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Sunday, 21 June 2020 - Imphal Times

Political drama in Manipur at jigsaw; NPP chief Conrad Sangma with BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma jumble in the theatre

IT News

Imphal, June 21:

After 4 NPP MLAs of the Manipur Legislative Assembly resigned from the BJP led government in the state ahead of the Rajya Sabha Election held on June 19, National Chief of the NPP Conrad Sangma, who is also the Chief Minister of Meghalaya and BJP’s architect of North East India Himanta Biswa Sarma arrived in the state in a special charter flight today.

Source with the Imphal Times said that both the leaders rushed to Manipur to settle the dispute between the state unit NPP and the BJP, however, there is no official information about the reason for their visit in the state. A high level source said that both the leaders of NPP and BJP arrived at Imphal airport at around 11.30 am. Soon after their arrival, both went to Classic Grande Hotel and are meeting the NPP MLAs of Manipur who tender resignation from the Ministry.

The parting of the NPP MLAs from the Manipur BJP has created a serious problem to the relationship between the NPP and the BJP at the centre. NPP is a partner of the BJP led NDA government at the center. Source said that Conrad Sangma is in the state to settle the differences between the state NPP and the state BJP.

Both Conrad Sangma and Himanta Biswa had also met the Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and other leaders of the BJP.

The visit of Conrad Sangma and Himanta Biswa is significant as the much talk about criticism to the recent overtaking of the political theatre under the control of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and Speaker Yumnam Khemchand may be healed if their mission is a success.

At the time of filing this report, both the leaders are busy talking to their respective counterpart however, there are no report of any amicable solution between the two political parties. 

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Advocate Victor picked up by police but court releases him as charges levelled against him are unfounded

IT News

Imphal, June 21:

Advocate Chongtham Victor, who had recently raised his voice against corruption by an official of the Custom Division Imphal and later received serious life threatening mobile calls from person who identified himself as an official of the Custom division was arrested by a team of Heingang Police at around 10.30 pm yesterday. He was however released on bail by the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal East on the ground that the charges leveled against him are unfounded.

Chongtham Victor was arrested in connection with a complaint by a staff of the Custom Division Imphal, by the Heingang Police under section 186, 465, 471 and 120 B of the Indian Penal Code and also under section 84(B) and 84(C) of the IT Act. A similar FIR under the same sections of the IPC and the IT Act was also filed against advocate Amom Malemsana, however, he was yet to be picked up till today. Both Victor and Malemsana had exposed the corrupt practice being underway at Custom Division Office after capturing an official of the Custom Division asking money for refund of deposited money using cell phone through this newspaper and social media. 

Heingang police today produced advocate Victor at the residence of the CJM Imphal East Ningthoujam Lanleima. The police team pray for custodial remand of Victor however, after the CJM I/E heard the counsels of Victor, the CJM released Victor on the ground that she did not find any sufficient ground for remanding Victor. 

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Amar Maibam's Highways Of Life wins best film in International Competition at 8th Liberation Docfest Bangladesh 2020

IT News
Imphal, June 21

The 52-minute long documentary- Highways of Life directed and scripted by Amar Maibam won the Best Film in the International Competition of the 8th Liberation DocFest Bangladesh-2020 held from 16 to 20 June in Dhaka. The film, which had its world premiere on June 18, 2020 in the festival, journeys a group of truckers as they manoeuvre through the perilous highways, putting their lives on the frontline, ferrying essential commodities to serve the people of Manipur in two intense public movements played out on the highways. The film produced by the Films Division tells the story of a highway truck driver as he goes  about his job of ferrying in essential commodities for the landlocked state amidst blockades  and violent protests that often an obstacle movement along the highways. The film speaks aloud, "They (Drivers) are the unsung heroes of a landlocked state in the service of three million people."

In the concluding ceremony held at Dhaka on Saturday, the Festival Director Tareq Ahmed said that a total of 1800 films were submitted in the 8th DocFest till late March and 200 were selected from the list till last April. And finally a total of 83 films were screened throughout the five-day festival.

Kim Young Woo (Programmer and Chair at the DMZ DOCS festival, South Korea), Jury Member of the International Competition announced ‘Highways of Life’, a film from India by director Amar Maibam as the winner in the ‘International Competition’ section. Amar will receive 1,000 USD, a crest and a certificate.

Highways of Life, the only selected entry from India was pitched against seven documentaries from Belgium, Slovenia, Germany, Argentina, UK, Italy and Iran  in the International competition section in the 5- day virtual festival streamed at www.liberationdocfestbd.org.

The film that was shot over five years from 2014 to 2018 already bagged four top awards- Best Non-Feature film, Best Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Editing in the Manipur State Film Awards 2020. The film is edited by Biju Das and the sound is designed by Partha Halder.

Amar Maibam is a 'bus conductor' turned filmmaker from Manipur who got suck into film making following his late father M.A. Singh, an ace filmmaker of Manipur.

Amar who himself cinematographed the 52- minute film said that he was attracted towards documentary films. "While me father's forte was fiction story telling, I'm inclined towards independent filmmaking for now as it gives more freedom to tell stories of the human experience and how he gets by in this crazy world we all lived in ," said the award winning fimmaker.

Amar's debut documentary was City of Victims (2009) on the extra-judicial killings in Manipur. His second was –My Generous Village which won Special Jury award and Best Music in the Manipur State Film awards 2019. His fourth- NAWA-Spirit of Atey, a short documentary on the life of 13 years old boy bagged the Best Documentary in the 2nd Nagaland Film Festival 2019.

Amar is currently working on a film on the international woman weightlifter, Khumukcham Sanjita and her brother fighting for justice on the dopping charge she faced.

