Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

IRAP Inhouse half page print edition
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Red Lands in Shlllong, summer residence of the Manipur Maharaja

Anti-Colonial Discourse in Manipur: the Shillong Accord 1949 and Annexation Theory


Manipur has been geo-strategically important for India. The British occupied Manipur from 1891 to 1947; to rule it and to fulfil their interest in ‘Burma’ as well. During the Second World War, Manipur was a battle front for the Axis and Allied forces; the Indian National Army claimed territorial occupation in Manipur by unfurling its flag on 14 April 1944 at Moirang. After 1949, the Indian State upholds that Manipur was voluntarily and peacefully merged with India. This is being is substantiated by the fact that on 21 September 1949, the then titular constitutional head of Manipur king Bodhachandra signed a ‘secret’ accord with the Dominion of India at Shillong. The ‘secrecy’ was not disclosed to the public until October 15, 1949, when the administration was taken over by enforcing an order known as the Manipur Administration Order (MAO).

The idea of voluntary merger is refuted by those who emboss the Shillong Accord with colonial meaning. The communist armed resistance (1949-51), rebellious assertions from 1960s, polemical journals from 1970s, and several civil assertions from 1990s combined to formulate a theory of forced annexation by India. The annexation theory achieved a milestone in 1993 when a three day ‘national’ seminar, held in Imphal, resolved that the ‘[Indo-Manipuri Shillong Accord] signed by and between the [king] of Manipur and the representative of the Dominion of India on the 21st September, 1949 did not have any legality and constitutional validity.’ The proceedings and debates of the seminar was published in 1995 under the title Annexation of Manipur 1949. This was followed by the circulation of a booklet entitled Why Manipuris Fight for Right to Self Determination (United National Liberation Front 1996), and Revolutionary People’s Fronts’ memorandum submitted to the United Nations Decolonisation Committee in 1996. Added to these were the eyewitness accounts of the complex and humiliating courses of ‘annexation,’ reproduced in the memoir entitled Shillong 1949, published in 2005 (Anandamohan 2005).

The historical juncture of 1949

The Shillong Accord was the immediate fallout of the bargaining for economic and political power between king Boddhachandra and the Dominion of India at Shillong. It was neither that the king was comparatively blind to the proposal of ‘merger’ nor was he ready to resist it. He finally settled for it after securing personal score on Privy Purse. However, the onus of the ‘blame’ must not be on the king alone; there were other powerful forces, both within and outside, that were playing crucial roles to claim control over the Manipur politics, resources, labour and market. Attention is also needed to bring into light various economic and political forces that were interplaying, either in support of the ‘annexation’ or against it. Focus is needed on the historical context when the powerful capitalist forces was successful in schematising a mechanism of ‘co-opting’, if not collaborative rule, with a section of the powerful Manipur elites that subsequently became subordinated ‘rentier bourgeoisie’. One must not fail to see that when a neo-liberal world order was structurally superimposed by co-opting with the local collaborators; it happened without effective resistance of ruled, who were leaderless and still living in uncoordinated villages, in an economically backward society that was founded on the pre-capitalist agrarian relations of production. In other words, Manipur had not evolved into a politically informed and psychologically cohesive nation on the eve of the ‘annexation.’ Further explanation is being carried out under the following para-headings: (a) India’s Capital Expansionism, and (b) Responses of the Manipur Elites.


(a) India’s Capital Expansionism


In 1947 the political power of British India was transferred to the monopolistic capitalist groups (Dyakov 2003) who constituted the Indian big bourgeoisie. They adopted a capitalist socio-economic system that required extensive territorial base to thrive on.[1] It interplayed with their ‘national perceptions’ reflected in Nehru’s ambition to create a super-national state stretching from the Middle East to South-East Asia and to exercise an important influence in the Pacific region; ‘[Nehru] stands for a South Asia federation of India, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Burma…. in the world of today there are two big powers, Russia and America. In the world of tomorrow, there will be two more, India and China –there will be no fifth’ (Ghosh 1996: 31).[2] In this adventurous capitalist drive, they continued with the British expansionism to advancing towards the Northeast boundary (Maxwell 1970: 45)[3] comprising the Himalayan kingdoms of Kashmir, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Tibet, (Ghosh 2002) as well. Patel had presumed that ‘our Northern or Northeastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal areas in Assam’ (Patel’s letter November 7, 1950).


