TODAY -

Defending Manipur: Beyond the Rhetoric of Khongjom Day

A Bimol Akoijam *



Manipur commemorates the Battle of Khongjom (1891), the decisive battle of Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 that brought Manipur under the effective control of British Indian Empire. Some Manipuri historians and politicians will acknowledge this battle of Khongjom, not without reasons, as "the last battle" fought by any "Indian princes" against the Colonial British. It is another matter that majority of people amongst the so-called "mainstream" may not know about this Battle or the War of 1891.

And yet, amidst "patriotic" songs and speeches, appeals to join the "mainstream" and work for "development" would, as usual, rend in the air as the State commemorates the day and pay homage to those who died fighting for their land and freedom of the people against an Imperial Power for whom the "Sun never sets".

However, given the present state of affairs in the State - the all around normative and institutional decay, deplorable/non-existent infrastructures, and a communally fragmented society which threatens the very existence of Manipur as a geo-political entity, one can not help but ask, what is the significance of this commemoration?

To remember and celebrate the spirit that was behind the defence of Manipur seems to be an obvious answer. But then, such remembrance/celebration makes sense only insofar as one can relate that spirit to contemporary life.

Manipur: Historicity of the Political

On the hindsight, the confrontation of 1891 seemed inevitable. After all, Manipur was to be caught between two empires that came up on its eastern and western flanks around the mid-eighteenth century - the British Indian Empire that grew as a politico-military power after the Battle of Plassey (1757) in South Asia and the emergence of the Burmese Empire under the Alaungpaya Dynasty (1752-1885) in South East Asia. In the power struggle between these two empires Manipur became an ally of the British, the foundation of which was laid in the treaty signed between "Manipur" and British East India Company (located at Chittagong) on 14th September, 1762.

After having been an active ally of the British in the latter's wars with the Burmese (such as First, Second, and Third Anglo-Burmese Wars, 1823-26, 1852-53, 1885-1886), Manipur lost its "strategic" interest to the British after Burma was annexed by the British Indian Empire following the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-1886). And after having consolidated its hold on the region, the British started actively interfering in the domestic affairs of the State which ultimately led to the 1891 confrontation.

It was a war that brought Manipur as a "Princely State" (classified as State with an "Eleven Gun Salute") under the British Indian Empire, which was subsequently "taken over" by the post-colonial Indian State on 15 October, 1949 as a "Chief Commissioner Province". As it stands today, that is the legacy that Indian Constitution acknowledges as it defines "Manipur" as one of the constituent States of India in its First Schedule as a "territory" which was "administered as if it were a Chief Commissioner Province before the commencement of this Constitution".

Incidentally, the "take over" of Manipur (as the official document on the "integration" of "princely States" calls it) was marked by an unceremonious act of dissolving a democratically elected Assembly in Manipur and the beginning of a direct bureaucratic rule of the State by New Delhi for more than two decades. This ironical beginning of the post-colonial life of the State has lots to do with the armed insurgency in the State.

However, strange as it might seem, while the establishment has readily acknowledged a historical moment like the Battle of Khongjom, its contingent facts of history, of which the armed insurgency has been a critical part/manifestation, that have critical bearings on our contemporary life have been rarely acknowledged or accordingly addressed.

Instead, the approach has been largely of treating the phenomenon as a "law and order" issue, which by definition makes it a "criminal" one. Worst, such an approach has been done through a surreptitious deployment of military power, that too with its war paradigm, as an instrument of maintaining law and order. The consequences of such systemic responses are there for all to see: the erosion of civil and judicial authorities and that of the institution of police as a crucial aspect of law and order administrative mechanism through its "militarization". Symptoms of such consequences have appeared too often and yet rather than recognizing those as inherent systemic flaws, those have been termed as "aberrations"! Subsequently, the systemic rot gets deepen and the language of intimidation and violence has come to be the mainstay of the polity and society.

On the other hand, the politically correct sounding phrases like "revolution" and "liberation" have increasingly become alibi to perpetuate atrocious criminal acts and violence against the general population. However "justifications" that one might get to hear, which are often indistinguishable from those who justify their inhuman acts under AFSPA, the fact remains that the people are fed-up with killing of people all in the name of the people, and not without reasons, the people also have enough reasons to suspect those "justifications".

