Importance of Rishang Keishing — to Manipur and Northeast

Why is in news?

Rishang Keishing, the last surviving member of the first Lok Sabha passed away at the age of 97 last week.

About Rishang Keishing:

Rishang Keishing, Manipur, Naga separatist movement, Naga separatist, Nagaland, NSCN (IM), Meitei community, explained news

Rishang Keishing, who passed away at the age of 97, spent two terms each in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

  • He was one of the earliest leaders to support the merger of the princely state of Manipur with the Indian Union.
  • He was also the first leader from the Northeast to raise the issue of the Naga separatist movement in Parliament.
  • He was criticised for taking the lead in signing a memorandum seeking “integration” of Manipur’s Naga-inhabited areas with Nagaland in order to “strengthen” the peace process between the Centre and the NSCN (IM) in 2005, an effort that enraged the Meitei community.
  • And yet, Rishang Keishing was a father figure to both Nagas and Meiteis.
  • On his passing, Tangkhuls — the most important Naga community of Manipur — remembered him as “ava”, and the Meiteis as “pabung”, both words that mean ‘father’ in their respective languages.

It was Keishing who, as Chief Minister, played the most crucial role in bringing peace after Meiteis and Pangals (domiciled Muslims) clashed in 1980, Kukis and Nagas in 1992-93 and Kukis and Paites in 1997-98.

Merger of the princely state of Manipur with the Indian Union:

On 21st September, 1949 Manipur was merged with the Indian Union. It was once an independent princely state, which was taken over by the British in 1891.

Geography of Manipur:

Manipur is a landlocked state and shares its borders with the Indian states of Nagaland to its North, Assam to its West and Mizoram to its South. Towards the East and Southeast of Manipur is its international neighbour Myanmar, with which Manipur shares a 352 km long international border.

Historical background:

  • In the early 1700s both Manipur and Myanmar were independent kingdoms and the then King of Manipur, Maharaja Pamheiba or Garibaniwaj invaded his Eastern neighbour Burma (as it was then known) several times.
  • The Burmese rulers retaliated in 1890 and their fierce attack led to a period referred to as ‘seven years of devastation’ in the history of Manipur.
  • Maharaja Gambhir Singh of Manipur sought refuge in the princely state of Cachhar (in present-day Assam). The British forces helped Maharaja Gambhir Singh’s army and he was able to evict the Burmese forces and retake his kingdom.
  • However the British help was not unconditional and soon the king began to feel they were taking over his adminstration. This resulted in an armed conflict between the Manipuri army and the British forces; known as the Anglo-Manipur war of 1891.
  • The Manipuri army was defeated on 23 April 1891 at Khongjom. Major Paona and many other brave Manipuris died fighting against the British, and their sacrifice is commemorated as a state holiday, ‘Khongjom Day’, in Manipur even today.
  • The British then overran the Kangla Fort, which was the seat of power of the Manipuri king and on 13 August 1891 they put an end to the then Manipuri ruling dynasty by executing the Crown Prince Yuvraj Tikendrajit and General Thangal. This day is still revered by the Manipuri people as ‘Patriots Day’.
  • The British then established absolute dominion over the state of Manipur, though they placed another member of the Manipuri royal family Meidingngu Churachand on the throne.


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