Few examples are being cited to substantiate the point. For instance, in Tibet, the British Mission in Lhasa became officially Indian Mission on 15 August 1947. Furthermore, when a Tibetan Trade Mission headed by Tsepon Shakabpa visited Delhi in January 1948, the Indian State refused to talk about trade matters unless the Tibetans had recognized that the Indian State was ‘the legal inheritor of the treaties, rights and obligations of British India’ (Tibetan Bulletin 2000). In 1949, India signed a treaty with Bhutan to guide the latter’s foreign affairs. In the same year, India seized the opportunity of a local uprising against Sikkim ruler to send in troops and bring the state into closer dependence as a protectorate than it had formally been under the British (Maxwell 1970: 67-68.). ‘Nepal, too, according to Nehru, was certainly a part of India’ (Ghosh 2002). The Treaties of Peace and Friendship, and Trade and Commerce (1950) subjected Nepal to the extent of compelling Nepal to consult the Indian State before buying war material from any other country (Khanna 2001: 141-142).  Whether a territory should be annexed at any cost by using military might, as in the case of Hyderabad and Manipur, or kept as a subordinated neighbour as in the case of Sikkim (till annexed in 1975), Bhutan, and Nepal or entered into treaty alliance as in the case of Burma, were worked out to serve bourgeoisie interests.


According to Nari Rustomji, it was the advanced economies who, for the purposes of industrial development, strategic necessity or other considerations of self-interest, had initiated contacts (Rustomji 1983: 20-1). At the same time the strategic importance (Statements 8 August 1949) and administrative exigency were capitalist objectives (Misra Aug. 9, 1980: 1357-1359, 1361-1364). The Northeast, inhabited by economically backward tribal and peasant communities, apart from strategic calculation (Bahadur Gurung and Nichols Roy 19 and 23 November 1949)  was important for: (a) labour, resources (water, uranium, oil, coal, precious stones, minerals, plantation, flora and fauna, tourism, carbon credits, and forest products), and market, (b) a buffer to counter Chinese ‘social imperialism’, Myanmar and East Pakistan, and (c) a military stockpile and commodity stocked for commercial expansion in the South and South East Asian markets. They annexed the Northeast, integrated it into inter-territorial division of labour as the primary supplier of labour, raw material, market, and military stockpile for the emergent Indian capital. This region was considered to be a weak spot[4] that needed to be strengthened and consolidated’ (Bahadur Gurung 23 November 1949).


The territorial takeover was justified by claiming legal inheritor of British colonial Treaties and Acts: ‘it was assumed that [integration] could be done by an adaptation of the Government of India Act of 1935’ (Menon 1985: 104). However the making of territorial India was arbitrary and militant: ‘[a]ny state which did not come into the Constituent Assembly would be treated by the country as a hostile state. Such a state, he added, would have to bear the consequences of being so treated’ (Menon 1985: 78). Expansionism was embodied in the resolution of the Constituent Assembly, moved by Nehru on 13 December 1946, where representatives of princely states were not present.[5] The Assembly adopted a special resolution on 21 December 1946 to include Bhutan and Sikkim within the scope of a Negotiating Committee, obviously, for future expansion; that is, keeping Bhutan under India’s Sphere of Influence by the treaty of 1949 and annexation of Sikkim in 1975. [6]


Territorial takeover was carried out through a hasty federation proposal that had no provision of voluntary unionism and secession. The Manipur State Durbar resented it in 1939 as: ‘the durbar has not been given any time to consider the Hydari Report and similar papers (all related to federation proposal). The Durbar, on July 12, 1939, regretted: ‘in the very short time at its disposal it has not been able to study the question sufficiently thoroughly to give His Highness the Maharaja any advice as to whether it would be advisable to federation or not.’ The hasty manner explains the agenda to annex ‘frontiers groups’[7] at any cost. By 1946, some members of the Indian Constituent Assembly were trespassing in Manipur.[8] Manipur was indirectly represented to the Constituent Assembly, twice only[9] to merely present credentials and sign the registration on 14 July 1947[10] and on 22 August 1949. [11] Any resentment against this plot was condemned: ‘very harmful to the (Indian) nation and must be prevented’ (Kishorimohan Tripathi 9 November, 1948).


The Constituent Assembly was eager to disable Manipur from being protectionist, so that all Indians would be allowed to freely move in and around Manipur (Kumar Chaudhari 2 December 1948). They were worried that many in the Naga Hills were ‘misguided by certain persons into thinking that, with the withdrawal of British authority, the country would go back to them…’ (Jaipal Singh 30 July 1947). Assam should at any cost be controlled: if Assam were to go into the hands of somebody who is ‘not in favour of the whole of India, if Assam were in the hands of an adverse power, the whole of India would have gone too’ (Nichols Roy 19 November 1949). Accordingly Sardar Patel had to take up ‘my bounden duty to work for the consolidation of freedom’ (Menon 1985: 93). He used coercive tactics to ensure that the Shillong Accord was signed at any cost. (Rustomji 1971:107-9).


