TODAY -

Forced and unratified Manipur Merger Agreement of 21 Sept 1949

Waikhom Damodar Singh *

INSTRUMENT OF ACCESSION  executed on 11-8-47 between Governor-General of India and His Highness the Maharajah of Manipur
INSTRUMENT OF ACCESSION executed on 11-8-47 between Governor-General of India and His Highness the Maharajah of Manipur
Courtesy : RK Jhalajit Singh



The British, initially as mere traders, landed in India in 1608 A.D. at Surat Fort and with the permission obtained from Emperor Jehangir of the Mughals who were then ruling the undivided India (Bharat-Varsha), through their representative, William Hawkins who resided in the Emperor's court at Delhi, started their trading business. They who so came to India under the name East India Company not only expanded their trading business in due course of time but soon they, after safely settling-in with consolidation of Power, became the "overlords and masters" of the vast undivided country by virtue of their "supermacy" in diplomacy and arm-power and had established their their a better ruled and organised "Empire" with a unchallengeable "suzerain power". The so called India at that time was a heterogenous set-up, a very vast country made up of different Provinces and several indigenous States ruled by their own rulers - kings, Jamindars, Jagirdars etc. which the British named them the "Native States" and had brought them under their rule and control after conquering and annexing them one after another. In total there were 554 such Native States which ruled independently of their own but externally under the overall control and suzerainty of the British, and the age-old (about 2000 years old) princely kingdom of Manipur was one among them which existed under her own "sovereignty" till she came under the British Rule as the last Native State to have done so after her defeat in the Anglo-Manipuri war that took place on 25 April 1891, prior to that she had been a formidable Ally of the British.

The British suzerainty over the Indian Empire continued for about 173 years (from 1774 to 1947), and though the country as a whole underwent tremendous improvements and reforms in all respect under their rule the people felt not very happy and justified remaining as a "suppressed people" under an alien and colonial ru1e and hence began breaking the "ice" and started political agitations for achieving their "birth-right of self-ruling", which the British "foresaw" of inevitably parting their imperial and colonial power soon and therefore they earnestly began preparing for it by enacting firstly, an Act in the British Parliament known as the Governnent of India Act.1935 which provided or paved way for the ground-work for negotiations that led to the final transfer of power into the hands of the Indians, and finally, another Act, called the Indian Independence Act, 1947, the bill of which was introduced in the British Parliament on 4 July 1947 and it received the Royal Assent on 18 July 1947. It was under this Act that India became free fran the British Rule from the midnight of 15 August 1947. The Act allows creation of two Dominions - India and Pakistan and the Native States were given "option" or "choice" for their joining with either of the two Dominions, or if desired by the majority of their people to remain as "sovereign State" of their own. It was in the late night of 14 August 1947 that the British Political Agent. G.P. Stewart handed over the sovereign power of the State of Manipur to its king, Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh and thus she retrieved her "age-old sovereignty" again from that midnight onwards.

Under the agreement signed by Maharaja Bodhchnadra Singh with the Governor of the then British Province of greater Assam, Sir Akbar Hydari, representing His Majesty the king of the British Empire on 1st and 4th July 1947 at Shillong the sovereign State of Manipur became a Democratic Sovereign State under a Monarch by enacting her own written constitution. The authority of framing her own constitution was derived from the "de facto self-determining and ruling birth­rights" of the people to whom the sovereign powers of doing so was transferred by the Maharaja on 1st July 1947. It was under the constitution so framed and enacted, called the Manipur State Constitution, 1947 that the General Election of the people (on universal adult franchise and joint electorate) was held on 18 July 1948 and the people's representatives. were duly elected (14 from congress, 5 from Manipur Krishak Sabha, 3 from Socialist Party, 12 from Praja Santi Sebha and 18 independents from the Hills) and its Governnent formed by a combined party of the 12 Praja Santi Sobha and the 18 Hill independent Members started functioning from 18th October 1948 with a Legislative Assembly established from the same day constituted by the 53 Members elected as its Members with Shri T.C.Tiankham, the independent Hill Member elected as the Honourable Speaker of the House. His Highness the Maharaja, Bodhchandra Singh as the Head of the State under the provisions of the constitution, addressed the House on its inaugural day on 18 October 1948 and his very "sentimental" and "emotional" Proclamation given on the auspicious and historic day of Manipur is reproduced as here-under :­

