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

Merger of Manipur with the dominion of India - V
— On Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh signing the Merger Agreement 1949 —

By: Waikhom Damodar Singh *



They recited the words
'Chatloko hey!
athouba, pukphaba, dharma chenba, iningthou,
nahakna chatkhibadi khunai asigi aroiba nummit takhibanido
etc' -
'hey noble and religious and courageous king of Manipur!
we all bid 'adieu' to you on your great soul's departure for the journey to heaven.
Your departure from us do mark, indeed, the setting of the last monarchical sun of this hoary land'.

The cremation of Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh was delayed from the early morning to late dark evening quite unusually as the decision of the Government of India for his immediate successor was awaited which could not be decided and given by the then Chief Commissioner of Manipur, PC Matthew, ICS.

The decision of succession came however in the late afternoon from New Delhi in a "crash" wireless message flashed selecting his 'legitimate eldest young son, Okendrajit Singh of some 5 years old, the younger brother of Princes Tamphasana Devi to succeed his late father as was decided and recommended in a decision taken in a very prolonged meeting held at the Chief Commissioner’s House after examining very thoroughly and carefully all the "nooks and corners" of the very very delicate issue that had come up in between the Chief Commissioner, PC Matthew, Maharaj Kumar Priya Brata Singh, ex-Chief Minister and Customs Secretary to His Highness the Maharaja, Waikhom Chaoba Singh, former Darbar Member (Minister) and was also the "guardian-tutor" of Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh during the time of his yubrajship.

The Rajmata, Kamlavati Devi (Sangai Devi), the second Rani of Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh had been also made the "regent" of the young and minor king duly assisted by a 'court of ward" headed by late Salam Tombi Singh, Member of the then Manipur Territorial Council and later on became Speaker of the Manipur Legislative Assembly and a Minister, for as per standing tradition of Manipur in regard to royal cremations, it cannot be carried out unless the name of a successor of the deceased king is announced and made publicly known.

The queen of Manipur then was Nepali princess, Iswari Devi, eldest daughter of Prince Ramraja of Ramnagar of the then United Provinces and a cousin of His Majesty Maharaja Dhiraj, the king of Nepal. Iswari Devi was also a grand daughter of His Highness the Maharaja (then Prime Minister) of Nepal, and also a cousin sister of Nepali Brigadier, Kali Bahadur of the Royal Nepal Army whose brigade of warrior Gorkhas was in Manipur during 1942/43 participating in the fighting of the British against the Japanese as one of its loyal Allies.

Maharani Iswari Devi had no issue. Actually, the third Oriya daughter of Raja of Bodo Khimdi in Ganjam district of the erstwhile Madras Presidency, Ram Priya Devi whom Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh married in 1929 when he was the Yubraj should have been the Queen of Manipur had she not been untimely divorced in 1941 due to a ‘point of no return’ very strained relationship developed in between the father king of Manipur, Maharaja Sir Churachand Singh and the Raja of Bodo Khimdi on the issue of much less unexpected "royal dowry" received by the former from the latter.

Of course, as had been mentioned earlier the option on the part of Manipur was either to merge with the Dominion of India or with the Dominion of Pakistan. Considering her very unfavourable geographical and other political considerations, and also cultural and religious conditions, in particular, joining with the Dominion of Pakistan by Manipur was straightaway very much out of question and hence Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh very thoughtfully and rightly "paved the way" for finally merging with the Dominion of India by his signing during the early stage in the so called instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement on 11 August, 1947.

In fact, the British Government had already given their green signal in the year 1935 to Maharaja Sir Churachand Singh for the State of Manipur to join with the Dominion of Burma (now Myanmar) when it was being carved out by separating it from the British India if he was willing to do so to which, the Maharaja, far sightedly was thoughtful in his thinking or otherwise, had kept "mum" on the very tricky issue - the seemingly generous offer of the British Government was actually nothing but for keeping the most strategic State of Manipur as a "buffer state" on the eastern most fringe of India for serving their interest.

Had Manipur joined with Burma, as was very much desired and worked upto the last for last for it by Neta Hijam Irabot Singh much later on, what would have been the conditions of the State - could they have been politically and economically in a much better off state or in a much worsened condition than the present one which is very much like living in a "big frying cauldron" placed above a very violently burning fire? Really it is also a billion dollar question that may not be very easily answered even by a political 'genius'.

While such far-sighted views of the kings of Manipur are something very much appreciable the hasty and highly dictating manner on the part of the then Government of India adopted in forcing the helpless king, Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh to sign the Merger Agreement on 21 September 1949 at Governor’s House at Shillong without the due approval of his Cabinet is still considered by many, particularly by the legal experts, to be very "untactful" and "undemocratic" act on the part of the Government of India.

The feelings of great sadness are still there in the humble minds of the people of Manipur of the high-handed act of the then Government of India, particularly of the Union Home Minister, Sardar Vallavbhai Patel by which the king of Manipur and his party were put under some sort of a House arrest as some war "captives at the royal residency at Red Lands, Shillong from 18 to 20 September, 1949 and of the unbearable news of humiliations underwent by the highly religious and very peaceful king. Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh at the hands of the Governor of Assam, Prakasa and his Advisor, Nari K Rustomji.

Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh became so desperate by the unexpected humiliations done to him that he became almost "insane" at one point of time and had secretly and most unbelievably told his private Secretary late Sanasam Gourahari Singh of Singjamei Makha who accompanied in the royal journey to be ready even to murder the Governor and his Advisor, Nari K Rustomji when they meet them again on the next day of 19.9.1949 for further negotiation to be carried out by shooting the former by the Maharaja and the latter by Gourahari Singh and then both Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh and the private secretary Gourahari Singh to end their lives then and there in the Governor’s House Shillong by shooting each other for the sake of keeping up the age-old prestige and territorial integrity of their beloved mother land, independent, Manipur".

— 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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