Chronicling pre-Statehood days through the prison diary of Lamyanba NK Sanajaoba
Aheibam Koireng Singh
(Contd from previous issue)
Maybe because specific charges could not be framed against them, Tomchou and some four/five of them remained as ordinary undertrial prisoner. It had been lived so till the end of March 1970. Sanajaoba and others, who have been imprisoned under Preventive Detention (PD) Act, after they have been shifted to new jail, enjoyed the status of ‘B’ class. And accordingly, it was heard that they were allowed to write and their quality of food considerably improved. A get-together for the detainees was organised at the new jail on March 1970.
Sanajaoba reminisced Tomchou and summoned him to attend by sending one warden. Tomchou also happily attended it. That was the last day for Tomchou to meet Sanajaoba and his other inmates in the jail.
That programme was also attended by most of the jail staff and wardens. The opening song was ‘Khomlang laman …’ sung by Pahari without any orchestra. When, Pahari, in the climax, sang his heart out with the song, ‘Chingleibakki Ema Manipur, Nadom ngallu, nadom satlu’, everyone remained silent. Most detainees also sang the song of their choice. Sanajaoba also showed his magical skills on the occasion.
The magic he did was very simple. He took a 10 Paisa coin from someone and made it disappear. Afterwards, he claimed the disappeared coin was in the right pocket of the Chief Warden’s coat, who was there among the guests. It turned out true. Then from among the crowd, started uttering that Sanajaoba engaged a young detainee to insert a coin to the Chief Warden’s pocket in advance.
Tomchou, after sharing the jail life of happy-sad moments with the other inmates, got eventually released on April 1970. Sanajaoba, along with others were still in detention. Tomchou then collected his scripts, and tried to meet and interview Sanajaoba before leaving. But unfortunately, he had heard that Sanajaoba had been relocated at Jiribam Jail and kept alone in solitary confinement.
Later, it too was heard that, Sanajaoba was relocated at Jiribam Jail due to his keen sense of observation, sensitiveness and readiness to protest injustice and any wrongdoing. After a long spell, Tomchou met Sanajaoba after he was released following the granting of general amnesty to all the political prisoners by the newly formed local party led Government when Manipur attained Statehood in 1972.
In it he said, he was alone in Jiribam jail. His only friend was a ‘Mongba’ (Greenish Leaf Warbler) sheltered there in a nest at a corner of the roof. After living together for long, that tiny bird came down and rested on his shoulder. At that, he remained silently still and unmoved so that the bird would not fly away.
After his release from Jiribam Jail, Sanajaoba returned to the societal stream and started penning for ‘Lamyanba’. His journalism became more impactfully powerful.
Sanajaoba was truly a revolutionary nationalist and an activist who was coveted for nurturing and preserving the ancient cultural heritage of Manipur. He didn’t reside in tin roofed or concrete structure but in thatch roofed traditional houses. The roofing changes after a gap of two-three years and his friends from the hills and far and wide brought thatch in bullock carts for the purpose.
His house and the traditional artifacts adorning it resembled a miniature museum. He very much loved the stories in the ‘Puya’(Ancient Meitei treatise), ‘Chainarol’ (Laws Governing Combat).
He scripted a play, ‘Chainapung’ Warfield) which was aired from the Imphal Station of All India Radio is based on the story of combat between two warriors, Khuman Chakha Moiremba and Heirem Kangbisu in which the latter gained victory through deceit but succumbed due to strange illness five days after the combat.