A Moment to remember

By: Dr. Premjit Khwairakpam

We hardly pen down historical accounts, in terms of tribal, peasant, social movements or uprisings, based on the Indian independence movement, even though we the northeast people feel proud of having a dynamic hero (Jadonang) from the tribal community who sacrificed his life fighting against colonialism for the cause of freedom with love and brotherhood for all communities.
Legendary freedom fighter, Haipou Jadonang Malangmei, was convicted and hanged in the compound of Imphal jail in public view without having a fair and complete judgment from a court by a colonial ruler on August 29, 1931. Mixed feelings caused by dislocation and misinterpretation of Jadonang’s ideology and his school by the then colonial rulers, still haunts the Zeliangrong community in the land of memory. The British Political Agent in Manipur pretended that Jadonang was waging a communal-cum-religious war against the rest of the communities (Kukis and Meiteis) with the hope of establishing a nation called, “Naga Kingdom,” (not a Zeliangrong kingdom).
Born in 1905 in Kambiron, Tamenglong district, Jadonang started his career as medicine-man cum dream interpreter with the work of public welfare of the Kabui community, suffering from the post-Kuki rebellion of 1917-19, famines and psychological traumas from the British unfair administrative systems imposed on the tribal inhabited area. Besides his visionary power, truthfulness, straightforwardness and philanthropically attuned character gave space for public discourse, discussion on his abilities sometimes it brought many imaginary theories and over-romanticized ideas, i.e., the son of God, friend of god’s son ….etc. with or without it being claimed by himself.
Around the age of 15-18 years, he started roaming around at different villages of the Kabui’s, as a medicine-man-cum-preacher, i.e., Muh. By experiencing each village’s pains from the injustice of the colonial ruler, like forced labour (Pothang Senkhai and Pothang Bekhari) to the government, he started to think of a way out of these troubles. Uprooting or pushing back of such vicious administrators from the Kabui and its cognate tribal areas was the only reasonable means because their history claimed that they had never been under the direct control of foreign rulers. Moreover, each village was having independent administrative systems prior to the British occupancy. The valley Maharajas never occupied them though, sometimes, they asked for tributes as a symbol or a gift to retain friendship and unity in diversity. Both side never thought that one ruled the other; more or less it was federal relationship.
Academic discourses find that he was one of the highly pragmatic tribal leaders who knew how to start social movements and increase the momentum of it according to time, space and situation. So first of all he established a unique religious intuition, where he practiced the treatment of patients as well as new religious teachings. The core concept of his school lay on how to unite all the different Kabui villages and its cognate tribes, especially those drifting apart by headhunting culture, each being very independent in administration and other functions. He used his religious school as a reformation and deconstruction center for religion, culture, ethics and traditional administrative patterns. Consequently, Zeliangrong (especially Kabuis) from different places came and enrolled in his school and started to share their thoughts and ideas for public welfare, besides religious practices.
He understood that religion could not be the only agent while fighting against such superpowers so he supplemented the syllabus of teaching from self-defense martial arts, military drills, songs to other cultures of an army institution. His lieutenant Miss Gaidinliu helped him a lot in the journey of his socio-religious-cum-political movement.
To hear an establishment and popularity of Jadonang’s school, the British India government from Political Administrator in Manipur to the Governor General in Council in Assam were becoming full of unrest. Eventually, they visualized that he must be a great man because none could unite such large numbers of people in hilly, remote and underdeveloped areas where there had been no political or religious backgrounds of unity or nationality, if he/she were not an exceptional personality. Many fallacies and rumors surrounded their thoughts so whereas they accepted it was a political problem they used communal issues as a political game. Police and military posts were increasing in the Kabui inhabited areas. Spies and military intelligence had also been increasing. Their agony was neither that they could blame nor impose any laws against him as a traitor nor a terrorist of state as nothing wrong had been done by Jadonang, so far.
In the late 1920s, a wave of Indian independence movement reached Assam, extended up to its south-eastern portion, i.e., Cachar. The national movement led by Mr. Gandhi was spreading even in the Cachar region. He kept trying to get a connection with M.K. Gandhi to narrate the way of his movement. He sent his brother and Gaidinliu to Guwahati but unluckily they could not get the chance to meet him. In January 1927, he went to Cachar with his 100 disciples to join Gandhi’s non-violence movement. When he was not accepted, he came back home with a broken heart. If M.K. Gandhi and other major Congress leaders had shown more enthusiasm regarding the northeast tribal region’s politics they could have would have helped Jadonang and the Zeliangrong movement acquire a different color. He was willing to work together with Gandhi as a combined force for the freedom movement in his tribal area.
