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15th October: The Red Letter Day for Manipur
Seram Neken | 16 Oct 2013

Manipur became a part of India on 15 October 1949. Most Manipuris viewed it as ?Annexation?, while the then India Government termed it as ?Merger?. It was but a historical reality, which none could avoid. Nevertheless, Manipur is now a part of India. It needs to strengthen itself under the Constitution of India. Here, its worthy of recall that Manipur was an independent entity before its merger into India on 15th October, 1949. Manipur was well ahead of India in having a constitution of its own and in electing its own democratic legislative assembly. Manipuris are still proud of the status they had vis-?-vis India.

‘Manipur “Annexed” by New Delhi, Maharaja signs Agreement at Shillong’- was the headline of the Shillong Times edition of September 27, 1949. The report said “Manipur has been annexed by the Centre and the administration is expected to be formally taken over in course of next month. His Highness Shri Bodhachandra Singh, the Maharaja of Manipur returned back to the state capital yesterday escorted by an Assam government plane with armed guard, from his 10-day stay in Shillong where after protracted negotiations between His Highness and His Excellency the Governor of Assam, the former signed the Agreement. The Maharaja’s Privy is likely to be fixed at three lakhs of rupees, it is further learnt…………..”  The report was filed by the then Imphal Correspondent RK Maipaksana. The word “Annexed” written in the headline of the report clearly indicated that the merger was not done amicably.

Manipur became a part of India on 15 October 1949. Most Manipuris viewed it as ‘Annexation’, while the then India Government termed it as ‘Merger’. It was but a historical reality, which none could avoid. Nevertheless, Manipur is now a part of India. It needs to strengthen itself under the Constitution of India. Here, its worthy of recall that Manipur was an independent entity before its merger into India on 15th October, 1949. Manipur was well ahead of India in having a constitution of its own and in electing its own democratic legislative assembly. Manipuris are still proud of the status they had vis-à-vis India.

Under orders of Maharaja Bodhachandra, a 16-member Constitution Making Committee of independent Manipur was constituted on 10th March, 1947. From 27th July of the year, the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 was enforced in Manipur. In July 1948, the 53-member legislative body of Manipur was elected under universal adult franchise. The democratically elected General Assembly of Manipur began its service on 18th October, 1948. Just a year later on 18th September 1949, the Maharaja of Manipur was summoned to Shillong and the Manipur Merger Agreement was signed on 21st September, 1949. The special session of the democratically elected Legislative Assembly of Independent Manipur held on 28th September 1949 at Johnston High School, Imphal rejected the Agreement on the ground that Manipur Maharaja at that time had no power to sign the Agreement. Thereafter, on 15th October 1949, the then India government began enforcing the Manipur Merger Agreement. Manipur has witnessed lots of changes in its socio-political scenario since the time of its merger into Indian union. From a part-C state of India, Manipur had become a centrally administered area and later a Union territory, before attaining statehood in 1972. Meanwhile, in 1971 the Privy Purse was abolished with the intention of eradicating the kingship. This was the sequences of the historic pre and post merger/annexation of Manipur.

The historical reality is that Manipur had its own constitution before India adopted the present constitution. Manipur established a democratic form of Government before India became a democratic republic in 1950.  No Manipuri participated in the Constituent Assembly of India formed in 1946. Enforcement of Indian Constitution in Manipur was forcibly done, without any referendum of the Manipuris, after the so called Merger which was undemocratic in nature and spirit. These historical mistakes on the part of India government have been the source of all conflicts in Manipur for the last six decades. Even though India can not correct the past blunders by restoring Manipur’s independence, it can well take up corrective steps by ensuring unity and prosperity of Manipur only with a few constitutional amendments.

Restoration of age old intimacy among the various communities of Manipur lies in implementing the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act. in the whole state of Manipur, and in declaring the whole state of Manipur as a Hill State. The Constitution may be amended so that its Article no. 3 regarding alteration of state boundaries does not apply to Manipur. Recognition of the Meiteis as Scheduled Tribes is required in order to restore equality of social status among various communities in Manipur. Inner Line Permit System or any other mechanism may be implemented to protect the indigenous people of Manipur. These are some of the possible steps India needs to take up in favour of Manipur, as a corrective measure of the mistakes inherent in the forced merger of Manipur.