Maharaja Bodh Chandra: The last ruler of Manipur

Wahengbam Pathou
Contd from previous issue
Undemocratic conduct coupled with imperious behavior of Manipur State Congress leaders ultimately created pandemonium in the meeting venue. Apart from the clique of Congress leaders who spoke in the meeting viz. Lalit Madhab Sharma, Laishram Jogeswar, Salam Ibotombi and Kunjabihari Singh, no one from the gathering public, among which included members of hill men and minority Muslim community, were allowed to express any opinion in the meeting. The crux of the speeches delivered by these Congress leaders constituted a clamour for ‘abolition of gaddi monarchy and change of existing cabinet’. A melee ensued among the gathering crowd when one Laishram Ibobi, who was a member of the Manipur Students Congress was denied permission to deliver speech and ‘forcibly turned out’. Sheer ‘arrogant conduct’ was the hallmark of modus operandi of Manipur State Congress leaders steering the meeting which eventually provoked an angry public backlash. Unable to draw requisite support from the assembled people to espouse their cause for abolition of monarchy and merger of Manipur into Dominion of India as the mood of people swung against their favour, these Congress leaders resorted to another streak of deceitful tactics declaring that the so called meeting was not a public meeting but a Congress party meeting and only those persons interested to hear from them would remain while others may leave.
Livid with the high-handed behavior and abrasive conduct of the Manipur State Congress leaders gathered there, agitated crowds numbering in ‘several hundreds’ left the Rupmahal Theatre complex and proceeded towards Gandhi Maidan park in protest where they organized a counter meeting under the ‘joint presidentship of Solet Kuki, Habi Mohammed and Nandlal Sharma’ with Mutum Ibochou acting as Secretary of the meet. Hill leaders namely Demkhohen (Sanaching), Tonguthang (Chasat Chief) and Hemkhulun (Kultuk), a Muslim man named Abas Ali and meeting attendees from the Meitei community namely Waikhom Mera, Ningthoujam Modhumangol (Khurai) and Takhellambam Koirenjao delivered speeches. Many more hill leaders spoke out and placed their views at the meeting forum.
The Gandhi Maidan meeting bore full representative character of the multiple communities residing in Manipur and their collective political view was placed on record in the meeting which roundly criticized the machinations of the Congress party hidden agenda to merge Manipur into India. The meeting solemnly resolved that gaddi (monarchy) should not be abolished and merger of Manipur into India cannot take place. In strongly worded terms, the Manipur State Congress was condemned as ‘deceitful’ party and slammed their fraudulent act as sellout of Manipur, which was bereft of the people’s support since the Congress party did not take into consideration the overall mood, feelings and voice of the people on the merger question. The meeting’s resolution also exhorted the ruling Praja Shanti party to expose and apprise the people of devious game plan chalked out by the Congress party of cheating the people of Manipur in their bid to merge the State into India. (See Memorandum dated 23, March, 1949 from N. Ibomcha Singh, General Secretary, Praja Santi Sobha, Imphal cited from Resistance fortnightly dated August 21, 1979)                           
Not long after the Rupmahal meeting fiasco ended, on 15 August, 1949, the occasion of second independence day, the Manipur Students Federation, students wing comprising of the followers of Hijam Irabot, observed a protest ceremony what they called Dibashpalan Day at Iril Khongnangkhong (Porompat) attended by around 200 people. Expressing condemnation against the Congress Government (implying the Union Government of India), black flags were also hoisted as a mark of symbolic protest. Ningthoujam Binoy, son of Dr. N. Leiren, then serving Education Minister, took centre stage in leading the charge of hoisting black flag on behalf of the Manipur Students Federation. The incident was reported by the pro-Congress daily Prajatantra as ‘Shameful News’ reminding that N. Binoy’s father took similar cudgels to hoist black flag on the independence day of 15 August, 1948 which was a year ago (See Hijam Irabot Singh and Political Movements in Manipur by Karam Manimohan Singh, B.R. Publishing House, Delhi, 1989 Pg.349).
Quiet noticeably, it remains a curious affair that it had been nearly a year after Hijam Irabot had gone underground and his political outfits, Krishak Sabha and Praja Sangh, banned in the aftermath of Pungdongbam incident on 21 September, 1948, the Manipur Students Federation, constituted and formed by the remaining unbanned and many prominent followers of underground leader were allowed to carry on with their activities openly and not arrested in the pre-merger era.
To be contd