SANA KONUNG IMBROGLIO
Is the Kangla adequately renovated and preserved?
By Seram Neken Singh
Had the King been consulted, the government decision would have been lauded by all. Only a cordial rendezvous between the democratically elected government and the titular king of Manipur will solve the Sana Konung imbroglio. Only when the chief minister of the state and the king of Manipur open-heartedly discuss the situation, the meaningful decision for the posterity of Manipur will be made.
Since the abolition of ‘Privy Purse’ in 1971, succeeding kings of Manipur might have faced lots of hardships to maintain their status as the customary head of the land. The Manipur kings after merger to Indian Union were not so influential in political spheres as those of Hyderabad. In the meantime, former kings allowed large portions of its land to be occupied by private parties as residential buildings. Subsequent governments of the state during the past forty years have not shown any interest in sustaining the status of the King and the Royal Palace. Now the state government has come out with the decision to take-over the Sana Konung and evict the places around it for renovating it. The argument of the government is that the royal palace has lost its traditional character with huge private occupations. In the backdrop of such a decision, what will be the fate of our customary institutions – Sana Konung and the King of Manipur ?
Sana Konung is the symbol of age-old civilization and unity among different communities of Manipur. Recent reaction of 227 Tangkhul village chiefs of Ukhrul against the cabinet decision for take-over of the Sana Konung is the reflection of age-old ties among various communities of Manipur. Barring communal differences, the people as a whole stand to protect its king as a symbolic head. Such move is laudable from all circles.
The people of the state always want its royal palace to be preserved and kept intact for thousands of years to come, as it is the symbol of Manipur history and tradition. Sana Konung is the living example of Manipur being an independent kingdom before it was merged to the Indian Union in 1949. Today Sana Konung has become an institution for preserving the tradition, culture and history of this land. The decision of the state cabinet to take-over the royal palace for developing it into a heritage site and tourist spot has sparked protests, as its rightful owner the King of Manipur was not consulted. As per an agreement of 2006, every decision on the Sana Konung should be taken with the consent of the King. The Merger Agreement also mentions that the private property of the King should be made distinct from the public property. However, the government has unfortunately not taken the consent of the titular king in taking its verdict.
The objective appears to be good, however the manner in which the decision was taken is wrong. Moreover, the plan for palace renewal needs to be chalked out taking into account the importance of the customary head of the land. The king has a big say in the renovation of the palace. Moreover, it is not certain that the mere take-over by state government will fulfill the aspirations of the people of Manipur. There are hundreds of instances where the state government could not successfully implement beautiful projects and programmes related to preserving heritage sites. Even the traditional structures in the Kangla have not been fully renovated till date. The people of the state naturally feel doubt whether the state government would successfully evict the areas where huge buildings have cropped up. What will be the status of the existing king of Manipur, whose residence so called ‘Chonga Bon’ would be taken over by state government ? People are again cynical that the role of the king as customary head of Manipur may shrink day by day with the infringement of state government on his property.
The abolition of “privy purse” as per 26th constitution amendment is a main cause for minimizing the importance of king and its institutions. To enable the king to perform and preserve the custom and tradition of Manipur, and also to maintain his family, the government must create a “royal purse” out of state fund. State budget allocation must be made for the maintenance of the King, his family and the palace.
Almost all countries in the world have its symbolic structure to reflect its history. For Manipur, ‘Kangla’ is the sacred place symbolizing the existence of an independent 2000 year-old civilization of Manipur. Historically, traditionally, culturally and aesthetically, ‘Kangla’ is the real place which deserves to be preserved for the posterity of Manipur. As compared to Kangla, present Sana Konung is a recent structure erected only during Churachand Maharaja. There are also other palaces in Bishnupur, Langthabal, Kanglatongbi, Maklang etc. which have great historical values. It is better for the government to complete the renovation and preservation of Kangla upto the mark, before taking over the Sana Konung for another venture.