Chronicling pre-Statehood days through the prison diary of Lamyanba NK Sanajaoba

    22-Dec-2020
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Aheibam Koireng Singh
Contd from previous issue
It came to be known that the prisoners were deprived of their due rights. Earlier plead to the Superintendent also doesn’t pay any heed. This time also, some of them led by Sanajaoba made a verbal request to the jailor. But it proved futile. From that, Sanajaoba decided to take steps for a hunger strike.
That day, they (including some RGMs) were to be produced before the Lamphel DC Court for remand. That morning, they all decided to not have a meal. Doing so, they all turned up to go to Court without having meals. They walked out of the jail inner gate and paraded near the outside gate for boarding the vehicle. Since, those who went to Court the previous days said they were not properly checked, Tomchou also joined in the parade, tucking in two completed scripts in his stomach. But that day was so unfortunate that Jailor Saranthem Nodiachand was found sitting in a chair taking a sun-bath near their parade. Since he was present, jail staff started screening them one by one. Tomchou suddenly got alarmed, thinking that he would surely be caught. Continuingly thinking, what means should he find, he tried to stand at the last.
 Just at his back, there was one cupboard for keeping guns. He then steadfastly pulled out the scripts and kicked it underneath the cupboard. Nobody took notice of it. Then, all of them after getting thoroughly checked, climbed into the vehicle. After the vehicle started, he could still properly see scripts. Anxiously thinking whether it was him alone who was seeing it, they reached the Court. After reaching the DC Court, they all sat together in a room.
In the meantime, Yambem Tijendra, the Editor-in-charge of ‘Lamyanba’, a monthly periodical of PANMYL was just sighted outside from window. Sanajaoba steadfastly pulled out a bunch of paper and throw it outside the window. Tijendra picked it up and went away. Tomchou was awestruck thinking how Sanajaoba managed to bring it concealed despite the rigorous check. Just after Tijendra went, Jailor came in a Jeep vehicle and Sanajaoba was isolated in a room and thoroughly checked. From that, it could be comprehended that, either there was something in relation to the hunger strike going on in the jail after they went or it was suspected that Sanajaoba possesses something in writing about the misdeeds of the Government. And Tomchou, thinking of the scripts he kicked in underneath the cupboard, spent time anxious and restless. After they were remanded at another date, they returned to jail. Tomchou felt a sense of relief when he found the script still there lying intact. During that moment, clerk Kondumba just came out. Tomchou terrifyingly told Kondumba to collect the scripts and bring in when he comes. Saying so, he passed in the inner gate and entered the jail. After reaching jail, they could feel that something had happened.
The authorities already have come to know why the prisoners were fasting and who their leader was. Also, it came to know that the authority recovered some of the writings of Sanajaoba which he kept in hiding. It later came to light that it was due to the undercover jail staff among the fellow prisoner inmates. That was a very shameful day for Sanajaoba and other prisoners. It was because all hunger strikers were herded to the kitchen and made to have their meal. They all ate unwillingly. Sanajaoba was publicly shamed for instigating hunger strike in the prison and also for writing ‘Larei Lathup’ (Inconvenient Truth) in the ‘Yukhal Marumda’ column. He was shamed by herding to every room of the prison with two prisoners respectively pulling his long moustache from either side. One of the two who pulled his moustache really cried with tears running down. While he pulled Sanajajaoba’s moustache, he wiped his own tears with the other hand. That day, Chief Warden shouted angrily with red-eye using the most degrading filthy language. Sanajaoba didn’t utter any word other than, ‘hujjur7 nangsu Meitei machani ko’, meaning Hujjur, You too are Meitei. These few words sum up the inner thought of them all.
While Sanajaoba was publicly shamed by herding to each room, Tomchou was worryingly bothered about the concealed written papers. Finally, he properly seal wrapped it with a plastic and kept inside a broken commode of the toilet. And some ‘muk-matum; (solid ink), he put it inside an empty packet of the Panama and after squeezing it deposited among the waste piles in the jail yard. But one Mangi who was in the jail at Room no. 13 in connection with the murder related case from Poirou had picked it up and taken to his room. Tomchou went after him and told him that there was a bomb in what he picked up. Poirou then with a shocking surprise gave it back to Tomchou with bewilderment.
Then after collecting the ink, Tomchou returned the empty Panama packet to him. Inside the jail, an empty cigarette packet was much sought after as the aluminum foil inside it was used for roasting ‘Ngari’ (Fermented Dry Fish). Mangi picked it up also just to take that aluminum foil.
After Sanajaoba was publicly shamed, he then was kept in an isolated cell without having contact with any other. His room was not so far from the one he earlier resided, but his compound was fenced with iron barbedware from the other. In the nightfall, he was seen walking around in his compound. They saw each other, but didn’t have the chance to talk. Sanajaoba no longer had pen and paper. They were left with no means to communicate with Sanajaoba. But he threw out a thing above the barbed wire passing over it. It turned out to be a squeezed empty panama Cigarette packet. Tomchou picked it up pondering there must be something in it.
To his surprise, he found a letter neatly written with a bottom of the match stick at the aluminum foil of the cigarette packet which was clearly legible. Seeing it, Tomchou was surprised at the presence of mind and wit of Sanajaoba.
He wrote: ‘Let the outside world know, there are atrocities going on inside the jail’. But there were no means to fulfill what Sanajaoba decreed. Shortly after that incident, Manipur Government had enforced Orissa Preventive Detention Act. Under the Preventive Detention Act, Sanajaoba, Pahari, and Dr Manimohan, some RGM members were all relocated at the new jail situated at the back of the Nambul River where Jadonang was hanged.
Major Akoijam Nilakamal, who was in the list of suspected RGM was also imprisoned along with them.

(To be contd)