ECONOMIC INTERPRETATIONS OF MERGER AGREEMENT: STRATEGIC POLICY SHIFTS IN DEVELOPMENT

Dr L Krishnamangol wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Epao reposted it on 1 June 2015

There are many historical turning points in the evolution of the society and state of Manipur since ancient times. We can, therefore, imagine that there was “primitive communism” or primitive communal system in ancient times. And, the primitive communism is the earliest mode of production which is based on the common ownership of the means of production or the resources.

This system still continues in some parts of the hill areas of Manipur. And, the system corroborates the empirical experiences/evidences that were found in different parts of the world in ancient times or early period of human civilizations. Coming to the case of Manipur, it is well known that the historical development of the state revealed that Manipur was defeated/conquered by the British in 1891, and that, thereafter, it became a princely state prior to 15th August, 1947.

In fact, the historical development of Manipur further revealed that the princely state of Manipur which had been an independent kingdom for a long historical period (i.e. prior to the British rule in Manipur) was transformed or restored into the earlier status of independent kingdom immediately after the British had left the princely state of Manipur.

Thus, without any delay, the erstwhile independent Kingdom of Manipur further became an independent nation state or independent country. And, with the passing of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1949, Manipur enjoyed the status of an independent country or nation. But there are still many critical questions which are still in the mind of the people(s).

1. In the first place, whether the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 could fully take over the earlier sovereign power vested in the King?

2. Secondly, whether the MSCA, 1947 could establish/a real democracy (i.e. a real democratic form of government) in Manipur?

3. Thirdly, whether the Act contained or supported the vestiges of the erstwhile kingdom?

4. Fourthly, whether there were elements of force or coercion in establishing a democratic nation or country?

5. Fifthly, whether there were people who advocated the restoration of the earlier kingdom?

6. Sixthly, whether the Maharaja considered that the propitiatory right of the nation state or the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur belonged to the King as the kingdom formation took a long historical period under the kings?

In the above context, it would be beyond the scope or purpose of the present article to answer all the questions in the limited space. And, I may also have contextual constraints to answer all the questions. Again, I am aware that there are also many renowned persons and experts, who have their own knowledge and originality for these questions or issues. However, I have set out a few questions not to provoke many intellectuals, social scientists, experts and other groups, but to explore the reality and various implications including merits and demerits of the merger of Manipur into India.

I am aware that we could not reverse the course of history. But, there is no denying the fact that the past experience is helpful for guiding a country. And the whole premises of the insurgency movement or the underground movement is that Manipur was an independent country or nation while Budhachandra Maharaja, the then King of Manipur signed the Merger Agreement (i.e. Manipur Merger Agreement) on 21st September, 1949 without the consent of the people and the Council of Ministers for merging Manipur into India on October 15, 1949. These political and historical development, which revealed that Manipur was merged into Union of India (i.e. India) on October 15, 1949 is widely known and discussed.

However, the attempt to regain the early status of independence as per the Manipur State Constitution, 1949 has still become an unlawful activity under the Constitution of India (i.e. the Indian Constitution) as the Government of India and the Government of Manipur have repeatedly emphasised that Manipur was merged into India on October 15, 1949.

And, it is also difficult to establish judiciary body or appropriate bench of the court to pass judgement on the propitiatory right of the early independence status of Manipur. It is also difficult to reverse the historical and political development of state formation within the Union of India/India, or the Indian Union, as the country (India) has her own constitution, known as the Indian constitution.

And, all the “privy purses” of the erstwhile kings of the Indian states had also been granted. Thus, the principle of compensation or award had also been fulfilled for merging Manipur into India with all rights and privileges for citizens of the country under the Indian Constitution.

However, it is argued that the people of Manipur have failed to enjoy/get all the rights and privileges under the Constitution of India or the Indian constitution. Therefore, the critics have challenged the merger agreement in spite of the constitutional recognition given to the citizens of the state (i.e. the citizens of India). In this respect, the various implications or the interpretations of the merger agreement need critical re-examination.

1. In the first place, it can be pointed out that the decision or the action of the Maharaja revealed that the propitiatory right of the state (i.e. the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur) belonged to the King (i.e. the Maharaja himself).

2. Secondly, as already noted, the principle of compensation was applied or followed at the time of signing the Agreement.

3. Thirdly, as the Kingship was a tradition/institution of hereditary/heir and succession, the Maharaja had the advantage or got the opportunity to sign the Agreement in the midst of the political chaos and larger interest of the people to guard against any future external aggression or the war from the neighbouring and the foreign countries.

4. Fourthly, the Maharaja might have the vision to expand the democracy within the Indian Union and perhaps, he might not like to continue the feudal remnants or legacies that might be protected in Manipur. In this context, it is likely that he might have a vision of real democracy to provide freedom to the people, and dispel any fear of the people that might emanate or arise from the concentration of democracy.

5. Fifthly, in an agrarian society where the people were largely illiterate en masse (except a small section), the Maharaja might have taken the decision for integration of Manipur with the Indian Union as the people of the state suffered various forms of trauma and subjugation under the British rule. The decision of the Maharaja further revealed that the larger dimension and expansion of democracy at the Indian national level could protect and promote the rights, duties, responsibilities, public administration (i.e. governance), and socio-economic development of the people that could be obtained or reaped from the integration of the state (Manipur) with the Indian Union.

