Political and Economic Ramifications of Manipur Merger with India in 1949

Yumlembam Henba Singh *

“By common endeavour, we can raise the country to new greatness, while lack of unity will expose us to unexpected calamities…..”
- Sadar Patel’s letter to princely rulers, 1947

Sadar Patel’s earnest call eventually led to a ‘Union of States’ called India. Manipur we see today is incontestably the ultimate corollary of the merger with India in 1949. The once sovereign kingdom has been under the grasp of continued spasm of turmoil and unrest. The merger and henceforth implementation of the larger idea of India might have had generated vacuum in the eco-political scenario of the state and further to the society as well.

Merger of 1949

It is a well-known fact that the merger of Manipur was marred by both (a) procedural lapses and (b) substantive lapses. Maharaja Bodhachandra had signed the Merger Agreement on 21 st September 1949 under duress; to put in to force from 15th October 1949. Prior to this, an anti-monarchy movement had compelled the king to give way to an elected legislature.

The legislative body as well as the constitution were abolished unceremoniously upon the merger with India. Amid the opposition, Manipur was not given full statehood, instead made a Part-C state under a ‘Diwan’ appointed by the centre. Later on, it was upgraded to a Union Territory in 1956 .

Unsatisfied ,the secessionist movement gathered momentum to an armed revolution; only then Manipur was given full statehood in 1972 along with Tripura and Meghalaya. Consequences Contemporary situations and issues surrounding Manipur may be linked with the merger viz.
(a) insurgency and human rights violation ,
(b) framework agreement with NSCN (IM) and demand for territorial integrity,
(c) demand f r Inner Line Permit or
(d) Schedule Tribe demand by the Meitei.

The imposition of an alien constitution and its overarching authority over the state may have generated such unfavourable responses. The political atmosphere of the state undertook a drastic change under the Constitution of India. The Quasi-federal nature of the Constitution tantamount to over-centralisation by Delhi.

Fali S. Nariman in his book “The state of the nation”, 2013 has highlighted the contradiction of Article 1 with the Article 3 of the Constitution. While Article 1 defines “India, that is Bharat, shall be a union of states”, Article 3 empowers the Parliament to override the states in the matter of altering state boundaries, naming, merging or splitting states.

This is a clear example of encroachment in the federal character of the state. It is the centre-state relation and the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India (division of powers between the Union and the States) that shapes the political features of Manipur. The political scenario in the state has been such that it replicates the one in the centre.

There has been a lack of an offensive political agenda that strikes the heart of the people. Dominance of the centre can be seen in the complete overhaul of the once self-sufficient kingdom. The very economy of the state has been dictated by the centre leading to overdependency. The listing of subjects under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and the various government schemes or policies has rendered the state helpless.

The so called Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) and the government flagship schemes such as MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), PMAY (Pradhan Mantri Awaj Yojana), NHM (National Health Mission), One Nation One Card, Motor Vehicles Act e tc . have become more enthusiastic. Numbers of the schemes have its inroad into the subject matter of the state reason being ‘national priorities’.

Such process acts as a deterrent to the selfrealisation of a small state like Manipur. Moreover, to capture political power in the states, naming the schemes PM Yojana is a shrewd agenda of the ruling power. The Union Government spending of nearly 12% of its annual budget on CSS; the allocation of funds to schemes and not to the states causes uncertainty in the stat e finance department.

Adding to this the 90:10 funding scheme have made the state more reliant on centre for its development . Even the Panchayat needs finance from the Union. Nevertheless the current regime legitimisation of GST (Goods and Services Tax) has made the condition worsened. The Union Government is yet to compensate states Rs 2.35 lakh crore GST shortfall in 2020-21.

It weakens the power of the state to collect local taxes and hence enfeebles its revenue generating power. A small state like Manipur with limited resources will obviously succumb to the injury of revenue loss. Similar systems have been in operation since Manipur was merged to the Union. Complaints of gross negligence by the centre to the state have been falling to deaf ears.

