Political and Economic Ramifications of Manipur Merger with India in 1949

Robi Ningthoujam *

Manipur is a landlocked state and shares its borders with the Indian states of Nagaland to its North, Assam to its West and Mizoram to its South. Towards the East and Southeast of Manipur is its international neighbour Myanmar, with which Manipur shares a 352 km long international border.

The history of Manipur(Kangleipak in ancient times) is reflected by archaeological research, mythology and written history. Manipur became a princely state under British rule in 1891, the last of the independent states to be incorporated into British India.World War II came to Manipur with the bombing of Imphal, the capital of Manipur by the Japanese air force.

The first bombing was on 10 May 1942, causing many civilian casualties. Another air raid occurred on 16 May 1942.A major thrust by the Empire of Japan in 1944 was stopped at Imphal by British and Indian forces. This marked the furthest westward expansion of the Empire.

The British left Manipur in 14 August 1947 one day before Indian independence. Manipur became an independent country till 15 October 1949 when it was merged into India following the Shillong Merger Agreement. On 21st September 1949 Manipur was merged with the Indian Union. It was once an independent princely state, which was taken over by the British in 1891.

Reacting to changes in the world around him, as well as developments in other princely states in the Indian subcontinent, Bodhchandra Singh set up a committee to draft a constitution for a new government in Manipur. This task was completed in 1947 and in June 1948 the first election was held in Manipur.

M.K. Priyobarta was elected the first Chief Minister of Manipur and a State Assembly was formed. Meanwhile the Maharaja was asked to meet with representatives of the Indian Government in Shillong and after a few days of negotiations signed an instrument of accession with India on 21 September 1949.

Agreement made this twenty first day of September, 1949 between the Governor General of India and his Highness, the Maharajah of Manipur and agreed on nine articles. The merger of Manipur and its aftermath gave a strong sense of Great Betrayal in the collective mind of those who wanted to merger Manipur with India. There were many political parties in late 1940‘s .

A section of political parties wanted Manipur to merger after the formation Purvachal consisting of Manipur Chachar District of Assam and Tripura. Another section of political parties wanted to merge Manipur as a state in India. Socialist Party shouted to merge Manipur as a District in Assam. The members of all the political parties thought merger of Manipur would bring a new social and political life under the Democratic Republic of India.

On the other hand, there was a section of population who did not want to merger Manipur. Their dream was to emancipate Manipur from colonial and feudal system in order to build a new Manipur. These days were days of interaction and counter-reaction of various ideas – ranging from liberal democracy to communism. Manipur is witnessing two stream of political ac tions make Manipur bright in Indian framework and a New Manipur lies outside India.

The first stream took the course of non-violent movement for statehood, establishment of university, medical college, inclusion of Manipuri language in the 8 Schedule to Indian Constitution etc. The second stream gained momentum from AntiMerger agitation to full armed struggled to free Manipur from colonial yoke. In between two great streams of political action, there were agitations against Repeal of AFSPA etc and protection of indigenous People of Manipur.

The agreement was signed in 1949 by King of Manipur and representatives of Indian Union. Then the king was constitutional Head the Agreement was never discussed in the Assembly of Manipur. Many legal and political examinations are still going on in the collective mind. In an ethnically sensitive society, problems of ethnic tensions may develop intentionally or unintentionally.

Conflict of interests often becomes inevitable when different people who live next to each other enjoy the freedom to pursue their own preferences, but forget to consider and respect the position of others. Conflicts can develop between different ethnic groups, or even within the same group of people and it may result in violence. At the same time, it seems clear that all ethnic conflicts do not necessarily lead to violence.

Relations between the Kukis and Nagas of Manipur were non-violent to begin with, but escalated into violence during the 1990s, more precisely 1992–1997, when these two ethnic groups got embroiled in violent conflicts resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives, destruction of hundreds of villages and displacement of thousands of people. The conflict, fanned by armed groups, caused collateral damage to both communities. Although the physical violence formally ended in 1997, relations between the two groups remain tense (Unnithan and Deka, 2012).

To many, the entire process of becoming Indian was a game plan of Indian Republic. However, one can say, merger Agreement is still a living debate in the collective mind. Manipur has primarily an agrarian economy, with significant hydroelectric power generation potential. It is connected to other areas by daily flights through Imphal airport, the second largest in northeastern India. Manipur is home to many sports and the origin of Manipuri dance, and is credited with introducing polo to Europeans.

The Economy in the state of Manipur depends mainly on the agricultural sector for it is the biggest livelihood source for the rural people. The various kinds of crops grown in Manipur are rice, maize, pulses, and wheat. The cultivation in the state is done using the Jhumming and terraced cultivation methods. Various kinds of fruits and vegetables such as pine- apple, orange, mangoes, lemons, carrot, ladies finger, cabbage, and pea are also grown in Manipur.

The agricultural sector contributes a great deal of revenue to the Economy in Manipur. The Economy of the state of Manipur also gets its revenue from the sector of forests products as the state has a huge forest cover. Various kinds of forest products are manufactured and sold all over the country and even exported to foreign countries. This has given a major boost to Manipur Economy.

The Economy in the state of Manipur also depends to a certain extend on the industrial sector. Although this sector is not that well developed, the state government is making efforts to make the state more industrialized. In Manipur small industrial units has been established more than 7700 in number. Also industries related to cement, drugs and pharmaceuticals, plastic, and steel has been set up in Manipur. This has contributed to the growth of the Economy of Manipur.

Afflicted with multiple insurgencies for the past 46 years, Manipur remains the most violent State in India’s troubled Northeast, with all its Sixteen Districts marred by varying degrees of extremist activities. The civil administration has ceased to deliver even rudimentary services of governance to its 2.3 million population across the State’s 22,327 square kilometers.

Addressing the Manipur Legislative Assembly on January 13, 2010, State Governor Gurbachan Jagat noted that the problem of insurgency had severely hampered the development and growth of the State. This developmental sabotage is starkly exemplified by the sustained disruption of renovation work in the Loktak Lake area, the largest fresh-water lake in the Northeast region, due to insurgent attacks.

The Government of India hereby guarantees either the continuance in service of the permanent members of the Public Services of Manipur on conditions which will be not less advantageous than those on which they were serving before the date on which the administration of Manipur is made over to the Government of India or the payment of reasonable compensation.

The Government of India further guarantees the continuance of pensions and leave salaries sanctioned by the Maharajah to servants of the State who have retired or proceeded on leave preparatory to retirement, before the date on which the Administration of Manipur is made over to the Government of India.

The Government of India shall also undertake to make suitable provisions for the employment of Manipuris in the various branches of Public Services, and in every way encourage Manipuris to join them. They also undertake to preserve various laws, customs and conventions prevailing in the State pertaining to the social, economic and religious life of the people.

The People of Manipur feel and think that India has treating Manipur as the former‘s colony as if India is the conqured in the continuing process of the Indians Subjugating and exploiting the Manipuris and in the ceaseless struggle of the latter to assert a right of selfdetermination.

It is for the people of Manipur to decide wether they will revolt against the Indian colonial rule as a political community struggling to attain or retrieve its lost separate independent statehood by reasserting their right to self-determination.

(This write up is selected for consolation prize in the competition organised by Imphal Times)

* Robi Ningthoujam wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was webcasted on November 11 2020.

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