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Manipur’s last battle: President to join anniversary event

Imphal : President Pranab Mukherjee is scheduled to visit Manipur for a few hours on Saturday to attend a state function commemorating the anniversary of the last battle of independence fought against the British rulers on April 23, 1891.

The visit is historically significant since it drives home the message that the country accepts that the Manipuri kingdom’s last battle to retain its independence was fought on this day and not on April 25, 1891, as contended by some.

Official sources told IANS that preparations are underway to accord a red carpet welcome to President Mukherjee.

The military secretary to the President and the union home ministry have made all preparations to ensure that there is no untoward incident during the President’s visit to this border state, where over 50 armed insurgent groups are making their presence felt.

For quite sometime, some outfits have been boycotting the VVIPs’ visits and declaring “public curfew” to keep the people away from their functions.

Officials are, however, saying Saturday’s function marks the supreme sacrifice made by the Manipuri soldiers in defending the Manipuri kingdom and as such there may not be a boycott from rebel groups.

Soon after landing at the Tulihal airport, Mukherjee is scheduled to fly to the Kheba hillock by an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter. He will unveil a tripod monolith there and briefly address the audience.

Ahead of the President’s visit, Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh has been chairing the joint security coordination meetings of the state and the central forces.

The British army had in April 1891 attacked Manipur, then an independent kingdom, from three sides — Cachar and Kohima in undivided Assam and Tamu in erstwhile Burma.

With the killing of General Paona Brajabashi at Kheba hillock on April 23, Manipur lost its independence.

However, another school of thought says Manipur’s last battle was fought at Tengol Lampak, a little away from Kheba, on April 25 under the command of General Chong Miya. All these years, it has been demanding commemoration of the occasion on April 25.

To resolve the issue, the Manipur assembly invited expert opinions in 1982.

From reading the historical documents, one gets the impression that the last battle was indeed fought on April 23. The state government on experts’ advice accepted April 23 as the relevant date, and has been observing it every year.

All these days, however, the other group, insisting that April 25 is the correct date of Manipur’s last battle, has been launching a media campaign and has threatened to boycott the President’s visit.

For all practical purposes, the government has not taken notice of the objection and the President is coming on April 23 for the official function.

Security has been tightened along the border areas ahead of President Mukherjee’s visit.

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