By Dr. Malem Ningthouja
Comrade Irabot (30 September 1896- 26 September 1951), who had a humble origin as a destitute orphan, was a leading figure of the social reform movement and political agitations in Manipur in the period 1934-1947.
He was not lured by the prospect of royal prerogatives and official facilities including the prestigious post of membership to the Sadar Panchayat Court that were being offered to him for having married princess Khomdonsana. He resigned from the government job and fought against the various forms of oppression under feudalism and British colonial rule. He endeavoured towards the promotion of cultural identity, sports, literature and journalism. He was instrumental in the formation of reform organizations, students’ federation, peasant union, women’s organization and progressive party.
By 1943 he was a confirmed communist and during his six years political exile till late 1946 he was politically active in parts of Assam. He was elected to the Manipur Assembly in 1948. Because of the political ideology and mass support he was a threat to the ruling class who subsequently declared him a terrorist on 21 September 1948. He could not attend the inauguration of the Assembly. He subsequently formed Manipur Communist Party, went underground, carried out protracted armed resistance against the Indian State and died in the jungle in 1951.
The legacy of comrade Irabot has been continuously survived with the State declaring holiday on 30 September to commemorate his birthday. He has been honoured with different titles such as Lamyaanba (Pioneer), Jana-Neta (Leader of the people) by the Cacharis, Simanta Prahari (Sentinel of the Frontier) by Hemango Biswas, Afoji (elder comrade in Burmese or, comrade Ahal to the armed Manipuri red guards) by the then Burmese Communist Party.
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