Manipur needs another Tikendrajit

Seram Neken *

 A portrait of Bir Tikendrajit  at Hicham Yaicham Pat, Moirangkhom, Imphal on 13 August 2021
A portrait of Bir Tikendrajit at Hicham Yaicham Pat, Moirangkhom, Imphal on 13 August 2021 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

During pre-historic times, even in early historical periods, infighting among the small groups inhabiting in a territory was very common in various parts 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 becomes history. The process of construction of nations and their march towards development characterize the present 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 ethnicities.

The Meiteis have been playing the parental role in the process of assimilation and construction of a Manipuri nation. History reveals that Meitei kings took the role of a saviour of small groups from foreign invasions, and in turn the small groups had mutual trust and understanding with the then Meitei kingships.

During the hectic period of British hegemony in India, 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 is a red-letter day for the Manipuris residing at the extreme north eastern border of India. On this very day, during the onset of dusk, the gallant freedom fighters namely Bir Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged to death 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 British subjugation, had taught a lesson to the posterity that ‘responsibility to save the motherland lies only on us’, and ‘foreign intervention in the affairs of the nation must be prevented at all cost’.

In the aftermath of the 1891 Anglo-Manipur war that led to the occupation of Manipur by the British, Maharaja Kullachandra along with his two brothers and twelve noblemen were 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 Manipur had already been under their suzerainty well before the war. History is a lesson to us all today that frequent infightings and antagonisms within ourselves give ample room for the alien power to intervene 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 regime. 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 territories. On the other, the Manipuri princes frequently fought among themselves for grabbing power. Such a coincidence resulted to Manipur becoming a colony of British India.

Patriotism, the trait possessed by the Manipuri heroes such as Bir Tikendrajit, Thangal General, Paona Brajabasi and a host of other fighters, was so immense that they never retreated in the face of the British forces at no point.

The writer may quote the lines from what Paona Brajabashi 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 so-called political leaders. Many of the responsible political leaders who are supposed to represent the wishes of the people at this crucial hour, have been remaining unresponsive to the challenges and threats to the integrity of Manipur.

When Kuki MLAs openly demand separate administration from Manipur state, our political leaders in the ruling party have remained awaiting orders from the central leadership. No MLA from the ruling party has demanded actions against such Kuki MLAs.

No BJP MLA has proposed expulsion of two defiant Kuki ministers from the council of ministers for their disloyalty to the government. No BJP cadre has ever suggested suspension of rebellious MLAs from party membership. Our political leaders never seemed reacted from their hearts when the most barbaric murders and rapes occurred on the Meitei women and youths.

Amid the untold anguishes of the people due to inactiveness of the political leaders, it is really shame for most of our political leaders to come out and participate in Patriots’ Day observances.

This writer is not very sure that the floral tributes paid by the so-called VIPs and VVIPs would have been received by the heroic forefathers. The souls from the heavens would definitely be crying in the sight of the white-kurta attired actors who were never touched by the woes of their peoples.

Now, Manipur needs representatives who can represent the sentiments of the people, rather than being loyal armies to the so-called central leaderships. This generation needs Tikendrajits who can defy orders that be, only to serve the wishes of their people. This generation needs Thangal Generals, who can sacrifice their lives for the cause of the nation.

* Seram Neken wrote this article for
The writer is Senior Columnist available at nekenseram(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on 17 August 2023.

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