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Manipur’s 1950 Revolution Revisited

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By Professor Naorem Sanajaoba
In the significant revisit, the author holistically examines the local application in Manipur ,of the Asian communist revolutionary movement in 1950-1951, the inauguration of post-independence Manipuri armed struggle of the Manipur Communist Party, that transformed qualitatively, along with the Manipur- specific national question which had been subverted by the communist party of the annexing power and, that had been taken all the more seriously by the post- MCP Manipur national liberation movements.
In the conventional Manipuri revolutionary historiography, some of the historians are used to marginalise the role of the revolutionary party like the Manipur Communist Party (MCP hereafter) of which Mr. Hari or Jogeshwar i.e. Mr Hijam Irabot had been the uncontested supremo on the one hand, and the Red Guard Council (RGC hereafter) that had been the military apparatus with five red guard commanders that struck militarily at the post- annexation Manipur state and the Indian administrative apparatus from 1950 to 1951.
The 1950 MCP revolution was undoubtedly aborted for many a reason- the inevitable and the erroneous. Communist parties of administering Indian state (which some authors endorse as colonial power) make festive celebration in the state by projecting the revolutionary party supremo Irabot alias Hari (his clandestine code name) as the electoral mascot by totally and systematically blacking out his revolutionary militancy and his revolutionary path, with a view to once again aborting the ongoing, deep- rooted political militancy in Manipur and misleading the people by way of the subverting the political objective of the RGC. MCP profiling has been defiled and distorted by the political opportunists.
Once, ex MP of Congress- Laishram Jogeshwar wrote that Irabot remaining the party supremo, N.Binoy, Ng.Mohendra, Th.Boro and M.Ibohal were ‘riding on the crest of the revolution.’ In Manipur, honesty and truth had been the first casualty at the hands of the incorrigibly crooked politicians. One can fool the people for some time, not for all time.
Many a scholar has disingeniously projected the MCP supremo as a multitudinous or a mulitfaceted person lacking a defined and single- minded direction of a committed political philosophy. It could have been possible that despite their studying two three books of Mao Tse Tung purchased from Silchar, the RGC leadership was not ideologically mature barring the supremo’s personal interface with Bengali speaking Marxians in Sylhet jail.
The author would not revisit the hackneyed domain, and would love to address to two core issues- firstly, the centrality of the MCP armed struggle and secondly, the national question that the MCP had not literally addressed to.
Naturally, the MCP with its party supremo and the striking force the RGC deserve the full credit for launching the post- independence armed struggle- the first ever in post-1947 Manipur in 1950.The front organizations had been outlawed before the revolution had been launched in no time. The Manipur State Council of sovereign Manipur by its resolution no.3 dated 21.9.1948 made the order: “ _, the Manipur State Council declared the above associations( read Krishak Sabha and Praja Sangha) to be unlawful under Section16 of the Manipur State Criminal Law Amendment Act,1948.”
In order to remove any confusion about the post-accession Manipur in 1947, the official letter of the dominion agent is cited. Dominion agent Debeswar Sarma replied to dictator E.Tompok Singh on 25 November, 1947 after three months of Manipur’s accession to foreign state- India in August,1947, “Admittedly, Manipur is a Sovereign State.”
Notwithstanding baseless and utterly whimsical opinions of diehard, biased individuals about the status of Manipur in 1947, the official position of the dominion agent as cited above is categorical, and the author had been following the official position of the dominion agent, in total disregard of the private exclamations of untrustworthy, and, half-baked scholars.
Pro-revolutionaries and radicals show admiration for the methodology, revolutionary tactics he had taken care of, whereas revisionists and bankrupt opportunists capitalize on his name by undermining, ridiculing and omitting his revolutionism. Worshipping a wrong god or, barking at the wrong tree? A leader or a revolutionary could be fully assessed, not in parts or piecemeal in order to suit the electoral market. At the same time, autobiography writers could do complete justice by covering the entire life span, not a chosen piece.
The author would be doing complete injustice to Manipuri revolutionary historiography, if he does not acknowledge the commitment of Manipur people in 1953 towards undoing the disputed Manipur annexation and the subsequent post- MCP national liberation struggles that address fully to Manipur national question, which did not happen to be the cup of tea for the MCP in any sense of the term. The two major events are not inextricable, as we perceive of after considering the shifting political equations and agenda.
Definitely, certain confusions arose among the scholars due possibly to sentimental obsessions and lack of objectivity. The MCP had no business at all with the post- MCP armed national struggles in Manipur except that it has inaugurated the first primer of armed struggle for the liberation of the peasants and exploited Manipur people in 1950-1951, in conformity with the international communist movement led by the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) in a half –hearted way in Asia, while it had complete concern for Europe.
