THE ANGLO MANIPURI WAR, 1891
As soon as the Maharaja Sura Chandra left Manipur, the Jubaraj Kulachandra had been recognised as Regent by the Political Agent under orders of the Chief Commissioner of Assam.25 Maharaja Sura Chandra arrived at Cachar safely. As soon as he arrived at Cachar, he sent a telegram on 3rd October, 1890 to the Chief Commissioner of Assam.
In the telegram he repudiated his abdication and requested the Chief Commissioner for reconsideration of his case and help.26 On arrival at Calcutta, the Maharaja Sura Chandra submitted a representation on 21st March, 1891 to the Government of India. The Political developments taking place in Manipur compelled the Government of India to take a policy in regard to Manipur. The Government of India assessed the events in Manipur leading to the abdication of the Maharaja.
According to the Government of India the events which led to the abdication of Maharaja Sura Chandra were not due to the result of the popular feeling against the Maharaja. Any deep or wide apread discontent with his rule was not the result of the abdication of the Maharaja. The Government of India recognised Maharaja Sura Chandra as the ruler of Manipur.
The recognised ruler had been ousted by a 'cabal' in his own family. The 'cabal' was led by the Senapati Tikendra who had already incurred the displeasure of the Government of India on occasion more than once. The Government of India believed that if they recognised the Jubraj Kulachandra as the ruler of Manipur, the real power of the State would be in the hands of the Senapati Tikendra.
The Government of India could not tolerate such state of affairs to continue in Manipur. At that time, the Government of India were engaged in reducing the lawless tribes to order. The disorders as that of Manipur would have a mischievous effect on the hill tribes adjoining Manipur State.
The developments which were taking place in the tribal areas did not favour the state of affairs taking place in Manipur. The Government of India felt that they should adopt stronger stand in Manipur than before. They could not regard the developments in Manipur with indifference.
The Government of India decided to intervene in Manipur with a sufficient show of strength in order to make the Manipuris to understand that the Govt, of India were the masters of the situation, that the differences between the Manipuri brothers should be settled on principles of justice, that the internal dissension on principles of justice, that the internal dissension should be settled for the benefit of good Government in Manipur, and that if any arrangement was to be made, it should be made with the full sanction of the Government of India.
The Government of India directed the Chief Commissioner of Assam to visit Manipur in order to make a decision on the merits of the case. The Chief Commissioner was to enforce the decision if necessary. He should accompany a sufficient force to overawe the conspirators. The Government of India thought that a very small body of troops would be enough and sufficient numbers of troops could be collected from Cachar or Kohima.
The Chief Commissioner was directed to re-instate Maharaja Sura Chandra if he was able to receive a reasonable amount of support from the people of Manipur. The Maharaja Sura Chandra was to be assured assistance of the Government of India if he agreed to obey 'implicitly' the instructions of the Government of India.
The re-instatement of Maharaja Sura Chandra should be immediately followed by the removal of the Senapati Tikendra from Manipur. The Senapati Tikendra should be placed in surveillance elsewhere. If Maharaja Sura Chandra was not re-instated following from his 'hopeless incompetence', the Jubraj Kulachandra was to be recognised as the ruler of the State. In that case also, the Senapati Tikendra was to be removed from the State of Manipur.
According to the Chief Commissioner of Assam the principles of justice could not be applied to the case of Maharaja Sura Chandra. The Maharaja Sura Chandra was very much disturbed when he fled from his Palace to the Residency on the 21st September, 1890. In such state of terror, he was assured of his personal safety all along by the Political Agent in Manipur.
The Maharaja should have full confidence in the assurance of the Political Agent in Manipur. He also took sufficient time in arriving at his decision of abdication. He really took part of a day and a whole night in taking his stand of abdication. He had no change of mind even though he know well that the Political Agent was about to make attempt at bringing about a compromise between the Maharaja's brothers.
The Maharaja Sura Chandra sent his letter of abdication to the Senapati. After 12 days on his arrival at LAKHDVIPUR he intimated that he had not abdicated the throne. The Chief Commissioner was emphatic that this change of opinion of the Maharaja Sura Chandra was resulted from the pressure built in by his brother Pucca Sana who accompanied the Maharaja in leaving Manipur.
The Chief Commissioner was against the conclusion that the restoration of Maharaja Sura Chandra would be for the benefit of good Government in Manipur. Maharaja Sura Chandra was a miserably weak man, a man of vacillating character. Maharaja Sura Chandra had received the grave rebuke conveyed in the Kharita in October, 1888 for his weak character.
The Chief Commissioner felt that the state of affairs prevailing in Manipur at that moment was due to the weak character of Maharaja Sura Chandra. That could have been avoided but for his weak character. The Chief Commissioner said that Bara Chaoba was a pretender to the throne. On the request of Maharaja Sura Chandra, return of Bara Chaoba to Manipur was allowed by the Government of India.
