TODAY -

Defending Manipur: Beyond the Rhetoric of Khongjom Day

A Bimol Akoijam *



Manipur commemorates the Battle of Khongjom (1891), the decisive battle of Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891 that brought Manipur under the effective control of British Indian Empire. Some Manipuri historians and politicians will acknowledge this battle of Khongjom, not without reasons, as "the last battle" fought by any "Indian princes" against the Colonial British. It is another matter that majority of people amongst the so-called "mainstream" may not know about this Battle or the War of 1891.

And yet, amidst "patriotic" songs and speeches, appeals to join the "mainstream" and work for "development" would, as usual, rend in the air as the State commemorates the day and pay homage to those who died fighting for their land and freedom of the people against an Imperial Power for whom the "Sun never sets".

However, given the present state of affairs in the State - the all around normative and institutional decay, deplorable/non-existent infrastructures, and a communally fragmented society which threatens the very existence of Manipur as a geo-political entity, one can not help but ask, what is the significance of this commemoration?

To remember and celebrate the spirit that was behind the defence of Manipur seems to be an obvious answer. But then, such remembrance/celebration makes sense only insofar as one can relate that spirit to contemporary life.

Manipur: Historicity of the Political

On the hindsight, the confrontation of 1891 seemed inevitable. After all, Manipur was to be caught between two empires that came up on its eastern and western flanks around the mid-eighteenth century - the British Indian Empire that grew as a politico-military power after the Battle of Plassey (1757) in South Asia and the emergence of the Burmese Empire under the Alaungpaya Dynasty (1752-1885) in South East Asia. In the power struggle between these two empires Manipur became an ally of the British, the foundation of which was laid in the treaty signed between "Manipur" and British East India Company (located at Chittagong) on 14th September, 1762.

After having been an active ally of the British in the latter's wars with the Burmese (such as First, Second, and Third Anglo-Burmese Wars, 1823-26, 1852-53, 1885-1886), Manipur lost its "strategic" interest to the British after Burma was annexed by the British Indian Empire following the Third Anglo-Burmese War (1885-1886). And after having consolidated its hold on the region, the British started actively interfering in the domestic affairs of the State which ultimately led to the 1891 confrontation.

It was a war that brought Manipur as a "Princely State" (classified as State with an "Eleven Gun Salute") under the British Indian Empire, which was subsequently "taken over" by the post-colonial Indian State on 15 October, 1949 as a "Chief Commissioner Province". As it stands today, that is the legacy that Indian Constitution acknowledges as it defines "Manipur" as one of the constituent States of India in its First Schedule as a "territory" which was "administered as if it were a Chief Commissioner Province before the commencement of this Constitution".

Incidentally, the "take over" of Manipur (as the official document on the "integration" of "princely States" calls it) was marked by an unceremonious act of dissolving a democratically elected Assembly in Manipur and the beginning of a direct bureaucratic rule of the State by New Delhi for more than two decades. This ironical beginning of the post-colonial life of the State has lots to do with the armed insurgency in the State.

However, strange as it might seem, while the establishment has readily acknowledged a historical moment like the Battle of Khongjom, its contingent facts of history, of which the armed insurgency has been a critical part/manifestation, that have critical bearings on our contemporary life have been rarely acknowledged or accordingly addressed.

Instead, the approach has been largely of treating the phenomenon as a "law and order" issue, which by definition makes it a "criminal" one. Worst, such an approach has been done through a surreptitious deployment of military power, that too with its war paradigm, as an instrument of maintaining law and order. The consequences of such systemic responses are there for all to see: the erosion of civil and judicial authorities and that of the institution of police as a crucial aspect of law and order administrative mechanism through its "militarization". Symptoms of such consequences have appeared too often and yet rather than recognizing those as inherent systemic flaws, those have been termed as "aberrations"! Subsequently, the systemic rot gets deepen and the language of intimidation and violence has come to be the mainstay of the polity and society.

On the other hand, the politically correct sounding phrases like "revolution" and "liberation" have increasingly become alibi to perpetuate atrocious criminal acts and violence against the general population. However "justifications" that one might get to hear, which are often indistinguishable from those who justify their inhuman acts under AFSPA, the fact remains that the people are fed-up with killing of people all in the name of the people, and not without reasons, the people also have enough reasons to suspect those "justifications".