The author in his own humble way studied exhaustively strategic materials on CPSU, CPI of that era, published materials nearly all of them from Manipur, talked in 1992 to Ughor Debabarma (a contemporary of Irabot who led the armed struggle in Tripura ), late leader Soyam Shatradhari who told me fifteen years back that he would publish all the epistles and communications of late Irabot at his disposal, talked to a Meetei state committee septuagenarian leader of 1960s at Nongmeibung, RGC commander N. Binoy (alias Sunil in northern Manipur, alias Bipin in Southern Manipur) who single handedly collected 100 guns out of nearly two hundred guns for the RGC, L. Tiken of the RGC and also late Longjam Manimohon, who along with late Laishram Kanhai happened to be in the ranks of intermediate leadership of the MCP (not within the top decision- making 5 red guard commanders; reportedly the two did not take up arms) and studied strong refutations in 1996-97, made by late MP- Ngangom Muhindra, one of the top five red guard commanders in the millennium CPI souvenir.
The ideological format of the 1950 armed struggles had been based on 1) Defeat of Hitler and Japanese fascism in world war II (hence, Japan khurai thude-u song of Ms. Chandrakala; no chiding of the British colonialism, mark it please); 2) a new ‘constellation of class forces’; 3) post-war colonies launching “Armed Struggle against imperialists”; 4) Nehru’s government denied freedom to Indian people; 4) National government id.est. Delhi government collaborates with Anglo-American imperialism; and hence, the launching the democratic revolution by the CPI in 1950. The afoji did operate within these parameters.
Some of the MCP analysts, who along with another couple of scholars, who the late CPI MP had referred to in his refutations, did little source- verifications while jumping to Nongda hypothesis (cited by V.V.Rao and Gangmumei Kabui). Irabot epistles are yet to be published, made public by the custodian concerned, and we have to re-assess the MCP vis-a’-vis the CPI of the India-occupied Manipur after their publication. The author has no opportunity to read the unpublished Irabot documents, so far held up for unknown reasons for a long time, like many other scholars.
The writer does not think that the CPI leaders of occupied Manipur in the mid 1950s would have been appreciated in the unpublished Irabot epistles, as many of them surrendered after SP Palit’s racist crackdown on PDA detenues (that matriculate coloured barbarian- looking gentleman was awarded IPS along with a reward -hunting Meetei officer for subjugation of Manipur people and the RGC), and disowned their MCP role and themselves too, for setting new agenda of political opportunism.
Cloak and dagger policy prevailed in the post- MCP CPI premises even by concealing for seven years, the news about the death on September 26, 1951, of Hari or Jogeshwar, who the BCP called as AFOJI ( elder comrade in Burmese or, comrade Ahal to the armed Manipuri red guards ) .The foreign comrades called him peoples’ hero or , Jana-neta (Meeyam luchingba in Manipuri free translation; the author has to look up a dictionary in order to decipher what a Jana actually meant).
Comrade Longjam Jyanendro of Kongba (whose elder brother possibly maintains his jottings in a small notebook of about 30 pages approx , about MCP and Irabot very privately) had to supply medicines and a few Akbar cigarette boxes, but comrade ahal missed in his most difficult times, the complete attention of the party to his deteriorating health. Afoji wrote to L. Jyanendro- “Eigee chaananaba hidak amatta leitre / Bismark Stomach powder nattaraga Maclean’s Stomach powder Liklee Aneekhakata Leiraga peeraku.”
The supremo was in dire need of medicine for his last survival (the author may not be completely wrong to guess so) and the party with a huge network of activists missed the opportunity to give a chance to him to live a little bit longer, inspite of the inevitable personal differences. A few good men could and might have existed by that time, inspite of capitalizing to-day his name for other purposes that Irabot would have not been comfortable with. Anyway,that was the past that nobody could alter. The full and comprehensive inside story has no space here and the author may be forgiven for the short shrift.
A would- have-been congressman that afoji was at his first political stint, might not have been the harbinger of Manipur national question as much as the gen-next of post –MCP period, but had definitely been the political supremo of the RGC that inaugurated armed struggle for the liberation of the exploited in Manipur. International politics of the pre-and post-war period witnessed the communist polycentrism in the CPSU monolith to which the CPI belonged on the one hand, and Yugoslav or, Communist China specific communist configurations, which the CPSU looked with mistrust and communist realities, not necessarily Bernstein or, Rosa Luxemberg or, Trotskyte brands.
