FROM RESURRECTION TO REVOLUTION; CHAIRMAN MEGHEN’S DEMAND FOR A PLEBISCITE IS NOT EMOTIONAL IN THIS AGE OF REASON

By L. Memo Singh
July 19 2011
Imphal Free Press

The hue and cry like thunder roaring in the politics of independent Manipur was reduced to the unexpectedly shrewd tacitness of politicians of the state after its merger into the dominion of India. This was an event of great significance of the Merger Agreement drawn between the Maharaja of Manipur and the Indian agents on behalf of the government of India on 21 September, 1949 and enforced on 15 October 1949. The situation, however, was complicated by the fact that the very circumstances ultimately responsible for overthrowing the monarchy  which had been running the constitutive nation state of Manipur for more than 2000 years made it possible to compel Maharaja Bodhchandra to accept the pain of self agony due to converting the monarchical head to the customary head as well as to overthrow the hard won Manipur State Assembly when the Merger Agreement became the instrument which led to the fall of Manipur to the domain of  Indian union. The member of the royalist political party, the Praja Shanti and its coalition partners like Krishak Sabha and the Hill MLAs which formed the government by securing majority in the Manipur State Assembly were helpless to bring even a little relief to the wretched Maharaja.

On the other hand, although Manipur State Congress was the single largest party in the house securing 14 out of 52 elected MLAs, it could not form the government as no other political parties and MLAs extended their support to the party. But it could no longer sit as an opposition party in the house. Therefore, Manipur State Congress took the advantage of overthrowing the assembly with the enforcement of the Merger Agreement. In fact, Manipur State Congress was bitterly frustrated because of its inability to form the government. Its main rival was Krisak Sabha which had 5 MLAs led by Hijam Irabot. The two parties were at daggers drawn with each other.

Incidentally during the middle of 1948 the Indian National Congress and the Communist Party of India spread their organizations in Manipur. The Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) had jurisdiction over Manipur and took charge to recognize Manipur State Congress as one of its units in 1948. At the same time the Communist Party of India took the advantage of the activities of Hijam Irabot as its member at different capacities during his exile outside Manipur in 1943 and accordingly Assam unit of C.P.I. took the major role in the formation of Manipur unit of C.P.I. in 1948.

For whatever reason, after the coronation of Maharaja Bodhachandra, his contemporaries had started to vocalize their anxiety and doubt about the kingship of Manipur. At the initial stage of reformation during the interim government after independence, in the name of responsible government, they had put their demand that the king should be content to reign only but not rule.

After the World War II, Manipur was facing the clash between the modernization as aspired by the people and the divine hallow glowing round the hereditary rule in the state. It is true that the divine penumbra of the Maharaja slowly receded from the eyes of the subjects by the spread of different political ideas among the people of this state. Political organizations started to grow in this state first with the subversive activities supporting the political movement in Bengal and Assam. Maharaja Bodhchandra understood the gravity of the situation created by the rising popular consciousness against the autocratic rule in the state and took up bold steps to introduce democratic reforms in a more popular form in the changing circumstances. On 28 August, 1948 the Maharaja under the Indian Independence Act, 1947 issued the official announcement that Manipur had been the independent state. After fifty six years of British rule “Manipur had been resurrected”. But the tragedy was the absence of jubilation of the people when the long awaited independence was in their hands.  No one came out to celebrate the independence day of the state. There were several causes for such an ugly scene in this historic juncture of Manipur. The main cause was nothing but the groupism among the political leaders and the vengeance against each other. The common people were awfully helpless but looking forward what the Maharaja would do. Maharaja Bodhchandra visited large cities of India. After assumption of the office as the ruler of the state, he also toured his state extensively and had talks with the leaders of the interior hill areas.

After independence, the Maharaja was not blind to the position of Manipur that the state was not  within the Indian subcontinent but adjacent to the same. The British, however, developed the systematic posts and telegraph services and network of roads of Manipur connecting India. He came to the knowledge that the Indian Independence Bill of August 1947 was applied to the 600 and odd big and small native states also. The princes of these states had to decide about their states joining either India or Pakistan. The task of integrating the states into the Indian union was carried on by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel assisted by his secretary V.P. Menon.

In spite of direct mobilization of the Manipur State Congress leaders demanding the Maharaj to abdicate the throne and merge Manipur without stipulating any condition to the Indian union with the dissolution of the Manipur State Assembly, he knew the limited knowledge of the political leaders. At the same time the Socialist Party leaders of Manipur also joined the move of the Congress Party leaders. Nature of events was changing very rapidly. It was, indeed, the most delicate and difficult situation for the Maharaja to deal with the calculative policy of the British on the eve of granting independence, the aggressive actions of the government of India to annex princely states by hook or by crock and the political parties and their leaders who knew nothing of the right and wrong in changing their allegiance from their own nationality created with the sweet and blood of their forefathers to an alien nationality which would be remorsed one day or other day by their children because they were overwhelmed by the tide of tremendous circumstances.

