Manipur was never under British rule though defeated by the British
Merger Agreement Series
- Part 3 -

Dr Th Suresh *

The Shillong Accord 1949
The Shillong Accord 1949 :: Pix - RKCS Art Gallery
Warning: These images CANNOT be reproduced in any form or size without written permission from the RKCS Gallery

Manipur was never under British rule though defeated by the British in the only 1st and last Anglo-Manipuri war.
Time to ignore pseudo-historians and ill-informed historians' false write-ups and come to true historical perspectives

d) Forced Merger Agreement/ Merger Agreement : To understand this scenario, we have to read and discuss by going back to various historical pages. It is awesome, however, in the interest of the readers, the following are placed on record -

i) Indian Act, 1935: It is the 1st step towards India's constituency. The main content of this act is that merger of the Provinces to the Federation is automatic whereas that of States will be voluntary. Along with this, the states will also sign an Instrument of Accession. After enfocing this Act, the draft of the Instrument of Accession was discussed with the Princes and underwent many endless changes leading to many conflicts.

ii) Cripps Plan: This draft is meant for the British India i.e. for the Provinces. Regarding the States, it is mentioned that "Necessary to negotiate a revision of its treaty arrangement so far as they may required in the new situation".

iii) 1945 Simla Conference: It is a repeat of Cripps Plan . These i), ii) & iii) could not bring any conclusion. Rather these increased disappointment and mistrust.

iv) Cabinet Mission Plan: Instead of becoming a federation, India and Pakistan became independent countries is because of this Cabinet Mission. The 3 member mission arrived in India on 23/03/1946 and stayed 3 months up to May. The Mission issued a memo from Simla on 12/05/2046, main contents are - a) It reasserted earlier intention that the Crown will not initiate any change in the relationship with the States without the consent of the princes. b) The 12th May 1946 memorandum (notified on 22nd May) announced the lapse of British Paramouncy and subsequent revert of it to the states. c) 16th May 1946 announcement provided certain terms & conditions for entry of the States into the proposed Union of India.

v) Role of Lord Mountbatten: a) The Viceroy, who was entrusted by the GOI to the task of negotiations with the Princes, had a meeting with representatives of the Congress Party, Muslim League and Sikhs. The meeting set up a new "States Department" to deal with the states and appointed Sardar Patel as i/c; the declaration was made on 27/06/1947. The Department started functioning from 5th July 1947 i.e. its dealing with the Princely States. b) On this very day, detailing GOI policy, the Sardar invited the States to join in the Indian Dominion in 3 subjects namely Defence, External Affairs and Communication.

As it is also an important invitation related to Manipur Merger Agreement, a part of it is - the Sardar further assured "the States that it would not be the Policy of the States Department to conduct the relations with the States in any manner which savoured the domination of one over the other; and that if there would be any domination, it would be the domination of mutual interest and welfare". In short, merger of the States to the Indian Dominion will not be a forced one and in case of agreement, it will be for the benefit of both. c) on 23/07/149, Lord Mountbatten called a meeting of the Chamber of Princes and advised the states to merge either to the Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan on the 3 subjects cited above i.e. Defence, External Affairs and Communication. He further added that the merger will not interfere in the internal sovereignty of the States. For this, he also declared a negotiation Committee.

As a sequel to this, most of the States signed the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement. This ended the 1st phase of merger to the Domnion Government. Maharaj Bodh Chandra also attended the said meeting and signed the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement.

vi) What is Instrument of Accession ? : Its substances are described below : According to clause no. 1, a particular ruler of state declares to accede to the Dominion of India, which came into force on 15th August 1947. Clause 4 stipulates that this acceding to the Dominion of India is on the assurance that any law can be made between the Governor General and the Ruler to be exercised by the Ruler of the State. In short, any law for governance have to be made between the two parties. This is important for us, Manipuris. Clause 5 further stipulates that the terms of the Accession shall not be varied by any amendment or of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 unless the ruler accepts it. Clause 7 stipulates that the Ruler is not committed to accept any constitution of India nor it take away the ruler's discretion to enter into arrangements with GOI for any future constitution. A schedule is attached to which Dominion legislature may make laws for a state. The subjects covered are Defence, External Affairs, communication and Ancillary (includes election to legislature, power of courts etc.). Interpret it in common language if the 2 parties further do not sign another terms and conditions, this Instrument of Accession will become obsolete.

vii) What is Standstill Agreement? : Clause 1 stipulates that, if new agreements are not made between the 2 parties in respect of the 18 items given in the schedule, the existing arrangement between the Crown and any Indian State shall continue as it is i.e. the position becomes standstill. Clause 2 stipulates that in case of any dispute arising out of the agreements, the matter may be settled by arbitration as per the procedure of the Indian Arbitration Act, 1899.

Pros and cons of the 2 agreement is that any ruler of a particular state or states has to sign these 2 agreements on or before 15th August 1947. In case of non-signing, what happens? The status of that particular state remains as it was before the signing of this agreement.

viii) How Manipur signed Merger Agreement '! After British left, the political scene of India and Pakistan was in a confused state. The 1947 Oct Indo-Pak war, 1949 Sept Hyderbad "Police action" and declaration of independence by Travancore are worth mentioning. Because of all these, India's "Iron man" Sardar Patel, who was i/c of merger of states to Indian Dominion, was on a hot spot. Because of the then prevailing situation, he did not want to further delay the merger of the states to Indian Dominion. Hence, because of his effort, all the states, except 3 were merged to India by August 1949. After the signing of Merger Agreement by Banaras on 5th Sept and by Tripura on 9th Sep, the only state left was Manipur.

