Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Portraying Paona Brajabasi as Tribal Leader: Reflection of Indian Psyche

Written By: / Articles / Thursday, 11 August 2022 18:24

By: Sh Ajit
Imphal, August 11:

Was the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 a tribal revolt? Was it a war fought by the Kingdom of Manipur against the British invasion? Was it a war between two sovereign states? These questions are crucially linked with Manipur’s homage to her fallen heroes in the war. Before the War of 1891, Manipur was an independent state in the Indo-Burma Region. This is not an exaggeration. The State was invaded by the British Empire from two ends: British Burma and British India. Though the state was a tiny force against the imperial power, Manipur did not surrender to the mighty force; she fought with her limited military resources and boundless spirit of nationalism. The history of Manipur witnesses the heroic acts of her warriors. They were killed in front of their friends, but they showed the world the value of independence for a country.
Historically speaking, the heroic fight of Manipuri heroes in the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 was not less than that of the war fought by Jhansi Rani or Tipu Sultan. The Battle of Plassey of 1757, or the Anglo-Burmese War of 1824-26, or name any war which was fought to defend one’s sovereignty against the colonial expansion, is the war fought to safeguard one’s sovereignty. These were not tribal revolts or rebellions. These were wars to protect their sovereignty.
One of the brave hearts of Manipur, the then Independent Country is Paona Brajabasi. He was a Meitei. Not a tribe. The battle of Kongjom was part of the 1891 War fought between the Independent Kingdom of Manipur and the British Crown. History tells us Paona Brajabasi was neither a tribal leader or a tribal warrior. He was a brave heart who fought for his motherland and her sovereignty. Keeping this in our mind, let us analyze the motive of depicting Manipur’s hero as a tribal hero in the Indian psyche. India’s psyche does not like to recognize others than their own as national heroes. This psyche is reflected in the lastest volume published on August 2022 of Amar Chitra Katha under the title Tribal Leaders of Freedom Struggle, in the page 80 which is Paona Brajabasi is depicted as one of the tribal heroes and categorized in a group of Indian tribal leaders. The value of our heroes is belittled by denying the political status of Manipur as an Independent Kingdom which was outside the Ancient or Medieval or even Modern Indian till it was merged in 1949.  Paona Brajabasi who was conferred rank of Major by the State of Manipur in her regular army was projected as tribal hero, meaning fought for a few villages having no central authority. The historical affairs of Manipur in 19th Century are reduced to a tribal affair. In any historical documents, Manipur was not considered as a tribal land, even by the British colonialists. Then the conscious move of the Indian middle class to reduce the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 to a tribal revolt or rebellion should not be taken lightly; it has a serious political implication. It hurts the sentiments of the Manipuris.
We can remember how N. Biren, Chief Minister of Manipur was angry over the historical misinformation of Brig. Sushil Kumar Sharma by saying the area of Manipur at the time of merger with India was only the valley region having 700 square miles. The Kingdom of Manipur which became a Princely State during colonial period was merged with India with the signature of a sovereign King of Manipur. Manipur, at the time of Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 and when the Merger Agreement was signed, was not a tribal chiefdom, but a sovereign state. Brig. Sushil Kumar Sharma who said Manipur is only the valley area, was wrong; so also the Amar Chitra Katha’s latest edition of Tribal Leaders of Freedom Struggle by including Paona Brajabasi in its list of tribal leaders.
Considering the patriotism of our Chief Minister, everyone would like to take some action towards banning Brig. Sushil Kumar Sharma’s The Complexity Called Manipur: Roots, Perceptions and Reality for distorting historical facts as well as the latest edition of Amar Chitra Katha for wrongly depicting one of our brave hearts who died to protect the historical pride and political sovereignty of Manipur in 1891. Both of them reflect the Indian psyche in which India is only the mainland India, outside of which is considered as tribal world. One will wonder how India classifies freedom fighters into tribal and non-tribal leaders. Moreover, the people of Manipur are highly insulted with the inclusion of Paona Brajabasi in the list of tribal leaders, while the entire people are paying homage to those fallen heroes in the month of August. The Chief Minister should not target one professor who was co-guide of Sushil Kumar Sharma for his PhD degree. He should take up necessary steps towards banning these books that belittle our State and her heroes. The seriousness lies not in the role of Professor Amar in a PhD work; evils are in the mindset of these authors. Let us raise our voice for correcting these historical mistakes, committed by Indian elites.

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About the Author

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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