When the Constitution of India was finally adopted in 1950, it incorporated the provision of future annexation of territory but there is no provision of the right to secede.[12] The Acquired Territories (Merger) Act (1960), the Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act (1958) and the Criminal Law Amendment Act, (1961) were superimposed to suppress political dissent. Manipur was downgraded to Part C status because of ‘strategic necessity’ (Menon 1985: 297); where there should be a network of ‘communications for the movement of troops and provisioning of supplies in the event of attack from the north’ (Rustomji 1983: 18). Perhaps Toynbee’s argument that ‘the present consecration of these British-made lines as heirlooms in the successor state’s national heritages is an unexpected and unfortunate turn of History’s wheel’ (1996: 190) substantiates the theoretical understanding of India’s capital interest in Northeast.


The expansionist course was militant and expensive. According to Nehru, ‘there are limits beyond which we cannot go, at least ‘for some years, and a spreading out of our army on distant frontiers would be bad from every military or strategic point of View’ (Das 1974: 344) Maxwell argues, ‘empires in their expansive phases push out their frontiers until they meet the resistance of a strong neighbour, or reach a physical barrier which makes a natural point of rest or until the driving force is exhausted’ (1970). Nehru in 1950 admitted India’s expansive course: ‘India and China are two of the biggest countries of Asia bordering on each other and both with certain expansive tendencies, because of their vitality’ (Das 1974: 345). The need to translate imagined zones into lines, and from the failure to agree on a method to share or distribute the border led to conflict, conventional or unconventional or ‘frontier war’.[13] According to Barnard war becomes investable ‘especially if negotiations yield no compromise, over issues that are strategically important to them’ (1984).. Purcell believes, ‘[war] is important because actors do not simply imagine national territory, they also struggle to realize that imagined territory in the physical landscape that surrounds them’ (1998). To realize the goal, India invested in four conventional border wars, fencing and militarization along ‘international’ borders and counter- rebellion tactics.


(b) Responses of the Manipur Elites


Manipur in the 1940s was inhabited by self-sustaining, sparsely inhabited, small tribal dialectical groups and semi-feudal village communities that were yet to be collectively evolved into a stable community. It was not economically recovered from the ravages of the Second World. However, a political process towards a democratic system had emerged since the early 1930s. Between 1934 and 1948 there were anti-feudal assertions for a responsible government. There was certain degree of elite coordination across communities, which culminated in the constitution of a stipulated federation of communities for a five years experimentation. Accordingly, the Manipur Constitution was finally adopted on 26 July 1947 (Maipaksana Singh 1995:128), the Durbar was abolished and administration was entrusted to an Interim Council, headed by a Chief Minister and six ministers (Maipaksana Singh 1995:128). Election to the Assembly took place in June-July 1948 and a non-Congress coalition ministry headed by Praja Shanti Sabha was inaugurated on 18 October 1948.


While Manipur was in the making, the Indian ‘leaders’ could penetrate and co-opt with a section of loyal elites; who became instrumental towards ‘annexation’ by India. Certain initiatives towards the co-option had been gaining momentum since around the 1930s. Among the loyal elites was a section of the Durbar members composed of the landowning aristocrats. They, as early as 1935, had agreed in principle to demand for at least one full seat in the proposed Council of India.[14] In 1939 king Churachand and the Durbar were aware of the proposed formation of Federation of India. Although indecisive, they did not reject it.[15] By February 1940, it was very clear that the king was willing to join it.[16] On April 30, 1947, the Durbar resolved to ‘suggest that a small committee of three [one official, one hill and one valley representatives] should be appointed by the Constitution Making Committee to act as advisors to M.K. Priyobratta Singh who is advisor to the state representatives in the Constituent Assembly.’[17] The Durbar felt that it was essential for Manipur to formally join the Constituent Assembly of India without any further delay. The Durbar resolution of June 4, 1947 consented that Manipur can be indirectly represented to the Constituent Assembly by the India nominated ‘outsiders’.[18] The resolution was passed few days after Nehru, on 22 May 1947, had rejected the king’s demand for direct representation (Gopal 1984: 256-8). Accordingly, the king signed the Stand Still Agreement on 2 July 1947 and the Instrument of Accession on 11 August 1947.


