NOTE ON THE UNSUNG ANGLO-MANIPUR WAR HEROES  DEPORTED AT KALAPANI

NOTE ON THE UNSUNG ANGLO-MANIPUR WAR HEROES DEPORTED AT KALAPANI

/ Guest Column / Thursday, 12 August 2021 16:10

Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam

Aheibam Koireng Singh

 

Introduction

The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur, Shri N. Biren Singh on 11 August, 2021 announced to inaugurate the monolith near the Saheed Minar, Bir Tikendrajit Park, in memory of deported Manipuri War Heroes at Kalapani on 13 August, 2021. Similar announcement was also made earlier by the Chief Minister of Manipur, that “six small islands of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, locally known as Kalapani, are likely to be named after six freedom fighters of Manipur including two Nagas who were exiled there after the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891.” [Sobhapati Samom (2019). “Six Andaman islands likely to be named after freedom fighters from Manipur, 17 January”. <https://nenow.in>]. He stated that the names were suggested following intimation from the Government of India (GoI). It was a happy moment for the GoM and the people of the state that the sacrifice for their motherland is recognized and will gain more prominence.

However, the report that sixteen people were exiled at Kapani after Manipur was defeated in the Anglo-Manipur War was a concern for the people associated with or working in this area. It is mainly because various sources indicate that twenty-three people were exiled at Kalapani at different batches and at different points in time. [Compiled from - L. Basanti (2006). Documents of Anglo-Manipur War, Part III, Imphal, pp. 122-129; Kakchingtabam Gunachandra (2016). The Manipur War of 1891: A Media Narrative, Imphal, Manipur; Rashtriya SwayamsevakSangh (RSS), Manipur (2014). The Manipuri Heroes at Port Blair Jail (1858 AD & 1891 AD). RSS, Manipur, Imphal; Leishangthem Chandramani Singh (1970). Manipur Itihas: British ga Mare LeinarakpaSaruk(tr., History of Manipur: Manipur’s relation with British Section), Imphal; Manipur State Archives. Government of Manipur (GoM), http://archivesmanipur.nic.in; Rajkumar Sanahal Singh (1973), Bir Tikendrajit Singh, Imphal; and Yumkhaibam Shyam Singh (2019). Sana ChahiAhum and the Manipuris in 1857revolt, pao.net>]. It has been reported that the first batch includes 15 Anglo-Manipur War Heroes, including Maharaja Kullachandra Dhwaja Singh, and was followed by transportation of the remaining war heroes, most likely in two phases.

Sepoy Mutiny, Prince ‘Sana Chahi Ahum’and Kalapani

Besides, the Anglo-Manipur War Heroes transported to life at Kalapani after the defeat of the 1891 Anglo-Manipur War, a Manipur Prince ‘Sana Chahi Ahum’ [Ibid.] alias Prince Narendrajit alias Prince Ranjit, son of Maharaja Chourjit Singh of Manipur (1803-13), was also transported to Kalapani in the year 1858 for leading the Sepoy Mutiny popularly known as the First War of Indian Independence at Cachar, Barak Valley of Assam. Captain Stewart (Superintendent of Cachar), who himself was actively involved in containing the mutiny led by Prince Narendrajit, in his report mentioned:

“i) … … On January 12, 1858, the mutineers with Narindrajit (sic. Wrong spelling for Narendrajit) Singh, the prince of Manipur, and his followers came out of the jungle and entered into a village to the west of Binnakandi at morning immediately after their flight a heavy engagement took place ….

ii) … In the same letter, he again expressed anxiety over the possible alliance between the Mutineers and the rebel sepoys. On January 13, 1858, he intimated the actual involvement of the Manipuri prince and his followers with mutineers

iii) Prince Narindrajit Singh, who joined with the Mutineers, was apprehended in Manipur while on his flight towards Manipur with a severe wound after the struggle that occurred in Binnakandi. …[ Subir Kar (2008). 1857 in North East India: A reconstruction from Folk and oral sources. Akansha Publishing House, N. Delhi, p. 42, 67, 68. Cited in B. Kulachandra Sharma (2011). Sana Chahi Ahum. Dushri, Keishamthong, Imphal, P.140].