Quote - "This is the first time I as Representative of Manipur Crown and Monarchy, unbroken and safeguarded with the "blood of my forefathers" for about two thousand years, address the first Assembly of the Manipur State on this historic day following the "modern practice and British style of Democratic rule" I consider myself fortunate to see the birth of an Assembly in the State during my time and again I feel proud to be able to place on record and make it known to the rest of India that though painted otherwise abroad, my State, just as the sun rises earlier in the east, taken the lead in the "direction of democratic government, based on adult franchise and joint electorate" in the line of which India and other Asian countries are soon following. I take more pride in that though in countries like England, responsible government has been the outcome of the blood of so many persons, there has been in my State no bloodshed since "I took the initiatives here". I have been sincerely watching the practicability or impracticability of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 that has been framed and enacted under my very keen initiatives taken in the "larger interest of the people of Manipur", I now bring to the mind of the people that "I had transferred my sovereign powers and responsibilities other than those of a Constitutional Ruler to the State Council since 1st July 1947 before the lapse of the British paramountcy and since then, "I have already remained as Constitutional Ruler". But most of the people innocent as they are, have been imputing to me the actions of the Council. My only earnest wish is to see a more prosperous Manipur. By installing a responsible gOvernment and Assembly of the people, and the Members as their representatives to run the institutions best opportunities are henceforth provided to serve your country to the fullest extent you desire with toleration and concord to make Manipur. "a greater Manipur". Administrators and citizens of the State, in order that "the integrity and separate entity of the State is preserved for ever". I wish to attach the highest measure of importance to detailing same account of what the State of Manipur is - I mean the State and people. whom you represent and on whose better administration you are now out to embark. To begin with, I feel a sudden emotion in my heart - I mean the sweet reminiscences of the past history of Manipur. Let the patriots fight for today. I will see that yesterday shines once more before the people ignorant of the beauty of yesterday. I am sure, a look back to the history of our land will at once inspire your mind towards greater and nobler deeds to prove your worth as "worthy sons of worthy fathers". Lo : the sweet and green valley with "sweeter and greener hills all around" in this part of the south-east-Asia region - a smiling land, hallowed by footprints of heroes and admired as the Switzerland in the east by strangers. It is Manipur, a salubrious land of hoary antiquity - a land of gems..... She was a "star" in the eastern political firmament. Strong nations of the world covet her natural position. Such is Manipur. Read her political history from 24 A.D. She had her dominion over a wide area extending as far as the southern portion of China in the north, the gold mine in the Sibsagar valley of Assam, the river Chindwin (Kyeendwin) in the east and south, and Chandrapore (Cachar) Assam in the west and during the 1700s at the time of the great and most heroic and indomitable conquerer, Meidingu (king) Pamheiba even Upto the areas in the south-west near the sea of Bengal including Lushai (Mizo) and chin hills...... All these times when Manipur was in the height of her power, Hill and Valley were one : and this oneness defended Manipur against all invasions and thus, she could maintain her independence upto 1891, when the rest of India had already been conquered by the British. British conquest of this land resulted from the slackened unity between the valley and hills. Now, since the withdrawal of British paramountcy after 56 years' rule, we have rein­forced the union of the Hill and Valley : and best opportunities have reached us in order to work hand-in-hand towards achieving the common object of progress and really a prosperous independent State of her own. Manipur is one and the hopes and aspiration of Hill and Valley are identical....... Manipur should be made militarily strong as, in the contemporary world, militia is the noblest estate of mankind. In the history and accounts of 1874, written by Col. Johnstone, you will come, across that Manipuri nation constituted the "best armies in the world".

