Political and Economic ramifications of Manipur's merger with India in 1949

Ningthoujam Bidyaluxmi Devi *

Since British left Manipur in 14 August 1947, one day before India's Independence, Manipur restored its sovereignty and become an independent kingdom in the South East Asia. On the basis of 1947 Constitution, Manipur held its first democratic election in the mid 1948 on the basis of adult franchise and it was a pioneering moment of the post British imperial election in the Asian Societies as it was followed by Burmese independence 1948, Chinese revolution and Indian Republic holding its election in 1952.

Just after independence, the Indian union tried to hasten the integration project. It soon implant Dewan targeting to Maharaja and the Manipur State Congress which support the merger of the kingdom in the Indian Union, as the continuity of princely states was not suitable in the process of integration of Indian states. It keep a vigilant eye on the hills to restrain the communist mobilization in the region.

The Manipur Student Federation held a public meeting on the 15 August 1947 at the Rupmahal Hall, Imphal with black flag procession as a mark of protest against integrationist onslaught. The process of MSF were significant for it addressed the political scenarios of the world particularly they sympathized with the communist movement in China, Burma, Indonesia, Malaya etc.

Political parties with socialist leaning favoured the idea of Purbanchal; the Praja Shanti wanted to maintain the status quo; the Congress supported the integration with India and the communist were not in favour integration as they were aiming at a communist revolution in Manipur.

Since the date of dissolution of Manipur National Assembly and termination of the government of the sovereign state of Manipur in 15 October, 1949 onwards, the Indian state had been administering the territory of Manipur under varying arrangements. It is argued that from the standard of international law and especially international humanitarian law, the Constitutional incorporation of the state of Manipur in 1972 as the 19th state or administrative unit of the Indian union through the North East ( Reorganisation) Act 1971 was an act that characterize the ultimate official annexation of the former by the latter.

Prolonged unlawful occupation and subsequent annexation of a territory while attracting the rules of international law bring in political implications of a serious character especially on the lives of the people of the annexed territory. Obliterating the sovereignty of a state through annexation by the occupying power tends to derecognize a people and their nationhood of its earlier historical existence as a politically independent entity while imposing a new sense of belongingness and allegiance to a foreign rule.

From 1959 onwards., laws of India were extended to Manipur. Indian laws concerning civil, criminal, property, succession etc. were also extended to Manipur. Repressive legislation to which the people of Manipur have been subjected to includes
1) the Sedition Meeting ( Prevention) Act 1911.
2) the Armed Forces Special Power Act, 1958 as amended in 1972 .
3) the Punjab Security act, 1980 .
4) the National Security Act 1980.
5) the onslaught Activities (Prevention ) Act, 1967 and it's amended version of 2019 etc

These legislation seems to operate under the enabling environment of martial laws established by Article 34 of the Constitution of India. Of all these , the AFSPA 11958 proved to be the most draconian instrument that legalized impunity to extra judicially execute people on a mere suspicion.

Section 4(a) of the AFSPA empowers the armed forces and military personnel of the Union of India to shoot to the extent of causing death on mere suspicion in a disturbed area. This laws is also extended to other parts of the North eastern Region( Nagaland Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, and Assam) and also to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir where there are armed resistance movement against the Union of India.

The cumulative effect of all the legislative and administrative arrangements of the government of India in the occupied territory is that it has internalized the very issues of occupation and annexation by maintaining Manipur as an integral part of India. The issuance of Indian passport, driving licence, voter ID and other documents to the occupied people of Manipur had the effects of changing their nationality from Manipuri to Indian.

These have been a consequence of the incorporation of the territory of Manipur. The implication of imposition of Indian nationality is that it carries with it the effects of extinguishing the national identify of the people of Manipur and the aspirations for an independent statehood. This is clear violation of article 47 of the Fouth Geneva Convention which prohibits the change in the status of the people in the occupied territory and also article 45 of the IV Hague Regulation 1907 which prohibits compulsion of the inhabitants of occupying states.

Besides the administrative structure which has been set up in the territory of Manipur have been oppressive, bureaucratic and operates to strengthen military rule of the Union of India. Civil administration is dependent on Indian military to carry out its normal functions. This is testified by the operation of AFSPA since 1958 and which continue to extend after review for every six months.

