How Manipur missed internal autonomy and subsequent freedom ! Governor Sir Akbar Hydary (Merger Series-2)

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Dr Th Suresh Singh

During the important transition period, (i.e. the time British left Manipur after handing over its mantle to Dominion India, 15/8/1947 to 15/10/1949), Sir Akbar Hydary was the Governor of Manipur for most part. The man had a perfect understanding with Manipur Maharaja Bodh Chandra. He liked Manipur very much and hence visited frequently including holidays. He died of a heart attack on a duck shooting holiday at Waithou Inspection Bungalow in the winter of early 1949. As per the wish of Lady Hydary, the mortal remains was buried at Kangla Fort where it is still observed.

The Governor wanted to abolish the post of Dominion Agent (previous Political Agent) and wanted to establish the office of the Dewan i.e. the post of the Prime Minister. After initial objection, the Manipur Maharaja finally agreed on further assurance from the Governor. Such was the mutual Trust and affection between the two. Accordingly, the Governor dissolved the office of the Dominion Agent and established the office of the Prime Minister on 20th August 1948. The Maharaja, vide palace order no 46 p.11dt.29/11/1948, appointed Priya Brata as Dewan in addition to the post of Chief Minister. What was the underlying idea? The post of the Prime Minister is definitely larger than the Chief Minister. Without expressing inner thoughts and ideas outside during those fluid period, the Governor was perhaps preparing to guide Manipur for a more autonomous status. If it is so, the idea certainly died with the death of Sir Akbar.

Before his one of the visits to Manipur, he signed a 9-point agreement with the Naga Nationalist Council (NNC) on 27th June 1947 where as an Agent of Dominion India, he will have special responsibility for the observance of the said agreement for a 10-year period with the rider that further extension of the agreement or, a new agreement is left to Naga People. That the Nagas objected to it with complaints to Delhi by threatening use of force by the Governor is another history and another chapter. To your writer, NNC definitely missed the golden opportunity of their freedom after 10 years. The Nagas have to look themselves afresh their role and have an internal retrospection. During those 10 years, they could have negotiated with Delhi and got the present Bhutan-type of status. The Nagas, which is far superior in their demands and negotiations than us Manipuris, definitely failed in this aspect.
On 29th June 1947, Priya Brata led Darbar Members submitted a memo to the Governor and on 1st July entered into a Point of Agreement between the Governor and the Manipur Darbar. A lot of prior consultations must have taken place between the Governor on the one side and the Darbar and the King on the other side. Otherwise, one can’t execute such an important Agreement just after the Governor’s arrival from Kohima. Three very pertinent points are found in the said Agreement- i) defence, communication, currency, trade and commerce should be as per the existing arrangement ii) minimum interference in the State’s internal matter and iii) further compensation for Kabaw Valley should be taken up with the Union. See deer readers, we are getting full autonomy and independence as profound and propagated by me above.

Another surprise among the many surprises is further found when the Maharaja entered into a 7-point Agreement with the Governor next day i.e. on 2nd July 1947. In this Agreement, though the emphasis on full internal autonomy is found, nowhere is it mentioned about defence/communication/ trade etc. and Kabaw Valley. Mystery surrounds why the Maharaja entered into another Agreement. Your writer’s own interpretation is that the Maharaja didn’t want Darbar Members signing the same and hence executed one in his name. It must be an ego clash showing disagreement between Manipur Darbar and the king. The 1st 0ne was far better than the 2nd one. However, I would like to emphasise that legally or otherwise, the 2 Agreements are valid for us and should remain so for future negotiations.

Conclusion : Not only Kashmir, Manipur was also one state who had a Prime Minister of its own. Did anyone of us knew it and, if knew, remember it? Interlink it with the 2 Agreements signed with the Governor mentioned above. We got full internal autonomy and subsequent freedom. We missed by a whisker with own infighting, disunity and failure at crucial negotiations. We failed by our own selfishness and foolishness.

Governor Sir Akbar Hydary definitely loved Manipur very much, no doubt about it. He must be knowing the various intrigues going on in the power corridor at Delhi at that time. He must be knowing the inner thoughts of Sardar Patel. It is definite that he would not do anything without some hints from Sardar Patel. With establishment of Prime Ministers post, it is sure that he was working for some form of full autonomy for Manipur and influencing Delhi at that time. Only our own responsible people at that time are ignorant of it. He probably wanted to disclose it at an opportune time. The man who can influence Manipur Darbar and Maharaja died a premature death. Unfortunate for us, Manipuris. With his death, Manipur lost the golden opportunity of full internal autonomy and subsequent freedom.
(The writer is Ex-Director, Health & WHO Fellow)

Source: The Sangai Express

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