Shillong meet legitimises demand for pre-merger status

SHILLONG, 21st Sep: A day-long discussion on Manipur’s history when it existed as one of the sovereign nations in the southeast Asian region and its present-day situation was held at Meghalaya state capital Shillong on Saturday.
Shillong Manipuri Students’ Union (SMSU) hosted the ‘one day open discussion on ‘Manipur Merger Agreement & question of Manipuri National Identity’ at Manipur House, Red Land, Laitumkhrah, Shillong.
SMSU president Chongtham Thangamba Meetei, AMSU president Peter Laishram, DESAM president Salam Akash, MSF vice president Sajad Bhuniya, SUK president Dhanakumar Ningthouja, AIMS former president Rajesh Yumnam and All Assam Manipur Students’ Union (AAMSU) president Nilakanta Pangamba attended the discussion session as presidium members.
In his address, SMSU vice president Relvine Hidam said that the discussion was held to help in understanding the Merger Agreement in-depth and to decide on the future course of actions to be taken. He recounted that Manipur already had its own Constitution, the second among the South East and the South Asian countries to have a Constitution in 1984, before it was merged to the Indian Union. The forcible merger has caused huge resentment amongst the people of the state, with many crying out against the injustice that had been committed. Since the merger, India has been relentless in its ploy to ensure the annihilation of the various indigenous communities of Manipur, he contended.
On top of this, AFSPA was implemented in the state, which has resulted in the death of many youth in fake encounters, rape and massacre every now and then. Despite numerous protests for repeal of the Act, the draconian law remains in force in Manipur. In addition, the unemployment rate is at an all time high. All of these have been going on for decades and the attempts by India to disintegrate the fraternal bonds of the state’s indigenes are taking effect. As such, discussion needs to be held on how to defend the state against such acts and ensure peace and tranquillity in the state, he asserted. In his speech, AIMS former president Rajesh Yumnam said that Manipur is a land with a long unique history and achieved independence from British even before India. However, the then King Bodhchandra was made to sign the merger agreement at gunpoint and Manipur was annexed by India.
Stating that “an agreement signed under duress is not valid”, Rajesh remarked that since the merger, India has always discriminated the people of Manipur, as its (India) main goal is to obtain the virgin resources of the state. Successive governments in the state till now have been unable to object to such threats. The situation has come to such a stage that the public have to pinpoint out the steps that the leaders should take to protect Manipur. As such, it is no longer the time to remain silent and instead, everybody must take a unified stand to save Manipur, he asserted.
Meanwhile, SUK president Dhanakumar said that since its merger to India, Manipur has been unable to maintain its unique identity. Thus, concerted efforts be should be made to help Manipur become an independent and self-sustained state, he added.
According to MSF vice president Sajad Bhuniya, the Merger Agreement signed on September 21 is not an ‘agreement’ but ‘annexation’, as the then king did not endorsed the agreement. Hence, all of us need to work together to bring about a united Manipur, he contended.
DESAM president Salam Akash said that the Merger Agreement is void as the then Council of Ministers of the Manipur State Assembly did not give their consent and instead, the Assembly announced on October 14, 1949 that Manipur had resolved to drop out of the Agreement. He continued that even after many years, the then Manipur Constitution Act has not been repealed or altered in any form and is still ‘alive’. However, Indian Constitution was enforced forcefully in the state, he recalled.
Stating that more emphasis should be given on the ultimate core issues instead of wasting valuable time on marginal issues, the DESAM president said that Manipur could be saved only through the people’s movement. It is important for Manipur to return to its status as an independent kingdom before the annexation, he asserted.
AMSU president Peter Laishram remarked that the main agenda of the Indian government is our land, for which it has not stopped the flow of outsiders into Manipur. Attempts have been made to enforce CAB and other measures to ensure the annihilation of the indigenous people of the state. The Indian Government knows that Manipur would demand its pre-annexation status back one day and thus, has been using the divide and rule policy in the state to deter any such demands at all costs. As such, we need to make united stand against such attempts, he contended.
During the programme, UCM consultative member advocate L Jadumani, Free Press School of Journalism deputy director RK Bobichand and Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Meghalaya president Ningthoujam Munich Singh spoke as resource persons.

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