When he came through with flying colours in an international competition of an international festival, Amar Maibam expressed his joy and said. "This win will ensure wider audience for untold stories of the lives of the highway truckers who are the unsung heroes of landlocked Manipur."

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PIB and ROB Imphal celebrate 6th International Day of Yoga

IT News
Imphal, June 21:

All officers and staff of the Press Information Bureau(PIB) and Regional Outreach Bureau (ROB), Imphal, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, celebrated the 6th International Yoga Day today (21 st June, 2020) by participating in an hourly Yoga session at the Auditorium of the ROB, Wangkhei Yonglan Leirak ,Imphal. Additional Director General, of ROB and PIB, Imphal S N Pradhan led the session.
The session was connected virtually with the yoga session of the Directorate General, North East Zone, Guwahati and all the Regional Outreach Bureaus and Field Outreach Bureaus in the North East Region offices (Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh) that come under the ROB, Imphal Region).
The stress during the session was on the physical, mental and emotional health of the people and their overall well-being. The country was led by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in celebrating the 6th International Yoga Day. In his speech, PM gave the message of basic oneness of humanity and urged the people to do Yoga at home with their families.

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New anti-coronavirus oral medicine for COVID-19 by Glenmark

IT Correspondent
Mumbai, June 21:

“Glenmark Pharmaceuticals”, a pharmaceutical company headquartered in Mumbai, has launched antiviral drug “Favipiravir” under the brand name “FabiFlu”, for the treatment of patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. 
The prescription-based drug will be available as a 200 mg tablet at an MRP of Rs.3,500 for a strip of 34 tablets, meaning one table will cost Rs. 103. It is a generic version of “Avigan” of Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, Japan. Considering a minimum of two strips per patient, Glenmark will be able to provide “FabiFlu” for about 82,500 patients in the first month itself.
The company has received the manufacturing and marketing approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI). 
The recommended dose of “Favipiravir” of the prescription-based medicine, is 1,800 mg twice daily on day one, followed by 800 mg twice daily up to day 14. The drug will be available both through hospitals and the retail channel. It can be used for coronavirus patients with co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, the release issued here by Glenmark said. 
It offers rapid reduction in viral load within four days and provides faster symptomatic and radiological improvement. Favipiravir has shown clinical improvement up to 88 per cent in mild to moderate COVID-19 cases. It is backed by strong clinical evidence, showing encouraging results in patients with mild to moderate Covid-19. It offers broad spectrum RNA virus coverage with clinical improvement noted in 20-90 plus age group. 
Glenmark is producing the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) for the drug at its Ankleshwar (Gujarat) plant, while the formulation is being manufactured at its Baddi (Himachal Pradesh) plant. 
Glenn Saldanha, CMD, Glen Pharma said that DCGI’s approval to the new drug comes at a time when country’s health system is under tremendous pressure due to spiralling COVID-19 and hopefully, the “FabiFlu” will assuage this pressure and added that Glenmark will work closely with the government and medical community to make “FabiFlu” quickly accessible to patients across the country.   
Remdesivir
In another development, DCGI has granted permission to two domestic pharmaceuticals companies, “Cipla” and “Hetero”, for sale of anti-viral drug “Remdesivir” for treatment of COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms. DCGI has given a nod to the companies on conditions of “restricted emergency use”. With the development, India can now begin the domestic production of anti-viral drugs which would have efficacy, stability, safety for “restricted emergency use” on COVID-19 patients. 
 ”Cipla” and ”Hetero Labs” have already entered into non-exclusive licensing agreements with Gilead Sciences, which holds the patent for Remdesivir. 
“Remdesivir” is not recommended for patients with severe renal impairment and high level of liver enzymes, pregnant and lactating women, and those below 12 years, Union Health Ministry’s document on ‘Clinical Management Protocols for COVID-19’ stated.

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Protective Thinking: The Unwelcome Delimitation, Part II