Looking back historically, the British imperial power was, in fact, helpful to Manipur. But their belief that the Manipuris were unfit for self-government was condemnable and the way to transfer power by the British Parliament to the princely states, particularly Manipur was almost self contradictory as a result of their dilemma after the World War II.

The Maharaja, however, became the victim of circumstances. Before passing the Indian Independence Act, 1947 Sardar Patel prepared a memorandum setting forth the basic unity of the native states and the rest of India. This memorandum was sent to all the princes of native states with a request to accede to the Indian union. The Viceroy Lord Mountbatten also supported Patel’s appeal and addressing a gathering  of princes’ union, he asked them to join before the 15th August, 1947 either India or Pakistan. The response of the princes was quick and by 18th August, 1947 all the important states except a few like Bhopal, Junagah, Hyderabad and Kashmir joined the Indian union. As for Manipur, the Maharaja responding to the request of Sardar Patel had signed the accession agreement and sent the same by post on the 11th August,1947. The timing of putting the signature of the Maharaja on the accession agreement was co-incidental to his declaration on the 8th August, 1947, that the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 would be enforced within eight months commencing from the 26th September, 1947.

It is worthwhile to note here that although the Maharaja had already expressed his intention to accede to the Indian dominion, the declaration of the Maharaj on the 28th August, 1947 that Manipur had been an independent state gives the clear idea that the Maharaja expected the state to continue with a more or less independent administration for which he introduced the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947. It also clearly shows that the Maharaja had drawn his attention to the provision of the Indian Independence Act that the Indian states were free to join either the Indian union or Pakistan or even to declare themselves absolutely independent.

The continued success in all efforts of India to integrate the princely states one after another had given the impression that there was no possibility of small and medium sized princely states to survive without joining the Indian union. For the purpose of defence, foreign affairs, and communications, the states had to depend upon India as they did before independence with British rulers. They had no right of cessasion  in the above matters. However, contrary to the separate and special treatment given to Kashmir, India was successful to achieve integration of Manipur, Tripura and Kamotapur very swiftly and peacefully. After independence, India gained more territory and population through the integration of the princely states than it lost through partition. The essentially bloodless revolution which brought about a great geographical transformation in the inner structure of the Indian nation, has no parallel in world history.

But the approach of Tripura to join Indian union was considerably different from the way of Manipur to join the same. The state of Tripura already expressed its intention to join the Indian dominion during the life time of Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya who died on May 17, 1947. After his death his son Maharaj Kumar Brojendra Kishore became the Chief Minister of Tripura.

In view of the troubled internal condition of Tripura and the importance of its protection as a border territory, the government of Indian dominion took over the administration of this state on 15th October, 1949. The agreement for this take-over was made between the Governor General of India and His Highness the Maharaj of Tripura. It was signed by V.P. Menon, Advisor to the Government of India, Ministry of States, on behalf of the Governor General and by Kanchan Prava Devi, Maharani Regent, Tripura state, on behalf of the Maharaja who was a minor.

In a general study of the integration policy of India, Manipur must also be given special treatment. The princely states in India differed widely in size, population and resources. Some of them were as big as the former British Indian provinces, some as small as a village. Bilbari was the smallest of the 562 princely states. It had a few acres of land, a population of 27 and an annual revenue of eighty rupees. On the eve of declaration of independence, all the states except Kashmir had fully acceded to the Indian Union . Manipur was also included in the accession. It was essential for India either to absorb these areas or to maintain friendly relations with them. In subsequent developments both approaches were employed in the handling.

In the integration process, the Indian leaders knew the peculiarities of Manipur quite different from the other princely states. They took seriously the historical background and the geographical situation of Manipur. The Anglo-Manipuri relation firmly established by several treaties between the two and the world famous Anglo-Manipuri war were of great political significance since they had strengthened the sovereignty status of Manipur to a large extent. Manipur was not affected by the partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan. Therefore the accession agreement signed by the Maharaja before the Independence was not sufficient in the integration process.

The Indian leaders were full of anxieties and worries if the Maharaja of Manipur was prepared to ask the Government of India to sign a treaty affirming the friendship between India and Manipur on the condition that Manipur should be a protectorate of India, and subject to the provisions of the treaty, should enjoy autonomy in regard to its internal affairs, i.e. the government of India should undertake to exercise nonintervention in the internal administration of Manipur. The Maharaja, however, was not prepared to take such steps till that time. Instead, he was in a very tight position to prepare several democratic reforms in the state administration, politically, socially and economically. Besides, the Maharaja was highly confident that he had been in good terms with Sir Akbar Hydari, the Governor  of Assam.

