Subscribe

The Responsible Indians

A reconsideration of the great Indian personalities with reference to the Manipur Merger Agreement 1949 and the successful expansionist world view of the Indian Hindus


Introduction

Manipur became independent on the midnight of 15 August 1947 with the lapse of British Crown’s suzerainty. Two years later, on 15 October 1949, Manipur was merged into the Union of India. So far so good, but the merger was more a scam than an agreement. The then king had to sign the agreement while he was kept under house arrest in Shillong. Historical records show that the Jat Regiment was posted around the residence (the Redlands) where the king and his aides were putting up. 

To put it bluntly, any forced agreement is illegal and there are enough reasons to prove that the Manipur Merger Agreement is null and void. In this context the protest against Indian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is meaningless but that’s another story.

The Manipuri Story

Recently, an Imphal-based journalist made a fitting comparison of the social condition rendered by the AFSPA. He quipped that this Indian colonial legacy is like a man who lives in his wife’s house and torture his wife’s in-laws. The joke might be lost in translation so just let it be. This reminds of an episode, rather a blot in the history of Manipur. When King Bodhachandra signed the controversial Merger Agreement on 15 October 1949 it was nothing less than a housekeeper, or the aforementioned king, selling off the house without the master’s permission! There was already a Constitution, an elected government and a Constituent Assembly and we can see it elaborately here.      

Many people in the state have always been holding a grudge that India had annexed Manipur by forcing Bodhachandra to sign the agreement under duress in Shillong. Besides it is a myth that the king had already signed the Instrument of Accession* and the Standstill Agreement* with the Union of India on 11 July 1947—all voluntarily and motivated by selfish motives so the final merger was just a paperwork. But these agreements were a direct consequence of the British Raj’s departure and had no bearing on the newly independent states in the south and western-southeast Asia.

To put it briefly, it was just formality from the processes regarding the transfer of power and had nothing to do with the sovereignty and the right to self-determination. Master Mountbatten, the last British Indian viceroy put it in record that the sovereignty will not be affected by the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement; albeit it was him who inspired the iron men and children-lovers of the ‘newly formed’ India.     

* The Instrument of Accession was a legal document that was introduced by the Government of India Act 1935 and used in 1947 ‘to enable each of the rulers of the princely states under British paramountcy to join one of the new dominions of India or Pakistan created by the Partition of British India’

According to the Standstill Agreement, for mutual benefit and advantage, the ‘existing agreements and administrative arrangements in the matters of common concern should continue for the time being, between the dominion of India or any part thereof and the Indian States’.

To put it in another words, the confusion regarding the concept of sovereignty was never explained in the days of British paramountcy. There are enough records to show that the British administrators had never included the princely and native states in the protectorates as evident from the concept of sanad or deeds as in the case of Manipur so there will always be multiple interpretations of the European colonial rule in this part of the world. All it cared was the loyalty of the people, a legacy which the Indian neo-colonialists inherited but has been suffering from an apprehension about its right from the days of Nehrus and Patels.

On the other hand, historically, the topic of inclusion of Manipur into the dominion of British India can go back as far as 1826 during the days of the Treaty of Yandaboo albeit there will be contestations to this statement. The politics has changed so much in the last few centuries. Similarly the process of Indianisation had started with the cultural ambush of Hinduism in the 18th century..

Read the Article III of the Manipur Merger Agreement, 1949.

His highness the Maharajah shall with effect from the said day be entitled to receive for his lifetime from the revenue of the State annually for his Privy Purse the sum of rupees three lakhs free of all taxes. ...The Government of India undertake that the said sum of rupees three lakhs shall be paid to His Highness the Maharajah in four equal instalments in advances at the beginning of each quarter from the State treasury or at such other treasury as may be specified by the Government of India.


Truth be told, the king of Manipur and his aides were kept under house arrest at the time of signing the agreement. Besides, the agreement is illegal not on the account of the king’s forced or voluntary signature but the very method used by India to subjugate another sovereign state. Also, as we can see from the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 [refer to section 9b], the king was a just a constitutional head just like how it is with the president of present-day India.

We can imagine the gravity of this misrepresentation from the fact that Manipur had a state durbar, which controlled the executive, legislative and judicial authority even in the erstwhile kingdom during the British rule. The king was already just a rubber stamp. This might be contested because the ‘real’ authority was in the hand of a British political agent but still, we can sense an idea about the authority of the king. Finally, the future ‘superpower’ called India had flouted all the norms and standards of international laws by the patriots and nationalists in their great service of national political integration. If these were not enough, our king also was a responsible fat man, just like the responsible Indians.   

