Economic interpretations of Merger Agreement : Strategic policy shifts in development
- Part 1 -

Dr L Krishnamangol Singh*

The Shillong Accord 1949
The Shillong Accord 1949
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There are many historical turning points in the evolution of the society and state of Manipur since ancient times. We can, therefore, imagine that there was "primitive communism" or primitive communal system in ancient times. And, the primitive communism is the earliest mode of production which is based on the common ownership of the means of production or the resources.

This system still continues in some parts of the hill areas of Manipur. And, the system corroborates the empirical experiences/evidences that were found in different parts of the world in ancient times or early period of human civilizations. Coming to the case of Manipur, it is well known that the historical development of the state revealed that Manipur was defeated/conquered by the British in 1891, and that, thereafter, it became a princely state prior to 15th August, 1947.

In fact, the historical development of Manipur further revealed that the princely state of Manipur which had been an independent kingdom for a long historical period (i.e. prior to the British rule in Manipur) was transformed or restored into the earlier status of independent kingdom immediately after the British had left the princely state of Manipur.

Thus, without any delay, the erstwhile independent Kingdom of Manipur further became an independent nation state or independent country. And, with the passing of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1949, Manipur enjoyed the status of an independent country or nation. But there are still many critical questions which are still in the mind of the people(s).

1. In the first place, whether the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 could fully take over the earlier sovereign power vested in the King?

2. Secondly, whether the MSCA, 1947 could establish/a real democracy (i.e. a real democratic form of government) in Manipur?

3. Thirdly, whether the Act contained or supported the vestiges of the erstwhile kingdom?

4. Fourthly, whether there were elements of force or coercion in establishing a democratic nation or country?

5. Fifthly, whether there were people who advocated the restoration of the earlier kingdom?

6. Sixthly, whether the Maharaja considered that the propitiatory right of the nation state or the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur belonged to the King as the kingdom formation took a long historical period under the kings?

In the above context, it would be beyond the scope or purpose of the present article to answer all the questions in the limited space. And, I may also have contextual constraints to answer all the questions. Again, I am aware that there are also many renowned persons and experts, who have their own knowledge and originality for these questions or issues. However, I have set out a few questions not to provoke many intellectuals, social scientists, experts and other groups, but to explore the reality and various implications including merits and demerits of the merger of Manipur into India.

I am aware that we could not reverse the course of history. But, there is no denying the fact that the past experience is helpful for guiding a country. And the whole premises of the insurgency movement or the underground movement is that Manipur was an independent country or nation while Budhachandra Maharaja, the then King of Manipur signed the Merger Agreement (i.e. Manipur Merger Agreement) on 21st September, 1949 without the consent of the people and the Council of Ministers for merging Manipur into India on October 15, 1949. These political and historical development, which revealed that Manipur was merged into Union of India (i.e. India) on October 15, 1949 is widely known and discussed.

However, the attempt to regain the early status of independence as per the Manipur State Constitution, 1949 has still become an unlawful activity under the Constitution of India (i.e. the Indian Constitution) as the Government of India and the Government of Manipur have repeatedly emphasised that Manipur was merged into India on October 15, 1949.

And, it is also difficult to establish judiciary body or appropriate bench of the court to pass judgement on the propitiatory right of the early independence status of Manipur. It is also difficult to reverse the historical and political development of state formation within the Union of India/India, or the Indian Union, as the country (India) has her own constitution, known as the Indian constitution.

And, all the "privy purses" of the erstwhile kings of the Indian states had also been granted. Thus, the principle of compensation or award had also been fulfilled for merging Manipur into India with all rights and privileges for citizens of the country under the Indian Constitution.

However, it is argued that the people of Manipur have failed to enjoy/get all the rights and privileges under the Constitution of India or the Indian constitution. Therefore, the critics have challenged the merger agreement in spite of the constitutional recognition given to the citizens of the state (i.e. the citizens of India). In this respect, the various implications or the interpretations of the merger agreement need critical re-examination.

1. In the first place, it can be pointed out that the decision or the action of the Maharaja revealed that the propitiatory right of the state (i.e. the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur) belonged to the King (i.e. the Maharaja himself).

2. Secondly, as already noted, the principle of compensation was applied or followed at the time of signing the Agreement.

3. Thirdly, as the Kingship was a tradition/institution of hereditary/heir and succession, the Maharaja had the advantage or got the opportunity to sign the Agreement in the midst of the political chaos and larger interest of the people to guard against any future external aggression or the war from the neighbouring and the foreign countries.

4. Fourthly, the Maharaja might have the vision to expand the democracy within the Indian Union and perhaps, he might not like to continue the feudal remnants or legacies that might be protected in Manipur. In this context, it is likely that he might have a vision of real democracy to provide freedom to the people, and dispel any fear of the people that might emanate or arise from the concentration of democracy.

5. Fifthly, in an agrarian society where the people were largely illiterate en masse (except a small section), the Maharaja might have taken the decision for integration of Manipur with the Indian Union as the people of the state suffered various forms of trauma and subjugation under the British rule. The decision of the Maharaja further revealed that the larger dimension and expansion of democracy at the Indian national level could protect and promote the rights, duties, responsibilities, public administration (i.e. governance), and socio-economic development of the people that could be obtained or reaped from the integration of the state (Manipur) with the Indian Union.

6. Sixthly, a critical look into the historical and political development of Manipur, which obtained at the time of Merger Agreement revealed that there was a better political and social climate for consolidation and integration of all the princely native states or the earlier kingdoms for a strong and unified India under the same political sovereignty, known as the Indian Union (i.e. India).

To be continued...

* Dr L Krishnamangol Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an economist.
This article was posted on May 28, 2015.

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