By Pakinrichapbo,

The post-independent Indian history shows that the first priority of any political party forming the government, at the centre, is to cement their grip on power by legislating and undertaking decisions that will promote the parties’ interests and prolonged their rule. In keeping this tradition alive, the BJP govt. had outdone its predecessors by making hurried decisions—on issues that needed proper planning, consultation, and debate—from promoting sectarian identity and Hindu fundamentalism to sudden announcement for demonetization, banning cow slaughter in North and central India, prosecuting leading social activists and citizens who dare to challenge government policies, abrogating Article 370 and 35-A, and imposing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The latest, in this long line of implementing policies for party’s interest, is the sudden announcement of delimitation exercise to be carried out in the four Northeastern states and two union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. We may never discern the actual intent of the Central Government on the timing of such announcement, as well as the assigned year of census (2001 for NE states and 2011 for Jammu and Kashmir) on which the delimitation must be conducted, gives more room rooms for suspicion.
With regard to delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir, Hemant Singh in his article, What is delimitation and why the Central Government want to implement it in Jammu and Kashmir, states that the Kashmir region with its 46 assembly seats is mainly dominated and won by separatist leaders and their parties such as the National Conference Party or People Democratic Party (PDP). Due to their dominance, these separatist parties (who dislike the Indian leaderships and even the Indian Constitution) generally form the state government.
Now the present NDA government wants to change this scenario. Because the BJP government only has political mileage in Jammu, the central government wants to increase Jammu’s share of seats in the state assembly (which now stands at 37 assembly seats) as well as in the Lok Sabha by subtracting the same from the Kashmir region. With Jammu’s share of assembly seats increased, New Delhi can without restraints decide the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. Carrying out the delimitation in Kashmir will enable the present NDA govt. to form a BJP supported government in the state; thus debilitating the separatists’ grip on Kashmir politics. The argument made by the author is valid seeing the political turbulence in Jammu and Kashmir.
In Assam, Prabrajan Virodhi Manch (PVM), a forum against the infiltration, questioned the timing of the delimitation exercise. PVM Convenor and the Supreme Court lawyer, Upamanyu Hazarika stated (in Economic Times, 1.3.2020) that the entire exercise prior to 2021 assembly election shows that the BJP-Asom Gana Parishad alliance is not confident of retaining the indigenous votes it secured in 2016 assembly election. Looking into the past record of the present Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the accusation of PVM seem justified given there was similar accusation against the BJP of benefitting the party in
Gujarat Delimitation exercise in 2008, before the election.
With respect to Manipur, some state BJP members and legislators have joined other parties in opposition to the centre’s move for delimitation exercise. As most of us are well-aware, living in a tribal state, ethnic/tribal loyalty will always take preference over party directives. Even the valley based politicians will not like to lost assembly seats; as such, they now have valid reasons to oppose the delimitation exercise by questioning the reliability and accurateness of 2001 census. Certainly, the resignation of three BJP MLAs as a sign of protest against centre’s decision should not be taken as a done deal because the centre tactics of divert and rule has always been the foundation of BJP strategy.
With respect to Nagaland, both groups supporting and opposing the delimitation agree that the delimitation exercise proposed by the centre is to divert the attention of the people from the real issue of Naga political solution and once again divide the Nagas along the tribal lines. However, Nagaland’s case is different because those districts which have long felt deprived of deserved seats base on population ratio are determined to see justice done to their districts by this present delimitation exercise. On the other hand, the districts having more seats are equally determined to retain the assembly seats by bringing up the issue of
pending Naga political solution and suggested to carry delimitation exercise post-Naga solution (which may or may not happen) hoping for an increase in their share of Nagaland assembly legislative and parliamentary seats after the solution.
It is also strange that most Nagas who care little about negotiation or Naga nationalism are now using the negotiation card to oppose the delimitation. The debates surrounding delimitation spearheaded by tribal organizations have once again revealed the true colour of some of our leading politicians: that they continue to be merchants of tribalism. Politicians and their parties have delegated their duties to their respective tribal bodies, which will no doubt have a serious repercussion sooner or later. Whenever situation rises for politicians to take difficult decisions in the face of tribal oppositions, thereby politically educate the public on issues, they instead chose to play tribal cards and exploit tribal organizations for political gains.
Today, for fear of losing few assembly seats, politicians are laying the foundation for more tribal discords in days to come. People are bound to disagree on issues but these disagreements should be democratic. To routinely use the excuse of imminent law and order situations only shows we are still very primitive. Take the example of two Assam residents who filed petition in the Supreme Court seeking Court’s directions to the authorities to defer the process of the delimitation till the completion of Census 2021, and I honestly feel Nagaland need to adopt on this line as absence of accurate census data may fail to deliver
justice in the long run. That is a prime illustration of how we should disagree in a democratic society.
Lastly, Nagaland Election Commission need to seriously check and strike out voters registered in electoral roll of more than one constituency ÿAs per Section 17 of The Representation of the People Act, 1950 ÿbefore delimitation exercise starts this year or in coming years.
(The writer is an Advocate from Samziuram Village, Peren, Nagaland )

Happy Father’s Day To all Fathers on Earth and in Heaven!

By-T S Haokip

The celebration of Father’s Day on the 3rd Sunday of June was founded by one, Ms. Sonora Smart Dodd in 1910 to honour her father, who was an American Civil War veteran. Today, the role of a father and mother might not be as rigidly distinct as it once was; the definition of fatherhood could, therefore, be subjected to many variations and customizations. Children being raised by their father alone are not uncommon any more. Still and all, the endeavour of commemorating Father’s Day is to honour and highlight the importance of father in a family and the descriptions thereof are not to precisely match their exact role in a family but of their worth.
The idea of finding good words to describe fathers even on Father’s Day seems to elude many people. I remember an instance, when many fathers and in fact mothers, complained about the speaker’s relentless grill coupled with doses of countless dos and don’ts for the fathers in a congregation on the occasion of Father’s Day. The fact that many find it difficult to put into words the contribution of fathers, even on their special day, only proves the fact that ‘a father’s love is expressed fewer and displayed less often.’ If the mother tenders to the emotional requirements at home, the father gives the all-important guide that anchors a family in its ventures outside the house. If the mother provides the affection required to the family, the father gives strength and protection. If the mother represents the soft side, the father displays the tough side, thereby setting an equilibrium in the family that will not be regarded too soft to be walked over and too tough to be bowed out of. In essence, a father is as important, if not more, as a mother in a family.
Taking a trip down memory lane, I recollect the mesmerizing experiences of the special Father’s day programmes being organised by the Church and how the fathers would be honoured with gifts and presents by their children, us. At least on that day, people got to, compelled in some cases, thank their fathers. All of it was sweet memories, until the year 2014 when for the first time I’d celebrate Father’s Day without a father to wish to. Then I realised how hellish it must have been for some people, whose fathers have left this earth, when we honoured our fathers with garlands and bouquets. Having said that, I personally have no hard feelings on the concept of honouring fathers in a congregation on their special day. I will of course remember my father and may shed few tears, missing him- and that would be it. However, if there are people, especially whose fathers now rest up above, who feel otherwise, then I accord due respect to their feelings. After all, in our pursuit to celebrate fatherhood, no children should feel out of place.
‘My son, How is it like traveling by air? One day I want you to let me experience it- at least once in my lifetime,’ said my father. I was still a student then. When I completed my studies, and eventually got a job, my father was diagnosed with several ailments and was advised by the doctors to not travel by air. In the ensuing years, his health deteriorated but he was optimistic, as he usually is, of overcoming it. He’d regularly remind me of the ‘air trip’. ‘Of course, once my health conditions improved,’ he’d added. Being someone who had a close relationship with his father, I have not many regrets. I tried the best I could, to be a good son. My last moment with him was, him hugging me as I left home to resume my duty. But that one unfulfilled wish, though ‘twas his health conditions that prevented it being fulfilled, deeply saddens me every time I think of it. ‘You wish to travel by air, I am sorry Dad I could not fulfil that. But today, as you leave for your heavenly abode, I know your flight up above to Him would be the best journey, better than the services provided by the best airlines. Your destination, I know is better than the best place on earth,’ I said as I bid adieu to my father for the last time on this earth.
Today, as we celebrate the special day of fathers and appreciate their contributions- let us say the nice words we wish to say when they are here; let us buy them new clothes when they can wear; let us treat them with good foods when they can eat; let us show them the world when they can travel; let us make them proud when they can feel it; let us thank them before it is too late and most importantly let us be their wonderful children when they are still our fathers on earth. As for those people, whose fathers have left earlier for their heavenly abode, we still have a father whose love is everlasting and whose life is eternal. Happy Father’s Day!
(The writer is author of the Book HILLY DREAMS. More details at www.tshaokip.com )

