Jadonang in History
- Part 2 -

Samson Remei, Ashinpou Gangmei, Dr Benjamin Gangmei, Thomas Kamei *

  88th Martyrdom of Haipou Jadonang at Keishampat, Imphal on August 29 2019
88th Martyrdom of Haipou Jadonang at Keishampat, Imphal on August 29 2019 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

JC Higgins implicated Jadonang in the murder case of four Meitei traders and Higgins, with the implication, passed capital punishment and hanged him. Was the implication justified ? It was the false charge framed against him on the following grounds:

Jadonang was not at Puiluan (Kambiron) village at which time the murder took place. He was at Luangkao (Nungkao) village at the time of the incident. Jadonang himself told it to Higgins on 5 June, 1931. Jadonang's appeal petition submitted to the Governor of Assam against Higgins' verdict through the President of Manipur State Durbar, 26 June 1931 which reads as follow:

1. "The evidence of five co-accused against him was given an afterthought as the whole village could find no reasonable ground for the murder, according to the village opinion after one complete year."

2. The judgement of the Political Agent did not trace out the real murderer, as the actual murderer was not identified, as the whole mob attacked the said persons. He urged the Court to trace out the prime mover of the crime and the real culprit.

3. He was not present at Kambiron at the time of the occasion of the murder as he was staying at Nungkao.

JC Higgins could not ascertain the real culprit(s) which he himself admitted stating that as crime was committed nocturnally and who caused the death of four traders were not known. But his political end of prosecution had overridden the findings about Jadonang's innocence. So, JC Higgins started plotting a plan to implicate him in crime of the murder as principal culprit.

His intent was reflected in his Manipur Administrative Report 1931-1932 stating "Jadonang was wanted not only as leader of the New Movement but also as a murderer". Does not this statement contradict the evidence of innocence of Jadonang in the crime which he had admitted ? For Higgins the murder case, which was a stray and unrelated incident, was a conceivable ground for implication. In fact, it enabled him not only to implicate but also to incriminate him to the crime whereby he could be successful for political end (to eliminate him for this anti-British movement).

Higgins was now able to implicate Jadonang by manipulating what was that belied in murder case. Remember the murder case which became "much needed evidence" for conviction of Jadonang leading to his death, came after 30 March 1931 but Higgins' trial of Jadonang had been completed before 23 March 1931 in which he found no crime worthy of his death.

In the process of his plan to incriminate Jadonang in the murder case, he persuaded the co-accused to put blame on Jadonang that they should incriminate Jadonang as principal culprit. While he did that he promised the co-accused to acquit them of punishment. For this purpose, Higgins sent Mr Jinlakpou, a road muhori to visit villages from where the co-accused hailed.

He, in order to incriminate Jadonang to the murder case, told that Jadonang would never be released from jail and sure to die under capital punishment and persuaded them to fix responsibility of the murder on Jadonang so that they might be acquitted of the crime. In this way Lulungpou, Accused No.6 of Mukti village was won over and he, in turn, won over other co-accused also.

Therefore, Higgins' implication and incrimination of Jadonang to murder case as principal culprit were without rhyme or reason. The motive behind capital punishment on Jadonang without convincing evidence has clearly shown how the colonial authority in India viewed the "Naga Raj" or freedom movement of the Makaams. During the movement continued under Rani Gaidinliu, the perception of the Government of Assam of the movement was that it was "potential source of danger" and "grave" and JP Mills believed that it was truly to establish "Naga Kingdom" replacing British rule.

The political motive of JC Higgins, obvious to us in his prosecution of Jadonang, is also seen in the procedure of the prosecution. We have seen that Higgins exploited the murder case for an incriminating ground to implicate Jadonang in the crime done without positive evidence.

Firstly, when Jadonang was arrested on 19 February, 1931 at Lakhimpur, it was under Section 108 of IPC. The Section had nothing to do with murder case. Their intent was to contain his movement by arresting the leader who was nobody but Jadonang. Therefore, the Section 302 of IPC, applied later which has to do with the murder and it was part of Higgins' plan to implicate Jadonang to the crime.

Secondly, the application of other Sections such as 109 and 149 of IPC along with the Section 108 was to drag all accused into the crime. And, while all accused admitted the crime Jadonang did not. But the former who admitted were acquitted or not executed but the latter who did not admit (for he was innocent) was condemned to hanging.

