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E-Pao! Manipur - Merger of Manipur with the dominion of India

Merger of Manipur with the dominion of India - IV
Abolishing the Manipur Assembly & Merger with India

By: Waikhom Damodar Singh *



In this way, unlike any other Native State of India, Manipur began very boldly and distinctly to exist as in independent democratic state of her own under an elected Government formed by the majority of the members elected by the people, the election of whom and framing of her own required constitution even 'preceded' than that of the general election of the Independent India and framing and introduction of her new Constitution.

However, with the connivance of the State Congress Party, the Govt of India quite hurriedly, untactfully and intriguingly abolished the Manipur Assembly and dissolved the lawfully elected people's Government and the State was merged with the Dominion of India.

The merger so taken place was done mainly based on the secret reports submitted by one BN Mullick - then a Deputy Director of the Intelligence Bureau of India - on 16 September, 1949 and also by the Manipur State Congress Party to the Congress leaders of India and firmly pinning on the grounds thereof which run as:

1. The incapacity of the Government of Manipur under Maharaja to maintain law and order.

2. The apprehension of immediate escalation of the activities of the communists revolution from Burma to Manipur. The report in this regard must have been based on the fact that towards the later part of 1948 Neta Hijam Irabot Singh was successful in building up strongholds of Communist resistance in Manipur as well as in Cachar district of Assam where there lived quite a sizable number of Manipuris and also in creating an awareness of cohesive identity among some 12,000 Manipuris living then in Mandalay (Burma) under whose Arakan area the insurgency activities of the Communists were very rapidly growing influenced greatly by the success of the Communist party in China.

3. The integration of Manipur into India would bring peace and development.

In fact, it was the State Congress which aroused political consciousness and the spirit of democratic rule in the State and hence brought pressure upon the Maharaja to introduce representative Government in Manipur as there was no legislative and proper elective institution yet. It was therefore their 'firm stand', under Sinam Krishnamohan Singh - brother-in-law of Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh - as the President, Laishram Jogeswar Singh and Ngangom Tompok Singh as general secretary and secretary respectively along with other eighteen staunch members of the party to 'dethrone' Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh and 'abolish' the 'age-old Pakhangba's Gaddi' at any cost to achieve their objectives of bringing Manipur under the working of a full-fledged democratic Government though the Royalist group including all the hill people and their MLAs who formed then the majority of the 'anti-integration bloc' vehemently opposed the move of the State Congress party.

In pursuance of a decision of their meeting held on 30 June, 1949 the State Congress party launched a vi-gorous Satyagraha movement demanding immediate abdication of the Maharaja and integration of the State with the Centre. Later Sinam Krishnamohan Singh, the President of the State Congress Party and Sougaijam Somorendra Singh, the leader of the opposition in the State Assembly were sent to Delhi and apprised Sardar Bhallavbhai Patel of the harmful effects of Maharaja's rule along with his puppet cabinet.

The Hill MLAs opposed the Congress' stand and under the Presidentship of S. Luney, the Chief Whip of the Government party decided to unite against the Congress move for safeguarding their interest. The Communist Party of Manipur too disapproved the integration move and advocated for 'status quo' as they feared that Central administration would prove to be detrimental to their party interests. The Communists then had their stronghold in the areas of Nambol, Utlou, Sekta, Pundongbam and Lamlai.

Incidentally and most surprisingly, the splinter group of the Manipur State Congress party which, later on, became the Socialist party of Manipur with (late) Laishram Achou Singh as its Secretary and in which joined, later on, Rishang Keishing, RK Dorendra Singh, (late) Irengbam Tompok Singh as staunch members of the party, advocated for the merger of Manipur with Assam and the party consistently worked for it with the connivance of Debeswar Sarma, a politician hailing from Assam and was then Dominion Agent of Manipur during the interim period.

Debeswar Sarma was removed soon from his post for his partisan and active involvement in trying to bring about a merger of the entire State with the neighbouring province of Assam, beginning with the hill areas in connivance again with the Chief Minister of Assam - Gopinath Bordoloi who also wanted to tighten Assam's control over Manipur. He was also taken to task by Sardar Bhallavbhai Patel for his taking narrow provincial view of the State of Manipur which was very much against the wishes of the Congress Government of India.