"The inherent warlike spirit of the Manipurls should be maintained". It is the best time for you to serve your mother country while she needs and to prove that you are her worthy sons. You are to show to the world and to your people, the achievements or progress of the welfare of the people under this new government with clear results of a change for the better. Otherwise, the name Responsible government may not be worth the name. We should not forget that we are Manipuris, destined to live in Manipur and die in Manipur. "Providence has bound our fates together indissolutely". I wish to see you all becoming great and noble not for your own sake but noble for the country - to make Manipur great, a greater Manipur to enable her to stand up with head erect among the Nations, as she did in the past. In fine, I call upon you all to take this as your motto and to join me in a fervent prayer for the well-being of our motherland Manipur. Unquote - It may be noted that out of the 554 Native States, no such State had prepared its own constitution and dared to establish its independent Legislative Assembly and a Democratic Government as Manipur alone had done so boldly. Instead, except Jammu and Kashmir and Hyderabad, all of them very hurriedly acceded to the Dominion of India, many of them merged with their contiguous Provinces. In the case of Jammu and Kashmir State, its Hindu King of the Muslim majority subjects acceded to the Dominion of India under immediate compulsions except the portion forcibly and suddenly occupied by Pakistan, for which the dispute in between the two countries is still on.

The accesion done by the Hindu king under compelling circumstances was later on "ratified" by the People's government afterwards under Seikh Abdulla of the National Conference Party. In the case of the Native State of Junagarh of Gujarat, the Muslim Nawab of Hindu majority subjects acceded his State to the Dominion of Pakistan but the accesion was cancelled by a "verdict" of the majority of the people after a "plebiscite" was conducted i.e. the accesion or the merger was not "ratified" by the people in majority.

Thus, Manipur alone remained of her own as a sovereign State under a Democratic form of Government with its Monarch as the Head of the State from 18th of October 1948 but, most stunningly, the people's government so formed rightfully exercising the de facto "self-determining and ruling birth rights" was suddenly declared abolished from the 15th of October 1949 by an "imperious" order issued by the interim government of the Dominion India saying Manipur has been "merged" with them on the basis of signing in it by her king, Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh on 21 September 1949 at Shillong. The "merger agreement" so forcibly signed by the Maharaja was out­right rejected and not at all "ratified" by the Manipur Legislative Assembly in its 4th sitting of the 3rd session held on 28 September 1949 at 2.30 p.m. The proceedings of the august session as was published in the Manipur State Gazette, dated October 14,1949 (part iv) runs as - Quote, "present - the Honourable Mr.T.C.Tiankham, the Speaker, in the Chair, the Hon'ble 6 Ministers (sarvashri Arambam Ibungotomcha Singh, Finance, Ayekpam Gourbidhu Singh, Commerce and Industries, Dr. Ningthoujam Leiren Singh, Education and P.W.D., Major R.Khating, M.B.E., M.C, Hill Affairs, Mr.Teba Kilong, Forest and Agriculture and Md.Alimuddin, Jail and Medical besides the Chief Minister (Prime Minister) Maharajkumar Priyobarta Singh and 43 Members. The 4th sitting of the 3rd session of the Manipur State Assembly, held on 28.9.1949 resolved and adopted the following resolutions in "protest against the Merger Agreement signed on 21 September 1949" :- 1. As per Adult Franchise regulations, the General election held in 3uty 1948 of the Manlpur State Legislative Assembly had taken accord of the Law-orders, Administration, Financial assessments, foreign Affairs etc. of the then Maharaja of Manipur.

2. The State of Manipur will have no relations, foreign relation with India Governnent without any agrrement Signed with M.S.L.A though may it be the declaration of the then Maharaja.

