Youth and students of Manipur have reacted angrily against a speech made on March 28 by the Manipur Chief Minister, Nongthombam Biren Singh, in Porbandar, Gujarat, in which he asserted that Manipur, Arunachal, Nagaland and other parts of the North East had been part of India “since the time of Bhagwan Sri Krishna”. He claimed that the age-old unity of the North East with the rest of India was disrupted thereafter, and then thanked PM Narendra Modi for having reestablished this unity.
The Manipur students issued a statement which noted that the Chief Minister had “unabashedly accepted the distorted lies about Manipur, its people and its history which has been long propagated by the Indian colonial discourse of dissolving Manipur in the Caste-Hindu fold forcefully.” They went on to say that “In 1949, Manipur lost its freedom and today we are on the brink of losing our identity. Nongthombam Biren sold our history to his seasonal mainland political party BJP and its allies for his political mileage, and there can be no less shameful and disdainful act than this.”
The truth is that Manipur was unilaterally and illegally annexed by the Indian state on 15 October, 1949. The people and the then ruler of Manipur did not agree to join the Indian state when the British colonialists handed over power in August 1947. In July 1947, Manipur had adopted its own Constitution. Even when the then King of Manipur Bodhchandra Singh signed the Instrument of Accession in August 1947, it was made clear that the Indian state could exercise its power only over three subjects and that the rest of the state’s sovereign powers were not transferred. Manipur actually elected its first assembly under its own Constitution, and this assembly held its first session in October 1948 and the government was formed by a coalition that was opposed to merging with India. However, in October 1949, the Indian state annexed Manipur. The ruler of Manipur was forcibly held under detention and coerced until he agreed to full merger with the Indian Union.
This forcible annexation by the Indian state was never accepted by the people of Manipur, and numerous movements there have continuously resisted it since that time. Manipur has been kept for decades under the jackboots of the Indian armed forces, and this armed occupation has been legalized under obnoxious and hated laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). At the same time, the so-called democratic Indian political process, including the party and electoral system, has been used in the most blatant way to corrupt and buy over local power holders and to give a veneer of legitimacy to the Indian Union’s hold over Manipur. Both the Congress and the BJP, in collaboration with various local parties and politicians, have conspired to thus deprive the people of Manipur of their freedom.
In addition, as the Manipuri students’ statement points out, every attempt is being made to erase the unique and independent history and identity of the people of Manipur as well. They are resorting to lies, distortion of history and myth-making to claim that Manipur, Arunachal and other parts of the North East were all part of “one India” from ancient times, and especially to make out a Hindu identity for these regions. This brazen attempt to erase Manipur’s unique history and identity and merge it into a single pan-Indian “national identity” and Hindu identity is not new, but it is being vigorously pushed at this time by the BJP government at the Centre and in the state. The Statement notes that “It has been debunked time and again by eminent scholars that the Meiteis of Manipur has anything to do with the Aryan Civilization”, and that the Chief Minister had brazenly “ignored the sensibilities of the people of Manipur by claiming as such.”
Even though the Chief Minister’s apologists later tried to shamelessly pass off his remarks in Gujarat as a “joke” (fagi), the students and youth are demanding that N.Biren Singh must apologise. They have warned that he should “remember that the people of Manipur are not some foolish stock of population that can be played and fooled with anytime by using the history, interest and aspiration of the people as a springboard to his political career.” The statement is signed by the Manipuri students of 19 major universities.
MEL joins the freedom-loving youth and people of Manipur in condemning this and other blatant attempts by the Indian state, the Indian ruling class and its politicians, to deny and falsify the history and identity of the people of Manipur and to deprive them of their national, political and social rights. The armed occupation of Manipur and widely practiced state terrorism there must be ended at once, and the national, political and social rights of the people there must be restored to them. All the peoples of India must fight together to ensure that current Indian Union, that is based on the suppression of national and political rights in different parts of the country, must be ended and replaced with a truly voluntary union of the many nations, nationalities and tribal peoples of this region.