The Story of Responsible Indians

In a land of a billion people it will be a Hanuman task to find a few responsible people who know their tasks well. But we can focus on a specific area: in today’s context, those people, read mainland Indians who we can directly connect to their role in the annexation of the erstwhile kingdom called Manipur that was a former 11-gun salute state—into the Union of India.  

Going back into history, when India attained independence, there were two types of territories: one, which was directly under the British Empire and the other which the Crown had suzerainty. It is here where the first loyal nationalists came into the picture. They also got a little help from the Government of India Act and the institution of the Chamber of Princes and others in the sense that a land like Manipur was a part of the British India. Briefly, then, Jawaharlal Nehru became the new ‘king’ and he got the best assistants in Vallabhai Patel and VP Mennon.

Let’s see further.

•    Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964), former prime minister, minister of external affairs, finance, defence
•    Vallabhai Patel (1875–1950), former deputy prime minister and Mminister of home affairs, barrister
•    VP Menon (1893–1965), bureaucrat, constitutional expert, former political advisor of Lord Louis Mountbatten
•    Nari Rustomji (1919– ), bureaucrat, broker
•    Himmat Singh, chief commissioner/a fugitive 
•    Sri Prakasa, governor of Assam
•    Sridas Gupta, superintendent of police, Shillong

Chachajaan needs no introduction. In The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917–1947, Ian Copland wrote that Jawaharlal Nehru was convinced, during the initial days of Indian nation-building process that the then remaining princely states cannot dare challenge the military might of the new India. At the political level, with the Indian National Congress’s endorsement, he further said that these princely states were not sovereign. For decades to come in Manipur, Nehru will always be remembered as the generous donor, who gifted the Kabaw valley to Burma in 1953–54 to buy peace. Apparently as we can see, this was a run-up to the height of the Indian interference, which is known in the mainland as the political integration of India. He will be also remembered for his arrogance towards the Oriental people, which has been as well known to be a factor that forced him to wage war against the Chinese yet lose it in the most pathetic ways.

Well, the paramountcy might have lapsed but everybody needs to become a part of either India or Pakistan—at least that was the thinking of the then Indian nationalists. Incidentally, the Muslim League, then headed by MA Jinnah, took a position that any princely state has the right to remain independent. The British, just before departure in 1947, held the same view regarding princely states, excluding an undecided thought of a pro-Indian, Louis Mountbatten from whom many of the post-independent India’s political leaders learnt many lessons of colonialism.

So, on paper, Vallabhbhai Patel and VP Menon had successfully persuaded the princely states to join India. But even after more than six decades, the problems arising from contestations of sovereignty linger on—as conspicuous from the cases of Manipur and Kashmir—with no possible solution in sight. It is worthwhile to mention that India has even blissfully forgotten the contribution of Menon in making India. Long ago before the explosion of the sovereignty crises, the Indian nationalists had a preconception that such independence will be against the historical narrative of India, for reasons best known to them. The British and the Mughals were the original people who created the very idea of India and they would have known the rationale better.

Meanwhile, there is nothing similarity with Manipur that India shares with, except those arising from coercive Sanskritisation, a trace of religion and the illegitimate political conversion. This point is important when we see the definition of a nation. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as ‘a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular state or territory’. See the keyword, ‘common’. Either this definition is not inclusive or Indian nationalists have also effectively redefined the meaning of a nation from those given by the Oxford folks..

In Manipur, Vallabhbhai Patel is popular for his ‘a-Brigadier-in-Shillong’ statement more than the patriotic epitaphs he enjoys in mainland India. His concept of Swaraj is as futile and smelly as cow dung though it might be useful in the world of green energy and right-wing Indian nationalists. Sri Prakasa and Nari Rustomji (see below) had went to meet the man of metal who was then on his deathbed and Patel had replied whether there was no brigadier in Shillong when Sri Prakasa expressed that the Manipuri king would be reluctant to sign the Indian proposal of great nation-building. And that laid the firm foundation of militarisation in the forthcoming decades which have almost reached its climax today.

Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, from JNU, wrote the obituary for Vallabhai Patel in one of his articles in India Resists:

Just the legacy continues till date, one wonders whether celebrating the legacy of the ‘Iron Man’, the ‘unification’ of ‘India’ also means celebrating the militarism and subversion of democratic ethos that continue to haunt sections of the population, and celebrating AFSPA and its violences and twisted ideas and lies as well as incarceration of Sharmila etc?