In November 1857, the 34th Native Infantry mutinied at Chittagong and marched towards Shylet (now in Bangladesh) and Cachar. Prince Sana Chahi Ahum and other princes who were already in Cachar (in Assam) encouraged them with hopes of getting abundant supplies at Lakhipur (in the state of Assam) and of being joined by a large force of Manipuri collecting near that place for the purpose of invading Manipur. [Th. Babachandra Singh (2005). “The Manipuris in the Politics of Cachar,” in Naorem Sanajaoba (ed.). Manipur: Past and Present, Vol 4. New Delhi, p. 232]. They hoped that when Prince 'Sana Chahi Ahum' had been fairly installed, he promised either to retain the mutineers in his own service or lead them through Assam and Nepal on their own. However, they were critically engaged at Baiinakandi. In 'Takhelei' (a textbook prescribed for Class V by the Tripura Madhyashikshya Parsad, while describing the role of Sana Chahi Ahum in the mutiny, it is written: [L. Taranikanta (2005). “Sana Chahi Ahum,” in L. Birmangal & L. Kumar (eds.). Takhelei. Tripura Madhyashikshya Parsad, SCERT, Tripura. p. 20].

“The prominent example of his (Sana Chahi Ahum) leadership quality was his capability of being the leader of the peoples of Cachar in the Revolt of 1857. In the revolt, he not only was the ringleader but also gave a proper guideline for shelter, food, and traditional medical care. His presence also aroused a new zeal to those rebel sepoys.”

Further, engagement in the following days led to the dispersal of the mutineers and also seriously injured the Prince and subsequently arrested by Manipur troops and handed over to the British. The Kingdom of Manipur supported the British during the Sepoy Mutiny, while the Prince and his endorsed otherwise. The Prince was sentenced to transportation for Life at Kalapani. [Sujit Choudhury (1960). The Mutiny Period in Cachar. Tagore Society for Cultural Integration, Silchar, Sribhumi Publishing Company, Calcutta. Also, see Op.cit. Yumkhaibam Shyam Singh (2019)].

Anglo-Manipur War, Unsung War Heroes, and Kalapani

After the defeat at Anglo-Manipur War in 1891, Maharaja Kulachandra was arrested on 8th May 1891 and subsequently charged with waging war against the Queen Empress. Besides him, many other prominent persons, including Jubaraj Tikendrajit and Thangal General, were also arrested and charged for waging war against the Queen Empress of India and abatement of murder British Officers. Five of them were hanged, and 23 people, including Maharaja Kulachandra, were transported for Life at Kalapani, Andaman. The transported Manipuri Manipur War Heroes from Manipur were believed to have interned at a Bungalow at Mount Harriet. All the Manipur War Heroes were released by 1906 when the cellular Jail started functioning. It was reported that only Khamba Singh Laishramba died at Port Blair Andaman, 17 December 1894. [Manipur Administrative Report of the Political Agency, 1894-95, clause 38 (Political Prisoners)].

So altogether, there are twenty-four Manipur War Heroes of Manipur, including Prince Sana Chahoi Ahum, who were deported to Kalapani. As per the report/document published by Andaman Administration, a person named “Jodh Singh” was recorded as Manipur War Heroes transported to life in Andaman Island, which needs a throughout investigation/research.

1891 Anglo–Manipur War Heroes transported for life at Kalapani for waging war against British India

Sl No

Name*

Sentence** as confirmed or modified

Transit***

 