The Indian leaders were, thus, relieved. Taking the opportunity of such situations they took risks hurriedly for pushing the Maharaja through the signature process of a treaty for handing over power of Manipur to India. The assumption of the government of India was that it would be easier to deal with one individual, the king, rather than a group of elected politicians with differing ideologies and temperaments which would be replaced periodically through elections and in this regard only the Maharaja would be reliable and stable.

On the other hand, although Manipur was not a landlock to India, the geographical position and political situation of Manipur were not so reliable and stable in this sensitive border region. If it were a buffer state along the border it might be a danger to the safety of India. The sovereign Manipur might create tensions by aligning with one or more enemies. The Indian leaders took seriously the movement of A.Z.  Phizo for the formation of independent Nagaland and the revolutionary movement of Hijam Irabot. The Indian leaders knew very well the if they  were not successful in their efforts, Manipur would surly be a second Kashmir.

Keeping in view the appeasement policy as an instrument Sir Akbar Hydari, the Governor of Assam tried to be close to the Maharaj and the leaders of the Nagas. The Governor was the architect of the controversial Nine Point Agreement drawn for the self determination of the Nagas. The Agreement was known as the Hydari Agreement. The Maharaja of Manipur also on the pressure of the Governor had agreed to induct Maharaj Kumar Priobrata as the Dewan of Manipur in place of Shri Deveswor Sharma who was to be removed by the Governor for his disentegrity in service in consultation with Sardar Patel. Sir Akbar Hydari along with Mr. Nari Rustumji I.C.S., Advisor to the Governor came to Manipur during the christmas to spend his winter vacation together with the Maharaja and they enjoyed the festive shooting of wild ducks. Unfortunately, Sir Akbar Hydari died of heart attack at Waikhong village about 60 km south of Imphal on December 28, 1948.

Shri Prakash became the Governor of Assam. The matter of the Chief Minister Maharaj Kumar Priobrata to be the Dewan of Manipur was diverted. On 10th April the Governor had sent over a telegram giving the intimation to the Maharaja that Major General Rawal Amar Sing was appointed Dewan of Manipur. In fact, Shri Prakash, Shri Nari Rustumji and Shri Rawal Amar Singh were the key persons who dealt with Mahaaja Bodhchandra in compliance with the instructions of the Ministry of States, Government of India.

The Maharaja felt that after the death of Sir Akbar Hydari, the leaders of India were growing aggressive with full determination to press him so as to achieve their objective. He also knew that the government of India could do nothing relating to the internal affairs of Manipur until both sides had reached any sort of agreement. There was, thus, an undeclared war without arms between India and Manipur. On the one hand Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehur; Home Minister, Sardar Patel and a sufficient number of officials of the Ministry of States stood for India and on the other Maharaja Bodhchandra stood alone for Manipur. Who would believe this? Because both sides never disclosed the secret deal.

But Mr. T.C. Tiyankham, Speaker of the Manipur State Assembly came to know from the publications of the Bhagyabati Patrika dated 13th September, 1949 and the outside papers that Manipur would be reportedly merged into the Indian union and in this regard drawing the attention of the Maharaja, the Speaker asked him to be pleased to convene the Assembly Session for discussing the issue beforehand in the Assembly because Manipur State Assembly was formed on the electoral process. It was a critical juncture of Manipur. But no one was there to respond to the question of the Speaker, Mr. T.C. Tiyankam.

At the same time different political parties took different decisions in regard to the political relation  between India and Manipur. 0n 27th July, 1949 a meeting of the Hill MLAs was held with Mr. S. Luneh, MLA from Tamei A/C in the chair and adopted several resolutions with strong objections against the policies and programmes of the Manipur unit of the Indian National Congress. Shri R. Suisa, MLA from Tolloi A/C had urged in the meeting that Manipur should not join the Indian union, instead, it should be a Crown State like Hongkong under the British rule for at least 25 years so that political consciousness of the people would be developed within this period. He stated that although Manipur was inevitable to join Indian union there should be the terms and  conditions that Manipur must be given at least 5 or 6 seats of Parliament. Given the geopolitical structure and historical background of Manipur in Asia, India should take the terms and conditions for granted. Shri Suisa expressed his outburst of contempt when Congress Party leaders of Manipur had complained to Shri Prakash, Governor of Assam to remove Maharajha Bodhchandra in March when Shri Prakash came to Manipur. But the Governor explained the fact clearly that the government of Indian had no jurisdiction to remove or replace the Maharaja of Manipur.

