Pre-merger political party struggle (Merger Series-IV)
Dr Th Suresh Singh
It all started with the formation of Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha (NHMM) in 1934 among the Meiteis. It is the 1st seed of political party in the state with Hijam Irabot as the Pioneer. The 1st session was held at Rasmandal of the present palace on 30/05/1934 with Churachand Maharaj as President with over 300 delegates from Cachar, Tripura, Dacca and Burma attending it. Its objective was to bring unity and overall welfare of Manipuris settled in different parts of the world. Though the 2nd session was held at Sichar and the 3rd one at Mandalay with Irabot as president, the 4th session, known famously as ‘Chinga Session” held on 29-30/12/1938 was unique in that it was the 1st unpublished political party in the state. The word Hindu was dropped and only known as NMM. It took far reaching resolutions like removal of untouchables, restoration of self-rules etc.
All these were anti-king, but popular demands. The king had earlier distanced himself from the Mahasabha. The English version of the resolution was forwarded to Mr. Mac Donald, President of State Darbar, by its Secretary Chingakham Pishak Singh on 11/02/1939. The Darbar rejected the same, branded it as a political party and banned all its activities. The Mahasabha was split on the question of support to Nupi Lal on 11/10/1939. Irabot led faction formed the Praja Sa melon and supported the 1st Nupi Lal and he was jailed. Tompok faction ultimately became part of Indian National Congress.
In the hills- Vaiphei National Organisation and Hmar Association was formed in 1944 and 1945 respectively.
The pertinent question here is that Churachand was unable to bring unity among various factions. Had he continued as President of NMM and shown a little flexibility, he could have brought unity among the various factions. Instead, he jailed the popular leader Irabot. The king was not able to grape popular public demand as witnessed by the 1st and 2nd Nupi Lal of 1904 and 1939 respectively. He was never popular like his great grandpa Nara Singh. He was satisfied with his throne and did little for general public. Had he shown a little political maturity, the legacy would have continued during Bodh Chandra’s reign. Manipur’s misfortune continues.
With the enthrone of Bodh Chandra, the political struggle continued. Return of Irabot in early part of 1945 mad the struggle more intensified. With end of World War 11 on 2nd September 1945 with Japanese surrender, the king should have known popular demands; but alas, that ought not to be! It is also the time where intense political struggle continued throughout India for its independence. The shadow for a popular rule definitely lingers on Manipur also.
Other events worth mentioning are i) 05/04/1946 meeting of Manipur Krisik Sabha and Manipur Praja Sangha at Wangkhei took strong objection against Coupland Plan of “Crown Colony” i.e. formation of an independent N-E Frontier Province including neibouring areas of Burma and Indian National Congress Plan of “Poorvanchal Pradesh” combining Cachar, Manipur and Tripura ii) May Nambol meeting of Krisik Sabha elected Irabot as President and demanded restoration of popular rule iii) on 21/08/1 046, Praja Mandal and Praja Samelan merged with Irabot as President and R.K. Bhuvansana as General Secretary. Its 1st meeting demanded restoration of responsible form of government iv) 4th October 1946 Aryan Theatre Meeting called by pro-Mahasabha students to form a united party, with Bhubansana presiding, showed disunity when Irabot’s name was proposed as a representative. Irabot supporters walked out. Then the remaining members formed Manipur State Congress with Bhubansana as President and Khoimusana as Secretary.
Thus at every critical juncture, Manipur’s disunity and division were witnessed. By this time, the political permutations and combinations are crystallised into 3 distinct groups :- i) The Praja Santi Party which is fiercely pro-Royal, but anti- Congress and anti-merger ii) the Manipur State Congress (becoming a part of Indian National Congress) which favours merger to free India and iii) Irabot and co. led remaining party which is deadly anti-Congress, anti-royal, anti-merger but for an independent state.
In the hills- Vaiphei National organisation and Hmar Association was formed in 1944 and 1945 respectively. Other hot political steam found in the hills in 1947 were : formation of Manipur Zeliangrong Union, Zeliangrong council, the Kuki National Army (KNA), agitation by Mizo Union for a union of Kuki areas with Lusai Hills etc. Another important one was the coming of Daiho’s Mao Naga Party under the influence of Phizo’s Naga National Party (limited to a few in the beginning).
At this critical juncture, Irabot tried to form a United Front to fight the election with others viz, Shimray of Tangkhulong, Lunneh of KNA, Kakhangai of Kabui Association and some other valley organisations. But unfortunately it did not materialised. Had it materialised, the political landscape might have turned the other way round. This is Unfortunate for us, unfortunate for Manipur. The year 1948 saw establishment of state units of various national parties e.g. the Socialist Party( it was formed inside the Manipur State Congress in 1946), the Communist Party (Irabot was still underground). The Manipur State Congress was recognised as a branch of Assam Congress Committee by the Indian National Congress in that year.
All these points to the inability of Maharaja Bodh Chandra to bring popular demands to a common platform and thereby bring the much needed political consensus. He was thinking only for his Gaddi and nothing else. Not only he, his advisor and Darbar members are also to be blamed, as stated in preceding series, for their inability to advice him properly. These gentlemen had to bear a slide of the blame; that is for sure.
(Dr Th Suresh is ex-Director, Health & WHO Fellow)
Pre-merger political party struggle (Merger Series-IV)