Maharaja Bodh Chandra: The last ruler of Manipur

-Wahengbam Pathou
Contd from previous issue
By calling for armed rebellion across the nook and corner of India, the Communist Party of India realized that it had certainly punched above its weight. The party, then, obviously underestimated the scale and magnitude of retaliatory crackdown, that would be resorted to, on the part of Indian state machinery in order to neutralize their armed revolt and violence. In so far as the Indian environ is concerned, the realization increasingly dawned in mindset of the party’s leadership that it is futile for a communist to imagine that power will flow from the barrel of gun in this country. One should, therefore, just banish the thought for pursuing the path of armed rebellion as a way to realize communists’ political objectives in the Indian context, although this process may have happened elsewhere in the world. This was precisely the broad parameters and contours of changed policy stance that set in the C.P.I.’s mindset by the years 1950-51 after it treaded adventurist path. Thus, abandon adventurism once and for all, cease underground armed rebellion, join the mainstream despite defects inherent in Indian system and contest elections. This was the scenario of the C.P.I.’s thought process that engrossed leadership’s mindset at national level back then and has continued hitherto.        
Cut to Manipur scene of 1949-50 where Hijam Irabot’s underground movement characterized by armed rebellion against the Indian state continued to carry on despite suffering major reverses following arrests of the communist youth brigade. Interesting questions emerge when one analyze and review the hot revolutionary scene surrounding the great leader’s life after Manipur was merged into India and the reins of administration was taken over by central government in October, 1949. Since Irabot was increasingly on the back foot and at the receiving end resulting from the hot police chase, whose intensity was ever increasing after merger, from May 1950 to April, 1951 when almost all his followers from the youth brigade were arrested, it emerged that the only logical and sensible step for him to undertake was to set for a journey to the neighbouring country of Burma, away from the reaches of Indian police hands. One may recall that all the 17 accused of the Manipur Conspiracy Case were arrested during the Chief Commissioner regime after merger. The respective dates of their arrest are given as follows:
1. Thokchom Boro and Ngangom Mahendra were arrested on 7 May, 1950 from Khagempalli, Imphal by Moirangthem Kalachand, City Inspector, Imphal.
2. Ningthoujam Binoy and Konsam Rabei were arrested on 1 July, 1950 from Awangjiri by Khomba Singh, Sub Inspector.
3. Langoljam Tikendra and Thingbaijam Nongyai were arrested on 7 July, 1950 from Top village by Tomba Singh, Sub Inspector, Imphal.
4. Chingakham Tebanda was arrested from his own house at Andro Khunou (which was wrongly spelt as Khunon in the text of judgment) as a result of joint efforts of H.K. Choudhury, a Bengali Inspector and Khomba Singh S.I. on 10 July, 1950 after information about him was extracted from Langoljam Tikendra, a teacher by profession and resident of Khundrakpam who was arrested three days earlier.
5. Moirangthem Ibohal was arrested on 25 November, 195. the house of Lairellakpam Mani in Kongpan. In the text of District Magistrate E.P. Moon judgment, Moirangthem Ibohal and Kundo Singh, an accused who had been discharged, were called out by the police after approaching the house of Lairellakpam Mani and they came out without offering any resistance and surrendered to the police. Lairellakpam Mani was said to have been convicted by another court on the charge of harbouring Moirangthem Ibohal.
6. Athokpam Chourjit was said to have been ambushed by a team of policemen led by Biren Singh, Sub Inspector ‘along the Nongthombam road’ on 15 January, 1951 and apprehended thereafter. The judgment said he was found to be ‘carrying a sten gun concealed underneath a big overcoat he was wearing.’ Athokpam Chourjit was a cultivator by profession hailing from Nongada village aged about 35 years of age older than most of the convicts in years apart from Konsam Apabi who was about his age.
7. Khumbongmayum Lobi and Moirangthem Amuyaima were arrested on 24 January, 1951 from Leimakhong Mapan by Ch. Mani, Sub Inspector. Both Lobi and Amuyaima were said to be wanted for dacoity charges.
8. Yumnam Gokul was said to have been ‘arrested on suspicion by some villagers’ on 24 April, 1951 and produced before Khogendra Singh, Sub Inspector (See Judgment of the D.M. Criminal Case No. 1 of 1951 Manipur State v/s Hijam Irabot Singh of Janmasthan cited as appendix in Unquiet Valley by N. Lokendra Singh Mittal Publications, Delhi, 1998 Pg.278-9).
In the premerger days, Capt. M.K. Priya Brata government did not arrest any of the communist youth brigade members. They were all arrested by the Indian establishment after merger came into effect. On the contrary men like Ningthoujam Binoy roamed freely until the month of August 1949 when the All Manipur Peace Congress held its meeting on 12 August, 1949. Three days later, he hoisted a black flag marking the second independence day celebration of India from the British rule on 15 August, 1949. Capt. M.K. Priya Brata government did not push for anti-communist drive with full gusto like what happened in the post merger era under the Chief Commissioner’s regime.