Shri Suisa strongly reacted to the press statement issued by Shri Sinam Krishnamohan, president, state unite of the Indian National Congress on June 6, 1949 in regard to the merger of Manipur into the Indian union. The president said, “There has been no doubt that Manipur will develop without delay if the President of India deputes a Lt. Governor to administer Manipur under the supervision of the Centre” As regards the necessity to take consent of the people for the merger of Manipur into India, the president further stated, “Somebodies refer to the importance and inevitability  of plebiscite or referendum. But Manipur is a nonviable state, so plebiscite is not necessary”.

Usually the journey of the Manipur Maharaja in Shillong was not exceptional. However, the remarkable Shillong journey of Maharaja Bodhchandra in September grew more controversial. On the 15th September, 1949 the Maharaja left Imphal for Shillong and on the 17th September, reached there. In course of development of the series of meetings, Nari Rustumji, Advisor to the Governor stated that he had already conveyed to the Maharaja the matter of merger of Manipur into the dominion of India. But the Maharaja denied his statement. He clarified that Rustumji had expressed not a single word to him in this respect.

In hustling through the process of making the merger agreement Shri Pakash, Shri Nari Rustumji and Shri Rawal Amar Singh took the opportunity of the Maharaja’s sojourn at Shillong. The fact of signing of the Tripura Merger Agreement on 9th September, 1949 might be brought to the notice of the Maharaja. Ultimately Maharaja Bodhchandra had signed the Merger Agreement on the 21st September, 1949, thereby Manipur was annexed to the dominion of India, more or less in the same manner of Tripura.

However the Manipur Merger Agreement has been the bone of contention till today. Several sections of people of the state are carrying on the criticism that the then king of Manipur was put under house arrest in Shillong for three days and the Indian representatives, the Governor of Assam extracted the treacherous “Manipur Merger Agreement under duress” and thus “the resurrected Manipur” was no more. The Merger Agreement was enforced on the 15th October 1949 and on this day the process to change the master was complete. Thus the king of Manipur was reduced to the subject of the new master, i.e. India. Both sides of victory and defeat of Manipur were equally looking forward how India would determine the fate of the people of Manipur. The leaders of the Congress Party were full of confidence that Manipur would have the chief minister duly elected in the State Legislative Assembly which was to be formed through the electoral process.

The new Constitution of India was adopted in the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and it came into force from 26 January 1950. In the original Constitution of 1949 the states were divided into three categories and included in Parts A, B and C of the First Schedule to the Constitution. Part C states were 10 in number, and Manipur was one of them. On the eve of making the Merger Agreement, the Governor of Assam decided that Manipur would be provided the status of a Territory directly administered by the Centre. His decision was based on the theocratic ethos of the people of Manipur instead of the political characteristics of the state and it was also reflected in the Merger Agreement in such a way that the Maharaja became the customary head of the State. In the mean time, the government of India was so ruthless and inconsiderate that the Dewan of Manipur, Rawal Amar Singh who was always in disagreement with the Maharaja had been appointed the first Chief Commissioner of Manipur. He was empowered to exercise the powers of the Council of Ministers with the dissolution of the Manipur State Assembly.

The Constitution of India empowers the national Parliament to create by law a legislature for the state whether nominated or elected or partly nominated and partly elected. The Parliament is also empowered, where there was already a legislature in existence at the time when the Constitution came into force, to allow the state legislature to continue to function. The Parliament is also empowered to allow a council of advisers or ministers to function as the executive of that state for the purpose of aiding the Chief Commissioner or Lt. Governor in the administration of the state.

In spite of the clear provisions in the constitution, Manipur having had that State Assembly and a council of ministers under the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947, was deprived of having a legislature and a council of ministers provided by the Government of Part C States Act, 1951. Although elected legislatures and council of ministers had been set up in six Part C states, the states of Kutch, Tripura and Manipur had not yet any elected legislative assemblies or state ministers.

As early as 1951 in Tripura there were political movements organized by political parties like the Forward Block against this action of the central government and demands for the responsible government in the state were reiterated by the people of Tripura. However neither any sort of such movements nor voice was there in Manipur against or in support of this action of the central government. The state units of the Congress Party, the Communist Party and the Socialist party were not so vociferous and active as they were before the merger.

Only the Manipur daily, “The Anouba Matam” edited by Shri R.K. Jhallajt M.A., LL.B. and published by Shri S. Ibopishak Singh at the Bijoy Press Ltd., Singjamei Chingamakhong had stated in the editorial of its issue dated the 23rd September, 1951 under the heading, “Manipur Government” as such:

“What is the real characteristic of   the Manipur Government? Indeed Nehru Government of India is responsible to the Manipur administration, the Indian Parliament and the Indian nationality. Manipur is also a part and parcel of the Indian nationality.

