How Irawat became a Marxist revolutionary

L Sotinkumar
Jananeta Irawat attended the 2nd Annual Conference of the Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha which was held from 30th December, 1936 at Bon Tarapur, Silchar. After this, he frequently visited Silchar for the betterment of the Manipuris living outside Manipur and for developing a close association among the Manipuris in Manipur, Burma and Assam.The title Jananeta was conferred on him by the grateful people of Cachar.
During this period, in December, 1939 Nupi Lan broke out and as a consequence - Irawat was sentenced for 3 years imprisonment for leading Nupi Lan. After spending one year’s imprisonment at Imphal Jail, he was transferred to Sylhet District Jail for the rest of the term. During his imprisonment in Sylhet District jail, Jyotirmoy Nandy was undergoing imprisonment along with Biresh Misra, Secretary of Sylhet District Congress Committee, Arun Chanda, Congress leader of Cachar, Rabi Aditya, Congress leader of Karimganj and others. Jyotirmoy Nandy was the then Editor of Naya Duniya, a weekly published from Sylhet a semi-official organ of the Communist Party of India, till then an illegal party. Biresh Misra wrote a series of articles on Second World War and Jyotirmoy Nandy published them in Naya Duniya. Both were convicted for a period of nine to eleven months of rigorous imprisonment.
Jananeta Irawat was kept in the detenue ward along with Arun Chanda, Aditya and others, while Jyotirmony, Biresh Misra and some others were kept in the Division 2 Ward of the jail. After a few days of official tangle the jail authorities were forced to allow them to mix together for a few hours in the evening for playing badminton. Those few hours were the period when Jyotirmoy and Misra had particularly befriended Irawat, knowing from him the experiences of the Manipuri people’s movement and its peculiarities. They told him about the principles of Marxism-Leninism and working class movement all over the world. They gave Irawat some books and pamphlets about the Soviet Union as well as the literatures of the Communist Party of India illegally brought inside the jail.
The other non-communist Congress leaders were also trying to draw Irawat towards Gandhian programme and its philosophy. The struggle of the working class people and the downtrodden for freeing themselves from the shackles of the capitalists and the feudal exploitations and oppression, in the cause of their fight for the country’s freedom from the clutches of the Imperialist rule carried more weight than the ideal of freeing the country from the burden of foreign rule alone. The vision of a socialist Manipur in socialist India free from imperialism, feudal and capitalist shackles had reached both his head and heart. Thus through mutual discussion, reading of books and other literatures made Irawat an ardent believer in Marxism-Leninism. When Jyotirmoy Nandy was to leave Sylhet jail after expiry of his prison term, Irawat told him that he would join the communist party after his release. After the expiry of his prison term, Irawat had communicated to the Political Agent to issue him necessary permission to return to Manipur, but Maharaja Bodhachandra did not permit him to enter Manipur.
After his release from Sylhet jail the Communist Party leadership decided that Irawat should remain in Cachar District which was nearer to Manipur on the one hand and wherein a good number of Manipuris lived. Communists in Cachar took an initiative to fix up an area where Irawat would work mainly among the Manipuri peasants and also among the non-Manipuri ex-tea garden workers. Irawat plunged headlong to the peasants movement and particularly the Manipuri peasants in Cachar had joined the Kishan movement.
Irawat attended the first congress of the Communist Party of India held at Bombay from May 23 to June 1,1943 as a special invitee from Cachar. From the congress Irawat learnt the fact that India’s freedom struggle had to be integrated with the worldwide struggle against Fascism.
Irawat was not only a mass political leader, but also a cultural leader who helped to build up the I.P.T.A. movement in the Barak Valley. In May, 1945, Irawat led a delegation from Cachar to the All India Kishan Sabha session held at Netra Kona in Mymensing District of the then undivided Bengal. In the open rally of the big gathering he presented an attractive group dance and song, “ Thangol Adu Maya thangu thouna, hey lou-wuba” with his troupe and won high tributes from the leaders as well as the delegates.
By virtue of his magnetic personality and organising  ability, Irawat was instrumental in the establishment of the Assam Kishan Sabha, the CPI Assam Provicial Committee, the Assam Students' Federation etc. Irawat even contested in the 1946  election to the Assam Provincial Legislative Assembly from the Silchar constituency as a CPI candidate though unsuccessful by a narrow margin. In the election supplement to The People’s Age, an article under the caption "Poor Orphan to People’s Hero" had full narration about Irawat’s activities as a communist and Kishan Sabha leader in Cachar.
After six years of political exile, Irawat was finally permitted to enter Manipur in March 1946. He received warm welcome from thousands of men and women. After the power was transferred, the Maharaja of Manipur had agreed to set up an Assembly with limited advisory powers. The long awaited election to the first Manipur State Assembly was held on 11th July 1948 and continued upto 27th July. Irawat was elected from Utlou constituency defeating the other four candidates.
At another stage, when the power was transferred to India the question of accession of Manipur State came, Irawat and his comrades-in-arms fully supported its accession to India. Before deciding this accession issue, Jyotirmoy Nandy came to Manipur to guide in forming Manipur Unit of Communist Party under Assam State unit of CPI. In the meeting a decision was taken to rally all democratic parties of Manipur around the slogan of full responsible Government in Manipur and also to see that the reactionary elements may not play any trick on the accession question. After this, Irawat along with other delegates attended the Assam Provincial Conference of CPI.
The, second important stage in the political career of Irawat was his attending as a delegate from Assam in the historic Second congress of the Communist Party of India held at Calcutta during 28th February to 6th March 1948. There was a sharp political confrontation between the old line and the new line. In the congress Irawat reacted to the deliberations that were going on and fully supported and voted to the line of armed struggle Telengana way, which was adopted in the 2nd congress by a majority vote. In this congress he had the opportunity to meet Thakin Than Tun of the Burma Communist Party.
The political career of Irawat became more distinct in the last part of the year 1948. He was the undisputed leader of political movement in Manipur for organising a democratic revolution.
Irawat’s role in the country’s liberation movement, his struggle against the foreign rule as well as the autocratic Maharaja, his pioneering work in organising Kishans and workers and his able leadership in the 12th December, 1939 Nupi Lan  and his untiring work  among the Manipuri and non-Manipuri peasants and workers at Cachar could not be forgotten.
Today, Jananeta Irawat not only belongs to the Communist Party of India, but to the entire people of Manipur, Cachar and other parts of Assam. Indeed, he was a leader of the masses.