India’s Historical Blunders on Manipur - TIME TO COMPENSATE

/ Guest Column / Thursday, 15 October 2020 17:44

By: Seram Neken

 Most Manipuris viewed it as ‘Annexation’, while the then India Government termed it as ‘Merger’. It was a historical reality, which we all could not avoid. Nevertheless, Manipur is now a part of India. We need to strengthen ourselves under the Constitution of India. The only thing we should always remember is that Manipur was an independent entity before its merger into India on this day seventy years ago. Manipur was well ahead of India in having a constitution of its own and in electing its own democratic legislative assembly. Manipuris are still proud of the status they had vis-à-vis India.
‘Manipur “Annexed” by New Delhi, Maharaja signs Agreement at Shillong’ - was the headline of the Shillong Times edition of September 27, 1949.
The report said “Manipur has been annexed by the Centre and the administration is expected to be formally taken over in course of next month. His Highness Bodhachandra Singh, the Maharaja of Manipur returned back to the state capital yesterday escorted by an Assam government plane with armed guard, from his 10-day stay in Shillong where after protracted negotiations between His Highness and His Excellency the Governor of Assam, the former signed the Agreement. The Maharaja’s Privy is likely to be fixed at three lakhs of rupees, it is further learnt.........”
The report was filed by the then Imphal Correspondent RK Maipaksana. The word “Annexed” written in the headline of the report clearly indicated that the merger was not done amicably.
Under orders of Maharaja Bodhachandra, a 16-member Constitution Making Committee of independent Manipur was constituted on 10th March, 1947. From 27th July of the year, the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 was enforced in Manipur. In July 1948, the 53-member legislative body of Manipur was elected under universal adult franchise. The democratically elected General Assembly of Manipur began its service on 18th October, 1948.
Just a year later on 18th September 1949, the Maharaja of Manipur was summoned to Shillong and the Manipur Merger Agreement was signed on 21st September, 1949. The special session of the democratically elected Legislative Assembly of Independent Manipur held on 28th September 1949 at Johnston High School, Imphal rejected the Agreement on the ground that Manipur Maharaja at that time had no power to sign the Agreement.
Thereafter, on 15th October 1949, the then India government began enforcing the Manipur Merger Agreement. Manipur has witnessed lots of changes in its socio-political scenario since the time of its merger into Indian union. From a part-C state of India, Manipur had become a centrally administered area and later a Union territory, before attaining statehood in 1972. Meanwhile, in 1971 the Privy Purse was abolished with the intention of eradicating the kingship. This was the sequence of the historic pre and post merger/annexation of Manipur.
The historical reality is that Manipur had its own constitution before India adopted the present constitution. Manipur established a democratic form of Government before India became a democratic republic in 1950. No Manipuri participated in the Constituent Assembly of India formed in 1946. Enforcement of Indian Constitution in Manipur was forcibly done, without any referendum of the Manipuris, after the so-called Merger which was undemocratic in nature and spirit.
These historical mistakes on the part of India government have been the source of all hitherto existing conflicts in Manipur for the last seven decades. Even though India cannot correct the past blunders by restoring Manipur’s independence, it can well take up corrective steps by ensuring unity and prosperity of Manipur in order to reduce the sense of inherent alienation among the people.
Of course, the Government of India from time to time did something to woo the people of this north eastern border state. But nothing concrete has been done to prosper this beautiful and talented state. We have, in the recent past, noticed the nomination of Manipur’s Sports icon Mary Kom as member to Upper House of Indian Parliament, we have seen the foundation of National Sports University in Manipur’s soil, we have acknowledged the introduction of Inner Line Permit system in the state, to mention a few. Such a few recent developments indicate the due attention of the government of India towards this far off border state. However, in the arena of economic self-sufficiency, which is the basic requirement of existence of a community, nothing commendable has been achieved.
Besides a host of burning issues such as Manipur-Naga political problem, border imbroglio etc., one most appealing and unfortunate thing is that as of now, there is no adequate pragmatic plan to bring sustainable economic development in Manipur. Besides the unique sporting talents and cultural richness, Manipur is abundant in herbal resources which can serve as a profitable revenue generation for the people. A multi-crore project to tap the herbal resources available in Manipur will be quite sufficient to feed the whole population of Manipur. No individual or agency is seen taking interest in such a grand endeavour. Only a huge project to provide economic empowerment to each and every family in Manipur can bring the Manipuris in the Indian mainstream. It is high time India Government compensated the Manipuris by gifting a locally appropriate and sustainable project to feed the whole population, in return for its blunders during the so-called forced merger of Manipur.
(Seram Neken is a senior columnist, he may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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