TODAY -

Patriotism & Iphone generation

Free Thinker *



We proudly celebrate the Patriots' Day in remembrance of those who stood or fought against the mighty British and those who had become martyrs in the Anglo-Manipuri conflict of1891. We all by heart the big names - our gallant Jubraj , the inscrutable General, and the fearless Major.

When we ask our children whether they can tell us a few names ofthose who had laid their lives for the sake ofour motherland during the Anglo-Manipuri War; they give three names instantly, Jubraj Tilcendrajit, Thangal General, and Paona Brajabasi.

It is really impressive but their spontaneity is linked with Google Baba, which is worrisome. The older generation, even today, listens to a Radio Drama `Bir Tikendrajit' on Patriots' Day relayed by AIR Imphal; it is based on the script written by Meitram Bira Singh.

Beautifully written and wonderfully executed by Roopmahal theatre artists and while listening, it triggers goose bumps on our body. The latest generation doesn't have time for an hour-long radio drama. They are so busy with Ins., Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

When enquired about the significance of Saheed Minar, my nephew, an engineer (who studied outside since class VI) told me that the contractor honestly built it, perhaps without profit, using genuine material for construction because it is connected with the great sons of Manipur. What to do with this level of awareness?

It is also our duty to remember and honour those unknown soldiers who had sacrificed their lives either in the battles or dumped to death by the `Goras'. Somewhere down the line, we have missed the unidentified laity heroes who courageously stood up against the huge British army coming from three directions - from Tamu (Brigadier Graham with 1800 soldiers), from Cachhar (Colonel Resnick with 1900 sepoys) and from Kohima (Major General Collett with an army of 1200 ).

Another 5000 of Madras Infantry was waiting on standby. Those days Manipur had hardly 6000 soldiers and more than 80 percent of them were irregulars (from Lallup). When British troops entered Manipur from three directions, there was a minor resistance at Mao, faced a small skirmish at Sekmai and few scuffles along Tongjei Mari, etc. The biggest encounter was at Khongjom.

The actual bravery of the citizens was shown at 'Khongjom Lan' where Manipuris fought the British army fiercely till the last man. In the last one year or so some initiatives have been taken up by the GoI and the State government along with some organizations to trace and honour the families of those erstwhile freedom fighters.

In fact, we must give equal importance to the contribution of commoners. What was the status of common soldiers in 1891? Whether `Lallup Kaba' was similar to conscription or corvee. I am told that Lallup' was for all practical purposes including rendering military service for the King. It was compulsory for all male adults but they followed a roster system.

Britishers wanted to use Manipur as a buffer State between British-India and Burma. After annexing the entire Burma in 1885 (Third Anglo-Burmese War) there was hardly any need for a buffer State. They stopped the regular supply of arms and ammunition and changed their attitude towards Manipur.

Perhaps they started thinking of conquering the tiny monarchy at a suitable time. The struggle for the throne among the princes gave a golden opportunity for the Britishers to interfere directly in the affairs of Manipur. During 1891 struggle Britishers hanged Kajao, Niranjan Subedar, Jamadar Chirai Naga till death for waging war against the British Crown.

And 23 others were deported for life to Andaman including Maharaj Kullachandra , on the same charge. The exiled party was dumped at Mount Harriet. In October, last year the Union Home Minister Amit Shah Ji changed the name of Mount Harriet to Most Manipuri in honour of our freedom fighters. It is a good gesture.

'Khongjom battle' reminds me of Tennyson's poem 'The Charge of the Light Brigade'. In that poem the poet described the commitment and discipline of the 600 soldiers on the horses' back -they knew that they were fighting a lost battle but still obeyed the command till the last breath.

Likewise, 400 brave Manipuri soldiers marched towards Thoubal, knowing fully well that they were no match for the British army. But our soldiers stood firm and fought tooth and nail against the invincible British force. That courage is still reflected and echoed in our 'Khongjom-prabas'.

Britishers played out theatrics in Manipur, in 1891. They came to our land and alleged that we were waging war against their Queen Empress - it sounds to ridiculous. Our people were killed and our land was conquered, still they had announced, "all and sundry will be tried for treason". What amazing imperialist logic?

This iPhone generation keeps mocking us saying that "we belong to this planet and why are you trying to divide humanity in the name of patriotism and nationalism?"

I have no answer, do you have any? This generation thinks patriots are US missiles. Somehow a sense of patriotism has to be instilled in the minds of our youngsters otherwise, we will be nowhere.


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 17 2022 .



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