World War II, INA and Manipuri Literature: A Synoptic Survey
- Part 2 -

Kakchingtabam Ruhinikumar Sharma *

(This article is incorporated as chapter in the forthcoming book on Second World War and Manipur)

It might be of interest to note that 162 stanza of four line running into 648 lines have been devoted in describing the life and activities of Subhas Chandra Bose. Some specimens are given hereunder to illustrate the point further.

With panoramic view of the world history
Shining bright in his mind's clear eye
Subhas Bose lived defying pains of pillory
For sacred cause of India's freedom high. (3235)
Had he any hope of getting India's freedom
Without action from abroad as a basis
He wouldn't have India during a crisis
But it was only British promise's boredom. (3323)
He said he was not by any Axis men deceived
Losing prestige of India he'd not have lived
He went to Japan as she fought India's enemy
His choice was for India's good, not ignominy. (3325)
He said, "When you go back to India, dear
Tell people I've been fighting without fear
To the last for mother India's liberation
They should fight now in continuation. (3372)
"I'm sure India will be free before long
Now nobody can keep India in bondage",
It was Netaji's last statement at the stage
It was in keeping with his oath strong. (3373)

Shri Sanasam Gourhari's Manipur and World War II is a highly readable account of World War II in verse from Manipuri perspective. Though written in verse form, it is almost a historical account of the War and associated battles taking place in Manipur and its adjoining areas.

Awonba Samaj (1995), by Thiyam Indrakumar Singh, a voluminous novel of 406 pages almost looks like a social history of Manipur during 1939-1948 rather than a creative work of fiction. The novel depicts the existential crises faced by common man in their day-to-day life during the uncertain days of Second World War. Without much pondering in actual terms, it reflects on the political economy of the land conditioned by the ravages of war and resultant displacement of the people and their yearning to build a new society based on social equality.(Thiyam Indrakumar Singh,Awonba Samaj, Imphal, 1995)

A person who is more known for political statesmanship but who unexpectedly forayed into writing was late Yumnam Yaima Singh (1922-2017), a social and political activist of more than five decades of active public life. After retirement from public life due to advancing age, Yumnam Yaima devoted his spare time in writing; authored and published Nungshinana Hingminnaba (2004), Punshigi Khongchatta (2005), A Piece of Tenth Lok Sabha (English, 2005), Sita Ram (2011), and Manipuri Language bu Nipalsuba Schedule da Chalhankhiba.

Of these books the first two are worthy of mention. Nungshinanana Hingminnaba (Living in Harmony), a novel published in the year 2004 is a vivid portrayal of war years and the accompanied changes brought about by the war. How the complexes of the war hardened the lives of common man giving way to simple and unsuspecting lives of the common people for a more materialistically craving life with full of suspiciousness inherent in it.

Like the earlier work of Indrakumar, the author craves the eagerness for a harmonious existence among humankind for a better society. Punshigi Khonchatta (Journey of Life) published in 2005 the author endeavour to tell the story of his life and time contextualising it with the changes that took place in Manipur. Born in 1922 in a village called Oinam, south of Imphal valley, the writer witnessed and experienced the Japan Lan, as Second Word War was locally known from close quarters.

Being exposed to social and political currents of the time and his association with Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha Yaima Singh was gradually drawn towards the activities of INA under the influence of one Wangkhem Gyaneswar Singh of Nambol, a man well-versed in Bengali and was closely following the activities of Subhas and his INA by reading Anandabazar Patrika, a popular Bengali language newspaper. At Gyaneswar's preaching Yaima was gradually drawn towards Netaji and his movement.

Accordingly, a local branch of INA was established with the objective of extending men and material support when the forces of INA entered Manipur. Processions were conducted with slogan like 'Delhi youna changsillu' (chalo Delhi) and 'Netaji ki jai' (victory to Netaji) etc. with distribution of airdropped pamphlets under the caption 'Give me blood, I will give you Freedom' an appeal made by Subhas Chandra Bose calling upon his countrymen to fight for the freedom of India.

