Home » Amar Yumnam and Amar Chitra Katha: Mole-Mountain and Mountain-Mole

Amar Yumnam and Amar Chitra Katha: Mole-Mountain and Mountain-Mole

by Rinku Khumukcham
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Professor Amar was in the spotlight for a wrong reason. It was simply because he was co-guide of a PhD scholar who worked on Insurgency in Manipur. The thesis was submitted to Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi under the main guide Dr. Sadananda Sahoo. The research scholar was Brig Sushil Kumar Sharma. The thesis was published in the book form with the title Complexity Called Manipur: Roots, Perceptions and Reality which was published by Viva Books, New Delhi. The misinformation, the author gives, about the current history of Manipur is that the area of Manipur at the time of her merger with India was only 700 sq miles; meaning hill areas were not part of Manipur before and at the time of Merger Agreement. After three years of the publication of this book, Shri N Biren came to know this false claim. He was furious because of the misinformation of historical events in the thesis or book; however his anger was rather directed towards Professor Amar than to the research scholar or the author of the book. Honorable Chief Minister of Manipur expressed his anguish in a public speech. The people of Manipur understood his feeling; he was so hurt that he attacked the nearest and most visible one, Prof Amar Yumnam. We should know that such political narrative claiming Manipur means only valley has its own political interests. The motive of one Brigadier of Indian Army spreading such a narrative could not be taken very lightly because the narrative is very much linked with various ethnic politics in Manipur. Did he take a side or use this narrative to disturb the ethnic relation in the State? 
Shri N Biren, being a true patriot, could not tolerate such a narrative and the politics of misinformation. At this juncture, therefore, what we can imagine is Chief Minister’s prompt action against the book, rather than against the process how a PhD degree was conferred to one research scholar. The opinion of the research scholar could not be overruled by the guide or co-guide. It is universal rule and is known to all the academicians. The war should be on the idea of the author rather than the process of conferring PhD degree by one or another University. The book in which the idea is spread, should be banned. So cry for blood for one retired professor who was just a co-guide is not the proper action; the State and Chief Minister should take up to ban the book. The issue how one co-guide did not see the controversial line is a mere mole out of which one cannot make a mountain. We should see that the mountain is the idea of misinforming the historical facts; the mountain is the narrative that Manipur was never a sovereign state and whose area was only 700 square miles. Let us fight the idea; let us stand against the politics of misinformation. We need to work against such narratives, originated somewhere and are spread by some other agents.
Another manifestation of such a narrative and of such politics of misinformation is belittling the historical personalities of Manipur. The depiction of Manipur’s national hero, Paona Brajabasi, in a comic book published in Amar Chitra Katha series, Tribal Leaders of Freedom Struggle should also be considered as an example. It was published in the month of August when the State pay homage to all the war heroes of the State. Unfortunately, the comic was sponsored by Ministry of Culture, Government of India, as a part of the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav. The comic book tries to reduce the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 to a tribal revolt or tribal resistance. Everyone knows it was a full scale war, declared by British Crown. The war was fought tirelessly and fearlessly by many hundred patriots of Manipur to defend the national sovereignty. The war was to defend Manipur’s sovereignty from the colonial expansionism of the British. The fight was for a sovereign state. They died in the name of a state. The Amar Chitra Katha’s mistake is not a comic matter; it should be examined as a deliberate move of misinformation of Manipur’s history and her position in pre-colonial international relation in Indo-Burma Region. If we are proud of having been fighting 1891 War, of our brave hearts including Paona Brajabasi, of our leaders like Tikendrajit, Thangal, King Kulachandra, then we should take the book, the comic and the politics of misinformation very seriously. The politics of misinformation is reflected in the book, coated with intellectual freedom; the same is again reflected in a comic form that can make people internalize the idea of a reduced Manipur. The first one reduces Manipur’s geographical and international position in pre-colonial and post-colonial periods, opposing Shri N Biren’s idea of ‘oneness of Manipur’. The second is the reduction of social space among the equals. Both play the same game of misinformation of Manipur’s long historical process.

Also Read: Students’ bodies in Manipur condemn inclusion of Paona Brajabashi as Tribal Leaders of Freedom fighter

Moreover, one will see India cannot think beyond their caste-tribe classification. The Government of India is trying to classify the freedom fighters into tribal and non-tribal. Freedom fighters are all equals. Then, what is need of such a classification, giving Jhansi Rani a superior position and Birsa Munda a tribal status in the history of Indian Freedom Struggle? This clearly shows Indian intellectuals’ obsession of tribe-caste bias. With the intrinsic bias in the minds of Indian intellectuals, the dirty politics of misinformation is spread in various forms, ways and manners. Manipur needs to fight this politics for the sake of ‘oneness of Manipur’ and her glory historical process. Let us fight against the wrong historiographies; Manipur is not a mosaic of ethnic groups; it is a whole evolved out of long historical process. This process is never ended with the merger of the State with India on 15 October 1949. In one sentence, the book, the comic and the politics of misinformation should be banned and Chief Minister of Manipur should be the Thangal General in this War. We should not make mountains out of the moles; and the mountains should not be neglected as moles. 


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