State and members of Sangha nearly amounting to over one thousand attended the Session. In his presidential speech Irabot spoke on the political situation of Manipur in a comparative manner with the Indian scene. He also mentioned about the lack of a democratic principle in the formation of the Constitution-Making Committee, non-existence of a universal franchise in Manipur and the proposed move of a division between the Hills and the Valley.

Some of the resolutions adopted in the Session were as follows:
1. To reconsider the Indian States Grouping of the Khasi Hills, Tripura and Manipur which represent only one seat in the Indian Constituent Assembly, special arrangements could be made on Tripura and the Khasi States in order to facilitate Manipur to have one separate representative.

2. To move for an abolition of the undemocratic body of Constitution-Making Committee and, to join hands with the Congress leaders for a common demand of a full-fledged Legislative Assembly.

3. To reduce taxes on Loukhol etc.2

As to the background of the resolution No. 1, in January, 1946, Mr. C.G. Herbert, Secretary of the Chamber of Princes, had informed the Maharaja of Manipur that as a result of the Bill taken for the group in which the Manipur State was included, one Mr. G.S. Guha, Revenue Minister of Tripura, had been declared elected to the Committee of Ministers.3 Mr. Guha was to represent Mayurbhanj, Tripura, Manipur and Sikkim. When working as an Under Secretary in the Political Department, Government of Assam, sometime in 1930, Mr. Guha came in touch with the affairs of the Manipur State, and in 1934, he paid a visit to the State while working as a Judge in the Assam Valley Districts.

He retired as a Deputy Commissioner from Assam in December, 1945, and accepted the offer of the Tripura State to work as one of its Ministers. Again in November, 1946, Mr. Guha was invited by His Highness the Chancellor to discuss several matters in the Special Committee, as well as in the Committee of Ministers' about the selection of Members to the Constituent Assembly from the Indian States.

Ail of the Indian States had been allotted 93 Members based on population, one Member for each 10 lakhs of people, Sikkim, Manipur and Tripura could not, therefore, claim individual representation. It was thus suggested that these States along with the Khasi Hills State should among themselves select a representative.4

The Secretary to the Governor of Assam had strongly advised Maharaja Bodha Chandra to ask Mr. Guha to represent Manipur State and Depute Maharaja Kumar PriyaBrata as Adviser to Mr. Guha. The matter was of importance and great urgency because the Constituent Assembly of India had already begun. As the right of appointing a Member to the Constituent Assembly was based on a population of 10 lakhs, the only way for the Manipur State to participate in the Assembly was by combination with Tripura, Sikkim and the Khasi Hills State which Mr. Guha was representing. The Secretary wrote to the Maharaja of Manipur:
Unless this opportunity is taken, it will presumably not be possible for Your Highness's State to get any representation at all at the Constituent Assembly, a position which, in view of the probably great changes likely to occur in this country, might have regrettable consequences for the future of the Manipur State.

In accordance with this instruction from His Excellency the Agent to the Crown Representative, Maharaja Bodha Chandra had agreed to depute his brother Maharaj Kumar Priyabrata as Adviser to Mr. Guha so long as he was the representative of the Manipur State in the Constitutional Assembly matters.6 But Maharaja Bodha Chandra has strongly impressed on his brother to observe two important points in the discharge of his works as adviser to Mr. Guha. Firstly, he was to represent only such cases as were agreed upon between himself and the Maharajah. Secondly, each of the States of Tripura, Sikkim, Manipur and the Khasi Hills would have a chance of representing in the Constituent Assembly by turn for specified periods.7

In the last week of January, 1947, Maharaja BodhaChandra sent a letter to the Director of the Constitutional Affairs Secretariat, Chamber of Princes at New Delhi. He Stated that in view of the grave importance and the outstanding features of the Manipur State, he determined to appoint additional Advisers (at least2) who were well conversant with the gradual political and historical development of Manipur, the matters concerning the Hill tribes and the valley people, and the existing day-today political problems. The grounds on which Maharaja Bodha Chandra expressed his desire to have a separate representative of the Manipur State on the Constituent Assembly were as follows.

(a) It was not quite safe to have a representative who would mainly depend upon information's supplied by the Advisers without having full, personal and local knowledge of the matters he was dealing with.

(b) The representative for the Manipur State should for all practical purposes be a person, whether official, who was well conversant with, and experience in the Eastern Frontier problems which were of major importance to the coming Commonwealth of United India. And even this representative would have to be assisted by a special Advisory Committee consisting of the representatives of diverse Hill tribes and the valley people.

(c) With regard to the method of selection of representative, as there was no elected legislature in Manipur, Maharaja Bodha Chandra expressed his desire to reserve the power of special reference to the Darbar and public bodies competent to advise him where necessary and this would be subject to change of personal and demanded by circumstances from time to time.

Further the idea of a formation of common panel, or popular bodies, or an electoral college for the selection of representative of the proposed group of Eastern States was quite impractical and, moreover, there were difficulties of communications, geographical positions and diversity of political and social ideas. There were different sentiments of diverse tribes speaking different languages in each of the States especially in Manipur, and a total absence of affinity and collaboration in the political development among the proposed groups of the Eastern States.

(To be contd...)

* Dr. Karam Manimohan Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was posted on 26 October, 2018 .

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