It is a fact that the administration of the present Manipur government has been carried on by only one man. Its advisory council has also no power. The Chief Commissioner can turn down any actions taken by the secretaries. If it is to be described in English, Manipur administration is of one man government. In short there has been no separation of powers in the Manipur administration. It is necessary to consider how far it will cause bad consequences.

In democracy there should be separation of powers. There is no such principle in Manipur. The Chief Commissioner holds the executive, the legislative and the judiciary powers altogether. It is the result of having no state Legislative Assembly for Manipur. As is known to all who have caused the deprivation of such Legislative Assembly, it is not necessary to discuss here. Some are saying that Delhi has taken Manipur as the communist state and as such there is no Legislative Assembly in Manipur. We are putting this question: Who are those responsible for treating Manipur as the communist state? In this context the public leaders of Manipur are also answerable. Several simple pamphlets published by the Krishak Sabha were translated into English and the publicity thereof was displayed in Delhi. It is very much open to all. This is a gross mistake, It is not an act of honesty for the responsible leaders to remain silent with the accusation that others have committed that blunder. 

Manipur had already the responsible government with the enforcement of the Manipur Constitution Act. However the political movement of Manipur is now declining and as such the rights of the people seem to be nonexistent. If we want to demand the rights of Manipur and to lead a civilized and dignified life by reviving the socio-politico economic movement, we all must be courageous. The time of conservatism of the present Manipur is over. Far sighted and forward political leaders must come out to determine the future of the state.”

Some political leaders, namely Sagolsem Indramani, Youngmaso Saija,  R.K. Maipaksana and Wahengbam Pralahda had formed the Manipur Nationalist Party and started a movement of wide agitation with the demand that there should be the State Legislative Assembly and responsible government in Manipur and if the government of India ignored the demands, it would be declared that Manipur was free from India. The government had put all these leaders in jail for nearly one year and crushed the political party.

Another peculiar event was the political manoeuvring of Keisham  Kunjabihari Singh who was also the general secretary of the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha and one of the founders of the Manipur State Congress. Shri Kunjabihari was the editor of the Manipuri leading paper, “The Ngashi” for about twenty three years. He worked hard to unite the two factions of the congress party. However there were differences between him and other leaders of the congress party in connection with the issue for introducing State Legislative Assembly. Ultimately he had resigned from the congress party. The press statement of his resignation was published in the Ngashi dated 13-11-1954 and he participated in the movement of the socialist party which was demanding the introduction of the representative government in Manipur at least in the form of Part ‘C’ States Act, 1951 which provided a legislature and a council of ministers in 6 Part ‘C’ states. Shri Kunjabihari Singh was put in jail on 26th December 1954 and there he met important leaders, namely Shri Tiba Kilong, ex-minister, Shri Luneh, ex-MLA, Dr. Leiren Singh, Shir Bijoy Singh, Shri Paolen and Shri Paokhothang who took leading parts in the movement. The socialist party movement grew so popular. Even Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, the socialist party leader came to Manipur and led the movement. He was put in jail.

In view of the popular demand, the government of India took the policy of gradual democratization of the Manipur administration. In 1950-51 a council of Advisor was introduced and in 1957 this was replaced by a territorial Council of 30 elected and 3 nominated members. Later in 1963, a territorial assembly of 30 elected and 3 nominated members was established under the Government of Union Territories Act, 1963. Manipur was a one district territory with one district magistrate and collector.

The people were not satisfied with the status of the union territory for Manipur. They were also tired of tried and tested leaders of different political parties. However, it did not mean that they took rest from the movement to find justice of their discontentment. The development of democratization gave no impact to them. In fact, the political condition of Manipur was in turmoil just after its integration with the Indian union. The union territories for which the Act was passed were Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Goa, Daman and Du and Pondicherry.

At such stage, in case of Manipur, there had emerged a new batch of elites who were prepared to dig up the past of Manipur and India so that they must discover where any movement of the people was going and find the leader who could lead them. These elites had pointed out the gross mistakes committed by the Indian leaders in inducing Manipur to join Indian Union. They thought that the Merger Agreement had determined the status of India but forfeited the status of Manipur. In the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 Manipur was defeated but the Manipuris could maintain the status of their country. In this undeclared Indo-Manipuri war of 1949 the Manipuris were doomed to the adverse fate. There was nothing left behind for them.