A humble tribute to Fathers!

By: Janghaolun Haokip

Only lately, I started to wonder, what about daddy? How long will he be with me? What would I do without Him?
I’ve never had these questions in mind before. I had the feeling that Fathers just exist, or I don’t even think about it at all –Fathers, they exist, and just like that. I’ve never thought anything about anything about fathers. All I knew was that they are just there and they help. They are just there, strong and firm, for us to lean on. They are just there as the foundation on which our whole being rests and makes shape. Simply that!
It’s a little strange when we look back to when we were kids. To me back then, my father was the strongest. In my thoughts; there was no one else stronger than my father. I knew of no one who could possibly beat my father. He was also the best in everything. There was no one who could be a better good than my father. The sweets he bought me, even if they are the same as my friends’, were always sweeter; the things he taught me were always better, and the way that he raised me was the best. I never really had anything to complain about him.
I remember one time my daddy bought me a jacket. That jacket instantly became my favourite. I’d wear it constantly: I’d wear it at church; at play, at the jungle, at sleep –literally, almost all the time. One time, I was fighting with a friend who was my elder sister’s age. I was on below and he was on top of me with all the childish murmurs when we get into a fight. Almost crying then, I said “Stop! I’ll go and wear my jacket and we’ll fight again.” There is something incomparably special about a daddy, I believe, that I had to go wear a jacket that he specially bought me.
Sometimes when I get to think about those, I would never wish my daddy to go. I would never wish him to leave me, because I can’t think of what I would be doing without him. What I would become and how will I survive when my dad’s gone are questions that can’t get enough space in my head. There may come a time, or maybe it’s already here, that I would physically be stronger than my dad. But deep inside I know that I can never grow stronger than my father as a person. We can never grow stronger than our roots are. Of course we may become more learned and more distinguished as a person than our fathers. But the truth is that the tree grows and bears fruits only as much as its roots strive to penetrate deeper and wider into the earth.
Unfortunately, as we grow and get older with time, there are us who seem to come to undermine the role of our fathers. We start to want to grow over our fathers. The good ways they teach us get into constant contests with our desires as teenagers and younger adults with a lot of friends and a lot of things to do that are tempting to the core. However, please believe me, almost three decades of life-experiences have taught me that these are just vain fantasies that are springing purely out of delusions. It has made me decide today that if I could go back and change one thing in life, I would never stop giving the respect my dad deserves, and above that, I will never question my dad ever again.
On Father’s day, let us not only celebrate fatherhood but also their indispensable impact and role in our lives. Let us celebrate strength, security, sacrifice and every single aspect of fatherhood that comes with it. With it, let us thank our Fathers today for being a wonderful Father that they are. Let us be reminded that they deserve the world that they sacrificed for us. We need to know that we, as sons and daughters, have every obligation and responsibility to make them feel special; to make them smile, and make them happy. Let today not be the only day that we love and appreciate them, but let that happiness lasts as long as life itself.
If you don’t have a father today and a single mom is raising you, she is a father too, and she deserves all the awe and respect as any father. If you don’t have both, you are a father yourself for a person cannot survive without the virtues of a father. If anyone is your strength and your stronghold, he or she is your father. Appreciate yourself, appreciate them, and remind yourself today that it’s your day, so that like a father, you are never giving up but always strong, even when the world is against you. Let this day strengthen your soul and spirit, to recommit to the virtues that sets life into motion –just as a father would do.
As we celebrate Father’s day, let us be reminded once again of all the sacrifices that our fathers have made for us. Let us wake up every day with immense gratitude towards our fathers for the Love that they have for us. With that, let it be our goals –to be the best of our selves –for it is the goals of our Fathers too. Let us make them proud for Fathers are our Gods on Earth!
If you are a Father, WE THANK YOU AND WE APPRECIATE WHO YOU ARE!

