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Kalapani Monument: Some Concerns

by Rinku Khumukcham
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It is a moment for happiness for the people of Manipur that the Unsung Anglo – Manipur War heroes deported to Kalapani will finally get a place in the soil of Manipur. Chief Minister N. Biren Singh stated that a “monolith in memory of those exiled martyrs will be inaugurated on August 13, 2021 inside the premises of Saheed Minar, Bir Tikendrajit Park.
However, if we don’t take the matter seriously, the monument can be a source of contention among the people of Manipur. There is inconsistency in the number of people exiled at Kalapni, which the government needs to look into it. For instance,
1. On 17 January, 2019, Chief Minister N. Biren Singh stated that “Sixteen Manipur natives were exiled to the islands in the Bay of Bengal after Manipur was defeated by British rulers.” The statement was made during the announcement of “Six Andaman Islands likely to be named after freedom fighters from Manipur”. (See, Sobhapati Samom: 2019), Six Andaman Islands likely to be named after freedom fighters from Manipur, January 17, 2019, Nenow)
2. The Manipur State Archives, has a record of 22 names (http://archivesmanipur.nic.in/whoswho.htm).
3. Besides the list from the Manipur State Archives, another deported war hero named, AbungjaoYengkhoiba, was also reflected in the colonial proceedings of the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891 as well as in the list of first batch of deported war heroes to Kalapani, but could not be traced in the later correspondence for release from Kalapani (See Kakchingtabam Gunachandra: 2016, The Manipur War of 1891: A Media Narratives, Imphal, Manipur.)
4. Directorate of Information and Publicity Relations (DIPR), Government of Manipur also published that there are 22 Anglo- Manipur War Heroes deported at Kalapani (See DIPR:1991, 100 Year: Manipur Last War of Independence 1891 – 1991)
5. There is also another name “Jodh Singh”, which was documented by Andaman Administration as an Anglo Manipur War hero, which is not in the list of Manipur State Archives or the colonial proceeding (See, Directorate of Youth Affairs, Sports and Culture (1998: First edition 2000: Second edition), Unsung Heroes of freedom Struggles in Andaman: Who’s Who, Andaman & Nicobar Administration, Port Blair, p 74-75)
6. It has also come to the public domain that the Expert Committee for Identification of location and installation of Memorial Plaque/stone set up by the Government of Manipur under the Chairman of Commissioner Art and Culture, Government of Manipur on 30th November 2020 recommended 18 names of Anglo – Manipur War Heroes. These names are not inscribed in the construction site of the monolith. It is difficult to examine the report of the Committee as its report is not in the public domain.
Besides, the inconsistency of number, the names also seem to be not in order, for instance, the names were mainly drawn from colonial records and it seems it has not been verified with the state records to identify the actual and complete names. We can easily see the name are incomplete and the colonial government must have recorded the names as per their accent.
The Government of Manipur or the Expert Committee chaired by the Commissioner should put their report in public domain and clear the doubt of the public in terms of the inconsistency of number and names and how they have recommended 18 number in contrast to the number of Manipur State Archives and DIPR. Chief Minister who holds the portfolio of Art and Culture needs to resolve this sentimental issue before it goes out of hand. As a mark of respect, the Government should go ahead with the inauguration of the Monument without inscribing the names and it should be done later on after resolving the inconsistency.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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