Popular Movements In Colonial Manipur, 1891-1947
- Part 2 -

K. Ruhinikumar Sharma *

It is worth mentioning that in early 1917, 22nd Manipur labour corps was raised with a strength of 2000 Nagas and Kukis and they were sent to France. Much against the wishes of people, authorities again made arrangements for raising a second labour corps in September 1917, which was strongly objected by the Kuki chiefs and they were even prepared to resist the actions if continued, with force.

Having sensed such an adamant attitude of the Kuki chiefs, Higgins, the political agent warned the chief's that they had either to supply recruits within a fixed period or submit to punishment. Ngulkhup, chief of Mombi village, as a challenge to the warning sent around message to the Kuki inhabiting villages that if they sent coolies, their village would be burnt and their women and children killed.

Higgins on failure to arrest Ngulkhup burnt down his village. Meanwhile, Chingakham Sanajaoba, a Meitei who claimed to have possessed messiahnic powers spread a message that the days of British raj are numbered and went to Wakha, mobilised ten Kuki villages then attacked and looted the forest toll station on 19 December, 1917.

Attempts by the Assam Rifles to subdue them proved ineffective and suffered heavy casualties in attempting to take the strongly fortified Kuki stockades. The Thadous (a sub-tribe of Kuki) destroyed telegraph lines and cut the road to Burma. Alarmed by these developments the state government started sending in more force but without much result. However by the end of 1918 the government started getting an upperhand and by March 1919 they were able to take the sting out of the movement.

The Kuki rebellion, though short-lived brought far reaching changes in the history of Manipur. The most significant result of the rebellion was the overall reorganisation of the administration of Manipur. The most significant result of the rebellion was the overall reorganisation of the administration of Manipur hills.

Reactions against the British rule in the hills of Manipur continued in the form of Kabui rebellion under the leadership of Haipou Jadonang, a Kabui Naga of Kambiron in Tamenglong District. Jadonang's movement was primarily anti-British and revivalist in nature and character.

Some historians prefer to call, Jadonang's movement as Zeliangrong movement. Zeliangrong is a generic term denoting a conglomeration of three kindred tribes of the Kabuis, viz. Zemi, Liangmei and Rongmei. The spread of Christianity and extension of colonial administration in the hill areas of Manipur greatly undermined the internal structure, traditional institutions and old values of the Kabuis.

There was tension and frequent conflict between the new converts and traditional elite represented by the village council members. The chiefs and village elders started feeling that their privileges and powers were being undermined by the new converts who had the patronage and backing of colonial officials and missionaries.

Another feature of the movement was the attempt to revive and revitalise the Kabui traditional religion against advancing Christianity. This fact was amply supported by the importance given to their worship of Tingkao Ragwang (God of the Heavens or Universe). By doing so Jadonang abolished a number of irrational taboos and superstitions. To realise his belief more popular Jadonang initiated construction of a number of temples as places of worship and centre of religious discourse. He also introduced hymns in the local language.

Even before this Jadonang had carried recognition and fame as a result of his healing and soothsaying activities. Through these activities Jadonang was able to earn and command respect among his people. Very soon people from the surrounding areas including Cachar and Naga hills started visiting Kambiron village to meet and seek advice and blessings of Jadonang. It is against such socio-religious revival movement that Jadonang started his political movement.

During the course of' operation against the rebelling Kukis, the hill people suffered a lot as a result of the tightening administrative control over the hill areas of Manipur. They were subjected to severe harassments like strict enforcement of payment of hill house tax and forced labour of pothang system. To launch his movement Jadonang made an elaborate preparation. He along with his close followers first spread the idea of a Kabui Raj7 which would replace British rule.

Youths were given training in the use of arms. Girls also received training under Gaidinliu, lieutenant of Jadonang, who continued the movement during his incarceration and subsequent execution on 29 August, l931.

Jadonang, because of his frequent visits to Cachar was well aware of the Indian National movement and Gandhiji's mass based movement and political ideology. According to Lal Dena, Jadonang and his followers on the patterns of Gandhiji's civil disobedience movement instructed the people to disobey unjust laws and to stop payment of taxes to the government8.

They so sang in praise of Gandhiji's and his movements as follows9:
Kabui/Rongmei        English
Apou Gandhi Puno    -    Oh! Lord Gandhi
Heigwang lamkhang    -    Become our king
He pati lcheizo    -    Come forth
He pati kheizo    -    Come forth

Jadonang's activities came to the knowledge of authorities. He was arrested and charged with creating social unrest and foretelling the people of establishment of a Kabui raj replacing the British raj. As soon as the authorities released him Jadonang started preparations for a struggle against the British. As the movement was about to enter its crucial phase and gain momentum, four Meitei traders were murdered at Kamiron village in the spring of' 1930 which misfired the whole game plan of Jadonang and ultimately caused his martyrdom.

Though Jadonang was not personally involved in the incident as he was staying at Nungba, the authorities did not let go the opportunity wasted and he was charged for conspiring the murder and later arrested under section I80 of IPC on 19th February, 1931. He was brought and lodged at Imphal Jail on 19th March, 1931.

Mr. J.C. Higgins, the political agent who launched the whole operation to arrest Jadonang also acted as the prosecutor and judge, delivered the judgement, Jadonang was found guilty of instigating the murder and sentenced to death with five years rigorous imprisonment, though the evidences proved otherwise. The judgement of the political agent was pronounced at Imphal on 13th May, 1931. The sentence was carried out on the early morning of Saturday, 29th August, 1931. A cursory look at the proceedings of the trial of Jadonang, it could be very easily concluded that the trial is nothing but a mockery of justice and fairplay.

After the execution of Jadonang, his movement was carried forward by Gaidinliu, a young girl of seventeen years old. Her area of operation and revolt was Tamenglong District of Manipur, Naga Hills and North Cachar Hills of Assam. As her movement was gaining strength, the government of Assam launched a centralised operation against Gaidinliu and her people under the direct control of J.P. Mills, Deputy Commissioner of Naga Hills.

As a result of the sustained and continued operation she was captured at Pulomi village in the North Cachar Hills on l7th October, 1932. She was brought to Imphal where the political agent Higgins sentenced her to deportation for life in 1933 for rebellion, murder and abetment of murder. Though the movement continued for sometime, it could not sustain longer for want of good leadership.

to be continued....

* K. Ruhinikumar Sharma wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is at Department of History, Ideal Girls' College, Akampat-Imphal
This article was posted on October 15, 2016.

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