Merger Of Manipur Into India: A New Interpretation


By: Prof. N. Joykumar Singh

Change and development are the basic salient features of the history of human civilization. In their long process of history and development the people had an opportunity to witness the activities of various types of events. No doubt these events had a far reaching impact in the future history of human beings. On the other hand they also laid a foundation at base for a drastic change in the course of the historical process. Indeed, the idea for a change in the existing norms may be treated as a kind of barometer of the given particular society. Change always led the society toward a new direction. Only the question is whether it is toward the positive or negative direction. Sometimes change also had produced a significant result against the desire of the people of the society. Therefore, every historical event has got its own importance with the changing perception in the minds of the present generation in the light of the existing serious political and economic realities.

Everybody claims that Manipur has enjoyed a long historical tradition with unique social, political, economic and cultural identity. No doubt, Manipur has a long history of more than two thousand years. During this long historical period, the people were able to witness the activities of various types of events which produced a serious impact for a drastic change in the mindset of the people. The occupation of Kabow Valley during the time of King Kyamba, the emergence of sanskritization process in the 18th Century, the outbreak Seven Years Devastation in 1819 – 1826, the Anglo Manipur war of 1891 and merger of Manipur into India in 1949 may be treated as the major events occurred during the course of the historical process of Manipur. And these events have given rooms for a value judgment by the posterity in the light of the felt social needs of a nation, country or community.

The importance of the historical event is always judged by the historian, intellectuals and even by the common people in the form of continuous retrospection with critical examination and new interpretation. The historical value of a particular event is measured not by the number of participants and involvement of the masses but by the impact or result of the event. From this angle it can be suggested that the merger of Manipur into India in the year 1949 may be observed as the biggest historical event of Manipur. No doubt, this particular event produced two important results. First, if marked the end of a long history of the political status of sovereign independent kingdom of Manipur which was carried on under the roof of a single dynasty from the year 33 A.D. with the accession of Nongda Lairen Pakhngba, the founder King; and secondly, it also marked the beginning of a new political status of Manipur as a political unit of Indian Union. Therefore, this event is a great landmark in the history of the people of Manipur.

It is fact that the politicians and intellectuals of that period of time welcomed the ideas of merger of Manipur into India with a great hope that their country would be able to get prosper under the administration of the Indian government. So without much debate among the people and without giving resistance from any quarter, the merger process was started on 21st September, 1949 and it was officially announced on 15th October of the same year. No doubt, now this particular event is a now a part of history. But still many people of the present generation are doing a continuous reassessment of this event.
From this fact, it can be observed that this particular historical event still has got its relevancy to the existing social, political economic and cultural life of the people which was developed in the later years.

The relegation of the political status of Manipur from the position of a constitutional monarch to that of insignificant political unit under the Indian Union was the immediate result of the merger and the abolishment of all the democratic institution and establishment of central rule with bureaucratic set up was also another impact of this event. To put the entire administration in the hand of a single bureaucratic officer had brought all the ideas and concept for the establishment of the responsible government to an end. Apart from this, to put Manipur to the political status of a ‘Part C” State category under the Indian Constitution also had created a new scene of political set up in the State. Such type of undesirable political development could not but produce a serious psychological effect on every sensible person in the State.
However, inspite of having so many unexpected and undemocratic political developments, the people were quite hopeful that the Indian government would give democratic rights and privileges to the people very soon. Accordingly in a very peaceful and non-violent manner the people expressed their desires to establish all sorts of democratic norms so that they would be able to enjoy the right and privileges extended by the Constitution to the democratic institution. But for one reason or another the government of India refused to appreciate and understand the feeling of the people of this place. Such type of ignorance on the part of Central Government to the genuine demand of the people was intolerable particularly to the younger generation. They felt that such type administrative decision of the Central government would create a situation to disturb the distinct historical and cultural identity of this place which had been in existence right from the time immemorial. So on the basic foundation of this belief they strongly advocated for a violent type of movement for the promotion of their distinctive identity.