The CPI monolith had suspected afoji to have taken recourse to Titoist line in deviation of the CPSU monolythism and hence, the dubious selfcriticism episode. Khrushev had successfully mended the Soviet-Yugoslav ideological hiatus and in that context, Yugoslav –baiting lost its Stalinist ideological validity. The CPSU within had been a bundle of competing political theses including Zhadnov thesis that prevailed upon others in CPSU’s expansion of communist ideology towards the east- particularly Asia.
But for M.N. Roy in the 1920s and subsequently thereafter, India and the East might have missed a revolutionary experience; however, his over enthusiasm had overtaken Leninist objectivity of that age. The CPSU did not recommend its favourite, time-tested Bolshevik methodology, but recommended the then rising Maoist peasantry-led city encirclement armed struggle for Asia.
Strategically, in the overall cold war situation, the communist targeted the end of what N. Lenin called imperialism and tactically, Mao Tse Tung’s tested peasant rebellion, particularly after its crowning success in 1949, had been more suitable for non-European eastern question.
Zhadnov thesis that had been approved by CPSU leadership for resolving the eastern, Asian question had been clandestinely endorsed by Asian conference and the second CPI congress in Calcutta, 28 February to March, 1948 which bore an innocent façade exclusively for British consumption. The Asian revolutionary agenda had been set in Calcutta.(For details of Zhadnov thesis and CPI of 1947-1950, see N.Sanajaoba ed., Manipur Past & Present volume I, 1988,pp.246-252). The CPI had, therefore, endorsed Calcutta conference resolutions (read CPSU Zhadnov line, or 2nd party congress) for triggering off armed struggle in India, which included, in CPI perception, India-administered Manipur, Tripura and British-annexed Assam as well.
The cliché like Indian annexation would supposedly perturb the conscience of pandits and diplomats. The author, therefore, is put to task to clarify annexation issues. In contemporary world, everyone is in the know of what annexation means to the polity after the world community rejected firmly any justification whatsoever- might be that of Kuwait in 1991,three Baltic states in 1939, East Timor in 1975, Montenegro, Kosovo, South Ossetia(2008 issues) and, many more- ad infinitum. Naturally, imperialists and colonizers — might be in capitalist or communist camps whatever – or, puerile local scholarship in Manipur or the region, ought not relinquish their hard-earned gobbling up mind-set.
Without the pitch- black darkness around, even a candle, let alone the sun, loses it shine and significance; they have to be there to make and impute a sense to history, although they make no history. The dialectics goes on.
Notwithstanding Manipur annexation issue that is too simplistic, homely and familiar to us all, Sikkim annexation had been denounced by top echelons of India, who raise the human reason above native, embedded, inextricable prejudices of the broken psyche. What the MCP had not addressed to has been completely addressed by the new elites of Manipur with proven national and international performances. India has to be proud of them.
Indian annexation of Sikkim in 1975 had been denounced by prime minister Morarji Desai, chief justice of India – M.Hidatullah, Nani Palkhiwala, Nari Rustomji, A.G. Noorani, Minu Masani so and so forth- all the legendary personalities in the hall of fame, and also in the UN Human Rights Committee.(see Illustrated Weekly of India, May 13, 1984;April 21,1985;July 1,1984; and July 22, 1984, among others).
Chief Justice M. Hidayatullah’s article – ‘The Law’ demolishes Indian annexation of Sikkim by Hidayatullah’s own country India.(The Weekly, 22nd July, 1984, pp.42-45 and 62).Independent-minded scholars of history, diplomacy and law would appreciate the legal arguments , espoused against Sikkim annexation by chief justice(retd.) of India. With the setting up of universities in Manipur and the region, we are yet to evolve independentminded, genuine scholarship, not the damp squip ,and horrible, irrational logicians of the below- the bottom order. Manipur is in search of persons capable of exercising independent judgement on puzzling issues of the day.
Till the CPSU clandestinely mandated CPI through top secret channels to abandon BT .Randive line( read CPSU line ) of armed struggle for India in mid-1950, which afoji Hari could not receive through CPI  Assam unit while in Burma, the RGC did the armed struggle in Manipur valley in 1950-1951.
Former comrade Satindra Singh had noted the critical 1950 in this way: “ Although Ranadive had been replaced by Rajeswara Rao, the communists were unable to formulate a tactical political line on their own.
They continued to grope for light until Stalin (sic.CPSU boss) summoned S.A. Dange, Ajoy Ghosh,Rajeswar Raoand Basayapunnaiah to Moscow . From their hideouts, they traveled in cognito to Moscow
. According to well-informed sources, Stalin patiently listened to them, then ordered a map of India and asked them to show him the exact location of  Telengana.
