TODAY -

The significance of Anglo-Manipur war, 1891
- Part 2 -

Budha Kamei *

A scene from 13 August - Patriots' Day Drama (Play) at MDU, Imphal :: 13th August 2013
A scene from 13 August - Patriots' Day Drama (Play) at MDU, Imphal on 13th August 2013 :: pix - Jinendra Maibam



Mr. Quinton then informed Kulachandra to hand over Tikendrajit to him at once but it was rejected. Mr. Grimwood further sought an interview with Tikendrajit who met him at his residence on his sick bed. Mr. Grimwood did explain the details of his exile that he would be given allowance and could come back to Manipur after the death of the Maharaja and become the king of Manipur. Conversely, Tikendrajit did question the authority of the British India Government to interfere in the internal affairs of Manipur. The talks could not bring any result and Mr. Grimwood returned to the residency.

While his two steps were unsuccessful, Mr. Quinton became desperate and determined to use force to arrest Tikendrajit in his house at crack of dawn on the following day, 24 March 1891. The British force suddenly did attack the palace without proclamation of war against Manipur, then an independent and sovereign state. Kulachandra declared war against the British; the fighting continued the whole day resulting in heavy causalities on both sides. It is stated that the British army committed atrocities on men, women and children and even they destroyed the idols in the temple.

As the operation was failed, Mr. Quinton decided to have a truce and ordered cease fire by a trumpet call. The Manipuris too stopped firing; after an exchange of letters, both sides agreed to talk about the term of ceasefire. Then, the ill-fated five white officers, Mr. Quinton, Grimwood, Col. Skene, Cossins and Lt. Simson went to the palace; they had no escort and were unarmed. They went inside the gate and had a discussion about the truce for half an hour but the discussion produced no positive result.

At that time, a large number of people were also assembled outside the Durbar to hear the progress of the meeting. When the British officers returned and moved towards the gate they chased them and immediately Mr. Grimwood was speared to death by one Kajao Singh and Lt. Simson was severely wounded by sword. The remaining surviving officers did rush inside the Durbar and were detained for about two hours. They were then taken to the green space in front of the dragons and were beheaded by the public executioner.

Due ceremonial rites were observed and the heads were buried at Nungjenghonbi inside the palace. Hence, an old prophecy which says that 'heads of white men will roll before dragon' comes true. Their bodies were buried near former site of Majorkhul village, at the present Indira Park and Assembly secretariat. The execution of the five British officers without proper trial was not justified, though as per the laws of little country what they had committed was the cause or waging war against Manipur and thus liable to be punished by death.

But the execution was one of the incidents of a greater phenomenon of the contest between Manipur and mighty empire. One can say that the events occurred from 22-25 March, 1891 were really tragic. The friendship between the two countries had been destroyed by tactless and arrogant Mr. Quinton. It was also the disaster for the British prestige in India. Tiny Manipur did not comply in the foul play and pressure threats of Mr. Quinton.

When the news of the execution of five British officers reached Calcutta, the British India government sent three columns of troops to Manipur. They advanced simultaneously by the first week of April 1891 from Kohima under Major General Collet, Silchar under Lt. Col. R.J.H Rennick and Tammu under Brigadier General T. Graham. Major General Collet was the commander of the whole invading army. It appears that Manipur was not psychologically prepared for a big war against the British Empire. But the war was forced on her and she had to fight it out. In the war that followed the Manipuris fought bravely to defend the honour and independence of their motherland.

Learning the news of the advance of British force from three directions, the Maharaja sent eight hundred soldiers towards the north to check the advance British column coming from Kohima. Another one thousand soldiers were sent to resist the British forces coming from Cachar and seven hundred soldiers sent to oppose the advance of British column from Tummu.

The main theatre of the Anglo-Manipur war was in the south east of Manipur, where was fought one of the battles of the war of Manipur's independence which was a saga of heroism and patriotism of the great warriors of the country who fought against heavy odds, the outcome of which was a foregone conclusion. At this critical time, the Maharaja promoted Paona Brajabasi and Chongtha Mia Singh to the post of major and reinforced the Manipuri forces with another four hundred soldiers under the command of the two majors.

The greatest battle was fought at Khongjom on 25 April, 1891. The Manipur camp at Khongjom was defended by majors Paona and Chongtha Mia who earned immortal fame in the famous battle of Khongjom. The Manipuri forces were outnumbered and the enemy was superior in arms too. "Those were the days when the sun never set in British Empire." A scholar writes, "A little Kingdom like Manipur could not hope to meet the resourceful of the British located in their Indian Empire." But, the Manipuris fought bravely against the British forces for the defense of their motherland. According to local version, about 400 Manipuri heroes were killed and the British too suffered very losses.

The fall of Khongjom is the turning point in the history of Manipur. On 27 April the British entered Imphal and occupied the palace, sounding the death knell of whatever sovereign power Manipur had enjoyed. On the day itself the union jack flag was hoisted over the palace of Manipur. As a mark of victory, the British soldiers had blown up the masonry dragon which stood at the entrance of the Durbar hall.

Tikendrajit and Thangal General were arrested by 23 May 1891. Then, they were put to a farcical trial and charged with waging war against the Empress of India and murder of white officers. Thus, Tikendrajit Singh and Thangal General were hanged at Imphal on 13 August 1891 at 5 pm in presence of about eight thousand Manipuris. Kulachandra and Angousana were transported for life. The war ended.

Gangmumei Kamei, renowned scholar India observes thus: "Manipur independence and sovereignty which were so long preserved throughout the centuries had now lost. One need not enter again the justice or injustice of the British action; it was application of the old adage that might is right which was the foundation of the British imperialism throughout the world."

References:

1. N. Khelchandra, Battle of Khongjom
2. N. Khelchandra, Thangal General
3. Lal Dena (Ed.), History of Modern Manipur(1826-1949)
4. N. Joykumar, Colonialism to Democracy
5. Robert Reid, History of the Frontier areas Bordering on Assam From 1883-1941
6. J. Roy, History of Manipur
7. R. K. Jhalajit, A short History of Manipur
8. Lal Dena, British Policy Towards Manipur 1762-1947
9. N. Khelchandra, Documents of Anglo-Manipur War part-II

Concluded


* Budha Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 04, 2013.


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