August 13 marks the struggle of Manipur for its sovereignty against British. It is about the battles that the people fought against the columns of British forces that entered the Imphal Valley to colonize Manipur. On August 13, Tikendrajit Singh and Thangal General were hanged by the British for waging war against the British Empire. The day marks the struggle of the people of Manipur in Anglo-Manipur war.
It has been very clear that the struggle was to defend the sovereignty of Manipur, and when Anglo-Manipur war took place in 1891, Manipur was not a part of India. Manipur became a part of India only after the merger agreement of 1949. It will be a historical blunder if we start seeing Anglo-Manipur war in relation to India and start arguing that the war was to defend Bharat Mata from invading British forces.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is a hindutva right wing cultural organization, which stands behind BJP, has also celebrated August 13. However, sticking to their political ideology, they attempted to paint Anglo-Manipur war as a war to defend the body of Bharat Mata, which is India. Even if we leave aside the fact that there was no Bharat Mata before British left India, we should still acknowledge that Manipur became part of India much later and Manipur was an independent sovereign country before and after the British.
RSS, in their recent August 13 function, placed the photo of Bharat Mata along with the photos of Tikendrajit and Thangal General. Student organizations have banned RSS from ever celebrating the event given that it has defiled the history of Manipur. RSS is not new to changing history of Manipur. It sees the events in history from the lenses of its hindutva or hindu supremacist ideology. When these events do not fit their narrative, they change the event, color the event saffron and present it to the people, twisting history.
RSS neither has an understanding of struggles that people fought against British nor benefits from remembering them unless they twist them. It does not have any understanding because it never was a part of it. Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, who is one of the icons of RSS, said “Hindus, don’t waste your energy fighting the British, save your energy to fight our internal enemies that are Muslims, Christians and Communists.” We should also remember what RSS leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the author of the book Hindu Rashtra, offered to be a witness for the British against others who have fought against British. Even Atal Bihari Bajpayee, who is taken as a person with a softer version of Hindutva, offered to be a British spy.
RSS in India has never struggled for India against the British and now they want to paint the struggle of Manipur against British as a part of Indian freedom struggle. The people of Manipur should never allow such distortion of history for Hindutva Ideology.