The maltreatment of persons possessing copies of the pamphlet by British sepoys is well recoded in Yaima's account. As war fever gets stronger they could not work in open and functioning of the Nambol branch abruptly ended, the author remained and worked underground as was constantly searched by the British Military police for his involvement in the activities of INA. On the other hand, Gyaneswar and his spouse left for Burma to join INA. If intensive probes are made, we might come across many more such stories of unknown faces and unheard voices of their involvement and association with the INA.

Of all the World War II literatures on Manipur produced so far by Manipuri writers, the most interesting and detailed one is the memoir of Khuraijam Nimaicharan Singh (b. 1937), writer, lyricist and translator. Manipurda Prithibigi Anisuba Lanjao amasung Eina Angang Oiringei in Manipuri distributed in 28 short chapters running into 140 pages was published in 1997.

The enlarged English translation of this book titled The 2nd World War in Manipur and My Childhood consisting 30 chapters was published in 2017 with the addition of some photographs and well-illustrated maps. As the title itself suggests, the book in both version are a short autobiographical account cum memoir of the childhood days of Khuraijam Nimaicharan Singh along with his vivid experience of the 2nd world war period, as well as some of the important battles fought in Manipur, retold in brief.

The author rightly visualise of what happened at Imphal just after experiencing bombing for the first time in 1942. In the words of the author
"After the first bombing the then Imphal town was no better than a place without a ruler or government..... Those were the days when one could not procure things even though he had money to buy his needs because all market places were deserted without any seller and buyer. So the situation compelled the poor to go to the affluent people for their help either in terms of food crops or anything they needed for their bare subsistence. In those critical days, it was a common understanding to render help to one another with whatever they could afford to give in order that the situation may be eased to some extent. Other necessary things or materials were also exchanged among them in the form of barter economy". (2017, pp. 17-18).

"In such a time, there were also mean fellows, mostly neighbours who used to stealing things from those houses, which were left unguarded by those householders. This type of theft and stealing habit of some people was also rampant in the deserted localities in Imphal during the period." (Ibid., p. 18).

In subsequent chapters the author went further to describe how a beautiful place called Manipur - "The Little Paradise on Earth" was turned into one of the most decisive battlefields of 2nd World War and how it changed his life alongwith that of Manipur. But as the title of this paper suggests we do not have much liberty to stray here and there. So let me confine to the chapters concerned with INA.

Two chapters of the book viz The Japanese & the INA in the final march into Manipur, War plan of the Japanese & the INA outlined the Japanese INA plan to enter into Manipur and mode of operation to be carried out against the Allied forces.

In the words of the author, ", after a number of meetings and discussions between the Azad Hind Fauz and the Japanese government, it was unanimously resolved to co-operate with each other in the Imphal campaign, a big invasion through jungles and mountains until the British forces were driven out from Imphal, the last British stronghold. With this objective, they were then approaching towards Imphal from the north eastern and southern borders of Manipur.

According to the plans of their attack, it was that the 15th Japanese Divisions was assigned to attack upto northwestern side of Manipur in order that the Imphal-Dimapur Road be cut and blocked at Kohima. These forces were penetrating endlessly from the Ukhrul side on the north with their arms and ammunitions. Another 31st Division had fought with the British army and succeeded to cut Dimapur road the main life line at many points.

After a lot of intermittent fighting on their way, the Japanese army at the cost of their lives could thus press southward upto Kanglatongbi where a grim battle was raged with the occupying force of the Anglo-American army. It was said that there was a big loss of lives on both sides, but no further advance towards Imphal could be achieved by the Japanese.

For the execution of the abovementioned plans, the names of Japanese generals and commanders like Yamauchi, Sato and Mutaguchi may not be left out. It was under their bravery, skills and experience that an action known as operation U could be carried out from the north eastern and south eastern regions bordering Burma and Manipur. Among the division nos. 15, 31 and 33 which were under the command of General Mutaguchi, the INA was also accounted as a good counterpart to them. After a number of fightings in Burma since 1942 the Japanese 33 division was already posted in the Kabow Valley as their base camp.

(To be continued....)

* Kakchingtabam Ruhinikumar Sharma wrote this article which was published at Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on February 19 2021.

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