Manipur’s connection to Mount Harriet
- After the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891, several Manipuris who had fought the British in the war, including Maharaja Kulachandra Dhwaja Singh, were exiled to the British penal colony in the Andaman Islands.
- Since the cellular jail (Kalapani) was yet to be built, Kulachandra and the prisoners were kept on Mount Harriet, a hillock in what is now the Ferragunj tehsil of South Andaman district.
- 23 men, including King Kulachandra and his brothers, were “transported for life” to the Andamans.
- While some died there, Kulachandra was released and shifted elsewhere before his death.
This is why Mount Harriet is an important symbol of the Anglo-Manipur War of 1891.
About Anglo-Manipur War of 1891
- Considered an epoch in the history of Manipur, the Anglo-Manipur War was fought between the kingdom of Manipur and the British over a month in 1891.
- The battle was triggered by a coup in the palace of Manipur, which had been marked by internal factionalism in the years leading up 1891.
- The British government took advantage of the internal dissension among the princes of the royal family.
Battle for throne
- In 1886, when Surchandra inherited the throne from his father Chandrakirti Singh, the kingdom of Manipur was not under the British rule but had links with the crown through different treaties.
- However, Surchandra ascension to the throne was controversial and his younger brothers — Kulachadra, Tikendrajit — revolted against him.
- The1890 coup by the rebel faction deposed Surchandra, and proclaimed Kulachandra, the next oldest brother, the king.
- Surchandra fled to Calcutta seeking British help to reinstate him.
- Instead, the British dispatched James Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam, with an army to Manipur.
- His mission was to recognise Kulachandra as the king under the condition that they be allowed to arrest the coup leader Crown Prince Tikendrajit and deport him from Manipur.
This aggressive imposition of British law in a sovereign state was rejected by the king, precipitating the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891.
- In the first phase of the war, the British surrendered and their officers — including Quinton — were executed in public.
- In the second phase, the British attacked Manipur from three sides, and finally capture the Kangla Fort in Imphal.
- Prince Tikendrajit and four others were hanged by the British, while Kulachandra, along with 22 others, were banished to the Andaman Islands.
Significance of the war
- Many say the war was described as a blow to British prestige.
- In India, it was viewed as being part of the general uprising against British rule in the country, soon after after the Revolt of 1857.
- The war led to Manipur officially becoming a princely state under the indirect rule of the British crown.