The Chief Commissioner pointed out that the request made by the Maharaja Sura Chandra to allow the return of Bara Chaoba was an ill-judged one. The request of Maharaja Sura Chandra was an indicator of the character of the Maharaja. The Chief Commissioner also pointed out that Maharaja Sura Chandra stiffened from 'lamentable weakness' as exhibited in the manner in which he fled from his Palace attack and the manner in which he abdicated the throne. If such a weak Maharaja would be restored, he would be a tool in the hands of others.
The real authority of the State would be in the hands of Pucca Sana for whom 'no one had a good word to say'. The Chief Commissioner came to the conclusion that the restoration of Sura Chandra would not lead to a strong Government in Manipur. On the other hand, the quarrels and resultant confusion would follow the restoration of the Maharaja Sura Chandra. The Jubraj Kulachandra had been recognised as heir to the throne.
The Senapati Tikendra, the next brother of the Jubraj would not relinguish his claims lightly in favour of his younger brothers. The Government of Jubraj Kulachandra had been able to conduct the affairs of the state with tranquility since its inception for the last six months. It had complied with the advice of the Political Agent in Manipur. It also adhered to the instructions issued by the Government of India on the Manipur Levy. The people of Manipur had not shown any feeling in favour of the return of the Maharaja Sura Chandra. On the contraray, there was the universal acceptance of the existing government.
According to the Chief Commissioner of Assam, the Jubraj Kulachandra could be recognised as ruler on the condition that an enquiry into the conduct of the Senapati Tikendra should be held and his punishment to the satisfaction of the Government of India. If the Government of India had no intention of excluding the Senapati Tikendra from the succession, his recognition as Jubraj should be made dependent on his obedience and good conduct.
The Chief Commissioner of Assam did not like to visit Manipur for re-opening of the question of the return of Maharaj Sura Chandra. The people of Manipur had little interest in the return of Sura Chandra as the people took the dispute between the brothers as a mere family matter. The Chief Commissioner felt that if he visited Manipur according to the lines of suggestion given by the Government of India, his visit would perturb the minds of the people and also the tranquility prevailing in the State would be disturbed.
The Chief Commissioner of Assam on the 19th February, 1891 at Calcutta, seat of Govt, of India once more strengthened his hand that the principles of justice hardly demanded the restoration of Maharaj Sura Chandra. The character or previous conduct of the Maharaj could not guarantee the conclusion of the Government of India that his restoration would be for the benefit of good government in the State of Manipur.
He further argued that the restoration of the Maharaja Sura Chandra exactly meant the expulsion of the de facto rulers viz. the party led by the Jubraj Kulachandra. The de facto rulers so far did not give any cause of complaints either to the Government of India or to their Manipuri subjects. The Chief Commissioner of Assam had made close study of the antecedence and characters of the de facto rulers.
On the basis of the minute scrutiny, he came to the concludion that there would be utmost efforts to stir up disaffection and rebellion in case of the expulsion of the de facto rulers. Jubraj Kulachandra, the heir-apparent had on his side a large number of followers. Senapati Tikendra, the most popular of the brothers and of turbulent character, was the head of the army of Manipur State.
The expulsion of the de facto rulers would result in disorders. In such eventuality the reconsideration of the arrangements for garrisoning Manipur would be necessary which would compel constant interference in Manipur by the Government of India. At that time there was a force of only 100 rifles of the Government of India in Manipur.
The force was meant for the escort of the Political Agent in Manipur. This force of only 100 rifles would be inadequate to put down all attempts at insurrection, to protect the Political Agent in Manipur and British subjects along with their property from popular disturbances.
Of the 100 rifles, a portion was employed on guarding stores in the abandoned Cantonment of LANGTHABAL, 6 miles away from the Residency. However, all the 100 rifles were not readily available with the Political Agent. In case of necessity, the required strength of force would be also expected from CACHAR as the head quarters of the military police was to be transferred shortly from Cachar to LUSHAI HILLS.
As the Maharaja Surachandra was weak, he would be ready tool in the hands of the irresponsible people around him. The Political Agent on the other hand could not allow abuses of authority to be indulged in by a ruler set up and maintained by the Government of India. These 'internal contradictions' would necessarily invite constant interference which was uncalled for in the internal affair of the country.
The Chief Commissioner of Assam could not, therefore, see reason that good administration could be secured without constant inteference in Manipur in case of the Maharaja SuraChandra being restored. The restoration of Maharaja Sura Chandra would necessarily invite constant interference by the Government of India into the affairs of Manipur. On the other hand, the existing rule led by the Jubraj Kulachandra was not to give grounds for inteference.
The Government of India was evolving a policy in regard to Manipur. The policy should also cover the question of maintaining an effective dominant position by the Government of India in Manipur. This position was required whenever British interests demanded of the State of Manipur.