Consequently, Manipur is dying as a civilized society and geo-political entity; for such an entity can never survive without functioning normative and institutional mechanisms. This is the present challenge of defending Manipur that we must concentrate as we remember the gallant heroes who died in defence of the land and people's freedom and dignity.

But what does this new challenge entails? First and foremost, it entails an informed and honest acknowledgement of the core issue that has critical bearing on the present state of affairs in Manipur: a historically rooted political issue manifested as armed insurgency.

Indeed, even when one says, the "insurgents" are only "interested in money", one must simultaneously ask as to whether one agrees with the political agenda that the insurgents are purportedly striving (if they were not to be "only after money").

Similarly, beyond the question of whether "sovereignty" for Manipur is "practical" or "possible"- as the Chief Minister reportedly said at Khongjom Day function the other day, "in the face of India becoming the third super power in the world, the demand for sovereignty of Manipur by various insurgent groups of the State has become far beyond possibility" - one must ask as to whether their demand has a historical and political reason and in principle does the demand have a political meaning for Manipur and her people.

It must go without saying that such clarity will enable us to embark upon a journey that reverses the decadence by ensuring the legitimacy of civilized normative and institutional mechanisms in our life. And on the other hand, this must also enable us to give certain sense of clarity and legitimacy to issues that we must legitimately own up by separating the grain from the chaff.

Defending Manipur: The Battle Within

Manipur is dying, largely in its own hands, for the people are suffering from a palpable slavish character (nurtured by a dependent political-economy) and a pathological sense of resignation (yararoi/oiraroi attitude). While their visions have often been shortsighted/twisted, a sense of "flight" than "fight" marks their motivation. And there have been many "episodes", some even christened as "people's uprising", which have led to ironical denouement without shaping a tangible result or transformations in Manipur's recent "history".

Indeed, as some say, failing to learn from history ensure its repetition. Commemorating the Battle of Khongjom (and the Anglo-Manipuri War, 1891) must also be an occasion to reflect and learn lessons from history. Indeed, there are lessons to be learnt from that seemingly inevitable confrontation. Take for instance, the manner in which the five British officials were killed, irrespective of their crime, which had shaped the trajectory of not only the War but also the future of the State: Was it a result of a well-deliberated and thought out action or was it one that was executed in a hurry amidst a milieu of unrest and excitation?

Let the commemoration of the Battle of Khongjom not be a hollow and escapist indulgence but a moment to come to terms with the challenges of defending a dying Manipur and rejuvenate the effort to defend the land and its people for a peaceful, dignified, prosperous and healthy life.

And it must go without saying that the War to defend Manipur begins from a battle from within each one of us.