If the Agreement was drawn in Manipur instead of Shillong giving the Maharaja the opportunities to tackle the people on his own accord, there would have been a treaty to enable the Manipuris to determine their own fate. Even though a referendum or plebiscite was held for joining the India union, there would have been the positive result. But the Indian leaders lacked the courage to give those opportunities to the Maharaja and his people. In fact, Manipur could get no justice from the Government of India. The assumption of the new elites was that the government of India would not give much importance to the opinion of the people of Manipur and it  was actually the failure of Indian democracy and there was also no difference between Indian democracy and Garman nazism or Italian fascism or Russian communism and Chinese communism.

On the other hand, they found that the elites of the first batch of Manipur were in failure to deal with the Indian leaders. If they were united and considerate in any circumstances, to settle any conflict of the common cause, Manipur could have earned her full democratic rights long before 1963.

During the hectic activities of the Constituent Assembly in 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru was trying to make the Naga people join the Indian Union. He expressed his ideas to the leaders of the Naga National Council (NNC) of which T. Sakhrei was the first general secretary. The Naga leaders had pursued the implementation of the Nine point Agreement. But the government of India’s denial of its existence had led to direct confrontation between the two sides.

On November 28, 1949, the Naga leaders met the first Governor General of independent India, C. Rajagopalchari at the government house in Shillong. He told the Naga delegation, “India wants to be friendly with you. India does not want to deprive the Nagas of their land. Nagas are at full liberty to do as they like, either to become a part of India or be separated, if at all, to be isolated”. On December 11, 1950 Angami Zaphu Phizo was elected NNC President. And the fight for Naga Independence gained momentum. The call for “Non-Cooperation with India was given. This was followed by the plebiscite of May 16, 1951 to which some claimed over 99% Naga support for independence. On May 11, 1952 a Naga delegation met Prime Minister Nehru and informed him of the Naga plebiscite. It ended in a stormy interview. On May 16, 1952, the NNC in true Naga style, invited Nehur to visit Nagaland for further talks. Nehru, perhaps, feeling outraged had ignored the invitation.

On March 30, 1953, the next year, Nehru came to Kohima with his Burmese counterpart Thakin Nu (U Nu). This was a very significant visit for both India and Burma and, especially, for the Naga people because any adequate settlement of the Naga problem would have to involve the governments of India and Burma. Unfortunately, the opportunity turned into a tragedy. The Nagas walked out of the play ground where the reception was to take place. When the district deputy commissioner told them that they would not be allowed to meet Nehru or submit any memoranda to him (Nehru had earlier, in a very patronizing tone, asked if the Nagas knew what they were asking for because according to him, independence could only lead to ruination of the Naga people. And the Nagas had come prepared to answer him). “If he will not listen to us, why should we listen to him” was the prompt Naga reaction. The end-result was that the Nagas lost all respect for Nehru and showed it in no uncertain terms. Nehru felt so humiliated in front of his Burmese counterpart that he vowed never to visit Naga country again. And he never did. Later the same year, the Naga leaders were refused audience with the congress party’s president during his visit to Manipur as well as the Indian President, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, in Delhi.

However, the Naga moderate leaders formed the Naga People’s Convention (NPC). Building public opinion began. They negotiated with the government of India and steps were taken towards the formation of statehood within the Indian union. A 16 point Agreement was arrived at in 1960 and an interim body was formed in 1962. On December 1, 1963, Nagaland, comprising the areas earlier known as the Naga Hills – Tuensang Area, was declared the 16th state within the Indian Union with the protective provision specially made for the then Tuensang Area.

The political events and practices in the Indian politics were greatly helpful to the new elites of Manipur relating to the study of the relation between India and Manipur. They thought that Indian leaders should admit honestly and without concealment that the government of India did not honour the independence or sovereignty of Manipur after the departure of the British as well as the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 which was enforced with the acknowledgement of the government of India. They asserted that the government of Indian was constitutionally unexcusable for the dissolution of the Manipur State Assembly and conferring powers of the council of minister to the single hand of the Dewan  as it was a retrograde step in the process of democratization of the administration followed so far in the attempt of modernization of government by the rulers of the state and put the question. “Who would be blamed for the Maharaja’s inability to adhere to the Manipur State Constitution Act, in spite of his professed sincerity and respect for the opinion of his people?”

Pondering over the future of Manipur the new elites thought that the viable means to maintain the perpetual peace and stability in the state was to reopen the Merger Agreement and discuss its flash-back for the proper settlement democratically. They had formed their opinion that as long as India continued to be a federation of a strong centre and weak states, the centrifugal and centripetal forces of the country could not be balanced equitably for smooth running of the federation and the Ganga-Jamuna basin being the core area of the Indian federal structure could not be adjusted with the identity of Manipur. So to save Manipur they brought the conclusion that there should be the resurrection of the independent status of Manipur and to achieve this objective the desire for the political reforms within the Indian union are not sufficient but the seed of revolution which Hijam Irabot had already planted in many Manipuri hearts should be taken up.