However, the stand for integration of Manipur with India was ultimately approved by Sardar Patel, the Union Home Minister as it was considered to be good strategy to boost the Congress organisation in Manipur and hence the very hasty action of the Congress Government of India got the Merger Agreement signed, though quite 'forcibly', by Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh on 21 September, 1949 at Shillong who did so 'not on behalf of the people of Manipur, but, with some meaningful facts hidden behind, on behalf of himself, his heirs and family members'.

The Maharaja had signed in this way as he was, perhaps, forced to do so in the line of what the Governor of Assam, Shri Prakasa had told him earlier that the Government of India did not recognise either the Manipur State Council or the State Assembly in the matter of negotiation about its political future and that the Maharaja alone would be allowed to speak on behalf of the State, even though the Maharaja initially and firmly argued saying that - 'now that the sovereignty of the State has been vested in the people it would be in the fitness of things to hear the people's voice and learn their sentiment so that the line of action may not in any case be unconstitutional' - to which the Governor of Assam argued that the Government of India have, throughout, dealt with the Maharaja directly as the ruler of the State and were not prepared to make any deviation from the procedure hitherto followed.

This was of course the policy of the Government of India in their dealings with other princely States of India. The Maharaja then argued very rightly that the direct dealing with the Maharaja was 'feasible when the sovereignty was vested in him', but after the introduction of the State Constitution Act, 1947 the sovereignty and administration of the State came to be vested on the people', based on full responsible Government with a fully elected House based on 'adult suffrage and joint electorate' - the highest form of Government of democracy which Manipur, not to speak of any other native State but even of the whole of India, had preceded in adopting it immediately after they had attained the independent status from the yoke of the foreign power.

In fact, perhaps never before in Manipur's long history, also for that matter in the history of any country of the world, a single individual was called upon to decide the fate of his country so lonely and isolated even from friends and family as Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh was forced or compelled to undergo so during those most humiliating days of his stay in Shillong.

The transfer of Kabaw valley of Manipur comprising of an area of some 7000 sq miles in 1834 by the British to Burma had led to the sudden demise of Maharaja Gambhir Singh on 9 January, 1834 - the same day on which the transfer of the very precious land was effected - out of great shock and unbearable desperation due to the 'enforced loss' of the very valuable and prestigious piece of his land.

The surrender by Maharaja Bodhchandra under duress in 1949 also had many weeping quite helplessly, and the good hearted and noble king, not fully recovered from the great shock he received at Shillong in September 1949, renounced his worldly life and led a 'Yogic-ascetic' life by remaining almost all of his last days of life in the premises of Shiva Maha-deva's temples at Thongam Mondum, near Kakching Khunou, Baruni Hills etc in deep mediational services for the Lord's blessing for which he came to be known and called as 'YogiRaj Bodhchandra'.

The last ruling king of the great Pakhangba's dynasty of Manipur 'breathed last' in his 'palace Ashram', a very simple hut of thatched roof construc-ted just nearby the Govin-dajee Temple on the northern side, in the early morning of 9 December 1955. He was cremated in the evening of the same day with full State honours by taking the mortal body of the deceased king from the palace to the traditional Kangla Royal Cremation ground in a grand procession consisting of hundreds of 'mourners' - royal family members and relatives, high officials and other civilian personnel including the several hymn singing sankirtan parties of the palace led by the contingents of the 4th Assam Rifles and the 1st Battalion Manipur Rifles with their arms in reversed order marching grandly to the 'slow steps marching tunes' of the military bands.

In stoic silence thousands of people with sullen faces distinctly reflecting their deep sorrow watched the Maharaja's departure. The people turned up and lined up on both sides of the road from Imphal palace to Kangla - among whom the writer was also one in his prime age of 26/27 years - with tears 'streaming down' in their eyes as had been greatly saddened in their silent hearts by the parting of their beloved last reigning king.

They were also greatly 'touched' in their hearts by the hearing of the most pathetic and highly emotional poetic words flowed out from the weeping mouth of the well known veteran-actor, (late) Meitram Bira Singh of the Imphal Rupmahal Theatres who with his party followed the most gracefully and spectacularly designed and decorated 'Royal Coffin' - Keiren Keijao in Manipuri version carrying the mortal remains of the king, which is a very special type of coffin used only for the cremation of deceased kings and very high ranking nobles.

to be continued


* Waikhom Damodar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on October 05th, 2006


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