The History of Chonga Bon and What Might Have Been the Compulsions Behind the Titular King’s Decision to Enter Electoral Politics

By Dr. Malem Ningthouja

On 13th March 2020, titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba [henceforth Sanajaoba] filed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidature to contest the lone seat to represent Manipur in the Indian Rajya Sabha. He decided to expand roles beyond the ‘titular tradition’ headquartered in his residence (or palace) known as Chonga Bon. His intention to get elected to the Indian Parliament to enjoy legislative power and other financial prerogatives became crystal clear. Such an unprecedented shifting of the focus from Chonga Bon to the Indian Parliament became controversial. A section of the population protested the decision. But there are reasons for Hindutva ‘zealots’, led by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP cadres, to celebrate the candidature. They predicted a victory, as the ruling BJP led alliance would use any means to prevail numerical dominance over the opposition party in Manipur Assembly.
Indeed, the co-option of the titular king by the Hindutva flank has been accomplished. This accomplishment has been tactically worked out in a faster tempo ever since the BJP came to power in the Indian Parliament in 2014, followed by the installation of BJP led coalition government in Manipur. It is an unprecedented breakthrough in the Hindutva venture. Perhaps, ever since Manipur was annexed in 1949, the successive ‘kings’ have been apolitical but symbolic cultural ‘figure.’ Ever since Sanajaoba was crowned in 1996, it has been only around the early 2010s that he came under the schematic influence of RSS. His inclination to BJP became publicly revealing on the eve of the Manipur Assembly election in 2017. On 25th February 2017, Sanajaoba shared the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing a BJP election rally. Finally, Sanajaoba jumped into electoral politics representing BJP.
Why vie for an MP?
Sanajaoba vied for an MP. It is a personal choice. India is a democratic representative country. Any eligible person can enjoy the constitutional right to contest an election. What for? For power and money? Individual opportunism at the cost of ‘tradition’ and ‘Manipur’? These are some questions many asked. But Sanajaoba says that he would serve the people better by sincerely exercising the administrative power and fund of an MP. The logic of his personal choice and other possible compulsive reasons may be categorically analysed as follows:
First, the residence or palace of Sanajaoba is also known as Chonga Bon. It was the seat of power under British colonial rule for some decades. Sanajaoba inherited it from his father Okendro, who was the son and grandson of Bodhchandra and Churachand, respectively. But this palace was not an ancient building. It was a post-British colonial construction after the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891. The building became lively when Manipur administration was formally handed over to King Churachand in February 1908. By then, the supposedly original seat of power at Kangla Fort had been occupied by the British, which continued till the lapse of paramountcy in August 1947. After Independence, the British Indian Army which became Indian Army continued to occupy it, which continued till it was transferred to the Government of Manipur on 20th November 2004. But, Sanajaoba could not take control of Kangla. Therefore, Chonga Bon remains where it has been. Due to financial constraints, the palace could not be regularly renovated. While it remains dull, the area of the palace campus has been diminishing due to either selling off plots or encroachment. In 2004, the then Congress government decided to take over the palace as a heritage site and notified the king to evict or shift away from his residence. The king fought against it for more than a decade, to the extreme extent of carrying out fast unto death. He found an ally in RSS. Therefore, when he was offered an opportunity to become an MP, it is obvious that the king will use it to protect his palace.
Second, Sanajaoba is a titular king without political, administrative, and financial powers. ‘Absolute monarchy,’ which is believed to have been historically recorded since 33 A.D., had given way to a short-lived post-independence constitutional monarchy in 1948. But India’s de facto regime took it over. Sanajaoba’s grandfather, king Bodhachandra, “on behalf of himself, his heirs and successors”, signed a secret ‘agreement’ with the Dominion of India on 21st September 1949, leading to the arbitrary abolition of Manipur government on 15th October 1949. While governance—political, administrative, and judicial power— was ceded to the Government of India, the king retained “personal rights, privileges, dignities, titles, authority over religious observances, customs, usages, rites, and ceremonies and institutions.” Most of these rights involving financial prerogatives (privy purse) were abolished by the 26th Amendment of the Indian Constitution in 1971. Sanajaoba, therefore, inherits from his father ‘titular rights’ that are cultural to provide a symbiotic platform of ‘traditions’ involving people across communities. The financial burden of maintaining the palace, royal court, and the symbiotic platform has been burdensome, compounded by mismanagement of royal assets leading to gradual impoverishment. When BJP offered him an opportunity to become an MP, it is obvious that the king decided for it to subsequently promote the symbiotic platform centred around him and the palace.
Third, there may be another angle. This presumption is based on the documents released by the so-called ‘exiled de jure’ Government of Manipur, which is currently based in the United Kingdom (UK). According to these documents, on the occasion of the proclamation made on 6th August 1996, Sanajaoba stated that he was “lawfully and rightfully upholding and preserving de jure sovereignty of the State of Manipur and de sovereignty of the Maharaja by virtue of the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 and by virtue of the bilateral agreement of 1st July and 2nd July 1947 which is a perpetual and irrevocable agreement.” On 14th March 2012, Sanajaoba ‘secretly’ formed a Manipur State Council for the administration of Manipur, and appointed a Chief Minister with the provision to further appoint ministers of Personnel, Home, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Defense, Hill Administers, and Council Office. On 29th October 2019, the Chief Minister of the Council announced the shifting of the office of the ‘de jure Government of Manipur’ to the United Kingdom from 27th September 2019. They announced an ‘exiled de jure Government,’ and thereafter, they submitted memorandums and released continuous propaganda against the Government of India, demanding restoration of the “sovereignty of the State and political rights of the people of Manipur.” An underground insurgent party openly supported it. Sanajaoba publicly denied a role in it. But his previous links cannot be denied. However, he was already vulnerable, for based on these documents, an investigation could have very well been initiated against him. He could have been apprehensive, or maybe even faced some veiled threats that charges would be framed against him as a suspect. This would have exposed him to fears and insecurities of being booked and jailed under NSA 1980 and UAPA 1967, which would have taken him prolonged years of legal battles to prove innocence. Two things could have possibly have followed. First, Sanajaoba might have voluntarily changed his mind and decided to enter electoral politics to prove innocence. Second, some agents might have put coercive pressure on him to choose either (1) be an accused and suffer, or (2) be a BJP MP and prosper. Sensing personal prospects, he might have chosen to become a BJP MP.
