India’s Iron-man? This is what Sardar was for Manipuri people

Bimol Akoijam

Other side of celebrating ‘nation-making’…

‘In Bombay, we were accommodated at Birla House, where Sardar Patel was waiting to die. We were taken to his bedroom,…Sri Prakash and I sat along the edge of the second bed, both in a state of nervous tension. The Sadar alone was completely relaxed, quietly listening and watching us. When Sri Prakash had said his piece and voiced his apprehension that the Maharaja might not comply with his advice, the Sadar simply inquired whether we had not a Brigadier in Shillong—and it was clear from the tone of his voice what he meant. That was all, and his daughter Maniben signal that the interview was over’

—Nari Rustomji, the then Advisor to the Governor of Assam Sri Prakash, on his meeting with Sadar Patel on the issue of Manipur, the then Kingdom with a constitutional monarchy…

These words of the ex-bureaucrat captured the terse deliberation that had informed the subsequent events during 17-21 September, 1949 at Shillong wherein the Maharaja of Manipur (who, despite having already signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ earlier) was put under ‘house arrest’ at Shillong to extract a ‘merger agreement’ to ‘take over’ the administration of the State by New Delhi, and the subsequent effort to implement the same with the arrival of the Indian Military in Imphal on 12th October 1949 and the unceremonious dissolution of the democratically constituted Manipur State Assembly, first of its kind in the entire South Asia or for that matter perhaps South East Asia as well, on 15th October 1949…

Let’s not pretend that this country comes out of ‘non-violence’ and/or non-militaristic mechanism. The colossal violence of the Partition to the deployment of the military in Kashmir, Hyderabad and Manipur, the post-colonial Indian State became a reality through violent means and subversion of democratic institution and ethos as well.

Incidentally, while discussing with Nehru on the strategic aspects of the two new states in Asia, the newly emerged postcolonial Indian State and China which became People’s Republic of China under the communists in 1949, Sadar Patel Patel referred to the people in India’s Northeast and those in Darjeeling and Kalimpong as people who ‘do not have firm loyalty and devotion to India’ but have ‘pro-Mongoloid prejudices’ (alluding to the racial affinity in his mind between the Chinese and the people in the ‘region’).

That suspicion for the racially marked other who lack ‘loyalty’ and the militarism of ‘Brigadier in Shillong’ was that which informed Pandit Nehru’s and his Home Minister Govind Ballabh Pant’s AFSPA in 1958 to ‘integrate’ the ‘recalcitrant’ ‘Naga hostiles’ (as the Naga nationalists of NNC were then termed by the leaders of the new created postcolonial State) into the ‘national mainstream’…

Just the legacy continues till date, one wonders whether celebrating the legacy of the ‘Iron Man’, the ‘unification’ of ‘India’ also means celebrating the militarism and subversion of democratic ethos that continue to haunt sections of the population, and celebrating AFSPA and its violences and twisted ideas and lies as well as incarceration of Sharmila etc?????

 

 

 

manipur naked protest