Transportation to Andaman****

Date of Arrival at Port Blair*****

1

 Maharaja Kullachandra Dhwaja Singh

18 August 1891

Tejpur Jail

08 Sept 1891

05 November 1891

23 November 1891

2

Prince Angousana Singh, General

18 August 1891

Tejpur Jail

08 Sept 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

3

Lokendrajit Birjit Singh, Wangkheirakpa

20 August 1891

Tejpur Jail

08 Sept 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

4

Nilamani Singh, Ayapurel

20 June 1891.

Tejpur Jail

12 August 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

5

Shamu Singh, Luwang Ningthou

26  June 1891

Tejpur Jail

12 August 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

6

 Miya Singh, Major

26 June 1891

Tejpur Jail

12 August 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

7

Abungjao Yengkhoiba

08 or 18 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

8

Uru Singh Usarba

08 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

9

Khamba Singh Laishramba

18 August  1891

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

10

Ghana Singh khongdra

18 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

11

Chaobi Haider, Machahal

08 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

12

Dhojo Singh, Mayengba

18 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

13

Noni Singh Nepra, Machahal

18 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

14

Trilok Singh Nongthonba, Satwal

18 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

15

Dhono Singh, Sagonshenba

18 August  1891

Tejpur Jail

04 September 1891

05 November

1891

23 November 1891

16

Gun Singh Indujamba, Jamadar

22 October 1891

Data Not traceable (DNT) as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

17

Ningthauba Singh Chingsubam, Jamadar

22 October 1891

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

18

Thaoba Singh Phanjao, Jemadar

22 October 1891

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

19

Tenjao Singh Mangshataba, Jamadar

22 October 1891

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

20

Chaobatol Singh Haikhrijamba, Subedar

22 October 1891

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

21

Poradhumba Singh Alias AshangbaKut

22 October 1891

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

22

Ghowkami Naga

23 April 1892.

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

23

Gohow Naga

23 April 1892

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

DNT as of now

* L. Basanti (2006), Documents of Anglo- Manipur War, Part III. Author is the publisher, Imphal, p122-129; Kakchingtabam Gunachandra (2016), The Manipur War of 1891: A Media NarrativesAuthor is the publisher, Imphal, Manipur; RSS, Manipur (2014). The Manipuri Heroes at Port Blair Jail (1858 AD & 1891 AD), RSS, Manipur, Imphal; Singh Chandramani Leishangthem (1970), Manipur Itihas: British ga Mare Leinarakpa Saruk, Oinam Natum Singh, Chingamakha, Imphal; Manipur State Archives, GoM, http://archivesmanipur.nic.in; and Rajkumar Sanahal Singh (1973), Bir Tikendrajit Singh, Shrimati Ibemcha Devi, Imphal.

** Ibid.Devi L. Basanti (2006). pp. 122-129; Also see Ibid. Kakchingtabam Gunachandra ( 2016).

*** Ibid. Singh Chandramani Leishangthem (1970). Also, see Ibid. RSS, Manipur (2014). p 13.

**** Ibid. RSS, Manipur (2014). p 13; Ibid. Singh Chandramani Leishangthem (1970).

***** Brahmacharimayum Kulachandra Sharma (2008), Meitei Athouba Ahum (Yaiskulakpa Haojou,Shangoisana Amasung Chongtha Nilamani), B.(O) Dima Imphal

The event of the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891 is now completing 130 years. Even then, the complete details of the Manipur War Heroes deported to Kalapani remain enigmatic. It is not that they are being forgotten, as every year, the state is observing two state-level programmes for the Anglo-Manipur War on a grand scale, which is more or less related to them. First is the observation on 13th August, which is exclusively for the Heroes who were hanged. An exclusive memorial complex named “Saheed Minar,” where they were hanged was built and dedicated. Secondly, on April 23rd, the state government observes paying tribute to the 1891 Anglo-Manipuri War at the splendid memorial complex built at Khongjom, Thoubal District, Manipur. But unfortunately, the memorial complex is named the Khongjom War Memorial Complex instead of the Anglo-Manipuri War Memorial Complex. It is pertinent to change the name of the complex to Anglo-Manipuri War Memorial Complex as the battle of Khongjam was one of the many battles fought as part of the Anglo-Manipur War.  Many prominent people, including Lt. General L. N Singh (Retd) and former Chairperson of Manipur Public Service Commission suggested that the name should instead be more inclusive and widening by naming after the Anglo-Manipur War. [Singh, LN (2020). “Analysing the Anglo-Manipur and Anglo-Assam Wars: Understanding the British Colonial Military Strategy in the North East India,” in Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam & Aheibam Koireng Singh (eds.) Colonial Legacy in North East India. Concept Publications, New Delhi].

Fig. No. 1: Anglo-Manipur War Memorial Complex

 
 
 
 

13th August: Saheed Minar at Bir Tikendrajit Part, Imphal [https://imphalwest.nic.in/tourist-place/shaheed-minar/]

23rd April: Khongjom War Memorial Complex Thoubal District, Manipur [e-pao.net].