During this hot political scene, Assam Governor Shri Prakasha along with his advisor N.K. Rustomji and GOI joint Secretary A.K. Chatterjee visited Manipur on 21st March 1949 to see the state of mind of Manipur for merger feasibility. It was a very significant visit. Outwardly, the Governor told the Maharaja that GOI had no intention to destroy the Present political set up of Manipur. After the visit, the Governor appointed Major General Rawal Amar Singh as the Dewan of Manipur State vide a letter dt. 14/04/1949. This letter, however, assured the Maharaja that "The present decision will in no way affect either the integrity and entity of the Manipur State or Your Highness's personal dignity and prestige".

Later on, the Maharaja had a lot of trouble with this Dewan and on 29th August 1949, he sent a telegram to Governor Prakasa requesting for an appointment to discuss his growing trouble with the new Dewan. Here, your writer have to mention one aspect many writers and historians put their stamp that this visit is meant only to discuss the Maharaj's troubled relationship with the Dewan and nothing else. Some innocent people may accept this view, but majority of people having common sense will take this view as immature, out of tune and lack of underlying ideas. At this critical juncture, if the Maharaja, his political staff and political advisors thought that the hot topic of Merger would not come up during the discussion show their political immaturity, lack of deftness and lack of smartness. People will not believe in their mistakes. That without a clear cut stand on Merger, the Maharaja and his party left Manipur was very unfortunate for us Manipuris. Hence, that future students, youths and historians, who will be dissecting Manipur history thoroughly, will be kind enough to Bodh Chandra while discussing his period can be predicted by your pen-driver as an impossible dream. You writer can see it as clear as a full moon radiating in a clear sky.

ix) Legality of the Merger Agreement : How this emotive Agreement was signed at Shillong on 21/9/1949 is in public domain and hence, will not be repeated in this write up. However, I am compelled to give all those circumstantial evidences leading to that Agreement. In law, circumstantial evidence is an important aspect. Hence our present generation as well as future generation should know and discuss the following circumstantial evidences

a) The moment the Maharaja and his party landed at Shillong, the Redlands Rajbari residence was surrounded by a section of Jat Regiment. Outwardly it was told that it was meant for the security of Maharaj's party, inwardly it was a threat in case the Manipur king refused to sign the Merger Agreement.

b) As instructed by V.P. Menon, Advisor to State Ministry, in their meeting at New Delhi, the Assam Governor and his party went to Bombay and met the ailing Sardar Patel at Birla House. There, Patel told the Governor that the Manipur Merger Agreement be +vely signed during Bodh Chandra's forthcoming Shillong visit. Patel also hinted use of force if the same is not executed during the visit.

c) When Bodh Chandra refused to sign the Merger Agreement at Shillong, the Assam Governor sent a telegram to Sardar Patel at Bombay on 18/Sept/1949 seeking Permission to detain the Maharaja and his party. In the said telegram, it is also mentioned that the governor had already instructed the police to detain the Maharaj's Party if they attempt to return to Imphal before signing of agreement.

d) How the agreement was signed i.e. detailed negotiation, persuasion, the use of force and others will be found in Col. Bhuban's book 'The Merger of Manipur' as told by Private Secy. Gourahari who took part in the negotiation. This is the untainted valuable secondary source of the story.

e) More or less same background details, with minor variations here and there, is also found in the book 'Shillong 1949' written by ADC Anandamohon who also accompanied Bodh Chandra in the said negotiation. This is again the untainted valuable primary source.

These circumstantial evidences clearly show that the Merger Agreement signed by Bodhchandra was a forced one and never a voluntary one. Hence, instead of calling it as Merger Agreement, we should call it as forced Merger Agreement. This will remain as historical fact based on circumstantial evidences. Historians should know it, Manipuris should discuss it.

x) Missed golden opportunities : Along with the circumstances cited above, let us come to the important topic of how Manipur lost its independence or rather its internal autonomy. The reader has to understand that what I am referring to as independence or internal autonomy is to be based on the scenario of the particular period reigned by a particular king. Reign of Ghambhir Singh and Nara Singh has to be taken as complete independence. Enforcing some treaties was meant for mutual benefit of both the countries had been explained in preceding paras.

Chandrakirti's reign will also be taken as complete independence. However, because of the public Avowal, there were occasional interferences in internal autonomy; also because of the unilateral declaration, the British took more responsibilities in the field of Defence, External Affairs and Communication. The scenario continued even after the defeat in the hands of the British during the reigns of Churachand and Bodh Chandra. One, however, see more interference in the internal autonomy of Manipur by the British during the reigns of the last 2 kings. In spite of these happenings, the 2 king ruled just like a sovereign state has been described with examples in the preceding paras.

To be continued ...

* Dr Th Suresh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer Ex- Director of Health Services, Manipur & WHO Fellow.
This article was posted on October 20, 2015.

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