Amongst the political parties, the Manipur State Congress (henceforth Congress)[19] was eager to speed up the ‘annexation’.[20] However, the Congress was not the ruling power; they could win only 14 seats, with a defection of one independent member, out of a total of 53 seats to the Manipur Assembly (Joykumar Singh 2002:164). Other political parties had indifferent views towards ‘annexation.’ For instance, on July 3, 1949, about 10,000 people from 41 villages in Southern Manipur, in a public meeting at Mayang Imphal, condemned the Congress and reaffirmed the distinctive cultural and political identity of the peoples of Manipur. On July 27, 1949, a meeting of 12 members of the Assembly representing the hill constituencies expressed their concern over the subversive activities of the Congress (Bhogendro Singh). When a large gathering of communities was organised at Imphal, on August 3, 1949, the people were angry at being hoodwinked into attending a meeting organised by the Congress. They immediately shifted the venue and assembled at a nearby ground and expressed anti-merger views (Mangi Singh 1995: 91).


The Manipur Socialist Party opposed ‘annexation’ on the ground that ‘the future relation of Manipur State with the Indian Union would be decided by the [people of Manipur] … As Manipur State occupied a position of strategic importance, the Government of India had a special responsibility to act according to the consent of its people. The Manipur Socialist Party, therefore, demanded the Union Government of India to hold a referendum to decide this issue’ (Manimohan Singh 1989: 337-8). The Communist Party of Manipur (henceforth Communist) opposed forced ‘annexation’. The communist leader Hijam Irabot, who had welcomed a cordial relationship with India to reconstruct Manipur from the ravages of the War[21] opposed forced ‘annexation’. He believed that Manipur might merge with India only on the basis of consensus, democratic principles and the public opinion (Manimohan Singh 1989: 205). He opposed the proposed formation of Purbanchal state comprising Manipur and other ‘tribal’ regions. On March 19, 1950, the Communists called upon the people to disobey the military Government established by ‘fascist India’ in Manipur (Manimohan Singh 1989: 337).


The Praja Santi Sabha (henceforth PSS) promised to defend the sovereignty of Manipur and insisted on having a cordial relationship with India without being ‘annexed’ (Mangi Singh 1995:86). President Dhabalo’s letter to the king, dated December 17, 1948, expressed the stand to retain the political autonomy of Manipur (Dena 1995:113). The PSS memorandum to the Governor of Assam, dated March 23, 1949, articulated cultural, linguistic and economic reasons against ‘annexation’ (Lokendra Singh 1998: 227-8). The party opposed annexation and warned: ‘if integration or merging be imposed here, irrespective of our unfortunate [and] helpless circumstances and [against] the principles of Bapuji [M. K. Gandhi], without the consent of the people, the present moral [respect for] … India, which is most precious, may disappear…’ (Joykumar Singh 1995:112).


The majority of the Manipur Assembly opposed ‘annexation’. On July 27, 1949, the meeting of a group of MLAs under the chair of S. Lunneh (Pan Manipuri Youth League 1993:71-2) protested the Congress initiatives towards ‘annexation’ (Lokendra Singh 1998: 227-8). A public meeting on August 3, 1949, presided by Solel Haokip, Habi Mia and Nandalal Sharma opposed ‘annexation’. It condemned ‘… act of selling the Manipuri Praja [people] to India without taking public opinion’ (Lokendra Singh 1998: 227-8). T.C. Tiankham, the then Speaker of Assembly, questioned the legitimacy of the king to take any decision on the issue, as ‘Manipur had an Assembly elected on adult franchise’ (Manimohan Singh 1989:354). Tiankham opposed ‘annexation’ and articulated that people’s representative should decide the issue (Kamei 1995: 97). A. Daiho opposed ‘annexation’  (Kamei 1995: 87) and he sent a telegram to the Governor General of India, saying that the Mao community did not approve ‘annexation.’ When agitation spread and the Mao area was blocked; a youth was killed in police repression (Dena 1995:115).


A section of the Manipur media was against ‘annexation’. The paper Ngashi wrote against ‘annexation’ and its issue, dated July 13, 1949, was banned (Lokendra Singh 1998:226).  The Bhayabati Patrika allegedly incited public opinion against ‘annexation’ (Mangi Singh 1995:91-2). Its editorial article, dated September 20, 1949, reads: ‘we are insulting the honour of our forefathers if the consequence of an independent India is going to be the enslavement of Manipur’ (Manimohan Singh 1989:358). The editorial on September 21, 1949 reads: ‘[people of Manipur] do not want to be subservient to another nation, history provides ample proof for that. However, [people of Manipur] like to have friendly relations with other nations. We are a nation faithful to truth. The Manipur state cannot tolerate subjugation by another nation. What we want to have is…nothing more than self-rule in this land, as we had always since the beginning of history under a King’ (Dena 1995:114). There were protests ‘but an eerie silence prevailed for many months [after 21 September 1949] due to the ban imposed against freedom of speech and association [and]… heavy deployment of paramilitary forces’ (Pan Manipuri Youth League 1993: 80).