* A Bimol Akoijam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 30, 2011.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Tribute to Rishang Keishing #1 :: Gallery
  • Manipur Univ of Culture #1 :: Gallery
  • Awunching Biodiversity Park #4 :: 360 ° View
  • MPSC & Enquiry : Things we should know
  • 20th Zeliangrong Bangalore Event
  • Leave nature alone #1 :: Book Extract
  • Condolence service for Late Rishang
  • Condolence Message On Keishing's Demise
  • Nagaland CM interacts with Naga Hoho
  • NPF special prayer meeting
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • A requiem to Rishang Keishing
  • Undertsanding the core issues
  • Tamu, Myanmar- Moreh border #2 :: Gallery
  • Changchapbou, Nampanliu :: eMing
  • State Inter School Archery :: Gallery
  • Condolence : demise of Rishang Keishing
  • Manipuri women and their tolerance
  • Career related to Climate Change
  • Musical- Where Have All The Flowers Gone
  • Career Counseling Seminar for Girls
  • Water everywhere but not a drop to drink
  • Will IM settlement be a betrayal to Manipur
  • Rongmei body demands shifting of Army
  • Women's League (Qualifying) #1 :: Gallery
  • Word Order in Manipuri Language
  • Mourning for Gurumayum Shyamsunder
  • Neglected..villagers built their own bridge
  • Of AFSPA and Common Man :: Poem
  • Job Opening at VITSOFTS, Canchipur
  • 19th Edition of IIT Techniche to start
  • 8th Western Angami A/C -NPF's Statement
  • Coming out against party hopping : Ibobi..
  • Blame game and you
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic
  • Krishna Janma @ISKCON :: Gallery
  • Natural Body Building #4 :: Gallery
  • The struggle so far...
  • Shadowy Lies :: Poem
  • Time for Modi to release all jailed militant..
  • Students, agitation & symptomatic treatment
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • A Political Messiah Has Come to Nagaland
  • Nungbi Khullen, Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • Protest in Kangpokpi District :: Gallery
  • Cirrhosis: Basics & laboratory diagnosis
  • Impact of television in rural development
  • The Echoing Hills :: Poem
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand : Timeline
  • Nagaland CM respond to Dr. SL's bureau
  • Unauthorized CEC meeting
  • Student leaders detained for mobilizing ILPS
  • Earning our keeps
  • Meira Rally on Patriots' Day #2 :: Gallery
  • ... All The Flowers Gone? #2 :: Gallery
  • Shri Shri Govindaji Temple #1 :: 360 ° View
  • My Japanlan memoir after 4 score yrs
  • Traffic jam and 13th August
  • Manipur District Demand :: Articles / Photos
  • The Law is Mightier Than The Pen
  • Let the law decide
  • ...health insurance scheme for scribes
  • Absurd 1 Village, 1 Denomination decree
  • Singcha Wuya Won (flower) #3:: Gallery
  • Sunday Cup Football @Lamshang :: Gallery
  • Gurmayum Robert wins gold at World Event
  • Loktak Project & corporate unaccountability
  • Supremacy Of The Party :: NPF
  • Binding the wound: The district row
  • Admission Notice - AiTC, Imphal
  • 'Sexuality & Internet' at Digital Summit
  • Zeliang welcomed support from NPF Minority
  • NSU site and undue communal overtones
  • Tripartite Talk: GOI/GOM/UNC :: Gallery
  • Governor's Cup Fencing :: Gallery
  • 13 Aug @Kangla & BT Park :: Gallery
  • Bruce Dickinson: "son-rise" of Iron Maiden
  • Biren should learn from Mamata Banerjee
  • The globe is in your fist
  • AR I-Day festivities with Myanmar army
  • AR celebrates 71st Independence day
  • Unconstitutionality of TR Government
  • Stadium upgrade for I-League
  • NE film festival in Delhi from Aug 18
  • Myanmarese advised to follow traffic rules
  • The human torch and AFSPA
  • The real taste of Independence Day
  • Mission XI football @ Andro :: Gallery
  • Krishna Janma @ Mahabali :: Gallery
  • Blood Donation for 13 August:: Gallery
  • Mahabali Temple , Imphal :: 360 ° View
  • Graphic & plastic arts of Zeliangrong #3
  • Silence :: Poem
  • Sport Univ: Promises kept but corruption?
  • Job requirements at SKY Hospital
  • Jobs @ National Informatics Centre (NIC)
  • I-Day Celebration at BJP State Office
  • Meira Rally on Patriots' Day #1 :: Gallery
  • Patriots' Day @ Kolkata :: Gallery
  • 26th NAMA Convention Report, Houston, TX
  • Forming Plurals in Manipuri Language
  • Mammography and frequently ask question
  • NPF Office Bearers reaffirm support
