Bodh Chandra, his advisors and Manipur Darbar (Merger Series - III)

Dr Th Suresh Singh *

While analysing Manipur Merger Agreement and how we lost internal autonomy, one has to scrutinise closely the role of Manipur Darbar and Private Secretary S. Gaurahari. In respect of Manpur Darbar, one also needs to minutely scrutinise role of Priya Batra, the 1st Manipuri Chief Minister (not 1st Chief Minister of Manipur) and 1st and only Prime Minister of Manipur.

With his academic background and official influence, I at least expected him to have utmost effect on his brother king. Atlas, that is not so. With the various write ups available, it is for sure that he had a limited influence on his brother king.

It is proved by various orders issued by the king from time to time in respect of Manipur Darbar and other day to day administrative procedures. That the Maharaja had a hate and love relationship with Manipur Darbar is for sure.

Similarly, one has to scrutinise the role of private secretary Gaurahari in those day to day administration and in the signing of the merger agreement. I don’t want to be a pessimist and give a –ve assessment for both of these 2 respected individuals. I would have wanted to interview them from a close angle.

But unfortunately by the time I took interest in Manipur history, these 2 gentlemen had gone forever. However, there are many circumstantial evidences left; hence, I can have a holistic view of their roles.

By the end of World War II and with imminent British departure on the table, Manipur showed a lot of political hot steam in its clear sky. The return of Irabot in early 1945 forced formation of 3 distinct openly declared political parties in Manipur for the 1st time. These were: rural-based Manipur Krishik Sabha (MKS), urban-based Manipur Praja Sanga (MPS) and urban-elite based Manipur State Congress (MSC).

Though mass-based political struggle started in latter part of Churachand’s reign, it became formalised during Bodh Chandra’s reign. The stage is now set for intense political struggle. This is seen by various acts of omissions and commissions executed by Bodh Chandra as seen below :

i) On 20/06/1947, Manipur State Darbar was dissolved and instituted a form of Government known as His Highness the Maharaja in Council. The council means the council of ministers. Pearson became the 1st chief Minister with another 5 Council of Ministers. Most Darbar Members became members of the new Council

ii) after its formation, the said His Highness the Maharaja in Council was dissolved on 13/08/1947

iii) next day, 14/08/1947, an Interim Council was formed with a 7 member. M.K.Priya Brata became 1st Manipuri Chief Minister but 2nd of the lot. Both PA Steward and Pearson was present in the swearing in ceremony at Palace Darbar Hall where the Maharaja administered the oath to the ministers

iv) though the 1st election was held in June-July 1948, its swearing in ceremony was done only after 3 months i.e. on 18/10/1948 at Palace Darbar Hall. Priya Brata again became the 1st Chief Minister of this elected Assembly and T.C Tiankham became the 1st Speaker.

Thus at this critical juncture of our history, the Maharaja was unable to take a clear stand on important issues. With many selfish political pressures coming up there in, he was unable to bring a consensus for a common cause of the Motherland. His inner conflict becoming all the more prominent with more pressure piling up from pseudo-politicians.

Had he worked for a common cause to preserve our internal autonomy by consulting all stakeholders, we could have achieved something. Instead, he was playing British’s “Divide and Rule” policy. Hence, it is natural that he failed utterly.

It is here that we require an in-depth analysis of the role of Darbar Members and his advisors. Among the Darbar Members, the blunt of criticism has to be borne by Priya Brata by virtue of his stature and of being the younger brother of the king. Among the Advisors, Gaurahari has to bear the blunt of criticism as he was the Private Secretary to the Maharaja.

Without any bad intention, your Opinion Maker has to state that both these respected gentlemen had utterly failed at this critical juncture. Of course, one also has to blame our selfish politicians of that time. But then, a selfless leader is one who took correct and bold decisions at critical time in common interest. Bodh Chandra was not one among them.

Younger historians of the present lot and future historians will not be kind to Maharaj Bodh Chandra, Darbar Members and P/S Gaurahari while analysing how Manipur lost internal autonomy and subsequent freedom and Kabaw Valley. In doing so, one has to see the whole spectrum and not only the Merger Agreement saga.

What I am trying to emphasise is that the period of critical review is to be from the time British left Manipur till the state merged to the Dominion of India ( i.e. from 15/08/1947 – 14/10/1949). This is important for our future historical perspective and to keep Manipur’s history in a proper basket.

* Dr Th Suresh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Ex-Director, Health & WHO Fellow
This article was posted on October 27, 2017.

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