TODAY -

The Martyrdom of Tikendrajit Bir Singh & Thangal General
- Part 7 -

By Lt Col (Retd) M Ranjit Singh *

The Government of India refused permission to the appellant to have their appeal heard in open court, and permitted Ghose to submit a written representation only. The written memorial was submitted to the Viceroy in council on 21st July 1891.

This written submission is a masterpiece which brilliantly exposed the irregularities of the court and the fallacies of its conclusion. The appeal made by Monmohon Ghose was later published as a book entitled "Did the Manipuri Princes obtain a fair trial? ".

In London as early as May, the Queen had expressed her strong opinion that "it will never do to hang the Maharaja." She repeated the same sentiment with respect to the Jubraj in telegram to Lord Cross, "Shut him up for life in some distant post."

She counselled "think no prince was ever hung." The Queen was especially concerned over the ploy to seize Tikendrajit in a Durbar and came close to accusing the Government of India of deviousness and Chief Commissioner of incompetence.

On 10th August, the appeal of Tikendrajit was turned down by the Government of India. A telegram of 294 words was sent on 10th August 1891 at 7.08 pm to General Collet to carry but the execution of Tikendrajit. The Telegram was received at Imphal on the morning of 11th August 1891.

On 12th August 1891 Monmohon Ghose himself sent a personal telegram to the Queen for clemency of Tikendrajit. The Queen immediately telegraphed the Viceroy, "Is it possible for me to do this ?". The reply of Viceroy on the same day was "your Majesty telegram of 12th I entertain no doubt commutation of sentence would be a grave public misfortune, and I regard it as now absolutely impossible".

On the morning of 12th august 1891 both Tikendrajit and Thangal General were informed about the order of the Government of India for execution and they were permitted to see their relatives. The two gallows were completed by mid day on Thursday, the 13th August 1891 and from early morning a crowd of Manipuris commenced to assemble and continued to increase until the time fixed for execution, when it must have aggregated over eight thousand persons.

As far as the eye could see the plain was white with women. In the Maharaja's day, a criminal sentenced to death was occasionally reprieved if a sufficient number of women had appeared to intercede for him, and hoping that possibly the old custom might still prevail, the women had assembled in their thousands.

At around 5 pm, Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged. As the drop fell and Tikendrajit and Thangal General were launched into eternity, deep groan that went up from the assembled throng Lt Col Alban Wilson, an eye witness of the hanging, who described this last scene in his book "Sport and Service in Assam and Elsewhere" as under:
"The Thangal pretended to be too ill to walk up to the gallows, and was carried up in a chair and placed beneath the noose, but the Senapati walked up and stood upright like a man."

A sergeant of gunners (an English Havaldar of Medium Battery), who was executioner, adjusted the rope round the Senapati's neck, tapped the Thangal General at the shoulder and said, "Now then, old man stand up or I can't hang you." The Thangal gazed at him blankly, and then at the interpreter who translated the remark, on which the old fellow shook his head and roared with laughter.

The interpreter said, "Sir, the general states he will not rise." The sergeant said, most persuasively, "Just tell the old gentleman I'm not going to hurt him." This too was translated, but the Thangal would not budge. Then ensued a most ghastly pause, whilst a man climbed up to the top of the gallows to/lengthen the rope, and when it was adjusted both were loosed off."

After this episode, Manipur, an independent country since 33 AD, as a direct result of infighting among members of the royal family, no longer existed as an independent country. The British, however, did not annex the territories of Manipur to Indian Dominion.

This was not due to any known love or respect shown by the British to Manipur. It was mainly due to expressed opinion of non-annexation by Queen Victoria and Speeches given by Lord Cross, the Marquis of Ripon and others of the peers against the annexation during Manipur debate in the house of the Lords.

Thus the British graciously permitted to the re-establishment of native rule in Manipur under certain condition and in the person of such ruler as they may select. The British with vengeance then thrust upon one obscure and unknown entity called Churachand, not remotely related to any royal family of that time as Raja of Manipur.

His main qualification to become Raja was that he was only 5 years old as such for some years, the State could be managed by the Political Agent. It must, however, be remembered that Churachand is one of the great grandsons of Maharaj Narsingh, who begot twenty five sons.

As a contingency, in case Churachand dies before majority, the British did plan to install one son of Dumbra as the king of Manipur.

Concluded ....




* Lt Col (Retd) M Ranjit Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This was webcasted on January 11, 2009.

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