Khongjom Day is celebrated in Manipur on April 23 every year to remember and pay homage to Major Paona Brajabashi and the other valiant freedom fighters who made the supreme sacrifice for the freedom of our motherland. It was on the Khongjom Ground of Manipur that the last battle of the Anglo Manipuri War of 1891 was fought. It celebrates the historic day when the brave Manipuri people fought for their Independence against the British imperial forces and finally they were defeated. This battle is of significance because even though our fighters were outnumbered and outclassed, they stood their ground and fought to the end. It showed to the world the patriotic fervour, selfless sacrifice and indomitable courage of the Manipuri freedom fighters. It was the last battle of annexation by the British imperial forces which began long ago in 1757 after winning the Battle of Plassey and defeating the Nawab of Bengal. After this, a mercantile company known as the “East India Company” became the ruler of the vast state of India.
History of Khongjom is also the history of another British victory. After the First War of Independence in 1857, the then British Queen, Victoria made a solemn proclamation known as the ‘Proclamation of the Queen’ that henceforth, the power of administering India would be transferred from a mercantile company i.e. from the Boards of East India Company to the British Parliament and the British Sovereign would be responsible for ruling India. She further assured in that declaration that in 1858 and thereafter there would be no further annexation. All kingdoms of India which still existed then were assured that they will be protected, if they accept the paramount power of the British. Maharaja Surachandra accepted the paramountcy of the British power but was caught in a palace intrigue where he was dethroned and Kulachanddra took over the reign. The brave hero Jubaraj Tikendrajit was leading the fight against the British government.
The trouble started on the night of September 21, 1890, when Angousana and Jilangamba, two younger half-brothers forced the King, Shri Surachandra Maharaj to leave the Palace. Senapati Bir Tikendrajit Singh who was another half-brother of the Maharaja was the spirit behind this Palace revolt. After the departure of Maharaja Surachandra from Manipur, Kulachandradhaja, the Jubaraj, succeeded him. Maharaja Surachandra reached Calcutta and pleaded the British Government of India to help him to restore his throne as he had not willingly abdicated the throne. In order to bring a reconciliation between the two factions, the then Chief Commissioner of Assam, Mr. Quinton gave clear instructions to the Political Agent to bring the reconciliation and, if necessary, to use force. Thereafter, around 200 soldiers from Kohima were placed at the disposal of the Political Agent, Mr. Grimwood.
During the course of reconciliation between the two factions, severe fighting took place between the Manipuri troops and the British troops as Jubaraj Bir Tikendrajit bluntly refused the reconciliation. Thereafter, five British Officers including Mr. Quinton and Mr. Grimwood were executed by the Manipuris inside the premises of Kangla Fort.
Consequent upon the execution of five British Officers, the British Government waged war against Manipur. Three columns of Army were sent to Imphal from three directions – (1) Tamu (Moreh) in South-East, (2) Kohima (Nagaland) in the North and (3) Cachar (Assam) in the West. In this Anglo-Manipuri War, the forces from the West and North advanced to Imphal after strong fighting. But in the South at Khongjom (40 kms away from Imphal), Major Paona Brajabashi and his Army resisted intensely in spite of the larger and superior British Army. Major Paona Brajabashi along with Major Khumbong, Chinglensana, Jamadar Loitongba, Jamadar Keisa and a number of Manipuri soldiers lost their lives during the war and the British conquered Manipur on April 27, 1891. Thus, Manipur lost its Independence and Jubaraj Tikendrajit and Thangal General were hanged to death on August 13, 1891.
After the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891, the administration of Manipur was completely taken over by the British Government under the Governor-General of British India as a ‘Subordinate Native State’. World War-II broke out in Manipur from April, 1942 – January, 1945. A part of Manipur was liberated by INA and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s tricolor was unfurled at a place near Moirang on April 14, 1944. Therefore, Manipur is a place which is known not only for its natural beauty; its blue hills and pristine circumstances; its rich and healthy culture but also for the endurance and solid determination of the brave people of Manipur. Every Indian considers Manipur as the jewel of India and truly so.
India got Independence on August 15, 1947 from British. Thereafter, on August 28, 1947, the British handed over Manipur to Maharaja Budhachandra Singh and Manipur became a princely independent State and hoisted the National Flag of Manipur bearing the Dragon God Pakhangba. The newly formed independent India and its Government in New Delhi appealed the King of Manipur to sign a merger agreement with India. The Maharaja signed the documents on September 21, 1949 at Shillong. On October 15, 1949, Major General Rawat Amar announced the annexation of Manipur at the Assam Rifle’s ground. n Organiser Bureau