Romance of insurgency in Manipur in 1970s and 1980s
Rebels of the Valley
- Part 2 -

Dr. K. Ruhinikumar Sharma & Dr. Sanasam Amal Singh *

Slowly they were completely being indoctrinated to the communist point of view and the necessity of using the gun to free Manipur from the rest of India. Thus Surchandra and his comrades were made tough and hard to crack revolutionaries. Apart from the Meitei youths the Nagas and the Mizos were also given training by the Chinese authorities.

It appears that the author had a strong conviction that China had a great role in triggering rebellious activities in North East India. After receiving the training Surchandra along with his colleagues had a firm conviction that there has been a strong case for revolution in Manipur since Manipur was once an independent country; and economic cause because the State was an under developed one and allegedly had an incompetent administration and a social cause in view of the prevailing corruption and alleged discrimination. Hence they were suffering from identity crisis.

In order to get publicity and create a large scale of discontentment and disillusionment among the people to further expose the incompetents of the established authority Surchandra and his fellow comrades adopted violence and terror tactics. It is done by random terrorism, bombings, arsons, and assassinations, conducted in as spectacular a fashion as possible, by concentrated, coordinated and synchronized waves.

The second step of selective terrorism quickly follows the first. The aims are to isolate the counter-insurgent from the masses, to involve the population in the struggle, and to obtain as a minimum its passive complicity. This is done by sporadic killing of low ranking officials such as policemen, mailmen, teachers, etc., who work most closely with the population.

Killing high-ranking counter-insurgent officials serves no purpose since they are too far removed from the population for their deaths to serve as examples. These activities forced the security forces to respond in a strong measure and they made success at Khonghampat operation which covers a large area where a hideout of the rebels was busted.

In the encounter security forces killed thirteen rebels among whom two important rebel leaders viz Nilah Singh and Devchandra Sharma who both carry a reward of Rupees 20,000 each on their heads. The operation was a grand success on the part of the police and it also saved them from the embarrassment of being at the receiving end from the rebels [B.L.Vohra, 1987: 46-47].

The rebels were on the run for quite some time since they did not have a permanent base of their own. Even then they decided to strike back with a vengeance for their losses at Khomhampat. They decided to respond with three operations in quick succession to make an impact on the authority.

The places chosen for the operations were Yurembam Power House to the west of Imphal, the All India Radio Complex in the heart of the town and on the Pallel-Moreh Road leading to Burma (Myanmar). These tasks were assigned to Iboyaima, Kunjeshwor and Achouba, the three well trained cadres of the organisation. They in turn were to be assisted by others from their respective units.

The operation at Lamshang was carried out successfully in which three CRPF personnel including DSP Ram Rattan. In fact it was a tremendous loss and caused considerable demoralization in the police circle [Ibid., 91-92].

However their plan of hurling grenade attack at AIR complex could not be carried out due to tightened security measures in and around Imphal town. The operation at Moreh-Pallel Road was a total success as rebel cadres launched a well organised ambush against a BSF convoy. These successes emboldened the spirit of the cadres and people also started noticing their seriousness.

The security forces in the aftermath seemed to have change their tactics and strategy in neutralizing the rebels actions in a disguised manner by carrying out operations in civil dress by army personnel. They also involved a local Meitei in carrying out the operation and identification of the rebels.

The operation was successful as they could killed three rebels and arrested two at Thangmeiband, a locality in the neighbourhood of Imphal town. Having made success state and central security forces intensified their operation against the rebels. From that time onwards the insurgents were on the run.

The modi operandi adopted were:
a. Isolation of guerrillas from the people supporting them;
b. Destruction of the hardcore of the guerrillas;
c. Complete cooperation among the various Government agencies; and
d. Improve administration of the rebels areas [Ibid., 136]

Thus it seemed the concerted effort of the security forces in close coordination with civil administration had a major influence in marginalization of rebel activities for quite some time. Many of the rebel leaders were apprehended in course of time and imprisoned.

Later on some of them from inside the jail contested elections to the legislative assembly and a few got elected. Government was confident in handling them in a fair manner. However one of the unsuccessful contestants got his group together again and went back to the jungle.

Everybody felt that peace had finally descended on Manipur, violence had reduced considerably and election of the extremists to the assembly gave relief to the people. Yet not long after, another bomb explosion took place in Senapati. "And two days later an ambush by the NSCN of an Army convoy on its way to Ukhrul from Imphal, in which ten army jawans got killed, brought back the sense of insecurity".

Thus the novelist observed, " in a fight between a lion and a fly, the fly cannot deliver a knockout blow and the lion cannot fly. This warfare in an insurgency area is something like that."[Ibid., 121] It is a truly prophetic observation made by the author as event of the subsequent years clearly shows. The rebels' actions appear in the scene with a greater vengeance.

There is nothing much to be proud about a revolution as it involves violence on both sides, yet certain sections of the society is attracted towards revolution. As the later colonial, history of Southeast Asia shows, foreign domination was a constant spur for revolt.

Whether linked with modern ideologies or associated with some quite traditional sense of national or regional identity, revolt against the alien is one of the most common, and the most successful of the appeals for action [Osborne, 1970: 11]. Maybe there is a distinct possibility of this pattern being adopted in Manipur and therein situates the romance of insurgency.


1. B. L. Vohra (b.1944-) was an IPS officer who served as Home Secretary, GoM, during the 1980s and 1990s in Manipur at the peak of insurgency. He authored 12 books and has been awarded by MHA and NHRC for his books on Human Rights and Police.

2. Lamyanba is a powerful mouthpiece of PANMYL having political overtones. The reportage in its pages regularly exposes the misdeeds and corruptions indulged in by high ranking officials of the government both at the Centre and the State. The journal also endeavours to inculcate the spirit of nationalism and patriotism among the youths of the state.

3. These two monographs had deep impact on the minds of the educated youths of Manipur in making them understand the complex realities in the 1970s and in finding solutions for an alternative.

4. Ph. Nandalal Sharma's 'Meitrabak ' is a passionate introduction to Manipur which portrays the emergence of Manipur as a nation state. It instills the spirit of nationalism among the youths with a personalised account of the known and the unknown heroes of the land, their heroism and sacrifice.

5. 'Bir Tikendrajit', a drama is based on the life and activities of Tikendrajit, who is considered the hero of the Anglo-Manipuri War 1891. The drama had such influence that state authorities seriously considered putting strictures on staging it fearing that could potentially incite anti-national feeling amongst the youth.

6. Joddha Chandra Sanasam's novel, 'Akanba Safugee Irei (1981)' portrays the romanticism through the daring acts of violence committed by nationalist youths fighting for the liberation of Manipur from exploitation. However it lacks in analysing the philosophy and rationale of the reasons for the youths taking up arms to further their cause.

7. Eigee Punshi (2002), an autobiography by Mayanglambam Babudhon Singh a retired police officer known for his commitment, ability and shrewdness in dealing with those who are against the established laws of the state, written in a chronological sequence the author records important incidences connected with the rebels, and also provides information on the initiative taken up to neutralise the actions of the rebels.


* Dr. K. Ruhinikumar Sharma & Dr. Sanasam Amal Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on April 26 2019.

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