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President unveils Khongjom war monument in Manipur

Imphal, April 23 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday inaugurated the Khongjom war monument at the place where the last battle of Manipur’s independence was fought against the British army in 1891.

The war memorial has been built at the Kheba hillock in Thoubal district along the India-Myanmar border, just over 30 km from Imphal.

“It is a historic day since the last battle for (Manipur’s) independence was fought at the same ground where we are assembled. After conquering several places in east, west and south India in two decades, the (British) mercantile company ruled the vast country. The Union Jack flag was hoisted in many parts of the country,” Mukherjee said.

“Queen Victoria made an announcement in 1857, saying that henceforth there would be no more annexation but small states would be protected by the British paramount.”

However, the princes of Manipur led by Tikendrajit revolted and the Britishers despatched three army columns from Tamu in then Burma (Myanmar), Cachar and Kohima in undivided Assam.

The last battle against the British was fought at the Kheba hillock on April 23, 1891.

“Manipur had the shortest period under British rule, up to 1945. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had hoisted the flag of independence near Moreh (in 1944),” the president said.

Extolling the natural beauty, rich culture, endurance and tolerance of the people, Mukherjee said it was no wonder that India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru described Manipur as the jewel of India.

Mukherjee said he was joining the people in paying homage to the brave sons and daughters of the country “who gave their today for our tomorrow”.

Manipur Governor V. Shamuganathan said the brave Manipuri soldiers fought the mighty British even though they (Manipuris) were armed with primitive weapons.

Describing Manipur as an “unexplored paradise”, the governor said: “There is no wonder that Manipur is the power house of sports. We appreciate the music and dance of the state.”

He, however, pointed out that there was a need to advance education and generate employment in the state.

Thanking Mukherjee, Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said: “We are grateful to the president for gracing the occasion. The monument inaugurated by the president signifies strength, moral courage and bravery of the people.”

Okram Ibobi hoped that the monument located along the Trans-Asian (India-Myanmar-Thailand) highway shall be a tourist attraction and help boost the state’s economy.

In the morning, the chief minister, his cabinet colleagues and officials paid homage to the martyrs.

Security was beefed up in view of a boycott call given by an umbrella group of six banned organisations. However, there was no report of any untoward incident during the president’s visit.

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