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Why Manipur does not forget Merger Agreement

Manipur is now at a wrong cross-road of history and geography. The people of Manipur faces many thousand problems brought by India’s classification of population such as Hindu and Muslim, Castes, Caste-Tribe as well as deliberate negligence of development in its broadest sense. Manipur, everyone knows, has high number of educated unemployment and education was what she could do during the days of Part C or territorial council days. Though we could not plan anything during the first Five-Year Plans, with limited resources, Manipur gave high priority to education and hence, Manipur was not wiped out in those days. The State also see many political turmoil since her first day of marriage with India as being modern Rukamani (following N Biren’s analogy). The political turmoil was around two undercurrents: brighter Manipur within Indian framework and a new independent Manipur.
The merger of Manipur and its aftermath gave a strong sense of Great Betrayal in the collective mind of those who wanted to merger Manipur with India.  There were three kinds of politicians or intellectuals in the Pro-merger Camp in late 1940s. A section of Congress wanted Manipur to merger after the formation of Purvachal consisting of Manipur, Cachar District of Assam and Tripura. Another section of Congress wanted to merge Manipur as a State in India. Socialist Party shouted to merge Manipur as a District in Assam. The members of all the three thought merger of Manipur would bring a new social and political life under the Democratic Republic of India. However, 15 October 1949 did not bring anything what they had thought of; rather they felt that they had been betrayed.
On other hand, there was a section of population who did not want to merger Manipur. Their dream was to emancipate Manipur from colonial and feudal systems in order to build a new Manipur. These days were days of interaction and counter-reaction of various ideas – ranging from liberal democracy to communism. There were many slogans, agitations of different sizes and colours. The 15 October gave a big full stop to these interactions of ideas in the collective mind of the people. The healthy growth of an Idea of New Manipur had a great fall. To them, 15 October was transfer of power from British colonialism to Indian colonialism and hence, they also felt the act of merger was a great betrayal to the people of Manipur.
The subsequent days of Manipur is witnessing two streams of political actions: make Manipur bright in Indian framework and a New Manipur lies outside India. The first stream took the course of non-violent movement (with limited violence) for Statehood, establishment of university, medical college, inclusion of Manipuri language in the VIII Schedule to Indian Constitution etc. The second stream gained momentum from Anti-Merger agitations to full armed struggle to free Manipur from colonial yoke. In between two great streams of political action, there were agitations against Repeal of AFSPA etc. and many others.
The Agreement was signed in 1949 by King of Manipur and representatives of Indian Union. The then King was Constitutional Head; the Agreement was never discussed in the then Assembly of Manipur. Many legal and political examinations are still going on in the collective mind. To some, Merger means extension of Instrument of Accession, already signed in 1947 and hence, no meaning to discuss it. To many, the entire process of becoming Indian was a game plan of Indian Republic. However, one can say, Merger Agreement is still a living debate in the collective mind. Many Princely States forgot the act of signing the Agreements. Why do not Manipur forget it? The simple reason may be different nature of Princely State and India did not consider unique position of Manipur in history and British colonial days. Manipur never resolve her own conflict between the two streams. Merger Agreement, one may accept or not, is a vital issue in resolving the conflict.  The 15 October 1949 was not an end of history, but birth of a sharp conflict between the two streams in Manipur.  

Sh Ajit

Ajit Sh, 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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