Why and who chose him?
The king was unanimously chosen as a BJP candidate to fight the Rajya Sabha MP election. The BJP high command decided it based on inputs from various sources. The contentious partisan groups who vied for respective candidature were all silenced. And it served various interests, which are being discussed as follows:
Socio-cultural tacticians
Covert or overt social and cultural tacticians were active in devising tactics to defend and promote the integrity of the Indian capitalist empire. There is a mixture of nationalism and personal prospect in doing this. Remnants of collective memories, historical consciousness, and concurrent tendencies that may challenge the legitimacy of the empire (the idea of India) must be deconstructed, dismantled, and suppressed. In the context of Manipur, the king and palace harboured a collective memory of controversial annexation and symbolic remnants that act as the rallying point of ‘liberation discourse.’ For instance, the arbitrary ‘merger agreement’ of 1949 and the abolition of the privy purse in 1971 did not wipe out the titular symbolism and certain prerogatives of the king. Sanajaoba inherits and enjoys it for years. Many continue to believe in the divine lineage of king and ‘traditional’ lordship. This believe interplays with an advocated historical consciousness to invoke Manipur patriotism. Some pro-liberation mass organisations routinely visited the king for reasons revealed in routine ‘political rituals.’ The demand for ‘pre-merger’ status, polemics of arbitrary annexation, observance of Manipur independence day on 14th August, and all narratives and events to promote Manipur nationalism used the ‘king’ as a symbolic rallying point. Therefore, there are enough reasons to believe that nationalist tacticians in India suspected the king as the central symbolic figure of conspiracies plotted against India. The symbolic significance had to be completely wiped. The left-overs of 1949 and 1971 have to be completely taken over by absorbing the king into the Indian mainstream electoral politics.
RSS angle
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) believes in the ideology of Hindutva that seeks to establish the hegemony of Hindus and the Hindu way of life in the Indian empire. It is a mixture of religious, cultural, and political objectives backed up by a section of the chauvinist elements within Indian capitalism. While promoting the ideology, they construe the primordial Hindu religio-cultural connection between India and Manipur. They trace the cosmology of Manipur in the pristine vedantic rituals and Mahabharata epic, i.e., Hinduism. The practice of Hinduism among a vast chunk of Meeteis in Manipur, which root is generally traced in the royal patronage and forced mass conversion in the 18th century, gives RSS an opportunity to recruit local cadres to execute Hindutva programmes. They had to overcome the threat posed by Meetei neo-traditional or revivalist or Sanamahi movement that radically attacked Hinduism since the early 1960s. The neo-traditionalist reconversion ritual of 23rd April 1992 was a big challenge to Hindutva, as Sanajaoba’s father king Okendrajit on that day denounced Hinduism and upheld the worshipping of Lainingthou or Sanamahism as the ‘state religion’ of Manipur. At the same time Meetei neo-traditional movement had shared objectives with certain pro-liberation protagonists who identified the Indian empire with Hinduism. Subsequently, Hindutva protagonists changed the strategy of homogenisation and began to advocate that Sanamahism was not a different religion but an integral version of Hinduism. The local zealots share the objectives of these socio-cultural tacticians and BJP to influence the king through aids and political supports gradually. They held high the banner of Hindutva or Indian empire vis-à-vis the rivals. They must play a role in converting the king from an apolitical status to a political figure.
BJP angle
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the political front of Hindutva. It has been taking part in the electoral politics of Manipur since the formation in 1980. However, the party has not been politically predominant until 2014. Indeed, the BJP political wave in Manipur became intensified after it captured Parliamentary power under the leadership of Narendra Modi in 2014. The so-called ‘Modi wave’ was the predominant theme of BJP electoral campaigns during the 11th Manipur State Assembly election in 2017. Usually, in Manipur, the party that holds power in the Parliament has a greater chance of winning the state Assembly election. In the election, BJP secured the second position but managed to capture power as the Congress, which was the largest party, was not given the opportunity to prove its strength to form the government. BJP won the seat of the Inner Manipur Parliamentary Constituency in the 17th Lok Sabha Election held in 2019. However, BJP has suffered from inner-party instability due to partisan politics, sectarianism, and leadership crises since the formation of the government in 2017. The centralising tendency of the incumbent Chief Minister and alleged favouritism to handpicks in dispensing power and allocation of profitable projects became a rallying point of discontent. Frequently partisan groups visited central leaders and lobbied for a change in leadership and ministerial portfolios. As the crisis or partisan politics could not be resolved, which became more acute on the eve of the Rajya Sabha election, the central leaders might have found it difficult to nominate a candidate from any of the existing inner-party contenders. The central leaders might have thought about nominating someone apparently neutral or someone who had never been at the forefront of lobbying. The king was an obvious choice. In this, the BJP’s immediate electoral exigencies served the objectives of these tacticians and RSS. The result is, Sanajaoba was nominated as BJP candidate to the Rajya Sabha MP election.
Sycophants
Sycophants are those who act “obsequiously towards someone important to gain an advantage.” There are thousands of sycophants, including those in the royal council and community delegates, who expressed support for Sanjaoba’s entry into politics as they could foresee a victory. They have less to do with Hindutva ideology and BJP politics but blindly supported the king because they liked him or wanted his attention. They either released solidarity press statements or visited in person to upload photos or commented on personal supports on social media. It might also be many of these were orchestrated propaganda tools by those machinating his nomination. Knowingly or unknowingly they are subsumed into the camp of sycophants whose public support boosted the morale of Sanajaoba and those who fielded him to fight the election. Therefore, the apolitical sycophants become political boosters in a situation where contested propaganda became the order of the day.
