TODAY -

Kangla - Anomalies in development
- Part 1

RS Jassal *

Kangla Development Board formed by the Govt of Manipur appears to have been done in a hurry after handing over of the complex was done between the DG AR Shillong and the CM of Manipur on 20th Nov, 2004 at Imphal at a solemn function inside Kangla. The ceremony was graced by the presence of Dr Manmohan Singh, H'ble PM of India and His Excellency Dr SS Sidhu, then Governor of Manipur.

The Assam Rifles/Army assets created in 113 years of stay inside Kangla appears to have been seized as no reference is made anywhere in any document as to what happens to removable and irremovable assets & about their maintenance, or upkeep other than opening of new offices and removing some important landmarks from military history point of view at random.

I had attended three meetings/open discussions held on Kangla Development Conceptual Plan conducted by Nalini Thakur prior to its vacation. The following points stand out conspicuously which appears to be missing on Kangla Board Agenda. It needs to be agreed upon that by end of April 1891 whatever was left on the ground after devastation by the British India troops a Coy of GaIhwal Rifles occupied for its management.

The Kangla area of 1.93 sq miles in radius was declared as Defense Estate. Area within present limitation is not even half. The Assam Rifles then known as Assam Military Police used to operate in detachments/long range patrols under direct employment with British Political officer(s).

It was in around 1913 that they (AR) were organised into proper Bns & 4 (Manipur) Bn, the Military Police inside Kangla got designation of the Assam Rifles in 1917 for their laudable services of providing drafts to Gorkha Bns during First World War. After the Garwal Rifles troops were relieved, the Assam Rifles stayed in Kangla for almost 113 years.

This much long stay was bound to create impact(s) on the history & socio physical culture of the place to a great extent. The most famous place known in the World Military history is that of Field Marshal 'Slims Cottage' later converted to CO 4AR residence for decades to follow.

This shaped the history of India. Japs tried hard to locate & hit Kangla with their troops abound at Shangshak, Ukhrul fallen, Kanglatombi-Leimakhong with ammo dumps threatened, Moirang fallen (both to Japs-INA combined) hand to hand battle at Elephant Hills, Nambol on & FM Slim cool and undeterred (a great lesson for senior Military Commanders to derive out of such depressed situation) remained engaged in planned re-inforcement, while at Kangla to push back Japs and raising of 4 Corps, with floating control of two Army Divisions on fast moving tracks from other parts of India as reinforcement both on Tiddim & Kohirna axis.

As a military history interest raising of famous 4 Corps and its disbandment immediately after war to be re­raised at Tezpur in 1962 in the wake of Chinese aggression thus inception of 4 Corps to Kangla will always be remembered & study subject for military history students.

Throughout 1944, Japan strikes destroyed Shangshak buildings but only one strike could reach Kangla and that too fell on a building stocking CSD stores breaking 48 cases of Rum (those days Rum used to be Jawans Ration item) big morale booster turned a loss incomprehensive for AR personnel.

The best designed military patterned quarter Guard (QG) next to canteen remained unscathed. Today QG stands as it was, eloquently including Assam Rifles memorial with names of each and every person who scarified his life, for Indian Nation inscribed on brass plates of the finest quality. Hence thought need be given who to maintain Two black houses (one already dismantled after Kangla Board came into existence) and one is left nearby memorial of Sub Hemo Chandra of 44 Gorkha (now 8GR), memorial of famous Sir Akbar Hyder Ali, then Governor of Greater Assam, Lushai House, Maa Durga Mandir, Military Hospital (MH) of standard military specifications are some of the buildings & sites which also need preservation in addition to other renovations and restorations which are in progress like Kanglas has and Shri Shri Govindaji temple.

Prior to advent of Vaishnavism, Sana Mahi religion & belief was ruling almost every family in the valley. They also profess main site at a place exactly where foundation stone of the State Assembly (then decided by RK Dorendro's Ministry) stands. Knowledgeable sources indicate Uttarakhand in Kangla was permitted to be used for cremation of deceaseds other than from royal heritage & for royal cremation it used to be in the southern part only, then how come royal memorial of Maharaja Budhchandra found space in Uttarakand. Isn't a subject for study & research?

What happens to preservation and renovation of Sana Mahi deities which are supposed to be existing inside Kangla area? British Defense Estate used to cover up to Khuman Lampak Sports Complex, area Muningtong, the Assam Rifles small arms firing range Chingmeirong (now Capitol Project) other areas even beyond Sanjenthong bridge.

Obviously everything can not be restored and Kangla Development Conceptual Plan got restricted and will remain restricted to present portion of Kangla only. In view of the above it is recommended:­
(a) Due note be taken of protecting defense assets inside as a national pride. India's political history assumes importance with strategic military adventures of FM Slim & the Indian Army.

(b) In absence of a decision on removal & retention of buildings belonging to the defense, Kangla Board may also confront difficulty in going ahead with Nalini Thakur Plan or any other alternative plan or whatever was recommended by recognised scholars/intellectuals/historians from Manipur. Hence a fair decision is a must.

Four years have passed; no excavation work by the Department of Archeology has started. Only one stone well carved with British Assam Rifles insignia marking the number of persons who sacrificed their lives during the First World War has been recovered which lying in the musewn is created by the Deptt Of Archeology since take over of Kangla. To enable excavation work to commence holding of seminar etc inside Kangla may be withheld temporarily till all the three sub sectors inside Kangla as per plan are properly earmarked & developed.

(c) Demolition on sentiments be avoided. Who knows Kangla may be declared as World Heritage one day as many scholars and historians of Manipuri origin had suggested in some of our discussions. One such demolition is of a Church building, no doubt it did not exist as on April 1891 but it is also a fact it existed as on 20 Nov 2004.

And in addition to Durga Temple there is one more temple due north adjacent to deserted 4AR school. The construction of four domes above with mandap type done in centre indicate its celestial importance, which also needs protection. There may be more places of other archaeological importance once excavation works are undertaken, some relics may come out.

(d) Ignoring psyche of common Manipuri (Hills and Valley both), destroying evidences of Military importance and creation of new demands associated or unassociated may jeopardise our cultural & national gain. Hafiz Hatta estate (60 acres) within old Kangla, surfacing demand of Muslim brothers for a Masjid inside present Kangla when already a masjid inside old Kangla is existing is one of the example(s) of such demand(s).

(e) I had three tenures in Kangla at different intervals as a Captain/Asst-Comdt, and as Dy-Comdt before retiring as Comdt (AR). I can vouch Assam Rifles never disallowed any entry for worship or visiting inside including tourists. Now even I cannot enter freely despite proving my identity from North­ern & the Southern gates. A Board is hung for VIP & VVIP only.

If so then why to put up office CO IRB Bn, Deptt of Archeology and Kangla Board inside. Families of State forces are living inside. We have all the right to visit such offices inside at times of need. Relatives of families may have to visit them inside. Why a person desirous to enter from Northern or Southern gate be made to go through jam traffic to western gate only.

-to be continued....




* RS Jassal wrote this article for The Sangai Express . This article was webcasted on February 02 2009.

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