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The changing concept of patriotism: Manipur’s perspective

In the beginning of the 19th Century, different forces swept Manipur. The fear that forces which had swept Manipur would destroy the very foundation of the civilisation started to grow. The seven year devastation which occurred between 1819-1826 damaged the political as well as the socio political structure of Manipur and significantly depleted the population. This severely affected Manipur Nation and its nationalism which was developed during the 18th century. Manipur faced the domination of Awa and it started feeling the heat of British colonialism during this time. Large number of people from Manipur were taken as war captives and many ran to the neighbouring countries to take refugee as the Burmese wrecked havoc in Manipur. Manipur lost its pride and political status during this time. For the first time in the history we see that wars, which were fought historically to defend the kings, transformed into wars to defend the country in the 19th century. The war fought to restore the political order during the seven years devastation, the revolt under the leadership of King Chinglen Nongdren Khomba (Ghambir Singh and the guerrilla warfare waged by Herachandra became the foundation of modern national liberation movement. These wars fought against colonialism inspired the people of Manipur. This is the first time the conception that the nation belongs to the people and people should participate in struggle for the country and for their freedom started emerging.  
Chinglen Nongdren khomba (Gambhir singh) and Nar Singh built a people’s movement by bringing in various ethnic communities together at this dire juncture. Their contribution is significant in the history of Manipur. They are the leaders who fought for a free Manipur and inspired not just a new ideal but dispel the fears that people had at that time. As a significant achievement, the feuds between princes were resolved during this time. A new thinking that we should be proud people of a free nation was developed at this crucial juncture. This thinking gave a new understanding on war in this country. Given this, this very day in January has been remembered as the day of seven years devastation as on this day 186 years ago Iningthou Chinglen Nongdrenkhomba passed away. On this day, a treaty was signed between Awa and British on Kabo Valley. Manipur was ignored at this treaty and people felt that it was a humiliation to the erstwhile country of Manipur.
Manipur is now wrecked by storms today. The storm we face now is different from what we saw in the 19th century. The enemy is also different. The disunity which we have now is different from the disunity that existed in the 19th century. The only similarity if we do not get united, we would be unable to contain the challenges. So the path we must take is difficult. We must face the challenges as we are the majority community. We should not sell the interest of the whole at the behest of others and we must remember this.
The most important matter is which path the Meiteis should take given the present situation in Manipur. We should not ignore the responsibilities Meities have taken in building a united Manipur. Ignoring this historic responsibility of Meiteis is what our enemies want. The encouragement that Meiteis should give up the idea of united Manipur and only think about its own community is part of a big political game. Given this, inserting the agenda of just the Meiteis is similar to selling the foundation of the movement which is based on the idea of a united Manipur. We should remember and learn from Chinglen Nongdren Khomba that we will not listen to anything which sells the prestige of united Manipur.
We should never agree to live a degraded existence under India for some benefits. Some Meiteis are trying to pull down the Meiteis at the level of ST for some benefits of the community. This should be looked at keeping in the political game plan mentioned above. Meities have not been part of the tribal politics since two thousand years.  We must face and challenge everything which restricts the development of Manipur.
Writer- Sh. Ajit

Sh Ajit

Sh Ajit, a resident of Khongman, Imphal East is a regular contributor of Imphal Times mostly news photo and articles. He is a father of a lovely son. His favourite quote is " A Picture is worth Thousand words". He can be contacted at [email protected]

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