Despite protest the Shilling Accord was arbitrarily signed in secrecy. King Bodhachandra did not immediately disclose the matter. Instead ‘[He requested the Governor not to make any public announcement of the Shillong Accord until he had reached Imphal. For many crucial days, there were only rumours about what actually happened at Shillong’ (Pan Manipuri Youth League 1993: 80). It seems that the people and the majority of the Assembly members were not informed that the Assembly would be dissolved on 15 October 1949. The deployment of the two battalions of the Indian troops at the strategic areas of Imphal was shown to be some security measures to suppress the Communists. When the ‘annexation’ was announced the people were militarily unprepared to resist the Indian troops. Series of protests after the enforcement of the MAO (Centre for Organisation Research Education 1999) were easily suppressed. Manipur was militarily ruled and denied a statehood under the constitutional framework till 1972.


Annexation theory


The Indian State upholds the view that the Shillong Accord and the Manipur Administration Order were the linear procedural fallouts of the Standstill Agreement of 2 July 1947 and the Instrument of Accession of 11 August 1947. However, the annexation theorists refuted it. According to them, the Indian State took advantage of the economic chaos and political instability of Manipur to occupy the latter. The Standstill Agreement and the Instrument of Accession were imposed under coercive intimidation. On 24 July 1947, Lord Mountbatten had warned the Chamber of Princes[1]: ‘…if you are prepared to come, you must come before 15 August…You cannot run away from the Dominion Government which is your neighbour any’ (Mohendra Singh 1995:171). There was lack of a fair bilateral agreement; but imposition of the colonial Indian Arbitration Act 1899 that recognised the Dominion of India as the legitimate successor of British rule. According to the Standstill Agreement: ‘until new agreements on that behalf were made, all agreements and administrative arrangements as to matters of common concern then existing between the Crown and ‘any Indian State’ shall, in so far as might be appropriate, continue as between the Dominion of India or, as the case might be, the part thereof and the State.’ The Instrument of Accession vested the matters such as defence, external affairs, and communications in the Dominion of India, while Manipur retained autonomy only in internal administration. In that sense was subordinately ‘placed at the mercy of India’ (Bhogendro Singh).


The annexation theory questions the legal and constitutional validities of the agreements. Firstly, the king of Manipur signed the agreements with ‘pre-independent India’ that did not had treaty-making powers as on 11 August 1947. Secondly, the agreement was executed under the limited sovereignty extended to Manipur under British control, that is, in the absence of free and informed consent of the peoples or their representatives (Centre for Organisation Research Education 1999). Hence the agreements are being seen as non-applicable to independent Manipur in 1949. Revolutionary People’s Front asserts: ‘by a proviso of Section 7(1) (b) and (c) of the Indian Independence Act, 1947, whatever prejudicial relations Manipur had with the British Government before Independence had been denounced and repudiated or any obligation arising out of the Instrument of Accession were washed away with the promulgation of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947 and the Indian Independence Act, 1947’ (1999).


The annexation theory unveils the roles of Indian agency. It considers the appointment of Indian Dewan in Manipur[22] as extraneous, unconstitutional and a precursor to political interferences (Revolutionary People’s Front 1999). The Dewan Amar is being identified with the ‘Trojan Horse’ (Bhogendro Singh). According to CORE, ‘his powers and authority remained intact in accordance with the Sanad establishing British control over Manipur’ (1999). His primary initial duty was to maintain the treaty obligations between Manipur and India. After the abolition of the Dominion Agency in June 1948 and the creation of the post of Dewan; Amar took over direct charge of the law and order, administration of ‘hills’, the state forces and the relations with the Government of India. An open letter to the king, on 14 April 1949, by Sri Prakasa, the then Governor of Assam, unveils that the Dewan was being asked to have a say in the distribution of portfolios among the ministers. Amar’s interference in the internal politics of Manipur is considered to be primarily aimed at destabilising and weakening Manipur to hasten the ‘annexation’ (Lokendra Singh, 1989:225-6).[23]