How will a state with no wherewithal to stand guard itself expect to have a strong political set up except to dance to the tunes of the centre? Unfortunately Manipur has not been able to come out of this “chakkravyu” yet. Questions are being asked whether Manipur has been under a neocolonial captive market of the centre.

To answer these questions Manipur need a robust political structure to withstand any pressure. If not merged Hypothetically speaking , Manipur have had the capacity to stand for itself. Example of small countries like Nepal and Bhutan with their sovereign power and well-founded foreign relations can be considered. Manipur could have mingled with the South-East Asian countries easily.

There is no denying the fact that the valley of Manipur is fertile enough for agriculture, particularly paddy to thrive. The 2000 years of self-sufficient Manipur before the merger is a clear indication. All we need is a little tweak in the policy according to the given period of time. Over and above Manipur is endowed with mineral resources like chromite and uranium or even oil and petroleum which can be optimised for state revenue generation.

Modern social issues such as the hill-valley divide and the identity crisis or ethnic polarisation could not have existed altogether. Prior to colonisation, harmony and prosperity existed in the kingdom of Manipur. The influx of nonresidents could have checked easily and peace prevailed among all the communities if an independent political decision was made.

Way forward

Given the backdrop, Manipur needs an agenda which is more on offensive and less on reaction. To break the chain of government-contract or political set up, Manipur needs an assertive inclusive policy supported by the people. It is high time for Manipur to recall the CPI programme in 1948 un der Hijam Irabot’s legacy of ‘right to self-determination’ if we are to survive in this dubious modern world.

Strengthening the primary sector especially agricultural production will be the pivotal step towards a selfsufficient Manipur. As the old adage says “the greatest thing in the world is to know how to be self-sufficient”. This can act as the stepping stone to free the state from the muss of over dependency.

Besides, the untapped natural resources can be utilised purposefully. Also Manipur has ample potential to grow in the field of tourism industry with the God gifted natural beauties. It has large possibilities to generate revenue if a well-documented plan follows. To consolidate the economic front, Manipur will need to adopt an inclusive sustainable political agenda.

A Centre-State paradigm reformation is the need of the hour to end the political quagmire. Also the state will require a greater amount of autonomy to make her self-decision. Centre’s control over its policy making decisions have been the main issue that hinders political outgrowth and ultimately dependence upon the centre.

The fate of crucial bills such as the ‘Manipur People’s Bill’ and the ‘Anti Lynching Bill’ which never gets the President assent are signs of centre’s play over the claim of larger interest of the nation. But a small state like Manipur needs to assert their rights and protect its own indigenous people to propel in this competitive world order.

The unsustainable and unreliable political set up running under the whims and fancies of the centre created a sense of loss of trust in the democratic institution. It can generate independent thinking and could boost revolutionary ideas as have been happening in the state. Therefore politics should focus more on governance with active people’s involvement in the decision making.

It will indeed take a lot of chutzpah for Manipur to stand up to the centre and demand for political autonomy. But it will be a risk worth taking.


The old aphorism ‘extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures’ is in fact imperative for Manipur. It is extraordinary because Manipur has been reeling in this precarious situation for so long and demands changes. The outmoded style of dominance by the centre if continued then Manipur will lose its footings.

Example from history of Manipur such as the ‘lallup’ system introduced during the reign of king Pakhangba will be a good consideration. The organizational set up , particularly, was exemplary as it did give political and economic stability and sustainability. Such a programme of over the top thinking is urgently required to come out of this shambles.

A democratic political set up with certain amount of autonomy should give some room for improvement. Because it is the real federal structures that will allow a small state like Manipur to stand on its decisions. The aim should be for long term single political demand with an accommodative approach keeping in mind the various communities and not merely waiting for the centre to chart our policies.

Rather an aggressive political voice should send to Delhi to assert the unarguable rights of Manipur. ‘Mikap thokpa ’ or consciousness both politically and economically should drive Manipur on its way to self determination.

(This write-up is one among the two 3rd prize winner of the on line essay competition organized by Imphal Times )

* Yumlembam Henba Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on November 27 2020.

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