The Indian regime in Manipur, after merger, resorted to crude action of arresting everyone in the youth brigade spectrum from Thokchom Boro and Ngangom Mahendra to Ningthoujam Binoy and Moirangthem Ibohal, among others, with a view to break the breakbone of the Red Guard in order to decisively crush and suppress communist rebellion in Manipur with all police might driven by a frenzy of paranoiac obsession and hysteria. Such a level of obsessive police arrest tendency of apprehending everyman of communist hue from Thokchom Boro to Ngangom Mahendra and Khumbongmayum Lobi and Athokpan Chourajit was not visible in case of the pre merger Capt. M.K. Priya Brata government, notwithstanding the brief crackdown in Lamlai-Pungdongbam areas in 1948 autumn, even though the Manipur State Congress was spreading fears of an imminent take over of Manipur by the communist if it was not merged into India. The Congress party created a bogey of fear of communist takeover of Manipur and built up an imaginary narrative that merger was the only alternative to stave off such a scenario.       
The chain of events associated with the life of Hijam Irabot from 1949-51 read with the change of policy tack fast churning inside the party leadership of the Communist Party of India, indeed, offers a very intriguing account for a reviewer of history to analyze and ponder upon.
No real purpose would have been served for Irabot if he continued to stay longer in Manipur after the merger in October, 1949. This was what he naturally realized given the massive police manhunt and crackdown unleashed on him with renewed vigour by the Chief Commissioner’s regime. The essence of hiss political struggle, in the aftermath of the infamous merger until his death in Burma, was fighting back, resisting and opposing, tooth and nail, the domination of Manipur by India. He did not have a hope in hell that Manipur’s future lay with India. Out and out, he was deemed by the Indian authorities as an enemy of the Indian state, who was relentlessly and unceasingly waging war against the then Nehru government of the day, as a political foe until his demise. In doing so, he took aid and shelter for cover, in restive Upper Burma where the Burmese communists were also simultaneously fighting the U Nu government, as his sanctuary. The militant path of fomenting armed rebellion against the Indian state ran counter to changed party doctrinaire of the Communist Party of India after it had totally given up and abandoned adventurist path characterized by BTR line by the time C. Rajeswara Rao became the party General Secretary.
Notwithstanding C.P.I.’s changed stance, Hijam Irabot continued with his strategy and chosen path of waging war against the Indian state untrammeled by any external factors and conditions that lay on his path. According to him, it goes without saying that, to reiterate once again, the act of merger of Manipur into Indian union was devoid of fair dealing and fair play, done in a very surreptitious manner, amidst very suspicious circumstances, away from the glare and scrutiny of the people. It was downright wrong, lacked any justification whatsoever, by all accounts. That merger was unjustifiable to no end was Irabot’s true feeling. In his view, the stroke of Maharaja Bodh Chandra’s pen, appending his signature on the dotted lines of the merger agreement document resulting from a pre-planned and stage-managed event, given rise by a sham conspiracy hatched in Shillong by some lowly lives such as Sri Prakasa and Nari Rustamji, was a big letdown for Manipur by Maharaja Bodh Chandra.         
It goes without saying that Hijam Irabot was aghast at the fact that death knell was effectively sounded out to Manipur’s proud existence as an independent, sovereign nation howsoever small may it be with the coming into effect of the merger. He could keep himself laying down with the government of India riding roughshod over Manipur after merger. It was his firm mental resolve to fight back with whatever he could and let it be known to the world that he would not remain silent spectator to the sordid state of affairs for Manipur wrought by merger howsoever hamstrung may he be by circumstances arising from his underground existence. Resist the historical wrong committed on Manipur’s identity was his fight back ploy and to this end, he sought to seek collaboration from the neighbouring Burma’s communists to wage war against the Indian state. Therefore he embarked on a revolutionary journey to Burma in May 1950, to launch a stage of armed rebellion against the Indian state from where he would never to return back to his motherland and go down fighting there.
In the of thick of these emergent circumstances when Hijam Irabot’s line of action was astir with a strategy to fight back Indian state, seeking active collaboration from Burmese communists, for wrongful domination of Manipur from May 1950 to September 1951, the C.P.I.’s change of tack to give up armed rebellion really put a spoke in the wheel for the Manipur’s rebel stalwart desired line of action, agenda and desired cause. The party’s reversal of earlier position to call off armed revolt was tantamount to throwing cold water on Irabot’s hopes of carrying forward his struggle. The rug was abruptly pulled under his feet.
The C.P.I.’s change in stance, certainly played spoilsport, to his endeared cause of spearheading an armed movement, to fight against Indian state ever since he has taken sanctuary in the country of Burma, thereby, using the foreign soil as springboard, for his struggle to realize his political objectives and agenda. All his plans came a cropper and his hopes became utterly forlorn when the C.P.I. decided to bid farewell to arms to which Irabot was not at all agreeable.
Message was soon passed to him by the party apparatus of the C.P.I. that he would be taken back to Manipur, involuntarily and forcibly, if exigency of the situation requires, which drove him to despair and a state of utter dejection. Out of sheer frustration and unconscionable fury, he ordered Chingtham Pandon to squeeze lemon in boiling milk and serve him the spoilt curdled milk (sangom bindha saba in vernacular), to reiterate the gathered accounts facts and circumstances of Irabot’s suicide case story once again. Thus, ended the life of Hijam Irabot on 21 September, 1951, a national hero, true patriot, one-time beloved leader of the masses, in the most unexpected and unimaginable way, an account of his final moments, which leaves one totally aghast to come to terms with the story.
To be contd