But they realized the fact that there could be no revolution without a renaissance, that an intellectual stimulus was needed to awaken the people from the apathy and stupor of servile  acquiescence. It is doubtless true that there can be no revolution without political distress, for the great masses of people are conservative in their instincts and rarely moved to revolt except by some kind of political distress. The political distress of Manipur was, in fact, the creation of the Indian leaders’ short sightedness and lack of exercise of political wisdom during the making of the treaty of annexation. This is the fundamental occasion and the deeper- seated cause of the revolution of Manipur against India. Even though the new elites could not say the exact moment of outbreak, they knew the revolution would come about and it would not take the people by surprise because they were well informed about the occasion and the cause. The new elites had no doubt that India would surely oppose the actions and policies of the revolution of Manipur, and so they knew that there would be a constant threat of counter-revolution from the site of the government of India, but the outbreak would be irresistible.

It was coincidental that a well-knit revolutionary organization known as the “United National Liberation Front (UNLF)” had emerged to take the whole charge for carrying on the revolution of Manipur. It was formed on 24 November 1964 comprising of highly qualified elites of both the hills and the valley of the state. The organization examined the probable pattern of revolution and its possible future course. In fact, its founders spent sufficient years preparing for the revolution before its formation. They took precaution about the consequences that were likely to follow after launching the revolutionary propaganda and struggle. At the same time they were also cautious remembering the characteristics of the revolutionary movement such as,  “If the leaders go too fast or too far they may be unable to take the masses of people with them. If they go too cautiously, on the other hand, they are likely to be replaced or supplanted by other. During the French Revolution it was well said that in respect of the first category that “those who make half a revolution dig their own graves and of the second that a revolution ‘like Saturn devours its own children’ i.e. as in   France, the revolution devoured its children.

It is the fatal vice of revolutions that one can never foretell their course or predict their issues. In 1964, the leaders who initiated the movement had planned one thing but the following circumstances gave birth to another. Four years later the insurgency movement came into existence in Manipur as the vanguard of the revolution. The years to come a series of batches of youth would be coming in a row to be flag beerers of insurgency with the dedication to sacrifice their lives for the cause of independence of Manipur. In fact, for the last more than forty years till date the history of insurgency and counter-insurgency occupies a large portion of the political history of Manipur. The incredible chain of events during these years have clearly shown that the government of India carries on counter insurgency in Manipur by way of repressive measures on the one hand and development programmes on the other. Keeping aside the effort to find the solution, India is reducing the cause of insurgency movement to the conflict of the Indian class struggle and thus the cause has been diluted resulting in the enhancement of anti-Indian feeling among the youth of the state.

However, the UNLF retreats not a single step in their struggle to carry on the continuity of the revolution. On the other hand the counter-revolution of India also becomes irresistible. Apart from lengthy discussion and study on revolution and counter-revolution, it may be shortly stated that the revolution of Manipur is political in the sense of overthrowing the prevalent power structure of India in the direction of freedom and social progress. The revolutionaries claim that their aim is to restore their earliest legitimate independent status of Manipur and to revolve back to old times when things had been as they ought to be. Counter revolution, on the other hand, has occurred virtually in India which has had revolution. In short, India’s counter-revolution is a movement towards greater restraint in pushing forward the goals of the true revolution like that of Manipur. The pattern of counter-revolution of India is the process to enforce the economic and social structure as envisaged by the Constitution of India. It is doubtless true that India is trying to win the allegiance, or at least a tacit submission of broad layers of the population by bringing forth the economic and social progress. But the question arises as to how far this criterion is acceptable or applicable to the solution of the Indo-Manipuri conflict because the directions of the revolution of Manipur and the counter-revolution of India are different from each other. There is no justice if the Indian economic and social process is used  to replace the political process of Manipur. A revolution as the late Professor Cobban pointed out in his pamphlet on historians and the French Revolution, cannot be reduced to a simple formula or sequence such as a+b+c=d. Also, as Sir Isaiah Berlin said, history cannot be reduced to physics, so the plotting of the causes, course or effects of revolutions is a hazardous affair. Yet underlying patterns are discernible. Now a question arises; What is the issue of Manipur ? Is it for cessation or sovereignty or independence or for the question of justice relating to the annexation. If the searching of answers of these questions is to be taken up positively, the revolution of Manipur and the counter-revolution of India should be kept more or less in balance. India may battle the revolutionaries of Manipur and suppress them for a while, but as Indian military often says, “It is political problem which begs a political answer”