Intensive in ideology and extensive in practice, he could observe in the later phase of Jadonang’s freedom movement. He prophesized the end of days of the British rule was coming soon, the God Bubhan1 will help us to end the atrocities against the Zeliangrong community and to build a new kingdom or nation called, “Makam Gwangdi.” Based on fraternity, equality and self-governance, being a leader he requested the public to donate their valuable resources for smooth sailing of this freedom movement to his school, instead of paying house tax and stop the pothang system to a foreign occupier.
On February 18, 1931, under the conspiracy of W.A. Crosgrave, J.C. Higgins, J.P. Mills and C. Grimson, on his way back from Bhubhan cave, Jadonang was arrested at Lakhipur Bazar and charged him with 108 Cr.P.C. on March, 8 1931 J.C. Higgins deported Jadonang from Cachar to Imphal and on March 29, 1931 put him to jail. Why were the Britishers so keen to arrest him? The main reason was that if two charismatic leaders one from the tribal region and another from the mainland. Mr. Gandhi’s was a united mass freedom movement and once it was spread the Britishers could not douse the flame. They assumed that because the Zeliangrong community inhabited different parts of Cachar and its adjoining Manipur areas and there were also cases of Jadonang’s efforts to join the Congress-led movement in the Cachar region.
In April or May, Jadonang’s trial was started without following the rules of the state; the Political Agent in Manipur (executive) became the judge (Judiciary) of the trial. At the initial stage, it was based on charge leveled for spreading the seditious messages and lecturers to the people of the Naga-inhabited areas but suddenly siphoned off and since June 5, 1931 proceedings were started on the killing of four Meitei businessmen at Kambiron sometime around March 1930, informed by Jilakpou Muhoori (enemy of Jadonang and a government employee, submitted a report in April 1931). 23 persons (excluding Jadonang) were listed whereas 22 of the accused (1 Gaidinliu absconded) were arrested under section 302, 201, 149 and 202 IPC, related to the above-mentioned incident. Though there were many questions on how they got caught and who gave this information, how far it was reliable and relevant to Jadonang, whether he actually instigated the murder and could we term him as a co-conspirator or was it a framed case? It was a blessing in disguise for the British. On this mystery case, many schools and researchers have had many opinions and theories. My intention is to insist why he and his disciples killed the Meiteis? Even when we accepted the blame imposed on him that he led the conspiracy to kill Meiteis at Kambiron, on another side of this coin we found elements of conspiracies, bribes, diplomacies and psychological threatening of Kabui villagers with the help of their (British) sympathizers like Muhooris, Gaoburas as well as befooled the arrested 22 suspects (illiterate and simple) villagers by telling them that they would be freed from jail if they were ready to support the British point that Jadonang led that faithful incident. Despite the fact, British agents, indirectly, convinced the witnesses that Jadonang could flee from jail at any time as he had the power of god. It showed that the trial was totally unfair and why they sentence him to hang till death on 20th July, 1931 without waiting Gaidinliu’s arrest, main suspect, Jadonang always pointed her as she took lead in killing of the said Meiteis. Thus one side trial, without any legal expert’s assistance to Jadonang the final verdict of execution was announced on 7 August, 1931 (signed by the Governor-General in Council and forwarded by Chief Secretary, Assam Government).
If Jadonang were a religion-centred (intensively) freedom fighter how would you term the Mahatma M.K. Gandhi, who talks about Rama Rajya? My intuition says that Jadonang was liberal and a generous social leader from the Kabui community who neither stood against the Meitei community nor executed any plan to start a communal war against the Kukis nor against the Christian religion. His new religion and its principles had a lot of assimilation with Vaishnavism followed by the valley people, though the practices were different.
The British administrators intentionally spread wrong information to flare up a communal enmity amongst the communities for their political gain only. No Meiteis came out to help and mourned when the Kabuis lost this invaluable soul due to the wrong message spread by the British, i.e., the fact that Jadonang killed the four Meiteis at Kambiron with communal intention and tried to build a nation based on communal issues. Executing him was an unavoidable duty for them because they wanted to show that the British always stood for justice and communal harmony. Jadonang was a political scapegoat and was send to the gallows on August 29, 1931.
Let us follow the path paved by him, please forget all the sour and painful experiences that darkened the history of unity. History never asks us to go backwards; our pasts are for learning lessons for a prosperous future.
May his soul rest in peace in the land of God. (Source - kanglaoinline)

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