Tuesday, March 31, 2009


It was in the middle of December 1976 that I went to Imphal, the capital of Manipur, on posting as Depot Superintendent. With me was my wife and three and a half year old son, Monis. We reached Imphal at about 10 O’clock in the morning. Weather was very cold.
We straightaway went to our house, which was kept for us by Mr.Ujwal, the outgoing DS. Our neighbour Mr.Datta and his wife came and gave us a helping hand. Our belongings, which we sent from Calcutta two days earlier, were yet to reach. We could not manage the climate with what we had carried with us. We shifted to a hotel. Our belongings that we had sent from Calcutta arrived almost after ten days.

Imphal is a beautiful town surrounded by hills and is capital of Manipur state. I worked in Imphal from December 1976 till June 1980. Majority of Manipuris are Vaishnavites (a sect among Hindus). Tribals such as Kukis and Tankhuls inhabit surrounding hills. All of them are Christians. Chritian missionary work is appreciable, particularly in the field of education, in Manipur. All well managed schools are missionary schools. Kukis inhabit the hills of Churachandpur and Tankhuls the hills of Ukharul.

The valley population is Hindu vaishnavite. Roughly two hundred years ago Shanti Das, a desciple of Chatanya Maha Prabhu with missionary zeal, visited Imphal and under his influence the tribal king of Manipur valley converted to Vaishnavism. The ‘praja’ followed the king and accepted vaishnavism. Their earlier dieties are worshipped even now. In fact there was a movement for revival of the past.

Imphal was the only Depot where a full CRPF section was posted. They lived at one end of depot with their tents almost touching tankform of two vertical tanks.

Imphal was a road fed depot and the supplies were from Khatkhati, a town in Naga Land. Road between Imphal and Khatkhati war hilly and some stretches were as high as 7000 feet. During the rainy season there used to be landslides resulting in blockage of roads. We had the storage capacity of a month’s requirement. The depot had hardly any facilities. There was no TLF bay, which meant I had to climb each Tank truck twice-once on arrival and second time after product was decanted or topped up for despatch. Topping up was necessary because there was at least 5 to 6 degree teperature variation between loading temperature and temperature on arrival at Imphal.We received about 15 to 20 trucks each day. This had its effect on my health. I developed lower back pain. Even to this day I suffer.
My junior in Bombay University and hostel mate, Dinamani Singh, was an officer of State Government. Through Dinamani I got to know Sattar, who was his colleague. Both were in state public service. They included my name in the state VIP list. I got invitation for Republic and Independence day parades in the VIP enclosures. I along with my family enjoyed State government hospitality. I also received invitations for tea party at Chief Ministers residence on both the occasions every year.

It was in 1977 that during the rainy season our stocks depleted to about a week’s requirement. The other oil company was Assam Oil looked after by Mannalal, a dealer of AOC. Under secretary in the ministry of civil supplies called for a meeting, which was attended by all our dealers and AOC representative. Mr.Sharma, under secretary, told me that IOC was given licence to operate the depot on a clear cut condition that a month’s stocks would be available at any given time. He threanened that he would cancel our licence sinca we did not keep the promise. All my explanations were not accepted. I excused myself and came out of the meeting and booked a lightening call to our DGM Mr. Datta, who was at Calcutta. He told me to go back and ask Mr. Sharma if he could cancel immediately and that we were ready to pack up.
I went in and told him what I was told by my DGM. There was a stunned silence. Mr. Sharma had nothing to say. Meeting was abruptly concluded. By the time I reached the depot there was a message from the secretarit that Additional Chief Secretary wanted me to meet him immediately. I rushed back to the secretariat and went to Mr. Mathur, who was the additional CS. He received me with warmth and told me to forget what happened with Sharma. He said Sharma was a fool and did not know IOC and the implications of cancelling the licence.

There was a theft of lubricating oilcans from the depot. I sent a letter to the police station. The DSP called me but I could not go. He came to our depot and was very harsh and said that without my complicity theft could not have taken place. He left asking me to see him in his office. I rang up IG Mr.Lal and told him what had happened. He assured me that he would talk to the DSP and that I was not to go to DSP’s office. Never heard from the DSP again.

Once I was getting back from my depot and a few yards from my house a cow rushed out of a bush and hit my scooter. I was thrown off the scooter. My thumb was crushed; nail was almost out and was profusely bleeding. There were many people watching but none came to my help. I managed to get up and lift my scooter and reach home.

Manipuris always considered people from other parts of India as foreigners. They always said that we had usurped their land.

From 1979 onwards Peoples’ Liberation Army, a cecessionist organisation of Maitis (manipuri hindus call themselves maitis), was very active. Their leader was Bhishan Singh, a legendary figure for manipuris. Ambushes of army convoys harassment of non-manipuris particularly Bengalis was very common. They believed that the root cause of their problems was Bengali domination. In their private conversations after a few pegs they would talk of how their culture was eroded by the bangalis who brought vaishnavism to the valley. Since I had business relations, I was respected. Manipuris refer to non-manipuris as ‘mayang’, which means a foreigner.
During this period they revived their old and forgotten deities and celebrated their old festivals with gusto. Many talked about abandoning vaishnavism. They are vegetarians and fish for them is a vegetarian item. They cannot think of a meal without fish. They make a number of dishes with fish and each tastes different from the other.

Serous trouble started in early 1980.The CRPF posted in the depot were withdrawn. When I met IGP he said they could be easy target for the extremists. There after the depot and the depot staff was feeling unsafe. There were curfews and flag marches. Army and paramilitary people used to come to my house and take me to depot and after their requirements were given they used to drop me back home. For civilian requirement I operated from my house. Loaded tank trucks were safe in Assam rifles. I issued sales documents from my house. With escort I used to go to SBI and deposit Demand Drafts. This continued for almost a month. We were confined to the house. The anti ‘outsider’ feeling among the people was very venomous. Many Bihari labourers left Imphal. Many non-manipuris were beaten up and told to leave. A large majority took shelter in schools.
Amrita Bazar Patrika’s staff correspondent wrote an article’ Behind The Manipur Violence’, which appeared in their May 14,1980 edition (the paper called it a communal violence. It was violence for independence and deportation of all non-manipuris from Manipur.) and an editorial in the same paper on 19th May 1980. Statesman of May 20, 1980 carried a small news item ‘ banks reopen in Imphal’it says the clearing house of banks was closed for 22nd day today’ it was a very significant news item and I am sharing a scanned copy along with some more scanned news reports with the readers.

The 'foreign Nationals' is infact what Manipuris called Indians 'mayang'.

Click on images to enlarge.

The amount of tension and insecurity felt by the non-manipuris cannot be described. It was very unfortunate that my office in Calcutta, despite my day-to-day reporting on the situation, remained silent. One – a sardar in Gauhati, I do not remember his name and come to think of it it is not worth remembering, and the other, head of the region in Calcutta, who was a mean character but thought very high of himself, were callous on what was happening.
Many army and para military vehicles used to come to my house to escort me to depot for their requirements and I think I must have been a noted person among the extremists. One morning three boys forced themselves into my house, closed the door from within and pulled out their revolvers from under the shawls they had wrapped around their body. They thought I owned the depot and demanded Rs 20000/-. My wife and childeren were frightened. They rummeged all my belongings and found just Rs 500/-. They warned me and left. My landlord was watching from outside. DIG of police was staying next door but no one came to my help. We decided to quit Imphal come what may.
Here are my letters to Gauhati and Calcutta:
There was no response.

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