Consequently, Manipur is dying as a civilized society and geo-political entity; for such an entity can never survive without functioning normative and institutional mechanisms. This is the present challenge of defending Manipur that we must concentrate as we remember the gallant heroes who died in defence of the land and people's freedom and dignity.

But what does this new challenge entails? First and foremost, it entails an informed and honest acknowledgement of the core issue that has critical bearing on the present state of affairs in Manipur: a historically rooted political issue manifested as armed insurgency.

Indeed, even when one says, the "insurgents" are only "interested in money", one must simultaneously ask as to whether one agrees with the political agenda that the insurgents are purportedly striving (if they were not to be "only after money").

Similarly, beyond the question of whether "sovereignty" for Manipur is "practical" or "possible"- as the Chief Minister reportedly said at Khongjom Day function the other day, "in the face of India becoming the third super power in the world, the demand for sovereignty of Manipur by various insurgent groups of the State has become far beyond possibility" - one must ask as to whether their demand has a historical and political reason and in principle does the demand have a political meaning for Manipur and her people.

It must go without saying that such clarity will enable us to embark upon a journey that reverses the decadence by ensuring the legitimacy of civilized normative and institutional mechanisms in our life. And on the other hand, this must also enable us to give certain sense of clarity and legitimacy to issues that we must legitimately own up by separating the grain from the chaff.

Defending Manipur: The Battle Within

Manipur is dying, largely in its own hands, for the people are suffering from a palpable slavish character (nurtured by a dependent political-economy) and a pathological sense of resignation (yararoi/oiraroi attitude). While their visions have often been shortsighted/twisted, a sense of "flight" than "fight" marks their motivation. And there have been many "episodes", some even christened as "people's uprising", which have led to ironical denouement without shaping a tangible result or transformations in Manipur's recent "history".

Indeed, as some say, failing to learn from history ensure its repetition. Commemorating the Battle of Khongjom (and the Anglo-Manipuri War, 1891) must also be an occasion to reflect and learn lessons from history. Indeed, there are lessons to be learnt from that seemingly inevitable confrontation. Take for instance, the manner in which the five British officials were killed, irrespective of their crime, which had shaped the trajectory of not only the War but also the future of the State: Was it a result of a well-deliberated and thought out action or was it one that was executed in a hurry amidst a milieu of unrest and excitation?

Let the commemoration of the Battle of Khongjom not be a hollow and escapist indulgence but a moment to come to terms with the challenges of defending a dying Manipur and rejuvenate the effort to defend the land and its people for a peaceful, dignified, prosperous and healthy life.

And it must go without saying that the War to defend Manipur begins from a battle from within each one of us.