Accordingly, two parallel forces had emerged i.e. the force of political parties which strongly opted for the establishment of a responsible government within the framework ofIndian Constitution and other one was the force of radical section of the society which strongly advocated for the establishment of a separate distinctive identity outside the Indian Union. The emergence of these two groups of people in the society is, indeed, a significant development in the ongoing historical process of Manipur. That this new phenomenon has created a very good platform for a continuous debate among the people on the question of whether the distinctive identity of this State would be able to be promoted within the Indian Union or not. In the meantime the activities of these two groups have also continued and gained momentum as per their own respective perspective.

The year 1972 was also another landmark in the history in this place. The continuous political agitation with the basic demand for establishment of a responsible government which had been launched for the last more than 20 years was finally fulfilled with the official declaration of ‘Statehood’ by the Central Government. It was a greatest and happiest moment for those group of people who strongly believed in a non-violent process of political movement. Perhaps, they believed that after the fulfillment of their long cherished demand for the statehood, Manipur would be able to stand very distinctively within the framework of Indian Constitution. They also might have an impression that since they have got the opportunity to exercise the political power the representatives of the people would be able to perform their duties for the welfare of the people and State. With this notion in their mind all the political parties and those people who strongly believed that the distinctive identity of the people of this State would be able to be promoted within the framework of Indian Union, had concentrated their minds and energies in the electionary process. On the other hand, radical section of the society had continued to hole their view that the establishment of the identity of the State would be made possible only when they live outside Indian Union. They also thought that their ultimate goal has not been so far. To them the achievement of a full-fledged state was not the answer to their question. As a result of this a conflicting situation was developed between the two forces in respect of their political ideologies and objectives and ultimately it created a chaotic situation in the mindset of the common people.

While this was the prevailing situation in the mind of the people, another problem was again created by the administrators which made a very important room to raise the issue of the territorial integrity of Manipur State. It is not quite clear about the political background and the motive behind this issue. It is also quite difficult to understand whether it is a political gimmick or not. Whatever it may be, this issue has further intensified the state of confusing situation in the minds of the common people. Therefore, the common people are incapacity to have a clear vision about the future course of history. Under such situation, the people are confuse as to how best they can contribute towards the growth and development of the society they dreamt for.

In course of time, the nature and outlook of the policy makers also began to change. It seems that now, everybody is busy in each respective interest. The so-called-politicians are also concentrating their minds and energies for their own benefits. The social workers as we called them today are also engaged their minds somewhere which the common people are not be able to understand very easily. While this is the situation, the money began to flow through some pipelines. Ultimately all the vested interested persons including the common people began to divert their attention to the process of the money power. Now, the people began to think how to get money without hard work and physical labour. Ultimately, this situation gives an opportunity to develop the idea of ‘idleness’ in minds of the people. They have started to forget the basic idea of patriotism, nationalism and oneness among the different social ethnic groups. No doubt, the people have used so many high sounding rhetoric words which have no bearing in the ground realities of the state.

In the final analysis, now the people of Manipur are passing through a very critical stage. They are facing so many unanswerable questions i.e. the issue of the promotion of distinctive identity of the people, the question on the territorial integrity and the problem of heavy materialism arising from the love of money power. The last question is a biggest threat to the process of the protection of the national identity of this place. We cannot say that history is wrong and so we also cannot claim that the merger of Manipur with India was wrong because this particular event is a part of the process of the history of this place. But to move the society toward the positive direction is the duty of the people. In this respect, wisdom, alertness, transparency in the approach and honesty are some of the basic essential qualifications which are to be possessed among the social actors and actresses. From the ongoing nature of the relationship it is quite clear that there is a strong mistrust between the people cf Manipur and policy makers of the central government. In one sense it can be said that this mistrusts was the creation of the government of India. Their deliberate policy to ignore the genuine demand of the people to give the political rights to the people of this state may be treated as the beginning of mistrust. Therefore, the concept of mistrust should be removed so that a congenial atmosphere may be developed for a meaningful dialogue. In one sense it can be observed that the restlessness in the minds of the people with so many unanswerable questions which creates a situation of confusing state is also another serious impact of the merger of Manipur into India.


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