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The Synthesizing Role of The I.N.A. Martyrs' Memorial: Moirang & The Indo-Japanese Peace Cenotaph: Lotpaching (Red Hill)

Manindra Singh Mairembam

Related Notes of Interest while on this topic

5. Genesis of the Freedom Struggle _ Since 1904 in Manipur:

The first reaction to the establishment in 1891 of British rule in Manipur was marked by positive hostility according to R. K. Jhalajit Singh: Our Freedom Struggle: Manipur Today: Golden Jubilee Celebrations: Quit India Movement: Government of Manipur, Imphal, 2 October 1992. A group of revolutionaries systematically kindled the houses of British officers and British subjects who came in their wake. Major H. Maxwell, the then British Political Agent in Manipur, reports that such fires were particularly frequent in 1891 and 1892. It may be recalled that when the British took over Manipur administration on the 27 April 1891, there was a belief, covert and overt at that time, that the British overpowered Manipur not by their intrinsic superiority but by 'sheer numbers and foxy manoeuvres' of the then Government of India. The patriotic exploits of Hera Chandra and Yumjaotaba were still fresh in folk memory. The struggles of Jai Singh (Bhagyachandra) against the Burmese just to preserve the sovereignty of Manipur had become their hallowed memories. Against this background, an intrepid band of revolutionaries carried on the struggle. They were thus referred to as badmashes in British records.

Should one focus on Manipur, apparently the freedom revolution could be said to have started in March 1904, when they burnt down the bungalow occupied by the Assistant Political Agent, Mr. J. J. Dunlop. He shifted to a bungalow situated in the compound now occupied by the Chief Minister as official residence. In the following July, they burnt down Khwairamband Bazar sheds housing the stalls of 3,000 women. In August, 1904 they also burnt down the bungalow to which the Assistant Political Officer had shifted. The second incident was particularly daring. It was only within a stone's throw of the British garrison and not far off from the headquarters of the Military Police.

Mr. Dunlop himself was sleeping in the westernmost room when the revolutionaries set fire to the building at the easternmost room again under the cover of darkness around midnight. The police could not trace out the culprits of any of the three fires, because the people did not cooperate with the police of the alien rule. Both the Political Agent and the Superintendent of the State bitterly complained about this. Finding no other means, he ordered the people of Imphal to rebuild the second bungalow. This was objected to by the people, who organized a peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience movement, which in many ways foreran Gandhiji by about a decade and a half. The agitation of 1904 was led by six Rajkumars among whom Kalasana was described by the Chief Commissioner of Assam as a particularly dangerous man. It kept the Political Agent, the Chief Commissioner of Assam and the Viceroy on their toes for about a fortnight. The Viceroy, Lord Curzon, apprised the Secretary of State of the situation in Manipur by telegram on the 8 October 1904: "The trouble is evidently political and the outcome of opposition to the Raja."

Curzon's assessment was wrong insofar as it was not directed against the king, who was still a minor or/and was not given any power to rule. The 1904 episode happened during the direct administration of the British and therefore solely directed against them. But their acrimony was evidenced by their banishing six Rajkumars from the State with the prior approval of the Government of India. British rule in Manipur was by dint of sheer force at least upto this point. The Political Agent cites in his report to the Chief Commissioner of Assam: "Ruling people all of one class and with a tendency to revolutions like the Manipuris can only be undertaken with a strong force." He also wrote in his diary: "With Manipuris force is the remedy of most things." The net effect of the 1904-agitation seemed to bring about a change in their attitude. For thereafter, instead of depending on force alone, they introduced government by discussion. For, the higher British statesmen took steps to mollify the wounded feelings of the Manipuris. The Agitation further helped to transfer power to His Highness and the Durbar. While on the subject of administrative reform, it may be added that the next agitation in Manipur came in 1939-40, whereafter the British administration reduced the Civil List to 10% of the revenue.


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