Why some protested?
The king and Chonga Bon are historically rooted visual mnemonic artefacts for various reasons. The mnemonic effect is materialised in catalysing collective memories. The collective memory must interplay with devised historical consciousness and vice versa to organise people to build up collective existence. The Chonga Bon, with the king as the central figure, by fitting into pedagogic narratives, can continuously harbour collective memories that had the visual impacts of displaying contemporary binaries—those of sovereign past and present subjugation, colonialism and liberation, despair and hope, cultural imperialism and ‘revivalism’ (neo-traditionalism), ethnic conflict and integrity. All these have been devised to disseminate historical consciousness as the subjective precondition to organise social realisation and promote liberation movement. No one must deconstruct such a well-preserved collective memory or historical consciousness. However, Hindutva all of sudden began attacking it. When the king becomes a BJP member and enters Parliamentary politics, the deconstruction and co-option into Indian mainstream are almost completed. Therefore, there are protests. Let me elaborate it in the following paragraphs:
Neo-traditionalist angle
Meetei neo-traditionalist or revivalist movements have been active in Manipur. The movement has two crisscrossings, overlapping and reinforcing projects: (a) emancipation – both spiritual and temporal, and (b) consolidation of the imagined national community. They identified Hinduism with Mayang people and condemned the association of Meeteis with Hinduism. They attacked king Pamehiba and his spiritual priest Santidas Gosai of the 18th century, who were charged of being responsible for the forced conversion of the Meeteis to Hinduism. They deconstructed the sanskritised name of their land, god, goddesses, kings, and places, which were thought of as carrying Mayang or Hindu or Indian meaning. From 1960 onwards, many began to organise public rituals and festivals dedicated to Meetei deities, reconversion ritual called Nongkhrang Pareihanba, taking over of the traditional lais (deities) and laiphams (place of worship) by force from the hands of the Bamons (Meetei Brahmins) and Meetei Hindus. They carried out series of activities related to publication of sacred texts called puyas, desanskritisation of Manipur history, promotion of Meetei language and script, reclamation of Kangla Fort, and other cultural elements such as rituals, festival, and dress, etc. They held that Hindutva and the Government of India were responsible for uprooting indigenous traditions and subsequent ethnic divides in Manipur. They claimed the divine origin of the king and held him high as the symbolic head of their faith, tradition, and rituals. They designed the reconversion ritual of 23rd April 1992 when king Okendrajit denounced Hinduism and upheld the worshipping of Lainingthou or Sanamahism as the ‘state religion’ of Manipur. Therefore, they are disappointed with Hindutva connection of Sanajaoba, particularly his MP election contest as a BJP candidate.
Insurgency angle
Insurgents in Manipur identified India with colonial power and Hindutva or RSS and BJP with colonial forces. They trace the genesis of Manipur ‘nation’ in Ningthouja kingdom and formulate a theory of annexation that challenges the legal and constitutional validities of India’s takeover of Manipur under the terms of the controversial ‘merger agreement.’ First, the ‘merger’ was signed by the king under compulsion, and use of force, coercion, and misrepresentation of facts. It depicts the king as a defenceless human being with a lost sense of courage to confront an invincible Indian force. Secondly, the king was not representing Manipur at Shillong as Manipur was a ‘nation’ governed by a responsible popular government. Third, there had been certain procedural loopholes that called for the revocation of the ‘merger.’ The loopholes are two. (a) The Accord, ‘which partook of the nature of a treaty between two sovereign states of Manipur and India has got to be ratified, and it can have no binding effect unless it has been ratified.’ (b) The Manipur Constitution Act 1947 had not been amended to suit the Manipur Administration Order of 1949, nor had it been repealed. The public resolution of 1993 invalidated the legal and constitutional validity of the ‘merger.’ Some insurgents believe that demanding pre-merger status will not only revert the evils of annexation but also create the historical consciousness of Manipur nationalism. Some mass organisations took extra miles in attempting popular movement for ‘pre-merger’ status and organised public programmes such as Manipur independence day on 14th August. Henceforth, the king and palace became rallying points of recreating a collective memory of a binary condition, that is, pre-colonial sovereign past and present colonial situation. Some of them shared specific common objectives with the neo-traditionalists in fighting the agenda of Hindutva. It became a blow to them—particularly annexation theory, collective memory, liberation programs that had increasingly rallied on the king and palace—when Sanajaoba entered into Indian parliamentary election as a BJP candidate. They protested it. They condemned him as a colonial Trojan horse who has surrendered the political future of Manipur for personal glory.
Fugitive angle
The exiled or fugitive de jure Government of Manipur in UK has been approaching the Royal Council of UK and other international bodies to initiate arbitration to restore the de jure and de facto sovereignty of Manipur. They identified the sovereignty of Manipur with the sovereignty of the king. They showed themselves as the legitimate representative of the king through the Manipur State Council. They pointed out legal and constitutional inconsistencies of the ‘merger agreement’ and continuous ‘illegal’ de facto governance executed by the Government of India. They do not believe in armed liberation but a legal and constitutional fight to achieve liberation. Their move is somewhat similar to some persons in the past who had wanted the king to seek asylum in a foreign country to fight for freedom through propaganda and petition from abroad. Similarly, the ‘de jure government’ expected an active role of the king, to the extent of organising mass movement and letting him go to jail to internationalise the issue. Unfortunately, Sanajaoba had a different plan. If he had indeed been actually involved in the formation of the ‘de jure government, his retreat is a betrayal to the cause. Otherwise, the case would be of the adventurous fugitives misusing the name of the king. However, things had a negative turn. The fugitives expressed a sudden shock when Sanajaoba publicly denied any role in the formation of the ‘de jure government.’ But they continued with propaganda and petitions to expose what they considered a constitutional and legal crisis that had to be resolved through non-violent legal means. They needed the support and consent of the king to advance the cause further. A particular insurgent party openly supported it. While other insurgents maintained a strict silence on this move, they are happy that the propaganda of the ‘de jure government’ could attract some amount of international attention about the national liberation movement. All of them used the king as the rallying point for advocating Manipur nationalism and international propaganda. It became a serious blow to them when Sanajaoba expressed loyalty to India, co-opted with RSS, and became a BJP candidate.