  • DAN Co-ordination Meeting Resolutions
  • India and China: From rivalry to enmity
  • For better tomorrows
  • 13 August @Hicham Yaichampat :: Gallery
  • Patriots' Day @ Hojai, Assam :: Gallery
  • Protest: malpractices of MPSC :: Gallery
  • On MPSC scam & people defending it
  • 126th Patriots' Day observed in Delhi
  • 126th Patriots' Day observed in Hojai
  • Lajong U-12 to represent India in BRICS
  • Learn something from 2015 experience
  • The district creation headache
  • State Thang-Ta Competition :: Gallery
  • Search operation [Aug 12] :: Gallery
  • 13 August Patriots' Day : Read all about it
  • Thangal General : The Patriot
  • Proxy examination and Wrong politics
  • Women should not live in fear ....
  • Summer Thoughts :: Poem
  • NPF Youth serve Ultimatum to Rio
  • A slap on the face of Christianity
  • U-Morok @ Shirarakhong :: Gallery
  • Dangers of 'Trial by Media' & the MPSC
  • Is Culture of insensible activism taking root
  • Meiteilon never been Tibeto-Burman
  • Mechanized threshing of foodgrains #2
  • ZSUB Foundation Day, Fresher's Meeting
  • Sadar Hills District Demand: News Timeline
  • Breaking the barrier
  • National Handloom Day @ GHY :: Gallery
  • Chirom Indira shine in hearts of NE Weavers
  • Investigate killings as ordered by SC
  • MSTC CMD met with CM of Manipur
  • Conspiracy behind the toppling game
  • Armed groups attack..a human right abuse
  • Drawing Competition at Khengjoi, Chandel
  • Save the indigenous people cry : Valley..
  • A matter need to ponder
  • Earthen wares of Ningthemcha Karong
  • Indigenous Wrestling @ SPT #2 :: Gallery
  • Awunching Biodiversity Park #3 :: 360 ° View
  • XXVIII State Thang-Ta Competition 2017
  • India's HLPF review of SDGs & Manipur
  • Robotics as career options
  • International Day of Indigenous People
  • Rejoinder Issued By Shurhozelie Liezietsu
  • Hard facts of political crisis (Nagaland)
  • Viewing through one's community
  • Darkening shadows of doubt
  • Ziumi village, Maram Landscape:: Gallery
  • Inter School Handball Tournament :: Gallery
  • The Proud Bamboo Tree :: Folk Tale
  • Populated Attitudes :: Poem
  • Marijuana, Mahadev and Maneka
  • Notice for MSc Biochemistry Admissions
  • Assam edition of NE India Fashion Week
  • Being different from Cong Govt
  • Cracking down on fraudulence
  • Hanuba-hanubi paan thaba :: Funga Wari
  • ... All The Flowers Gone? #1 :: Gallery
  • Need to bust racket running inside MPSC
  • Will PM Modi betray Assam in No ST, no rest
  • State Level Essay Writing Competition
  • RIST Condolence Function at MU
  • When we stumble and fall
  • Customer Care Executive @ basicP, Imphal
  • Petition for Disqualification of 10 MLAs
  • Cracking down on fraudulence
  • Rape of small newspaper
  • Landscape of Ukhrul District #2:: Gallery
  • Jhulon Nupi Pala Phamsak :: Gallery
  • TR is CM by technicality sans Legality
  • One Day in Heaven :: Poem
  • Libraries Vs Google: Are we heading there
  • ..for electrical distribution rearrangement
  • Lessons to learn from CCpur: public hygiene
  • Angaoba Film Scenes #1 :: eRang
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • The dawn of cricket in Manipur
  • Lumbini Leikolda Shat-houba Leirang
  • Workshop on MU Reservations held
  • Job posting at C-DAC Silchar
  • Indigenous Wrestling @ SPT #1 :: Gallery
  • Tourist Watch Tower, Khongjom #4 :: 360 °
  • Admission for B.Ed at Manipur University
  • A village called Nbena :: Book Review
  • Employment Generating Hands on Skill
  • Unnatural death of Sainik School student
  • Confession
  • Nongbrang, bank of Thoubal River :: Gallery
  • Pukpha Fest @Tamenglong :: Gallery
  • Binalakshmi Nepram at UN, NYC : 1 Aug
  • Free Computer Course by KEN @ Imphal
  • Ishu : Feature Film in Assamese :: Review
  • Battle Of Khongjom & Manipuris in 1891 #3
  • Photography: Career through lenses
  • Mega Marathon Manipur : Download Form
  • Landscape of Manipur #7: Wallpaper
  • Singcha Wayawon opening #2:: Gallery
  • 1st Mao Market day @Nagamapal:: Gallery
  • ILP : Students protest [27 July] :: Gallery
  • Ethoi Oinam (Actress) #2 :: eRang Photos
  • Echum Lairembi, Khurkhul #3:: Gallery
  • Tapta :: Funga Wari
  • Featured Photo for 2017 #3 :: Gallery
  • Lai Khong Chingba @Thangjing #4
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #5 : Ooba
  • SPONSORED ADS