Imphal Review of Arts and Politics


Leishemba Sanajaoba will Create New History by Making Manipur’s Symbolic Titular Kingship Challengeable and Criticisable

Even amidst a strong opposition from a number of powerful and influential civil society organisations and cultural bodies of Manipur, the stand of the titular king of Manipur Leishemba Sanajaoba is firmly for contesting the lone Rajya Sabha seat of Manipur by accepting the offer of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its nominee.

The mounting opposition and protests from a number of powerful and influential civil society organisations, ethnic groups and cultural bodies of Manipur at the time of his nomination in March slowed down since the Lockdown landed in the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and the election scheduled to be held on March 26 was differed.

Now as the lockdown is being progressively eased in many parts of India, the Election Commission has announced a date for the election on June 19. The voting will begin at 9 am on June 19.

However, the strong opposition and protest from powerful and influential grassroots based civil society organisations (CSOs) has been renewed with the announcement of new date of polling by the Election Commission of India.

The 6 powerful and influential grassroots based civil society organisations (CSOs) – AMUCO, IPSA, UPF, HERICOUN, CCSK and LIPUL in a press release issued jointly on June 8 urge the titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba to declare his stand on or before June 12 taking into account of the voice of the people to not mix up the institution of the kingship with the Indian electoral politics.

If Leishemba Sanajaoba has preferred the Rajya Sabha MP considering the materialistic benefits and the powers to be enjoyed under Indian political system, he should abdicate the kingship as it is not something he can’t do.

They further stated that depending on what Leishemba Sanajaoba decides on the voice of the people, the 6 organisations along with the mass would take its stand on the relationship of Leishemba Sanajaoba and the institution of the kingship and Sana Konung from June 13 onwards. However, no significant decision is taken yet till the time of writing this story.

What Leishemba Sanajaoba spoke boldly in numerous public gatherings that he stands for Manipur and its people has now become meaningless since he can’t respect the voice of the people, the statement added.

The 6 organisations further stated that the decision of the titular king to contest for the lone Rajya Sabha MP as a nominee of the ruling BJP was against the wish of the people of the State and when he becomes an MP being the titular king of Manipur will undermine the aged old institution.

Once he has joined Indian politics, his position as titular king and his duties as head of the state for cultural practices and rituals of different communities of Manipur and his values will be gone down deep into Indian politics and lost Manipur’s legacy.

Meanwhile, the Manipur State Council, Government in exile has urged titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba to reconsider his decision to stand for the Rajya Sabha elections in the interests of Manipur and for the future of the people and the land.  In a statement, the Government in exile recalled how the Constitution of Manipur was suspended and asserted that the de jure Government set up by the Government in exile is acceptable in the eyes of the international law.  The statement also alleged that Manipur was ‘annexed’ by India after passing the State’ Merger (Chief Commissioners’ Provinces) order of October 22, 1950 as passed by the then Governor General of India C Rajagopalachari.

Even if Leishemba Sanajaoba has won the lone Rajya Sabha seat of Manipur and become MP, the continuity of titular kingship will not be unquestionable.

Remarkably, Manipur Students’ Association Delhi (MSAD) President, Shaikhom Chingkheinganba in a press release issued on June 11 stated that Leishemba Sanajaoba is free to practice his politics in the Indian electoral system. But he cannot do it as the Titular King of Manipur. His kingship represents cultural symbolism and the existence of Manipur’s national identity. King as the cultural symbolism includes the significance of the institution as serving the bond of mutual relationship between the Hill and Valley. Primary critique is not against Sanajaoba but his attempt to delegitimize our erstwhile political sovereignty.

Further, he stated that the status of the king became the Head of the State (titular king) with the establishment of a democratic republic under the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947. In his capacity as the Constitutional Head, treaties with other sovereign nations were concluded in his name for instance – the Merger Agreement, 1949. Other matters of external affairs relating to war and peace were done in the name of King. Even as the constitutional head, the office of the King represented the sovereign independent existence and national identity of Manipur. This is the political significance of the institution of kingship. The cultural sovereignty which he holds today was a necessary embodiment of the erstwhile political sovereignty. Cultural symbol extends beyond the political where we must pay attention. The fate of the hills and valley are joined here. The king can be installed with someone from the hills after Sanajaoba left.

When Manipur was forcefully merged to the Indian State in 1949, the political authority of the king was lost. Present Titular King represents the Manipur nation with no political authority. It provides historical proof of the people’s movement that we were a sovereign nation with complex political life. The institution of kingship is inherently intertwined with the aspirations of the people of Manipur and their struggles for a democratic way of life.

The concept of monarchy is not acceptable. Space of monarch is not the mere form of king and its subjects. It represents a living symbol of an erstwhile independent Manipur. It reminds to all of us that Manipur was a sovereign nation which had its own constitution, and parliamentary form of government. For million people, their loyalty is not to the palace but to the complex political life challenging the Indian colonising forces, the statement added.

When FPSJ Review contacted on June 12 to ask about the Titular King’s reaction to the opposition and pressures of the civil society organisations and cultural bodies against his candidature for the lone Rajya Sabha MP of Manipur, Leishemba Sanajaoba declines to speak to the media.

However, Leishemba Sanajaoba’s silence itself explains his firm stand as a candidate for the lone Rajya Sabha MP of Manipur by embracing Indian parliamentary democracy and electoral politics to win the hearts and minds of the people of Manipur with the development funds, power and functions of MP.

Once Leishemba Sanajaoba becomes MP without abdicating the Titular Kingship, he will make a new beginning in the history of Manipur by making the most respected and unquestionable Kingship and Sana Konung challengeable and criticisable by the people.

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