Liberal angle
Both the king and Chonga-bon has for decades, been an apolitical organic composition providing a platform of collective traditions across the community and ethnic boundaries. The king lacks power, and the palace is not elaborate and extravagant. However, no one has contested the inherent titular rights enjoyed by the king. Many across political parties have shown relentless respect for it. It exists like a living museum manifesting unity in diversity. In a society infested with ethnic divisions and communal politics, the platform has been a crucial viable means of weaving together and bridging divides. These are clearly revealed in the regular visits of community delegates and representations. There are traditions and rituals where the king and palace are central points. The king has a wide network of apolitical sympathisers and sycophants and popular inclination, who would somehow listen to his call for internecine harmony. He has traditional links with several village chiefs far and wide. To convert the king and palace into a political composition representing a particular political party will have an obvious impact of reversing everything towards sectarianism and partisan politics. But these nationalist socio-cultural tacticians, RSS, and BJP had a different agenda. They do not want the king to abdicate the throne but to enjoy the dual position of titular kingship and BJP member. They knew it quite well that Sanajaoba without the throne has neither symbolic value nor practical merits. They want to co-opt the king and the palace either to destroy the apolitical symbiotic collective platform or to win over on their side certain elements of the king’s sympathisers and sycophants. The king could have been nominated directly to the Rajya Sabha without a party banner if it were for showing respect and empowerment. On the contrary, the electoral candidature has created for the king political rivals, thus, showing the seed of division and discord. From the liberal angle, this politics of appropriation, deconstruction, and sacralisation of the sanctity of the apolitical throne and palace is chauvinistic and dangerous.
Conclusion
Co-option of the titular king and attempted deconstruction of anti-colonial collective memory have been accomplished to a large extent when Sanajaoba filed the nomination paper. The election held on 19th June 2020 has revealed once again the ugly character of bourgeoisie politics to capture power by using dirty tricks of horse-trading. Sanajaoba has won the election and will soon be sworn-in as a member of parliament to serve the Rajya Sabha for the next six years. Whether he will abdicate the throne to concentrate in parliamentary matters fully or will he be dethroned due to pressure or will the matter be resolved without a whimper, only time will tell.
Those who believe in people’s democratic revolution to establish a self-reliant Manipur free from dependence and social inequity need not perceive the co-option and deconstruction as a dark beginning. Co-option had been a natural norm always practiced by rulers to fulfil their objective needs. It happened in the 1940s, quite different from the narratives of the annexation theorists who defended the king as coerced and forced upon to sign the merger agreement. What exactly happened in 1949 was that the Administration Order was arbitrary as it was not based on either the consent of the Manipur Assembly or popular plebiscite. In 2020, Sanajaoba was co-opted because some people have increasingly promoted him to the level of a symbolic figurehead only to make him an easy prey of co-option and deconstruction of the sets of collective memory centred on him and palace. This has resulted from the fact that the ongoing armed liberation movement and integrity campaigns have been lacking in a proper study of the objective conditions of colonialism and the adoption of people’s democratic revolutionary path (political and economic program along with popular militancy) to address the problems of colonial conditions scientifically.
So far, the king and chonga-bon as components of collective memory (myth of sovereign past) and annexation theory (as a historical consciousness) alone could not progress the armed liberation movement. This has been exemplified by the fact that hundreds of activists of the so-called apex organisations, who are the mass fronts of the outlawed armed groups, have been co-opted and are involved in electoral politics and commission seeking businesses. When this is the situation, it is unwise to expect too much from Sanajaoba, who had never shown a commitment to national liberation. It is equally unwise to make him a sacrificing lamb for the sake of the people whose subjective consciousness is not fully inclined towards the liberation movement. It is difficult to expect heroes to emerge out of nowhere when those leading armed vanguard parties are yet to educate the masses by adopting convincing revolutionary ideology and conducive objective programs.
The pre-existing collective memories and historical consciousness need rethinking. We have not been progressing politically for decades despite the continuous projection and promotion of the collective memory and historical consciousness, as cited above. The struggle for the appropriation of symbols and articulations (such as flag and rituals) have been continued occasionally and spectacularly without visible merits in the tempo and magnitude of the armed liberation movement. All these ill-designed politics for the appropriation of symbols and rituals cannot serve as people cannot live eternally feeding on a particular version of myths and collective memory alone. People look for adapting to changes that could deliver them progress, security, freedom, and peace. People’s democratic revolution cannot be going back to a dimmed past, but for a qualitative change better than the existing constraints. What had happened in 1949 and what has just happened on 19th June 2020 are mere reference points in constructing a particular narrative of context, but what is more important is to go beyond it. Constraints and antagonistic contradictions are inherent in the existing system. Hindutva ways of dealing with the situation cannot be everlasting. Let them have what revolutionaries should have left-over for anyone who would blindly consume redundant and meaningless relics. The point is, what have we as thinking persons had to offer the masses to understand both the objective and subjective conditions? People must move forward.

 

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