The why of ‘Anglo-Kuki War’(A comment on the statement dated 21-01-22 of Kangleipak Kanba Lup)
The title of any book is the absolute prerogative of the author. “The conflict of 1917-1919 was truly a war”, in the words of Shri Jairam Ramesh, an erstwhile Minister in the UPA Government of PM Manmohan Singh. He has the credentials of having authored many books, including several on contemporary modern Indian polity. It was a guerilla war fought by the Kukis against British Imperial high-handedness. The protagonists of the war have been referred to as Kukis in all contemporary records, military despatches, British official files and contemporaneous books written on the subject.
It was thus a War and it was fought between the Kukis and the English. What more appropriate title can there thus be than ‘The Anglo-Kuki War’. Col. Vijay Chenji has therefore hit the nail on the head when he titled his book as ‘The Anglo Kuki War’. It is a well written book, well researched, and is an unbiased, balanced, non-propagative work. It should be read by all who have an open mind to understand the conflict and the effect of its aftermath on the Kuki.
It appears that the Kangleipak Kanba Lup has only reacted on the title of the book without reading the book itself, without understanding what Col. Vijay has to say. They are making the mistake of looking at the episode that occurred a century ago through the coloured spectacles of the present. They seem to be touchy and over-sensitive over the territorial integrity of the Modern State of Manipur, while being ignorant and callous over the core issue of maintaining the emotional and sentimental integrity of this beautiful modern State of Manipur with all its multi coloured culture, language, and ethnicity. It is not just only a Meitei State.
As an aside, one wonders what would be the reaction if one were to question the title of the Khongjom war, as the Anglo-Manipur War; if one were to say that it should at best be titled as Anglo-Meitei Battle; or not even as the Khongjom War but “the battle of Khongjom”. After all it was just one battle, albeit a very brief one (an hour at the most) that ended in a complete rout.
All dictionary meanings of War indicates that a ‘War’ comprises of a series of conflicts drawn out over a long period, usually years. Khongjom war was therefore definitely not a war, it was also not a conflict involving all Manipur (Modern Manipur) to merit the terminology of Manipur, unless of course it is admitted that Manipur comprised only of the Meitei population. It was but a rally by a faction of those loyal to the ‘Meilhei lengpa’ (Meitei King). Thus, the Battle of Khongjom would be the approriate title in the academic sense, and ‘Anglo-Manipuri War’ is a misnomer. One excuse could be that the Meitei language does not differentiate between War and battle, but then it would be a lame excuse. It has one word ‘lal’ (lan?) for both. How silly it would be if we were today to rename the ‘battles of Panipat’, and ‘the battle of Plassey’ as ‘Anglo-Indian War’ or the ‘Panipat War’ or ‘The Plassey War’ respectively, for that matter. But then, who is anybody anyway to have a say in such important matters of state!
The writer is Chief Commissioner (retd) and general secretary, Kuki People’s Alliance