The annexation theory does not deny the role of king Bodhachandra in the Shillong Accord. However, it refutes the legal validity of the Accord on some grounds. Firstly, the Accord was signed under compulsion, and use of force, coercion and misrepresentation of facts (Nilamani 1995: 139). It depicts the king as a defenceless human being with a lost sense of courage to confront an invincible Indian force (Bhogendro Singh). He had appealed to the Indian authority that the sovereignty of Manipur was vested in the people and that it was in the fitness of things to hear the people’s voice and learn their sentiment so that the line of action might not in any case be unconstitutional. He expressed his desire to return to Manipur the next day [19 September] to expedite the matters (Bhogendro Singh). On 19 September the king could not meet any representative of the Dominion of India but merely exchanged correspondence with the Governor of Assam expressing his sense of betrayal, and reiterated his desire to go back to Manipur. However, he was being kept under house arrest by ‘protective guard to ensure that all should be well’ (Rustomji 1971:109). In that situation, according to Rustomji, ‘the Maharaja was beside himself with emotion, now bursting into tears, now wrapped in sullen melancholy’ (1971:109). Annexation theorist Bhogendro adds: ‘Sri Prakasa, who used to advise the king not to deviate from the path of a constitutional ruler and invoked democratic principles, whenever this suited India’s interests, told a shocked king to forget about the elected State assembly and the responsible Government in Manipur. He simply wanted the king to put his signature, by 20 September, on a prepared document ceding full and exclusive authority regarding the governance of Manipur to India’ (Bhogendro Singh).


Secondly, the king was not representing Manipur at Shillong. It is being argued that Manipur was a ‘nation’ governed by a responsible popular government. The idea of responsible government is substantiated by the proclamation of the king on 18 October 1948: ‘I now bring to the mind of the people that I had transferred my powers and responsibilities other than those of a Constitutional Ruler to the State council since 1st July 1947 before the lapse of the British paramountcy and since then, I have already remained as a constitutional ruler’ (Centre for Organisation Research and Education 1999). Section 8 of the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 enlisted the king’s prerogatives that could not and should not extend to the legitimate interest of the State administration. Sections 9 (b) and 26 of the Act made it mandatory that the law-making authority in [Manipur] is vested in the king in council only in collaboration with the State assembly’ (Nilamani 1995:138). The annexation theory, therefore, argues that the king was just a titular head and had no legal or constitutional power to enter into any treaty with any foreign power in 1949 (Naorem 1995: 63). At Shillong, the king was neither a delegate of Manipur nor there was any approval or ratification by the Council of Ministers and the Assembly (Nilamani 1995:140).


Thirdly, the annexation theory argues that both Manipur and India were two different ‘nations’. This is based on the perception that freedom was restored to Manipur in 1947 (The Sangai Express August 5, 2003). According to RPF, ‘…the independence and sovereignty of Manipur had been strengthened, when Manipur adopted her own political constitution, namely, the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947’ (1999). The establishment of the popular Government in 1948 is being referred to as an event marking the ‘sovereign people’s republic’ (Centre for Organisation Research Education 1999). By republic they meant a system where the people’s consent conveyed through opinion or vote constituted the ultimate decision. However, the Indian State had bypassed the Manipur Constitution and international standards such as UNGA Resolution 1514 (XV) of 1960 which stated that ‘integration’ or ‘merger’ should be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territory’s peoples acting with full knowledge of the change in their status. The Manipur Assembly had never ratified the Accord but it was arbitrarily dissolved. (Centre for Organisation Research Education 1999).


Fourthly, the annexation theory argues that there had been certain procedural loopholes that called for revocation of the Accord. The loopholes are two. (a) The Accord, ‘which partook of the nature of a treaty between two sovereign states of Manipur and India has got to be ratified, and it can have no binding effect unless it has been ratified’ (Nilamani 1995:141). The failure to ratify it suggests that the right of the Manipur people to self-determination was not exercised in 1949 or, thereafter and that Manipur’s right to self-determination has not been extinguished (Revolutionary People’s Front 1999) (b) The Manipur Constitution Act 1947 had not been amended in order to suit the MAO, nor had it been repealed (Mani 1995:181). As action was taken neither by the President for a period of three years nor by the Parliament under Article 239 and Article 245 (1) of the Constitution of India, the Manipur State Constitution Act 1947 cannot be deemed to have been repealed (United Committee Manipur 2002:4). All laws existing in Manipur before annexation are being considered as continuing without repealing or amendment (Memcha Devi, 1991: 11).


Finally, central to the formulation of annexation theory, there is the polemical articulation about Manipur as a Non Self Governing Territory. It draws difference marker between India and Manipur as two different entities (Declaration 24 October 1999) respectively corresponding to the characters of ruler and the ruled. In other words, annexation theory inter-relates and locates India, Manipur and the Administration Order in a colonial time. The ‘annexation’ is being identified with subversion of sovereignty, suspension of democracy, loss of territorial rights and extinction of national identity. Extinction of national identity is being explained by referring to: devaluation of the political status of Manipur to a Part C state; muzzling of the press and banning of public dissentions; deployment of armed forces, imposition of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in 1958, and repression; alleged communal divisive policy; misrule of what they termed ‘puppet’ regimes since 1972; and ‘underdevelopment.’ Stereotyped polemics about ‘national contradictions’ between India and Manipur is being circulated to anchor emotions towards fulfilling the ‘objectives of human rights and fundamental freedoms … to protect their human rights’ (Karia July 27, 1999). The agenda is to encourage the people to ‘revolt against the Indian colonial rule as a political community struggling to attain or retrieve its lost separate independent statehood by reasserting their right to self-determination’ (Nilamani 1995:141).