* A Bimol Akoijam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 30, 2011.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Kanglei Thokpa @ Sagol Kangjei : Gallery
  • Violence in Manipur 2023-2024 : Timeline
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2024 #3: Gallery
  • Meitei Professors' Invention granted Patent
  • Historic Premiere: 'Chilli Chicken' at Manipur
  • Effective Unified Command for Resolution
  • Music & Quiz: Drug Abuse amongst youth
  • Visionless and headless DMU
  • When is the right time & situation for PM visit
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #37: Download
  • Inspirations from Scientists of Manipur: Book
  • Manipur crisis: Treat the disease, not symptom
  • 133rd Durand Cup Trophies Flags Off
  • NEET droppers vs freshers
  • Death : Only future to look at ?
  • Mental health of displaced people
  • Aftermath of Imphal Flooding #1 : Gallery
  • When was the last time we smiled ?
  • Appeal to Stop Unbearable Monetary Demand
  • 'Oppenheimer' links with Supreme Science
  • 'Preventing from holding a press conference'
  • Travel tips during Monsoon
  • Look at it via ground reality
  • Making the 'Balak Buddhi' wiser
  • Kang Chingba @Govindajee #1 : Gallery
  • Release Ebo Mili & Stop large dams in ArP
  • Rainforests are the lungs of Earth
  • Education suffering from political interference
  • Inflated bill main vote plank, law dont cut graft
  • From the Lok Sabha to Manipur
  • Third visit of Rahul
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #9
  • International Day of Yoga #1 : Gallery
  • Lord Jagannatha's processional chariot fest
  • World Zoonoses Day 2024
  • PM 'bola' in Parliament
  • Acknowledging the stand of UNC
  • Embracing tree plantation as a new trend
  • 17th N Tombi Equestrian C'ships #2 : Gallery
  • The spirit & the creed of the Olympics
  • Kang Chingba (Rath Yatra) : Book
  • 'Economic blockade: Rumors baseless'
  • The Power of Poppy - 38 :: Poem
  • Balancing children's academic performance
  • Imphal flooded (again) [Jul 3] #2 : Gallery
  • Covid, Ngari, Yu and Loktak
  • Rural people struggling with network problem
  • English certificate courses for BA student
  • 6th July is International Day of Cooperatives
  • Clogging the waterways with plastics
  • Diverting public attention from core issues
  • Manipur Kanba Khongchat #2 : Gallery
  • Gateway of Assam
  • Integrating GIS & EWS for flood management
  • The Dopamine overdose
  • Free workshop on civil service exams
  • Bucket of cold water after a hot shower
  • Breaking the silence
  • Imphal flooded (again) [Jul 3] #1 : Gallery
  • Embracing 'Sharra - Kashar-ot'
  • Drug abuse & illicit trafficking in Manipur
  • Nudity being served to increase followers
  • Record high temperature
  • Bangladesh FM Hasan Mahmud's Riyadh visit
  • Indigenous call for NRC
  • Come home to the electorates
  • Meiteis must unite for survival
  • Flood advisories issued
  • State & District Control Rooms
  • Green Hydrogen for a clean environment
  • Need for an Emergency
  • Monsoons beauty
  • Calling out the indifference of Delhi
  • Questioning the silence with a roar
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #8
  • Problem & prospect of floriculture in Manipur
  • WomenLeaders India Fellowship 2024-25
  • Naga Peace Talks and Narasimha Rao
  • Arunachal Minister visits Oil Palm @Godavari
  • Clear cut stand from the Nagas
  • Crisis resolution in 100-day plan ?
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #2 : Gallery
  • Manipur: A battleground of imperial geopolitics
  • Wangkhem Suresh @ Higher Defence Course
  • Shoppers Stop's 1st Store in Dimapur
  • Stop razing rail station, divert 25k Cr to Signal
  • Has Imphal completely lost the plot ?
  • Time to take responsibility
  • Tarpon chaklen katpa @ Andro #3 : Gallery
  • July Calendar for Year 2024 : Tools
  • Letter to Prime Minister of India
  • International Day of Parliamentarism
  • Skill Development Course at Lumshnong
  • The Power of Poppy - 37 :: Poem
  • Radio E-pao: Manipuri Film OST (130+ song)
  • Manipur Kanba Khongchat #1 : Gallery
  • Multiple Openings @ JCRE Solutions
  • Our mass addiction to predicting future
  • Bonsai - A play with another aspect : Review
  • Timely diagnosis to stop misuse of medicines
  • Impactful tool- Instagram marketing strategy
  • Essence of the June 28 rally
  • Birds of the same feather
  • Scientist of Manipur: Satyendra Thoudam
  • Education and the fate of Manipur
  • Centre not mind talking to Kitovi or Alezo
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Nambol
  • Why Bangladesh urge military diplomacy
  • MoU : Assam Don Bosco Univ with Cambridge
  • Understanding beyond the coup
  • Donning the role of LoP
  • Rally @ Jiribam [June 26] : Gallery
  • Umananda Island- World smallest river island
  • Breaking the impasse
  • Fantasies of a sinister childhood
  • Program: developing women entrepreneurship
