Kolkata, October 1
Describing the situation in Manipur as “tragic”, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s grand-nephew Prof Sugata Bose called for working out a “just power-sharing arrangement” in the northeastern state in order to bring all three communities—Meiteis, Kukis and Nagas—on the same page.
Bose, who was earlier a Lok Sabha MP, pointed out in an interview to PTI that members of all the three communities had joined Netaji’s INA in 1944 and fought shoulder to shoulder in the battlefields of Bishnupur and Ukhrul districts in an advance into India.
He said there was a need “to work out a just power-sharing arrangement in Manipur (which would engage all three communities and address their grievances).”
“We need to draw upon the best legacy of the past armed struggle against the British to bring the three communities together again,” added Bose, who holds the Harvard University’s Gardiner chair in history.
The Meiteis account for 53 per cent of the state’s population and live mostly in the Imphal valley. Tribals – Nagas and Kukis – constitute another 40 per cent of the population and reside in the hill districts surrounding Imphal.
“The situation in Manipur is truly tragic… for short-term political gains, one community has been played against the other. That kind of political game must stop,” Netaji’s grand-nephew said.
For the last five months, Meitei and Kuki communities have rioted against each other, resulting in the deaths of more than 175 people. Thousands have been rendered homeless and forced to live in make-shift refugee camps.
Initial grievances and accusations include bulldozing of villages, which had sprung up on forest lands, and an Imphal High Court order asking the state government to send a recommendation to the Centre on demands for scheduled tribe status for Meiteis, which the tribal communities resented. These were compounded by rival accusations of ethnic cleansing and involvement in the drug trade by both communities.
“Manipur, along with the rest of the northeast, should be given a voice in decision-making at the Centre,” Bose said.
He recounted that a large number of Manipuri youth from Kuki, Meitei and Naga communities joined the INA in its march towards Imphal. Of these volunteer soldiers, 15 Manipuri young men and two women joined other INA troops in the retreat to Rangoon, suffering hardships as they fought a gallant rear guard action against seasoned British troops.
“These freedom fighters from Manipur included M Koireng Singh, the first chief minister of Manipur after Independence,” Bose pointed out.
INA’s advance nearly 80 years ago had been three-pronged – the Gandhi brigade led by Col Inayat Jan Kiyani moved into the hills of Palal and Tengnoupal, east of Imphal; Col Shah Nawaz Khan led the Subhas Brigade into Ukhrul, while Col Shaukat Malik led the Bahadur group into Moirang in Bishnupur district, just 40 km from Imphal town.
Colonel Shakuat Malik raised the Tricolor at Moirang in Bishnupur district on April 14, 1944 with help from Koering Singh and Naqi Ahmed Chaudhary, a Manipuri Muslim.
There is also a version that Netaji Subhas Bose visited an INA camp near Churachandpur, a largely Kuki-dominated town in July 1944, to visit his frontline troops and interacted with villagers there.
The region where INA first entered the country has since then been largely a backwater for independent India. Cut off from the rest of India by Bangladesh, except through the ‘Chicken’s Neck Corridor’ in West Bengal’s Siliguri, northeast India has faced insurgencies, race riots compounded with increasing population pressure and few job opportunities.
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