The case of Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association Union of India brought to the fore of 1528 cases of extra judicial execution in the territory of Manipur carried out by the Indian Armed and security forces. There were hundreds of rape case neglected by the judicial; Manorama case is still fresh in the minds of the People of Manipur.

Thus, India's occupation of the territory of Manipur in 1949 was followed by its annexation brought a series of political turmoil, chaos and atrocities in the state. Political and economic development are indispensable and as such the political tussle and chaotic political conditions were reflected in the economy of the time and it affected the economic growth of the state.

In the period between Manipur's merge with India and its statehood, Manipur's economy was getting increasingly integrated in the mainstream economy and there was a decline of employment in the secondary sector about 45! as set by the census report of India 1961 and 1971 . The impact of the structural shifts, especially in labour, has been telling on the agricultural sector.

The de industrialization and the tertiarisation of the economy has led to marginalization, structural retrogression and near stagnation in agriculture, turning the agriculture into a secondary occupation. The state economy was fully controlled by the centre and exploit it's mineral resources whatever possible and tried to convert the state to a mere importer.

Manipur witnessed a series of people's conglomeration 1 ., expressing deep concerns with both the process and impact of oil exploration in Manipur . The people of Manipur protest against the petroleum exploration in the District of Tamenglong and cancelled the public hearing held in Nungba in 17 August 2012 .

But without informing and taking the consent of all indigenous peoples of Manipur, the government if India, through its Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, granted license to Jubilian Oil and Gas private limited, a company based on Netherland, for exploration and drilling works in two oil blocks that are located in Jiribam( erstwhile lmphal East) , Tamenglong, and Churchanpur district of Manipur.

Despite abundant availability of oil and gas in Manipur, the government of India and the government of Manipur have been maintaining a deafening and deceitful silence for long, even to the extent of refraining from making a public official statement on the availability of oil and natural gas in Manipur. More objectionable is the fact that a mere private company, Jubilant Oil and Gas Private Limited, has been conferred full ownership of all resources in Manipur.

The first official response of the to the community's assertion against oil exploration is failing an FIR at Nungba Police station against the communities rejection the environment public hearing at Nungba on 17 August. The oil exploration move proves the clear disrespect of the people of the state and its social and cultural right of the indigenous people.

Several United Nations Human right bodies, while deliberating Mapithel dam and the proposed Tipaimuk dam construction in Manipur, have urged upon the government of India to respect the rights of the Indigenous people over their land and obtain free prior and consent before any development process.

A deep rooted and multi faced adverse impact of the 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydro Project, commissioned by the National Hydro Power Corporation ( NHPC) continued to hunt Manipur for long. A simple interaction with denizens of Loktak wetland within the peripheral parts of the wetland would unravel the alterations, a change more of nightmarish experience to the communities of lost of land, lost of fish species and seasonal plants and a change in culture that brings lamentations to memories of abundance, and of freedom and glories in their bygone days, prior to the dam.

The NHPC 's Loktak project is simply becoming a symbol of rudeness plunder and oppression of the people of Manipur. The people of the state could not get free electricity and the taxes were gone to the center and they even have to buy it from its own state. NHPC continues to reap maximum profit at the cost of Manipur's land and suffering for its people.

There were economic loss due to submergence of 80,000 acres of agriculture land many people were displaced of their home. Thus the merger of Manipur into the Indian Union marked a turning point in the historical, political, social and economic hanges in Manipur.

From the standard of International Law and particularly under the legal other of the United Charter and International humanitarian Law, India continue unlawful presence in Manipur represent an illegal territorial, regime with intention to change the international status of the territory of Manipur as well its government system and demographic characteristics.

India's economic and political exploitation of the state of Manipur made the state to belong among the underdeveloped states and made it a mere importer of goods depending on other states. So, lastly , since India is a vast county with diverse ethics groups, communities and race, central government should respect their unique identities and culture.

The Center needs to make a mechanism for monitoring the grievances of the different communities and groups. It should change its biased nature.

(This write-up is the 2nd prize winner of the on line essay competition organized by Imphal Times)

* Ningthoujam Bidyaluxmi Devi wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on December 16 2020.

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