By : Seram Neken
During prehistoric times and even in early historical periods, infighting among the small groups inhabiting in a territory was very common in various part of the world. Various ethnicities and communities indulged in bloody warfare, burning and raiding villages, killing one another only to grab lands and properties. The occurrences were more or less similar in Europe, Asia, Africa, Arab and American territories. However, at certain period of history, warring groups assimilated into bigger nations, thereby incorporating diverse cultures, languages, race and communities. The turbulent and gory past experienced by various nations of the world is of history. Nowadays, the process of construction of nations and their march towards development characterize this modern age.
Like the other nations across the globe, Manipur too had the experience of an unfastened conglomeration of multiple tiny kingdoms in the very beginning. Amidst the frequent warfare among small tribes, the loose composition of Manipur (in whatever name it was) existed for a long period with mutual assistance and ethnic ties. The Meiteis/Meeteis have been taking the parental role in the process of assimilation and construction of a Manipuri nation. History reveals that Meitei Kings took the role of saviourof smaller groups from foreign invasions, and in turn the smaller groups had mutual trust and understanding on the Meitei Kingships.
During the hectic period of British hegemony in India, the mutual distrust and frequent infightings among the royal brothers led to ruin of the Manipuri Kingdom. After the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891, Manipur was formally occupied by the British. The British flag was hoisted at Kangla on 27th April 1891.
The 13th of August every year is a red letter day for the Manipuris residing at the extreme north eastern corner of India. On this very day, during the onset of dusk, the gallant freedom fighters namely BirTikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged in public at the Imphal Pologround, on charges of waging war against the British Government. The two heroes, although failed to save the motherland from the British subjugation, had taught a lesson to the posterity that ‘the responsibility to save the motherland lies on us all’ and ‘Foreign intervention in the affairs of the nation must be prevented at all cost’.
In the aftermath of the 1891 Anglo-Manipuri War that led to occupation of Manipur by the British Government, Maharaja Kullachandra along with his two brothers and twelve noblemen were also sent to Kalapani Prison in Andaman and Nicobar Islands for life imprisonment.Apart from these recorded names,a number of Meitei fighters fled their homes, vanquished and remained underground.
The British described the Manipuri freedom fighters as ‘Murderers and Instigators’ who revolted against the British Queen, because the British had the notion that the Manipur had already been under their sovereignty well before the War. History is a lesson to us all today that frequent infightings and antagonisms within ourselves gives ample room for the alien power to interfere into our own affairs. In fact, the infightings among the Manipuri Kings of yore were also a major factor for our submission to the British reign. On the one side, the British Indian efforts of colonial expansion attempted to find a land route to Burma to accomplish its mission to sway hold over Asian territory. On the other, the Manipuri princes frequently fought among themselves for grabbing power hegemony. Such a coincidence resulted to Manipur becoming a colony of British India.
Patriotism, the trait possessed by the Manipuri Heroes such as BirTikendrajit, Thangal General, PaonaBrajabashi and a host of other fighters, was so immense that they never retreated in the face of the mighty British forces at no point. The writer may quote the lines from what PaonaBrajabashi shouted during the Khongjom Battle, “The enemy’s shell can land in our camp, whereas ours cannot in theirs. My fellow countrymen, it is a disgrace to die fleeing. Death is now certain for us, but we will never retreat”. Their love for the motherland is worthy of celebration for all times to come.
Now during this highly sophisticated and globalized environment, it is worried that the quantum of patriotism or national character has either been considerably lessened or totally lost among the youths. Patriotism nowadays should be redefined as having a national character in ourselves. The patriotism of the 1900s was cultured through physical excellence, competence in martial arts and war-craft. However, in today’s world, patriotism may be redefined in terms of grooming good citizens having national character. National character as a Manipuri should be imbibed in our young minds, who would one day become administrators, medical professionals, engineers, teachers, sport stars, music icons, cultural celebrities etc.
While certain small sections, instead of vying for unity, harmonic assimilation and development of Manipur, are trying hard to carve out of the composition and establish their own administrative hegemony. Demands for separate administrative units within this considerably small state of Manipur, the size of which is smaller than any big state of India, may be termed as over-selfish, and a tradition of prehistoric tribalism. At this hour, this generation needs Tikendrajits and Thangal Generals among our political leadership, who can well serve the wishes of the people, and who can sacrifice their selfish ends for a larger objective of Manipuri as a nation. When our political leaders have the required spirit and courage to serve the nation at the cost of their selfish ends, the observance of Patriots’ Day every year will be significant and meaningful.
(The writer is a Freelance Columnist & Social Activist)