In this process it is not necessary to go far. Shri Sanayaima alias R.K. Meghen, chairman of the UNLF has put his demand to hold a plebiscite which the UNLF had announced as its proposal for a dialogue with India in 2005 so as to resolve the Indo-Manipuri conflict. The National Investigation Agency in collusion with the Dhaka intelligence personnel had nabbed R.K. Meghen in Bangaldesh on October 26, 2010 though the place of occurrence might be cited anywhere as the Indian authority desired. The proposal of the revolutionary organization clearly indicates that the root cause of the Indo-Manipuri conflict is the 1949 annexation of Manipur to India. It, thus shows that the Manipur Merger Agreement, 1949 should be the foundation of the dialogue, if any, between India and Manipur. If India is really convicted to the act of arrest of the chairman Meghen, it should have the conviction about the finding of a proper solution to the Indo-Manipuri conflict.

The Manipur issue is not so complicated as the Kashmir, the Assam and the Naga issues. It is grossly simplified if there is the openness of India and Manipur together on the discussion and reading of the annexation treaty and its historical background with sincerity and honesty on both sites. These are the reasons of Shri R.K. Meghen’s move. So, he is not bound to be emotional at all. After all, his revolutionary model is not the earlier European idea of a relatively quick revolution or not the transfer of power which is little more than a coup detat in these terms. He is the real warrior of the people’s war like Mao, Nasution, Geap, Fanon, Guevara and Regis Debray. The torch of the revolutionary movement of Manipur is now in his hands. He will be really in the youthful spirit forever. It is very much open that India has been playing the game of silence. It still speaks nothing on the Manipur issue. However, no one will deny that so long as India maintains a stoic silence over the Manipur issue, i.e. the root cause of the Indo-Manipuri conflict, there will be more trauma of Manipur as well as more dilemma of India.

It is well recognized that the Indian subcontinent has been proud of its ancient history. However, the concept of an Indian nation state is much more recent. It is just over 60 years and the conceptualization as a nation state is contemporary. Antipathy to British colonization bound its diverse peoples and its numerous provinces, regions and kingdoms. The freedom struggle actually defined the nation. Its federal structure and democracy are actually in their infancy. But the new Indian rulers retain and continue many colonial traditions. The 19th century concept of sedition, employed by colonizer to control dissension and rebellion among the natives, is now employed to stifle legitimate debate and valid dissent among its citizens.

After the passage of nearly 60 years and after several significant events have radically altered the situation, India may not agree to hold a plebiscite. A plebiscite in Manipur may lead to demands for plebiscites in other areas where India is totally unwilling to consider a plebiscite. India’s strong civil society inclusive of eminent writers and political analysts must come forward to hold several debates on the Manipur issue. Senior journalist and author M.J. Akbar conducted a session on public affairs at the Jaipur Literature Festival on January 23, 2011 and said in the session, “The Indian state would hold the country [together]. Please do not punish India for the sins of the Indians”. At the end of the session he debated dismissing a plebiscite in Kashmir- the idea of cessation.

In the session Dasgupta said, “the question of Kashmir is also linked to the idea of India and the nation is bigger than the sum of all its parts”. Dasgupta was emphatic that people were against cessation, but autonomy was an idea which could be thought about- “for India never had just one form of government only in the past”. Now a pitiable question may be put as to why India’s civil society and mainstream media cannot give attention to the issue of Manipur and keep a watch on the activities of the Manipur insurgents. Contrary to such situation, the recent campaign in support of Dr. Binayak Sen has received much publicity. The mainstream media has enunciated his cause and dissected the evidence, conviction and judgment. Amnesty International argued that the case violated international standards for a fair trial. However, it is an irony that while Dr. Sen’s conviction has received much attention as an appreciation for a patriotic cause, the  Indian civil society and the mainstream media remain silent over the issue of plebiscite in Manipur which is proposed by the chairman R.K. Meghen from the prison cell of NIA. The reason for their silence may be the difference between Dr. Binayak Sen and the chairman R.K. Meghen . They may think that the former is law and order problem and the latter antinational. Then where is the value of Indian democracy if Indians always indulge in  the philosophy of anti nationalism as “you are against us” ? They must not forget that democracy offers the only civilized way of discussing issues related to governance and the people’s rights. Once this fundamental principle is accepted, peace initiatives can be meaningful and realistic. Although revolution is an end in itself, chairman R.K. Meghen shows the wisdom by presenting his ideas for plebiscite in Manipur that it is not the end in itself but the means to an end, which has enough capability to respond to the “flexibility” of the Indian Constitution. The talks on plebiscite, if any, will be the best chance to redeem the past of both India and Manipur equally and determine the place in the making of Minpur’s future.


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