Thirdly, Higgins made two flimsy pretexts for the denial of legal defence in the court of Political Agent for Jadonang, he says:

1. "No counsel was provided for the accused in my Court, as the case did not involve much legal question". Can a murder case not involve much legal question ?

2. "The accused (Jadonang) has not sufficient means to defray the expenses" Higgins groundlessly justified his denial of legal defence for Jadonang.

It is clear that entire legal proceedings were studded with guises in the prosecution which he devised for political end by physically eliminating Jadonang from the scene. To be precise, Higgins planned to physically eliminate Jadonang under the guise of dispensing justice which is supposed to be in favour of the victims. A pertinent leading question to ask is: Had not been a murder case at that time, what pretext the colonial authority could have, against Jadonang for his capital punishment ? Remember, he had not yet, at that time, launched military campaign against the authority except impending military conflict with it.

Taking his game-plan and intent into consideration, what is seen is that his hidden political end, the decimination of Jadonang's movement, was so obsessive. According to Prof HK Barpujari, the implication and incrimination were "much desired pretext to nip the movement in the bud". He says, "in the absence of positive evidence, a verdict cannot be passed that the case was pursued beyond all reasonable doubt.

The alleged murder of Manipuris afforded the Government the much desired pretext to nip in the bud. The establishment of the "Naga Raj" in the problem ridden frontier would endanger the British Indian Government!"

Jadonang has created a place in history with freedom struggle for the Makaams who are aggregate of people living as groups yet belonged to each other in the region. His contribution is primarily two-fold: history and freedom. He scripted history among the tribes of India in general and among the Nagas in particular.

His freedom struggle is incorporated in the academic syllabus. Jadonang's movement will never be oblivious to scholars, the educated in the study of socio-political movements of the tribes of India and most applicably to the study of North-Eastern tribes.

Jadonang is ranked among the tribal leaders, who fought against the British Government, of the region and India. He occupies a place in history. He was a freedom fighter that the Naga society has ever produced in early part of the 20th century. And no study about him shall be made in isolation of Nagas' past. The study is part of Naga history. For what he did was what he scripted Naga history as son of the soil. The geographical context and how he allied with other Naga tribes of Manipur and Naga Hills during his movement sustain the fact of Naga historical process of the second decade of the century.

As to his contribution to freedom struggle of the Nagas, Jadonang's movement is also one which shall never fail to tell the people that the Nagas have striven for self-determination prior to the likes which sprang up outside the Nagas' in India's soil. For the period proves prior to their insurgencies existed or existing.

While the movement may be short of desirable extent in contribution, it still remains as a seed of freedom struggle sown hundred years before. His movement was launched after a gap of nearly hundred years from first Anglo-Naga conflict began in 1832 or so. If localised the base of the movement its extent is comparatively limited. But it holds true of the saying, "Something is better than nothing" if held an overall consideration.

In fact, for example, the movement launched at the periphery of the Nagalim speaks of glaring fact about boundary of present Naga inhabited areas in south Nagalim. Therefore, even tall Naga nationalists like AZ Phizo, Th Muivah, etc. could not commit oversight of him and his movement.

In brief, since Jadonang's movement is part of history its significance and relevance exist inerasably which may be given to effect if exploited for noble cause. The two aspects concomitant in the movement always remain above all trivialities whinged about Jadonang. It seems the observation of Prof R Mahadevan, in this regard, is correct.

He observes the Jadonang's movement a Naga Raj is "one of the most important anti-imperialistic struggles... the beginning of the political struggle of hill people of Manipur against the British... an organised rebellion with clear-cut programme and objectives of shaking off the imperialistic yoke, and the establishment of a Naga Raj". Jadonang's movement is studied because he also sacrificed his life for freedom. He has played his part leaving room for our part.

Concluded .....

* Samson Remei, Ashinpou Gangmei, Dr Benjamin Gangmei, Thomas Kamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
Samson Remei, former President (UNC),
Ashinpou Gangmei, former Chairman of Alternative Arrangement,
Dr. Benjamin Gangmei, Assoc. Prof. and
Thomas Kamei, former President of Zeliangrong Baudi, Manipur
This article was webcasted on September 06 2021.

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