The Shillong Accord 1949 was a past event; while some contemporary Manipuris had wanted it, there were majority sections who were either opposed to it or unaware of it. The question is: is it worth remembering it? If yes: in what ways it should be remembered? Who will celebrate it and who will mourn and observe black day on this date; it is a matter of political choice. The political choice to paint negative colour to the past event, attribution of colonial meaning to it, and subsequent formulation of the anti-colonial discourse centred on this event does not occur due to sheer chance, sectarian jingoism and misreading of the Accord. The choice reflects both the persistence of a contentious perception about how India has been structured and the politics of dissention; the choice being correspondent to the repressive tactics vis-à-vis democratic assertions, which are all structured in the system of governance. Therefore, when the annexation theory achieved a milestone only in the public seminar of 1993, thereby, marking itself a qualitative shift from being the propaganda of the armed rebels; it was a clear message to the Indian State to rethink its ‘national’ policy in Manipur. However, the Indian State have failed to address why many are dissatisfied with its political economic constraints. It is this failure that survives the annexation theory and making it appealing amongst those who rose in either armed rebellion or popular democratic assertions.


Perhaps, the Indian big bourgeoisie was successful in schematising the Shilling Accord and bringing Manipur under its capitalist regimes. In the subsequent period, it could co-opt and create a subordinate class of ‘rentier bourgeoisie’ composed of chiefs and landlords, usurers, contractors, commission agents, corrupt officials, petty merchants, and elite NGO sectors and others that are dependent on the former for political and economic power. Certain service sectors have been opened up, which subsequently generated employment and it helped in creating various layers of loyal middle class. The capitalist regime, however, could not phase off the structural crisis leading to inequality, insecurities and different forms of unrests. Added to it is the militarisation, leading to suppression, repression, and insecurities. The situation had catalytic impact in generating frustration and disillusionment about socio-psychological security, and economic and political rights. It is against this backdrop that a section of the population looks upon the past event to trace the genesis of their present dissatisfaction. The annexation theory, therefore, is not a mere contentious interpretation of the past; but an expression of ‘anger’ and propagandist formulation that also contribute to the ideological underpinning of armed rebellion and various forms of democratic dissentions. In this scenario, the Indian State’s attempted justification of the Accord and the investment in militarisation cannot outwit the annexation theory. The Indian State need to change its structure of governance – to act according to the political sensitivity and aspirations of the dissatisfied sections so that ‘democracy’ is established. Only then, the colonial depiction of the Indian State will lost significance and the anti-colonial discourse will become self- redundant. The past cannot be rectified; but the perspective about the past can be changed, if the future is being improved towards peace and democracy without further delay.





——–1993 (October 29). Resolution of the National Convention on Manipur Merger Issue.

——–1993. Bharatki Loilam Manipur (Manipur, the Colony of India), Imphal: Pan Manipuri Youth League.

——–1996. Why Manipuris Fight for Right to Self Determination. Kangla: United National Liberation Front.

——–1999 (July 27, Day 2, Morning Session). Summary of the report presented by Mr. Joseph Ole Karia/ Maa Development Association at the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization Monitor Working Group on Indigenous Populations, ,

——–1999 (October 24) Declaration on Manipur people’s solidarity with the United Nations on the occasion of the UN day rally. Document from the collection of the Committee on Human Rights Manipur.

——–1999. (March). Criticism and constructive submission regarding the study on treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements between states and indigenous populations’ (henceforth CORE’s Criticism and constructive submission): Report submitted by Centre for Organisation Research Education, Manipur to the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Commission on Human Rights, United Nations.

——–1999. 2nd Ed. Memorandum of the Revolutionary People’s Front, submitted to the Secretary General United Nations and the Chairman of the Decolonisation Committee (Committee of 24) for de-colonisation of Manipur from Indian colonialism and alien racist regime, enlisting Manipur in the list of the non-self-governing-territories of the United Nations and, restoration of independence and sovereignty of Manipur.

——–2000 (May-June). The Evolution of Nehru’s Policy on Tibet: 1947-1954’ Tibetan Bulletin. Tibet: Tibetan Administration.

