The 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

Manipur, which existed as a Sovereign kingdom since 33 A.D. had been "forcibly" merged with the Dominion of India as a third class state w.e.f. 15 October 1949 under a Merger Agreement signed between Bodhchandra Singh, Maharaja of Manipur and Shri Vapal Pangunni Menon, Advisor to the Government of India in the Ministry of States at Shillong Government House on 21 September 1949.

The Agreement consists of IX Articles out of which excerpts of Articles related to the present position of Maharaja Sanajaoba Leishemba are reproduced -

Articles I -
His Highness Maharaja of Manipur cedes to the Dominion Government full and exclusive authority, jurisdiction and powers for and in relation to the governance of the State and agree to transfer the "administration of the State" to the Dominion Government on the 15 day of October 1949.

Article II -
His Highness shall continue the same personal rights, privileges, dignities, titles, authority over religious observances, "customs", usages, rites and ceremonies and "institutions" in charge of the same in the State, which he would have enjoyed had the agreement not made.

Article III -......... Article IV -
His Highness Maharaja shall be entitled "full ownership", use and enjoyment of all private properties (as distinct from the State properties) belonging to him on the date of this Agreement.

Article V -
All the Members of His Highness's family shall be entitled to all the personal rights, privileges, dignities and titles enjoyed by them whether or outside the territories of the State immediately before the 15th August 1947.

Articles VI -
The Dominion Government guarantees the "succession", according to law and custom, to the "gaddi of the State" and to His Highness, Maharaja's personal rights, privileges, dignities, titles, "authority over religious observances, customs, usages, rites and ceremonies" and institutions incharge of the same in the State.

Article VII -
No enquiry shall be made by or under the authority of the Government of India, and "no proceedings shall lie in any court in Manipur", against His Highness the Maharaja whether in a personal capacity or otherwise in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by him or under his authority during the period of his administration of that State.

Articles VIII (1), (2), (3)...... Article IX..........

It is in the context of the very candid provisions contained in the Merger Agreement as enumerated above that the present 8customary king.. Sanajaoba Leishemba, as a very legitimate successors of Maharaja Okendra Singh (his father) and Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh (his grand father) is fully entitled to have all the authorities of "ownership" of the Palace building and other private belongings of the Palace, rights etc. as have been agreed upon in the Merger Agreement.

Most important point to be noted while analysing the present Monarchical position of Maharaja Leishemba is - he is the "de jure" customary and constitutional king or Monarch of the State who ascended its age-old "deitic throne" established by god-like king, Pakhangba in 33 A.D. (still remaining in-tact) and exercising his "non-alienable and non-abolishable" authorities and powers as a Monarch or Maharaja-in-Council as per the provisions of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 framed and enacted under a Bi-lateral Agreement arrived at in between the Maharaja of Manipur, Bodhchandra Singh and Sir Akbar Hydari, the then Governor of the British Province of Assam (the only Indian who became a Governor during the British rule) on behalf of His Majesty, the king of Great Britain at Shillong on 1st July 1947 i.e. Maharaja Leishemba's kingship is not "merely a nominal one" like that of the titular kings of Puri, Tripura etc., and that he is the "constitutional Head" of the State still functioning as the "supreme Head" in the observances of matters of "customs", "usages", "indigenous religions, cultures, games etc," of the people of Manipur.

In fact, the management of the Govindajee's Temple, located at Sana konung (Palace) compound, Sanamahi Temple located in the premises of the 1st Bn Manipur Rifles, Kalimai Temple, Mahabali Thakur's Temple etc. should be deemed to be still under the exclusive rights of Maharaja Leishemba like he has the same over the mangement of the institutions of all the sylvan deities (360 umang lais) of Manipur as per the provisions contained in Article VI of the Merger Agreement.

Such is the existing "non-alienable and non-touchable" position of Maharaja Leishemba with his sacred institution established at the Present Palace (sana konung) building and in its nearby premises where he had been and is carrying out the daily and annual customary and religious functions and ceremonies of the State and of the people, both of the Chingmis and the Tammis. Actually, the king of Manipur was functioning as the Head of the State on three Legs - (1) one, Political and General Acbinistration (2) two, customary and usages (3) third, Religious.

It was only the Political and Admiinsitrative Leg that had been forcibly "amputated" by the interim Dominion Goverrment of India and he had been continuing discharging his sacred duties of the State and the people on the two .non-removable Legs, (2) and (3)- being remaining still very much in-tact. Therefore, the -rights and authorities of Maharaja Leiahemba as the Maharaja-in-Council" with his Councillors appointed by him for the governance of customary etc. matters so inherited and being exclusively exercised presently by h1m as the very legitimate successor of 69 descendent kings of Pakhangba's dynasty are "non-alienable and non-abolishable" at all as the same are fully protected by the existing International Law in that regard.

Actually, taking over of the Sana Konung building and its adjoining private lands by the State Goverrment by the process of "acquisition" under duress for the purpose of making it a Historical Monument will certainly be an act tantamounting to taking the "ownership" of the private lands and properties from the hands and possession of the Maharaja as it will seriously violate the Apeement contained in Article IV, and hence the "issue" will become legally more serious and complicated, though it is quite a fact that the present very awkward "slum like sight" of the area of the Sana konung with very haphazard and thickly conjested private constructions came up here and there does not at all give an admirable picture and sight "worth calling" it was once a magnificent Palace, very meticulously and magnificently built by the British where Maharajas, Sir Churachand Singh, Bodhchandra Singh lived from 1908 to 1955 in a most majestic way, highly attracted to and admired by all, particularly by the Viceroy of the British India, Lord Irwin, lady Irwin and their high British officials who visited the State in the year 1931, and later on by the British and other officers and men of the Allied forces under Lt.General, Sir William Bill Slim who were at Imphal during the second world war from 1942 to 1945 and frequently joined the Maharaja's coronation ceremonies and other functions held in the grand Palace compound and area in grand indigenous manners with displays of unique indigenous games etc.

It is therefore greatly needed to do something to "restore" the most extraoridinarily admirable sight of the grand Imphal Palace of Manipur, the hoary hilly-land existed for thousands of years as an indomitable kingdom which "shone" like a little but very bright star on the Political Horizon of the south-east Asia, at the earliest possible in the best public interest, particularly for the people of the next generations to come.

Before the "issue" turns to a situation of "a spark neglected burns the House" the State Governnent may reconsider their decision of taking over the Sana konung building and its lands, and instead take the steps of repairing the present Palace building which is in a dangerously dilapidated condition and, in which Maharaja Leishemba and his family members to continue to live as the "customary Head" of the State and the people without disturbing the place which is serving not as a "mere residence of a king and his family" but quite a "sancro-sanct Temple (institution) of the people" for observing their customary, usages and religious matters.

Taking steps for making the Palace area to look cleaner and mare admirable is quite welcome by all but not the idea of transforming its building into a "historical Museum of Manipur" as the same had already been established in a befitting manner inside Kangla with exhibition of 8ancient relics" connected to its age-old sovereignty.

* Waikhom Damodar Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on August 22, 2013

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