  • Microlearning is impacting talent acquisition
  • Looking for the way forward
  • The message
  • Moirangthem Robi - Mr Universe India 2022
  • Parthenium Menace in Indo-Myanmar : Book
  • Respect & recognise domestic worker
  • "ST status for Meetei" at Hiyanglam
  • One test not for India
  • Include tomatoes in your skincare routine
  • Raising ST call a notch or two higher
  • United in grief, but...
  • Panthoibi Phijol Hongba @Mandalay : Gallery
  • Open Letter to Hon'ble CM of Manipur
  • Slavery in the machine world
  • 'Either Rio regime delivers or it fails'
  • No need for NEET or NET
  • Walkathon to promote health at Guwahati
  • Paradox of arming & disarming citizens
  • Meaningless statements
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #7
  • You are king of web, then slave
  • A Groundbreaking HIV Prevention Option
  • Board of Studies at Assam Don Bosco
  • Public Services as a career choice
  • Manipur violence and state
  • Last minute cancellation
  • Descent of Radha-Krishna #36: Download
  • Saraighat Bridge - An Expedition
  • Meeting with MP Dr Bimol Akoijam
  • Manipur: 11 medal (5 gold) @ Natl Taekwondo
  • Socialization and the Two "Meads"
  • The Power of Poppy - 36 :: Poem
  • Scientist of Manipur: Raghumani Ningthoujam
  • Chilli Chicken Delivers a Flavorful Punch
  • International Day of Yoga 2024
  • Antimicrobial Resistance: Top 10 health threat
  • Indo-Naga Talks (From 2012) :: Timeline
  • Taste vs Health
  • Fiasco of UGC-NET, NEET 2024
  • From NEET to NET: It's time to fix NTA
  • Great June Uprising @Kekrupat #1 : Gallery
  • Ema Panthoibi Phijol Hongba at Mandalay
  • Proposed Palm Plantation behind Jiri violence?
  • 'Why Impose War on Us'
  • Why workers most affected by scorching heat?
  • Coup of 2021 not the only push factor
  • Last chance not to fall from grace
  • Ibudhou Cheng Hongba #1 : Gallery
  • Kind attention 'Your Lordship' CJ of India
  • 'Opposition-less Govt in Nagaland is rhetoric'
  • Xorai - Assam's cultural symbol
  • Natural ways to lighten dark underarms
  • Is Delhi doing the right thing ?
  • Set the priorities right
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #3 : Gallery
  • Modi's arduous journey & fate of Naga peace
  • Autism: Why fit in, when you can stand out?
  • Bloodstained Masquerade :: Poem
  • Dharamvir Singh: Forgotten hero of TV
  • What is keeping the clash going on ?
  • Warning of a coming politico-military storm
  • Birth Centenary of Jananeta Irabat, 1996 : #6
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Timeline
  • The Great June 18 Uprising : Gallery
  • Are we on track to end AIDS by 2030 ?
  • 3 writers from Manipur for Sahitya Akademi
  • Manipur's traffic, parking: A big nuisance
  • Career in elderly care
  • Keeping the folks under a state of confusion
  • Nothing neat about NEET
  • Aid to relief camps @ Jiribam : Gallery
  • Gastronomy tourism in Manipur : Gallery
  • Eid-ul-Adha: Embracing sacrifice
  • Bike Rally - Sekmai to Kangla : Gallery
  • Tarpon chaklen katpa @ Andro #2 : Gallery
  • 2nd Annual Art Exhibition #1 : Gallery
  • Education Fair @Imphal #2 : Gallery
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #2 : Gallery
  • Scientist of Manipur: Laishram Shanta
  • Bimol Akoijam (Cong) wins Inner PC : Gallery
  • 'Ishanou' Selection @ Cannes #2: Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #3 : Gallery
  • Ima Keithel flood- May 30 #1 : Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #2 : Gallery
  • Imphal valley districts flooded #1 : Gallery
  • Licypriya meets Italy PM & Pope Francis
  • HSLC (Class X) 2024 : Full Result
  • HSLC 2024 : Important Info & Grading System
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Private Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Aided Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Pass % : Govt Schools
  • HSLC 2024 : Statistical Abstract
  • HSLC 2024 : Comparative Statement
  • Scientist of Manipur: Jayanta Manoharmayum
  • Scientist of Manipur: Amom Ruhikanta
  • Preserving Thang-Ta :: Rare Photos
  • Malemnganbi Laishram : Science Topper
  • Thokchom Sheityajit : Arts Topper
  • Aiena Naorem : Commerce Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Science Topper
  • HSE 2024 : Subject Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : District Pass Percentage
  • HSE 2024 : Candidates with Highest Marks
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Science Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Arts Full Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024: Commerce Result
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Arts Topper
  • Hr Secondary Exam 2024 : Commerce Topper
  • Nupi Landa Thaunaphabishing : Full Book
  • A ferocious hailstorm @Imphal : Gallery
  • Scientists of Manipur : Ngangkham Nimai
  • GHOST of PEACE :: Download Booklet
  • List of Kings of Manipur: 33 - 1984 AD