When it was done, he angrily remarked: “ How could you think of or ganizing a guerilla revolt in an area which does not have a common frontier with any Socialist country ?”.Stalin then laid down the lines.” (The Illustrated weekly of India, January 9, 1977, p 15)
The CPSU, on the contrary , recommended that armed struggle would continue in other parts of Asia, including Burma that remained under sway of both the Soviet party and the CPC.
This period has remained a puzzle to the rebels in Indo-Myanmar area of that period.
A couple of works like-Charles B. McLane’s ‘Soviet Strategies in South East Asia’, Geoffrey Fairbairn’s Revolutionary Warfare and Communist Strategy’(1968),Jay Taylor’s ‘ China and South East Asia-Peking’s relations with Revolutionary Movements’(1976),C.P. Fitzgerald ‘s ‘ China and SouthEast Asia since 1945’(1975), Uma Shankar Singh’s ‘Burma and India’(1979) along with V.B. Sinha’s ‘The Red Rebel in India’(1968), Biplab Dasgupta’ s ‘The Naxalite Movement’(1974),and M.N. Roy’ s’ India in Transition’(1971), among others, would possibly remove the confusion a little bit. Confusion arose in the Manipur rebels about the two-pronged CPSU tactical line and even the Assam unit with its envoy to Manipur DOC – Uma Sarma and Basna was not fully informed, because the route from Stalin to party chief, Dange to party leader , then to Assam unit and further down to the remote foreign DOC hideouts in that period happened to be an unending political circumnavigation. Besides, the 1950 armed struggle had not been supported by three top leaders viz., Ajoy Ghosh, S.A. Dange and S.V . Ghate for the simple reason that outside Telengana, Manipur , Assam and Tripura etc., Krishak sabhas or peasant organizations virtually did not exist in India and a civil war could not be triggered. B.T.Ranadive had to be ousted by Rao in the same way as Ranadive had ousted P .C. Joshi. Heads rolled on and out in the CPI hierarchy , before parliamentary measures had been opted for in lieu of the revolutionary struggle that had been  abandoned  forever .  Even  violent  Marxian  class  struggle  or ,  Leninist
anti-imperialism  struggles  have  been  literally  cast  out  in  the  revisionist process; the house had been abandoned barring the imposing banner while rushing to the outhouse and mouth-watering slogans.
The MCP had to rush in the queue. The  CPI  had  difficult  times  during  Quit  India  movement  while defending their pro-British political stand vis-a’-vis Gandhi-led independence movement.
Tons of literature are available in defence of both sides. However, the CPI like the BCP ( both white and red flags) and smaller ones considered Indian independence as sham, and it had to take up armed struggle largely, for the independence of India, immediately after Indian independence.
In similar vein, the BCP et al did not consider Burmese independence from Japan in 1943 as proclaimed by Japan and the subsequent independence from the British in 1948 as the real independence.
As soon as the party aborted their armed struggle, MCP  too followed suit. The afoji did not quit the party, nor  did  he  constitute  another  anti-CPI  party  to  advance  the  supposedly Manipur nationalist cause that he did not address. However, his stature as the MCP  party  supremo  that  commanded  the  RGC  is  worthy  of  an  historical space.
At the time when the afoji left for Burma by default in 1951, the Burmese communist insurgency was at logger heads and more complicated, because, in 1946, Trotskyte Thakin Soe split pro- Maoist , Stalinist, all Burman BCP  and formed the Red flag while, Thakin Than Tun and Ba Thienof BCP attended  1948  Calcutta  conference.  In  March,  1948,  BCP  had  started  the armed  uprising  by  way  of  implementing  the  thesis  of  H.N.  Ghosal,  CPI’s delegate in Burma. Ghosal who in Burma had enunciated Zhadanov line in his pamphlet-‘On the present political situations in Burma and Our times’ was eliminated by Thakin Tan Tun a decade later , who in turn had also been liquidated, due to ideological reasons probably after some years-Ghoshal’s support to general Ne Win, known for his Burmese way to Socialism.
In early 1950, BCP deputed two central committee members to Peking that militarily helped BCP and stood for liberation of Burma. In 1951, Burmese army cleared the BCP from fertile lands; BCP was prepared for negotiated settlement. India, on the contrary militarily and financially helped the Burmese government, which would enter into Indo-Burma agreements subsequently thereafter . In the most perplexed situation of Burmese insurgency politics, the afoji had no alternative than leaving Burma at the earliest without defining the next perspective in clear terms and 26 September , 1951 concluded
the mission.