However, considering the ritualistic nature of the observation, it can be assumed that those deported to Kalapani for waging war against British Empire are not given their due importance so far. The observation of 13th August and the 23rd April has little relevance. The observations are dominated by the narratives of the specific events such as the hanging of Jubaraj Tikendrajit and Thangal General, heroism of Paona Brajabashi, and the battle of Khongjom. The domination is so overwhelmed that the Anglo-Manipuri War memorial complex was also named after the battle of Khongjom. The sacrifice of these heroes transported to Kalapani should deservingly be treated equally with Heroes martyred in Manipur.  There will be no indication about the deported Anglo-Manipur War Heroes to Kalapani even if you visit these two splendid memorial complexes.

People of Manipur certainly will not know much about these Manipur War Heroes except that some Manipur War Heroes are transported for life at Kalapani. Experts and activists are draining the energy for the last many years on the debate about the actual date of the battles. Too much preoccupation over this has diverted the attention, and the concerned public seems to lost track of the Anglo-Manipur War Heroes. There is no doubt that there is no proper and authentic record of their life, particularly during and after their Kalapani deportation among the researchers, archivists, and academicians. The Manipur State Archives also did not have any related official documents that could give a clear picture of these War Heroes transported at Kalapani. Their sacrifice for the motherland should not go in vain and be made known to the present generation and the posterity to come. In this regard, the initiatives taken up by the Preservation Committee of Deported War Heroes and AMWJU should be appreciated and backed by the Government and pursued officially at the highest level. The intimation from the GoI to name six islands could be because of the interest of the present Government at the Centre to acknowledge the contributions of Manipur in fighting the British Empire. This may also be recognition of these organizations mentioned above for their tireless efforts since 2003.

To pursue the matter further with the Government of Manipur, Intellectual Forum of North East, Manipur; United Chongthas, Imphal, and Preservation Committee of Deported Manipuri War Heroes jointly organized a National Seminar on Unsung Anglo-Manipur War Heroes at Kalapani on 23rd November 2020 at Imphal, Manipur. The seminar was graced by Shri Yumnam Khemchand Singh, Hon’ble Speaker, Manipur Legislative Assembly; Shri Leishemba Sanajaoba, The Maharaja of Manipur & Hon’ble MP (Rajya Sabha), Manipur; Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, Hon'ble MP Lok Sabha (Inner Manipur). Dr. Rajkumar Ranjan Singh is presently Union Minister of State (External Affairs and Education, Government of India); and Lt. General L. Nishikanta Singh, VSS & BAR (Retd), Chairperson, Manipur Public Service Commission (now retd).

The dignitaries and the delegates present in the national seminar have unanimously resolved to request the Government of Manipur to -

  1. Commemorate each year the Sacrifice for the Deported Manipuri War Heroes at an appropriate day at the state level;
  2. Constitute a Government Committee to bring out a detailed official report which could give a clear picture of war heroes deported to Kalapani.
  3. To build a memorial at Imphal, Radha Kund, and Andaman.

Conclusion:

It is high time to pool the resources and expertise in collaboration with the government, bring out an authentic official report, and build a memorial complex for them in Imphal, Radha Kunda, and Andaman. This will help to commemorate their sacrifice and further rejuvenate the public memory of the deported war heroes at Kalapani. Now, it is high time that these places are found prominent in the pages of Manipur history as they are linked to the Manipur's war of independence.

A Comprehensive report along the line of “Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle (1857-1947)” commissioned by the Ministry of Culture and the Indian Council of Historical Research (2016) should be developed for the deported War Heroes of Manipur in particular and the North Eastern States in general. [Ministry of Culture & Indian Council of Historical Research (2016), Dictionary of Martyrs: India's Freedom Struggle (1857-1947) Vol. 4 (Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura), GoI, New Delhi]. The importance of such a memorial complex can be seen in the context of the memorial complex built in Manipur for the Second World War by the British and Japanese. They visit every year, despite the distance, to pay homage to their heroes in Manipur. On the contrary, the names of those deported Manipuri War Heroes to Kalapani for fighting for their motherland are not even in public memory.

Notes: This is an updated, enlarged and more comprehensive version of the one earlier published in The Imphal Times brought out in response to the appeal by the Chief Minister of Manipur to furnish information on Manipuri War heroes deported to Kalapani.

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