6. Sixthly, a critical look into the historical and political development of Manipur, which obtained at the time of Merger Agreement revealed that there was a better political and social climate for consolidation and integration of all the princely native states or the earlier kingdoms for a strong and unified India under the same political sovereignty, known as the Indian Union (i.e. India).

Thus, according to the merger agreement signed on 21st September, 1949 between Maharaja Budhachandra and the Government of India, Manipur was merged into the Indian Union on 15th October, 1949, which is now challenged by the critics and the armed revolutionary organizations as an “agreement” signed under duress or force imposed on the Maharajah.

Here, it would be interesting to note that, except under dictatorship or dictatorial rule, experiences have shown that sovereignty could not be easily parcialised, and perhaps remain as a symbol of “Independence” of a nation or country. Now, the question is : Why was Maharaja considered wrong in signing the agreement? Alternatively, why was the Maharaja blamed for signing the Agreement?

In any case, the Maharaja might, perhaps, face both the advantages and disadvantages of signing the “agreement”. However, it has been observed that he had taken the decision to sign the agreement on the basis that the King (i.e. the Maharajah himself) was not again conquered and that, in practice, the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur became an independent nation state immediately after the British had left Manipur.

And, this stage of historical and political development of Manipur could be described as the “Golden Age of Manipur” since Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 was passed and adopted for a popular government (elected government) of the independent nation or country of Manipur. In fact, there are a large number of intellectuals, scholars and other experts who have their views on the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 and also on the status of independent country or nation of Manipur that existed prior to October 15, 1949. And, therefore, it is not the purpose of the present article to elaborate or repeat their views.

It may, however, be noted that the independent status of the Kingdom of Manipur or the nation of Manipur was lost when the Maharaja Budhachandra, who applied the principle that the Kingship was an institution of hereditary/heir and succession, and propitiatory right of the erstwhile kingdom of Manipur belonged to the King himself signed the Merger Agreement. This marked another historical turning point for integration of Manipur from a small independent nation state to the Indian Union or India.

Here, it would be essential to re-examine why the critics have still argued against the decision taken by the Maharaja in signing the “agreement”.

It is argued that the decision taken by the Maharaja in signing the merger agreement for merging Manipur into the Indian Union or India was wrong as Manipur was an Independent Kingdom or an independent nation for a long historical period before the British came, and after the British left Manipur, the Kingdom of Manipur had politically or automatically restored its/her early status of “independence” (i.e. the independent kingdom or the independent nation).

Thus, it has been argued that the merger agreement signed between the Maharaja and the Government of India was wrong as he (the King) had not taken the decision or consent of the people of Manipur and the Council of Ministers of the state in signing the agreement.

It is also their argument that the decision taken by the Maharaja was wrong as Manipur had (already) adopted and followed the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 for the formation/constitution or election of a popular government after the British had left Manipur.

Thus, according to their views there are basically two main points which constitute the basis of their arguments that lend support to or that cause the armed revolution against the Government of India and also against the Government of Manipur. These two main points may be set out as follows:

1. First, it is argued that Maharaja (i.e. Budhachandra Maharaja who was the King of Manipur when the British had left the latter had no power or legal right to sign the “merger agreement” as the king of Manipur had lost the power of the King during the British rule in Manipur.

2. Secondly, it is also argued that the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 had formally established a popular government (i.e. an elected government) of Manipur which continued to function or existed till the merger of Manipur into the Union of India (i.e. India) on October 15, 1949.

Thus, the merger of Manipur into India marked a turning point in the historical, political, social and economic changes, and development in Manipur. In fact, it (i.e. merger agreement) has larger dimension or implications of historical and political development in Manipur. And the process of economic development in Manipur also takes place with the process of political changes and development in India since Manipur was merged into the Indian Union/India on October 15, 1949. In fact, there is close relationship between the modern economic development and political development, which is generally known.

We may now conclude the brief article in the following ways.

1. It can be pointed out that there are still two opposite views, which sharply differ in their arguments on the merger agreement. And, coming to the case of Manipur, there is still a controversial issue, which lends support to the underground movement or insurgency movement in Manipur.

2. It is also observed that the Government of India and Maharaja Budhachandra had accepted that Manipur was an independent kingdom, which was also a princely state even prior to the departure of British from Manipur. Thus, both sides had not accepted “locus standi” of Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947.

3. In fact, the sequence of the historical events corroborate that there was politically free entry from Manipur into Indian Union (i.e. India), but there is no politically free exit of Manipur from India as the process of political and economic integration, and the process of modern economic growth and development of Manipur has already started and deepened in the state within the political and geographical boundary (i.e. territory) of India, which is now recognized as one of the largest democratic countries in the comity of nations.

4. Finally, it can be pointed out that the process of economic integration has strengthened democracy and development at different levels in most of the countries of the world. And the modern theory of economic growth and development also suggests that the economic integration from the local to the growth centre of the region, from the rural to the urban and from the region to the nation or the country, and from the country to the global economy can provide benefits of growth and development to the people in the country.

It is therefore, essential that there is the need for restructuring and reforming the various barriers to growth and development through effective institutional reforms, massive or adequate increase in public investments in various fields of development including eradication or elimination of poverty and unemployment, provision of basic needs, overall increase in the general standards of living of the people, reorganisation of the participation model/system of development, proper management of the new economic development system, etc. that need to transform the people to maximum level of development.

In fact, Keynes’ “maximum development” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “minimum government and maximum governance” can now be a new starting point for a new economics that needs to transform the country (India) including Manipur into a higher level of development or maximum level of growth and development.

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