The rosy pictures painted by some writers about his Burma visit may not be fully true after considering the intra-insurgency feuds, interventions from China, USSR, and India, among others. The Manipuri afoji was small enough to bring to terms the irreconciliable forces, at a time when the BCP (white flag) Thakin Than Tun strictly followed the Cominform line- the Zhadnov approach, re-enunciated by Ghoshal.
The confusion about afoji acting under MCP directive or , his choosing a personal anti-CPI Irabot line did not arise at all, as the supremo had been deputed by the MCP at the eleventh hour , when Ng. Muhindro and Th.Boro, who had been deputed officially for Burma access had been arrested by police, and by default, the supremo had replaced the two. In a sense, the afoji left for Myanmar absolutely by default. One of the leading informants revealed to me that the arrest of the two had been pre-arranged, however, multi-source confirmation is yet to be made.
After the bitter, possibly enforced self-criticism of October 10, 1949, Irabot would have never gone against the party directive. Ng.Muhindra defended the said self-criticism as the routine socialist political culture; but unfortunately, the CPI in the entirety dared not take up a routine self –criticism repeat after they denounced armed struggle forever. The most misconstrued access of the supremo to Burma had actually been firstly to gain arms aid from Burmese insurgents, secondly, to move easily in liberated zone in Burma, as the party so directed.
The RGC striking force had 32 trained red guards, supported by about 500 village guards. Some writers had confused the 500 village guards as the graduated red guards. The red guards had struck upon the Manipur police, Manipur rifles and 4th Assam rifles.
In 1950, the inaugural armed struggle was considered to be an unprecedented event. Even today the CPI/CPM of India had to fight out the Communist Party Maoists that sustain armed struggle in 15 more Indian states outside the NE region.  The latter unwittingly snubs the anti-revolutionary CPI-CPM as opportunistic, reactionary , social imperialists comparable to their counterpart – the American imperialism.
In West Bengal, the Congress and the CPM in their own turn, in greatest show of anti-revolutionarism, had successfully exterminated several thousands of communist revolutionaries after 1971, mostly the brilliant students of the Presidency College. It could be recalled that Peoples’ Daily of China, May 19, 1967 and June 27, 1967 had cited revolutionary struggles in India like those of Naga, Mizo and peasants revolutions in Darjeeling, among others.
Police commissioner Ranjit Gupta had recollected the 1970s: “When the CPI-M proposed that (sic. Ajoy Mukharji government) they would deal with the Naxalites politically , they meant violence and liquidation”. (The Illustrated Weekly of India,April 21,1985,p.41) .The divide continues, possibly deeper. The author is yet to be educated if the present crop of CPI/CPM and their present day red- guards or, booth-capturing cadets of Nandigram style of to-day exactly implements what N.Lenin wrote, “Without a revolutionary theory , there cannot be a revolutionary movement.”
They are left to introspect themselves. From committed anti-revolutionism to silent no-revolutionism could have been the long march of the of ficial communist parties of the day.
We are afraid if the afoji had been alive to-day like his Tripuri co- revolutionary Ughor Debabarma, he might have faced the same ideological fury of the communist extremists. He had seminal national aspirations within his bosom not outside, but that remained implicit in both letter and spirit.
Legends are born out of forelorn graveyards in distant lands.  We hope some of their learned members might have read their literature as much as I do. The MCP or , CPI later on, had never denounced Indian annexation of sovereign Manipur nor , did it oppose the humiliating, servile D.O.C.(district status) of MCP under  Assam unit of colonial CPI., unlike the socialist party or young socialist league or one of the two Congress factions in Manipur that strongly challenged the so called disputed merger of the country by a foreign power . That is why late MP Ng. Muhindra always like any other CPI members and the young ones too, who applauded one hundred national liberation armed movements elsewhere (see all party records without a blink) looked upon the national liberation organizations in Manipur as secessionist or terrorist outfits, unlike the CPSU veterans. Duplicity had been bequeathed to the successors to reprimand and frown upon liberation movements in the best political tradition of social imperialism, very particularly in Manipur and the NE region as a perturbation to what guru Gowalkar in his imagined nationalism, calls akhandabharat. The revisionist leaders had misread Manipur history for their post- facto political gains.
They had no mistake in singing his master’s tune in total disregard for CPSU’s unrelenting, uncompromising struggle against colonialism and imperialism of all forms till 1991. For want of space, the morphology and anatomy of the RGC (estd. 3 March, 1950) revolution in 1950-1951 are not described herein. One had to admit that in that age that was a big event which no one could overlook even today.

(This article was widely published in several online journals and print journals)

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