GUILTY MEN OF 1949
By Yambem Laba
This article was published by the Sangai Express on 20 Oct 2012
On the 15th of October 1949 one of the most important chapters in the chequered history of Manipur took place.It was the day that Manipur’s destiny began to be tied with that of India then emerging as a brave new world of democracy heralding the beginning of the end of the colonial era worldwide. By the early 1960s Manipur merger with India came to be questioned with the formation of the United National Liberation Front advocating an armed struggle to regain Manipur’s lost sovereignity.By 2012 the number of armed groups formed in Manipur numbered about 50 with demands ranging from liberation of Manipur to influencing voters choice in Panchayat elections to award of lucrative contract works.
Central to the demand for liberation of Manipur from India by the various groups and the general feeling running in the veins of most Manipuris is the belief that the then Maharajah of Manipur Bodhchandra Singh was first kept under house arrest and coerced or forced into signing the merger agreement of Manipur with India. Numerous speakers had publicly lamented as to how our beloved king had no choice but to sign the agreement on the dotted line.
My contention is that Maharajah Bodhchandra was not forced into signing the merger agreement but he sold Manipur out to India for the Rs.5 lakhs of privy purse which he received per year then. Let us first examine the nature and character of this man said to be a direct descendant of Lord Pakhangba the ruling diety of the indigenous people of Manipur. To start with how many of us in Manipur know the fact that when the Constituent Assembly was formed in Manipur in 1948 and he was given the prerogative of choosing the Chief Minister of Manipur it was not a Manipuri he had in mind but a “Mayang” a mainland Indian from Uttar Pradesh. Yes it is a historical fact that our beloved Maharajah was going to install a Mayang to rule over Manipur under his supervisionship. It was one Shri Pannalal, an ICS officer from Benaras who he had initially invited ,mercifully Pannalal loved Manipur more than Bodhchandra and refused the job. It was under immense pressure from people like the late Bob Khathing and others that Bodhchandra reluctantly agreed to hand over the mantle to his half brother the beloved of the people namely Maharaj Kumar Priyabrata Singh.
It should also be placed on record that by the time Bodhchandra went to Shillong in 1949 he had already signed the Instrument of Accession and the Stand Still Agreement with the Government of India on 11 July 1947. And also the other point to ponder over is was he summoned to Shillong by the Government of India or did he go on his own accord for personal ends. If he was summoned then he ought to have consulted the then Interim Government of Manipur over the possible outcome of his visit, which he did not.
The comes the question of being forced. It should also be borne in mind that two other Mayang Rulers of Mainland India had refused to be forced to sign the merger agreement. One is talking about the Nizamof Hyderabad and the Nawab of Junagah. While the Nawab fled to Pakistan rather than sign the merger agreement the Indian Army had to move into Hyderabad to annex the land to India. Had our beloved Bodhchandra descendant of Lord Pakhangba refused to sign the merger agreement,the Indian Army might have moved into Manipur to annex Manipur. Then it could have been called annexation rather than merger and this would have given more credibility to our present day freedom fighters when they present Manipur’s case before world bodies like the United Nations. The fact that our “freedom fighters” are today questioning the legitimacy of the merger agreement on grounds that Bodhchandra had no locus standi to sign the same there already being an elected government in Manipur then is another way around. It is like the care-taker of a house selling off the same without consent of the owner. In this case Manipur and the actual owner being the people of the State whose consent either directly through a plebiscite or through its elected representatives was never taken.
Then upon examining the merger agreement that was signed between Bodhchandra and the representative of the Government of India in1949, there is nothing to reflect to safeguard and protect the interest of the Manipuri people. My contention s that since India was keen to have Manipur included within its map, he could have bargained or at least asked for Manipur’s status in Independent India. He could have asked for a status similar to that West Bengal or Assam whereby we would have got our own separate Governor, High Court, Public Service Commission, University etc etc. As with the case of Sikkim’s merger with India in 1975 where it merged with all the pre-requisites of a full fledged Indian State.Instead he and his aides who were with him at Shillong apparently were not literate or aware enough to know the currents flowing in mainland India. It is apparent that they read the agreement before he signed it for there are clauses contained in it mentioning that His Highness’s welfare would be taken care of meaning the upkeepment of his numerous concubines and their even more offsprings.
So let us stopped saying that Bodhchandra was forced to sign the merger agreement for he willingly signed it selling Manipur out for his own personal benefits. That he was not authorized to sign that agreement is a question that has already been taken up by numerous brothers in the bush but the concept amongst us common man should be clear on this for the problems which we are facing today in Manipur is a direct consequence of that act of signing or selling in 1949.