How Manipur lost internal autonomy, subsequent freedom and Kabaw Valley : Sir Akbar Hydary

Dr Th Suresh Singh *

During the important transition period i.e. 15/8/1947 to 15/10/1949, Sir Akbar Hydary was the Governor of Manipur stationed at Shillong for most part. The man had a perfect understanding with Manipur Maharaja Bodh Chandra. Because of his liking and love of Manipur, he visited Manipur frequently including holidays.

That he died of a heart attack on a duck shooting holiday at Waithou Inspection Bungalow in the winter of early 1949 itself was a misfortune for us Manipuris. As per the wish of Lady Hydary, the mortal remain was buried at Kangla Fort where it is still preserved .

Before visiting Manipur, he signed a 9-point agreement with the Naga Nationalist Council (NNC) on 27th June 1947 where as an Agent of Dominion India, he will have special responsibility for the observance of the said agreement for a 10-year period with the rider that further extension of the agreement or, a new agreement is left to Naga People.

That Nagaland almost got freedom by this agreement and how they mess up the same is left for another chapter to be dissected with. For the time being, it is worth to mention that this Naga Agreement is far better than the 2 Agreements of Manipur mentioned bellow.

In the last week of June 1947, the Governor visited Manipur and explained the latest position regarding political developments in India vis-a-vis Instruments of Accession and Standstill Agreement to the Maharaja and Darbar Members. Just after the signing of the Naga Agreement, he signed 2 very important Agreements in respect of Manipur.

On 29th, Darbar members led by Priya Brata submitted a memorandum to the Governor through his PA. And, on 1st July, he entered into a Points of Agreement between the Governor and the Manipur Darbar. A lot of prior consultations did take place between the Governor on the one side and the Darbar and the King on the other side. Otherwise, one can't execute such important Agreements just after the Governor's arrival from Kohima.

Sum and substance is :
i) agreed to join the constituent Assembly
ii) Mr. Guha of Tripura be appointed as Manipur representative and Advisors be appointed to assist him.
iii) Defence, communication, currency, trade and commerce should be as per the existing arrangement.
iv) minimum interference in the state's internal matter.
v) formation of an Interim Council to negotiate the necessary agreements with the Union. This should enable the introduction of the new Constitution to be inaugurated within 1 yr.
vi) further compensation for Kabaw Valley should be taken up with the Union.

Three very pertinent points are found in the said Agreement-
i) defence, communication, currency, trade and commerce should be as per the existing arrangement
ii) minimum interference in the State's internal matter and
iii) further compensation for Kabaw Valley should be taken up with the Union.

See dear readers, we are getting full autonomy and independence as propounded and propagated by me in my various write ups .

Further, the Maharaja entered into a 7-point Agreement with the Governor next day i.e. on 2nd July 1947.

The salient featured are :
i) the Administration Rules be introduced on 1st July 1947.
ii) the Political Agent be substituted by the Union Agent; His Highness in Council shall accept any advice tendered by the Assam Governor with the understanding that there shall be minimum of interference in the internal affairs of the State. The Council will also accept an officer appointed by the Union Government to act as Agent to the Governor.
iii) the Union Agent shall avoid interference in the day to day administration of the Hills.
iv) the Hill Regulation shall be introduced simultaneously with the State Courts Act and that this shall be done before 15th August 1947.

In this 2nd Agreement, though the emphasis on full internal autonomy is found, nowhere is it mentioned about defence/communication/ trade etc. and Kabaw Valley. Mystery surrounds why the Maharaja entered into another Agreement. Your writer's own interpretation is that the Maharaja didn't want Darbar Members signing the same and hence executed one in his name.

It must be an ego clash showing disagreement between Manipur Darbar and the king. The 1st 0ne was far better than the 2nd one. Still, the 2 agreements are our legal documents to be taken out from the dustbin, cleaned, perused and pursued.

These points were also highlighted in my previous series. The missing link is that we were getting full internal autonomy and subsequent freedom and Kabaw Valley especially with the one signed with Manipur Darbar. Oh, how we messed it up, how we lost it!

The Governor also wanted to abolish Dominion Agent post (previous Political Agent) and wanted to establish the office of the Dewan i.e. Prime Minister's post. After initial objection, the Manipur Maharaja finally agreed on further assurance from the Governor. Such was the mutual Trust and affection between the two. It is one example that Manipur had full internal autonomy as the same was done only after Bodh Chandra agreed to.

Accordingly, the Governor dissolved the office of the Dominion Agent and established the office of the Prime Minister on 20th August 1948. Subsequently, the Maharaja, appointed Priya Brata as Dewan in addition to the post of Chief Minister. Not only Kashmir, Manipur was also one which had a Prime Minister. Such is the historical significance.

What was the underlying idea? The Prime Minister's post is definitely larger than the Chief Minister. Without expressing inner thoughts and ideas outside during those fluid periods, the Governor was perhaps preparing to guide Manipur for a more autonomous status.

If it is so, the idea certainly died with the death of Sir Akbar. No historian/ individual ever mentioned it so far, forget about analysing it. Those who were clamouring that Manipur was annexed by the British after 1891 Anglo-Manipuri war and merged to India in 15th August 1947 should now be clear that we were an autonomous Princely native state with only defence, external affairs and communication under the domain of British Crown/ Dominion of India as represented by the Assam Governor.

That the signing of Instruments of Accession and Standstill Agreement was just the beginning and not the end is to be understood properly.

Because of the incompleteness of these 2 Agreements, various Merger Agreements were signed, in one pretext or the other, with the Dominion of India. Manipur was one of them out of 20 odd native states. Hence, Manipur merged fully to India only on 15th October 1949 after the signing of the now famous Merger/ forced-Merger Agreement on 25th September 1949 at Shillong.

It is better that Manipur historians, intellectuals and politicians know this historical proposition sooner than later. Hence, dear reader, 15th August 1947 is not Manipur's Independence day; if it is to be observed, it be 15th October 1949. Of course, one can observe 15th August 1947 as India's Independence day; there is no harm, your writer is only emphasising that Manipuris should know the difference and the historical perspective.

That Manipur lost internal autonomy, subsequent freedom and Kabaw Valley because of our inability to present historical facts and argue strongly at appropriate time is to be admitted by all of us.

Had Bodh Chandra, his advisors and Darbar members were sound enough, smart enough and brought these legal details along with Kabaw Valley compensation Agreement of January 25, 1834, during Merger Agreement negotiation, Manipur would have been in the status we had, i.e. full internal autonomy with Kabaw Valley as described above.

That this legacy is handed down to our future generation is itself a miss-fortune created by our own self.

* Dr Th Suresh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The author is the ex-Director, Health & WHO Fellow
This article was webcasted on September 15, 2018.

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