3. The ex-Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh under immense pressure and duress from Prakash Shah, Governor of Assam, V.P. Menon, Minister of State Affairs, and Sardar Ballavai Patel was forced to sign the Merger Agreement on 21 September 1949 at Shillong without any "consignnent" from the Manipur State Legislative Assembly. The agreement is being dropped out by the M.S. Legislative Assembly i.e. will not abide by the agreement. Lastly, the Manipur State Assembly has taken the resolution that the Merger Agreement is totally dropped out and that it wIll not consider such agreement that had been signed whereabout. sd/- P.B. Singh, Chief Minister, Sd/-T.C.Tiankham, Speaker, Sd/-I.T.Singh, Minister Finance and Foreign Affairs. Unquote - Thus the Merger of Manipur with the Dominion of India merely based on the signing of it under duress by Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh was not accepted at all legally and "constitutionally" as he was, by that time, no more the "plenipotentiary" of the State (having the independent sovereign powers regarding settling of Political and matters and affairs of the state) as he had already handed over his sovereign powers to the people and he remained only as the Monarchical Head of the State ruled by a Democratic Government formed by the representatives duly elected by the people under their own written constitution, the Manipur State Constitution, 1947 (the authority of framing it by the sovereign powers of the people had been handed over to them by their king, Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh on 1st July 1947), and therefore "setting the Law in motion for settling the illegal and unconstitutional Annexation Issue cropped up in between Manipur as a sovereign State (a sovereign kingdom existed much older than the British kingdom - older by some 600/700 years) and the Dominion of India (came into existence only in 1947) by a judicial verdict the United Nations is of a "jury of the International Legal Forum" of definitely the "desideratum" of the highly aggrieved and unfortunate people of Manipur.

In fact, there was a peoples' Convention on the "null and void and unconstitutional" Manipur Merger Agreement at Imphal on 28th and 29th October 1993 attended by many elite personalities, intellectuals and legally learned and experienced Luminaries and it had unanimously resolved in plenum that the "imugned Merger Agreement of Manipur with India" done on 15th October 1949 based on the facts and circumstances enumerated as above is highly illegal and unconstitutional and that the "age-old" territorial integrity and sovereignty of Manipur which have been continuing undisturbed for at least 2000 years (since 33 A.D.) had been "impaired and terminated" which tantamount purely to "illegal annexation" done under force by the then Dominion Government of India in gross violation of the "Utti Possidetis Juris" mandates contained in Rule 22 of the International Law.

Actually under the provisions of Article 2(4) of the Charter of the United Nations the Dominion of India, being a Member of it since 1945 was strictly "obliged" to honour the territorial integrity of the sovereign Manipur and refrain from using "force" and other coercive actions that terminated its age-old political independence against the wishes of her people. The Article 2(4) says - "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations" Since Manipur was a sovereign State till 14 October 1949 the mandate of the UN's Charter was very much applicable in her self-determining process. In fact, Manipur's illegal and forced "annexation case" is much stronger in all "merit" in all respect than the case of the East Timor of Indonesia and therefore there is no reason as to why the De-colonisation Committee of. the United Nations should not treat the case of Manipur, it being a very genuine one, at least at par with that of the case of East Timor whose annexation by the government of Indonesia has been rejected out right by a judegment of the International Court of Justice.

The sulkiness of the people of Manipur on the illegal and highly dictatorial action executed most "undemocratically" by the then interim authorities of the Dominion Governnent of India, which was then "not yet fully endowed with the sovereign powers", "rather it was only at the interim stage without the constitutional sovereign powers, not fully free from the purview of the control of the British Parliament and their directives issued, on the "might is right" very high-handed attitude increases day by day as it has no place in the Democratic Era where "Right is Might" is definitely the golden principle to be ardently followed.

Of course, it was due to the "narrow sightedness, mindedness and self-destructive role" of the "pseudo and spineless" local "anti­king leaders of the 1948 49s, who danced as "puppets" at the tunes very deceptively played by the greedy and dictatorial outside hands, particularly of Delhi, that such a biggest "political blunder of self-killing has been made and the "age-old" glory of Manipur that had been shining so long, to which the impartial and indomitable British paid their utmost respect, had been pulled down from "Heaven" to the "abyss" never to rise again to shine, for the "up-keep" of which for ages the heroic forefathers had shed their blood and sacrificed their most precious lives as "great Martyrs" for the sake of their beloved motherland, Manipur, which was once regarded as the little Paradise on Earth to live most peacefully and enjoyably, has been made now, the "greatest Hell on Earth". The truth contained in the saying is well manifested, it says - when the "rajniti" (politics of a people) fails their "dharmaniti" (correct religious conducts) miserably fails affecting worstly the "arthaniti" (economic state or conditions) of their land.


* Waikhom Damodar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on November 20, 2012



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