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Revisiting Sept. 21 (1948 & 1949)

The Manipuri people have every reason to remember ‘September 21’ for two historic occasions. This day of 1948 is important because a pioneer leader who was supposed to change the fate of the erstwhile nation had gone underground and secondly, it was on this day of 1949 that Maharaja Bodhachandra signed the Merger Agreement with the Union of India at Shillong.
If one revisit and dissect the incidents of September 21, 1948, at which Hijam Irabot was compelled to go underground, it would be easily understand that it was a matter of intellectual deficiency among the people of those time who had been following the leadership of Hijam Irabot that compelled him to go underground. Everyone knows that it was the incident that happened at Pungdongbam on that day where a policeman was killed in an alleged confrontation with the supporters of Hijam Irabot that gave chance to the then government of Manipur to issue warrant of arrest to him. But as per historical record the police team actually used force to stop the supporters of Hijam Irabot who came to attend a meeting organised at MDU Hall to oppose the India Government proposal for formation of Purbachal state by merging Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Cachar and Karbi Anglong districts of Assam  with Silchar as its capital.
Then, Irabot was already elected as representative of the Manipur State Assembly, but was organizing a protest meet against the India government proposal for formation of new state call Purbachal. Irabot had a dream for the future of Manipur. He wanted an Independent Manipur within the Independent India. The mainstream politician today interpreted the idea of Irabot’s Manipur in their own perspective but those who had been following the ideology of the great leader felt that Irabot wanted Manipur to be an Independent Nation. The debate can continue, but one thing that everyone understands is that Irabot wanted a Manipur an Independent nation. This is being stated as he was against the idea of merging few states and districts of North Eastern region to form a new state call ‘Purbachal Pradesh’.  
So, if the people and those close associates of Irabot, instead of asking him to go underground, stood by his side and continue the movement things could have been change.
A year later, that is 1949, on this day, Maharaj Bodhachandra was invited by the representative of the Indian Union and was force to sign the controversial Merger Agreement under duress. As per revelation of late Mayengbam Ananda Mohon, who companied the  Maharajah, the constitutional Head of Manipur of the Independent state of Manipur which have its owned Constitution and already have a constituent Assembly of elected representatives by conducting adult franchise, reported cried the whole night. Bodhachandra was forced to sign the Merger agreement.
The signing of the merger agreement has been declared as ‘illegal and unconstitutional’ after a series of consultation and public meeting by the people of the state in 1993. Well, if Maharaj Bodhachandra sacrificed even at the cost of his life by not signing the Merger Agreement then Manipur today would have been a different one.
Things that wanted to draw the attention of the people of the state is that 1949 was the time when Hijam Irabot was in underground. Police were hunting for him but he was busy mobilizing for a movement by building good relation with the Myanmar Communist Party.
If Hijam Irabot wanted to stay inside India and if his movement was just against the formation of the Purbachal formation, then Irabot could have ended his armed struggle and come out. But he continue his struggle and was even prepared for a mass armed struggle. That may be the reason for his return to the  Manipur. But unfortunately, the pioneer leader died on September 26, 1951  at Tungo in Burma , now Myanmar.
Why Hijam Irabot continued his struggle even after India had recognized Manipur and merged it to the Indian Union. If want look back to what he had stated, he always wanted Manipur to be Independent and as the merger means the shattering of the Independence of Manipur, Irabot definitely would have wanted to continue the armed struggle against the merger with the Indian Union.
And the unfortunate part is that most of the close associate of Hijam Irabot turn out to be bourgeois and joined the mainstream India.

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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