Next, Vallabhbhai Patel was in a bromance with VP Menon. Legend has it that Patel, after becoming the minister of home affairs he was in awe of Menon’s mastery in politics and diplomacy so much so that he never questioned any decision made by Menon.

Long before the Christian missionaries from the ‘God’s own country’ came to Manipur, a Keralite had already made a landing ground in this faraway hinterland. Representing the Government of India, Menon was one of the signatories of the Manipur Merger Agreement 1949. It’s a fact that he will be remembered for his country; but he will be also equally remembered for his role in finalising an illegal agreement and the onslaught on a sovereign democratic state in the name of nationalism. Everybody knows that the Indian response to this vilification of a dead person, and above all, the annexation will be against these views—just like army-loving mainland Indians would support the imposition of the AFSPA.

To clear these doubts, in the Problem of 1949 Annexation of Manipur, Professor Naorem Sanajaoba put it succinctly:

There are many agreed documents on rules governing the treaty in the world. Either in one reason or another, it would be hard to find the rationality that a just treaty had been signed. In Oppenheim’s word, such cases are subjugation. VP Menon ...a signatory ...in that illegal treaty himself proclaimed that the case of Manipur was that of taking over. He writes: ‘In view of its position as a border state and its undeveloped character, it was decided to take over Manipur as a Chief Commissioner’s Province’.

It is said that the king of Manipur wanted to go back home and consult with the people. But apparently he was too weak to resist and was made even weaker as the Indian agreement party in Shillong who were directly under the strict and urgent command of New Delhi to complete the merger asap. Besides, in less than four or five months, India was to be declared a republic in January and hence the rush. That’s where Nari Rustomji, the first chief secretary of Meghalaya, came into the big picture. As the head clerk of the government, he literally put the merger agreement documents down the throat of the king.     

His disciples have a lot of bouquets for him, because of his Samaritan nature but it was his grasp of geopolitics that has attracted brick for him. Particularly, it has become more evident when it has become an open secret that this ‘imperilled frontiers’—in his own words or the Northeast, in contemporary history of India— has become a region of great geopolitical and strategic significance while the natives have been reduced to numbers or collaterals as the situation demands. Nevertheless, a great bureaucrat like Rustomji was one of the pioneers who replaced the English officers in the system of governance and administration by generations of GK-mastered bureaucrats and it has been going ‘well’ till today while we are a witness to the rot and the case of Manipur as a completely failed state.     

When Sri Prakasa was the governor of Assam, Rustomji was by default the ‘guy’ for India with his expertise in the western part of the Northeast. Taking a break, let’s consider the fact again. When an agreement was made after breaking every rule in the book, how would the contributions of individuals with neo-colonial mindsets howsoever grand or legendary count? It becomes even starker if we consider about the present mayhem and decadence we have been witnessing in our society.   

As we noted earlier, New Delhi was on a do-or-die mode as the memorable day of republic was approaching and the first meeting between the representatives of Indian government and the king of Manipur was as much unsuccessful as the chance to retain the sovereignty of the erstwhile kingdom. That was on 18 September 1949 and the next day, it is said the king had openly shown his reluctance to sign the agreement and expressed he wanted to go back to Manipur. The joke goes that King Bodhachandra had consented to sign the papers after he was taken for a joyride in an Amby and then in a helicopter. Meanwhile, if we go by historical records, India was ready with its newly formed Constitution on 26 December 1949 and it was officially declared a republic on 26 January 1950.

However, the truth was that another foot soldier, Sridas Gupta—who was then the superintendent of police, the Criminal Investigation Department branch, at Shillong—intimated the king that India can get someone, who it can make a king and importantly who would be willing to sign the agreement. And then, the paunchy Bodhachandra almost got ready and gave birth to a generation of power-hungry imbeciles called the Members of Legislative Assembly in today’s politics. On the other hand, people who knew this Gupta guy knew that he was an opportunist who would even sell his spouse and children like the Manipur MLAs would do to get a financial reward.

Then it is noteworthy to mention that King Bodhachandra had a fatherly relationship with Sri Prakasa, with the former calling the latter as ‘Baba’. It is no surprise then that the governor had already elected one Major General Rawal Amar Singh as the Dewan of Manipur. The rest, as we knew, is history as the agreement was signed on 21 September 1949 and officially became a part of the union on 15 October. Nevertheless, the Manipuris will never forget that the king was blackmailed by the responsible Indians right from the signing of the Instrument of Accession and the days of India becoming a colonialist.