——–2000. A draft policy to protect and uphold the unique historical features, existing historical boundary and also for bringing emotional integration of the people of Manipur to achieve faster economic development of the state. Imphal: United Committee Manipur.

——–2003 (August 5). Legal Notice, dated 1/8/2003, by Sanasam Sarat Singh on behalf of the Universal Friendship Organization based in Manipur. Imphal: The Sangai Express.

——–Constituent Assembly Debates. Vols I, II, IV, VI, VII, IX and XI. Delhi: Constituent Assembly of India.

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[1] Manipur was a recognised princely state.

[1] They had to compete with the rising Chinese, Burmese, and Pakistani counterparts.

[2] If Nehru had charged Chinese social imperialism as ten times more dangerous than Western imperialism, his green signal to the ‘Forward Policy’ (Ghosh 2002) of militarizing the entire Northeast was equally imperialistic. According to Nehru, ‘the danger really is not from military invasion but from infiltration of men and ideas’ (Patel’s letter November 7, 1950) and he had to deal with a strong hand to suppress resistance. There was apprehension about the Kuomintang infiltration into Burma and potential clamp down by China on the soil of Burma. This was considered a strategic danger; which also suggest that Northeast was already presumed as the permanent frontier for India. At the same time India was pursuing policy to speed up demarcation of a permanent Sino-Burmese borderline; and to defend Indian maritime interests in the Burmese sea as well. In the 1940s K.M. Panikkar had intimated that ‘the defence of Burma was in fact the defence of India, and it was India’s primary concern no less than Burma’s to see that its frontiers remain inviolate’ (Panikkar 1945: 43).

[3] It was in tune with the agenda of the ‘Curzonic Scientific Frontier’.

[4] Sikkim state and Darjeeling district connected Tibet with India, and Assam is linked with the rest of India by a narrow strip of land consisting of portions of Darjeeling district and Jalpaiguri. It must not go in the hands of China and erstwhile East Pakistan.

[5] Statement of resolution, Friday, 13 Dec. 1946; Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume I.

[6] Statement of debate, Wednesday, 22 January, 1947; Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume II.

[7] Such as Sikkim, Cooch Behar, Cooch Behar, Tripura, Manipur and Khasi States. Annexure A to the Presentation of Credentials and Signing of the Register, Tuesday, 27 January 1948; Constituent Assembly Debates, Volume VI.

[8] Manipur State Durbar Resolution No. 10/20-11-1946.

[9] By India nominated ‘outsiders’, Himmat Singh, K. Maheshwari, and G.S. Guha, who were neither familiar about Manipur nor mandated by the people.

[10] Debate of the Constituent Assembly, Monday, 14 July 1947.

[11] ibid., Monday, 22 August 1949.

[12] Part I, Article 1, Clause No. 3 and Sub Clause No. C of the Indian Constitution.


[14] Manipur Durbar Resolution No. 3 of 20 February 1935.

[15] King’s Memo No 1001- P.1.1; 11 April 1939, submitted to the Manipur Durbar; Annexure, Manipur Durbar Resolution, 15 March 1939.

[16] Letter of King Churachand sent to Gimson, on 19 February 1940; File no. 18 C/40, Confidential Programme B, December 1940, R-a/S-C/144, Manipur State Archive.

[17] Manipur Durbar Resolution No. 25 of 30 April 1947.

[18] Manipur Durbar Resolution, No 29 of 4 June 1947.

[19] In 1948 Manipur Congress was affiliated to the All India States’ Peoples’ Conference. It worked with the Indian National Congress and supported the proposed creation of a Purbanchal State comprising Manipur, Tripura, Cachar and Lushai Hills. After the defeat in election, it was affiliated to Indian National Congress (Joykumar Singh 2002:164).

[20] The working committee meeting on April 29, 1949, resolved in favour of the annexation.

[21] Resolution No. 6; Joint sitting of the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasabha and the Manipur Praja Mandal, April 5, 1947. File relating with Hijam Irabot. R-1/S-D: 245 Manipur State Archives.

[22] In mid-1947, the British Political Agent in Manipur was rechristened as the Dominion Agent; Major General Rawal Amar held the post of Dewan from April 1949.

[23] The Dewan Amar wanted to delete Manipur State Courts Act 1947, Section 36, which gave certain discretionary powers to the king. It created tensions by playing card upon the king. When the MAO was enforced, it was the Dewan who did it at a ceremonial function held at the 4th Assam Rifles Ground. Amar became the first Chief Commissioner of Manipur, assisted by an Advisory Board nominated by him (Maipaksana Singh 1995:130).

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