If we can see the decadence is still a work-in-progress in this 21st century then it’s no wonder that as soon as India annexed Manipur, Himmat Singh was the chief commissioner, whose first job was to abolish the permit system on ‘foreigners’ in this endangered land of multiple ethnic people. History is apparently an enlightening subject: just see the brouhaha over the Inner Line Permit System in the valley of Manipur today. A chief commissioner was responsible for the fate of a kingdom?—this happens only in a colonised world.     

If we go by the book, everything has been in the grey areas. Today, India claims itself as the largest democracy, a supporter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights while all of these remain only on papers. Manipuri natives call this act as a ‘mʌyáng tát’. No wonder people are whining that the days were better during the British Raj and significantly, these reasons are behind the birth of armed movements but apparently India is still yet to recognise the baby. For this nation, the issue is about disloyal adults, unemployed adults and rebellious adults that need to overcome by using force like it has been from Day 1 when Manipur became a part of the post-independent India. And if we dig deeper, we can see only the apathy of the British Raj in its dying days and the motivation of the Indian nationalists who were just ready to imitate the oppressors of two centuries.   



Finishing Lines

At the end of the day, there is just one word to describe the Manipur Merger Agreement: illegal. Instead of polishing the Kautilyan statecraft of using force, monetary inducement, reconciliation and the policy of divide and rule, it will do a world of good and even more so of the natives if India admits and amends the monkey business of the Merger Agreement. To wind up, it had been a long nightmare if we consider the historical narratives of India and Manipur but unfortunately, many of us are yet to wake up or intentionally sleeping because it does make political and business sense to know the truth.

Now it does not matter to say that Manipur had a Constitution, that it had democratic government—these are the days of resistance. Finally, how would you react if I force you to say that you are an atheist though you are a faithful believer and consequently that if you disagree I’ll kill you in the name of a non-existent god? We can only say independence and freedom are quite a relative term.

--Concluded.

Addendum

That was the story of India and Indo-Manipur. In less than four years after Manipur was annexed to the union of India, the resistance movement started in 1953. Under the aegis of the Manipur National Union, the idea of lost sovereignty was made public for the first time. When the politics about the right to self-determination is yet to be resolved till today, it was not unexpected that in less a decade after the formation of MNU, the Meitei State Committee decided to take up arms against the neo-colonial power.

Nowhere is this political evolution mentioned in the history of Manipur or India but the MSC took training from the Naga National Council. For an idea, read about the story of Sagolsem Indramani at Kangjeibung. In 6, the officially recognised rebel group, the United National Liberation Front (UNLF) was established in 1964. The UNLF gave birth to splinter groups like the Consolidation Committee of Manipur (CONSCOM) and created the Revolutionary Government of Manipur (RGM). A decade later, the groups further bifurcated into armed organisations like the the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).


Reading List

Web

Problem of 1949 Annexation of Manipur
Originally written in Manipuri by Prof Naorem Sanajaoba and translated by Aheibam Koireng, Imphal Times
http://www.imphaltimes.com/it-articles/item/4524-problem-of-1949-annexation-of-manipur

The Manipur Merger Agreement of 21 Sept 1949
By Waikhom Damodar, The Sangai Express
http://www.thesangaiexpress.com/29500-the-manipur-merger-agreement-of-21-sept-1949/

Annexation or Merger of Manipur
By Lt Col. Haobam Bhuban, Imphal Free Press
http://ifp.co.in/page/items/26940/annexation-or-merger-of-manipur

India’s Iron-man? This Is What Sardar Was for Manipuri People
Angomcha Bimol Akoijam, India Resists
http://www.indiaresists.com/indias-iron-man-this-is-what-sardar-was-for-manipuri-people/

Lairik

Barbara Ramusack     The Indian Princes and Their States, The New Cambridge History of India III (2005) ISBN 0-521-26727-7 
Ian Copland (1997)     The Princes of India in the Endgame of Empire, 1917–1947 (1997) ISBN 0-521-57179-0
Nari Rustomji         Enchanted Frontiers: Sikkim, Bhutan, and India’s Northeastern Borderlands (1971) by ASIN: B0006C27SK

Pradip Phanjoubam        The Northeast Question: Conflicts and Frontiers (2015) ISBN-10: 1138957984 / ISBN-13: 978-1138957985

Graham P. Chapman     The Geopolitics of South Asia: From Early Empires to the Nuclear Age (2009) ISBN-10: 0754672980 / ISBN-13: 978-0754672982

Mayengbam Anandmohan,    Shillong 1949 [in Manupuri]

VP Menon     Integration of Indian States (1999) ISBN 81-250-1597-3


Comments

Trending Posts