Let us read about the sacrifice of Tikendrajit Singh.
After suppressing the first war of independence, the East India Company wanted to expand its territory as much as possible. But the dense forests of the Northeastern states of India proved treacherous to them. So instead they allied with Manipur and declared it a sovereign princely state.
Bir Tikendrajit Singh was the brother of king Surchandra Singh. He was unhappy with the king’s decision to side with the East India Company. He knew too well what the company was doing in the rest of the country. He was also the general of the military. People used to call him ‘Koireng’ for his love of freedom. He understood that the Company was waiting for a weak moment to strike and colonize Manipur too. But the present king was ignorant of all that was happening outside his kingdom.
Tikendrajit Singh along with his younger brother raided the palace of the king and overthrew him. This event is known as the ‘Palace revolt’. The majesty Surchandra fled away from the palace to seek refuge from the British. Tikendrajit Singh didn’t chase him down as he still considered him his family. Surchandra sent a message to Tikendrajit. He told him about his plan to go to Varanasi and seek forgiveness from the Holy river of Ganga. Surchandra used this as a cover-up to go to Calcutta. There he appealed to the British viceroy to help him recover his throne.
The viceroy Lord Lansdowne sent a regiment of 400 men with Frank Grimwood in charge. The objective was to capture Tikendrajit Singh and bring him back to Calcutta secretly. The secrecy was important as Britain considered Manipur a sovereign nation. This arrest would be considered an interference in Manipur’s internal affair.
The secrecy of their plan unfolded as they reached the boundaries of Manipur. Tikendrajit Singh brought the battle to them. The British regiment was forced to take shelter at a nearby village. Here they took several people as hostages to trade a safe getaway. Tikendrajit Singh was not going to go easy on them. He knew that with no repercussions, the British would just keep coming in with bigger armies.
He raided the village at night and fought the British. The British regiment was slaughtered but a few of the villagers too lost their life. Angry villagers hanged the remaining officers.
Newspapers around the world covered this story. It was an embarrassing defeat for the British. They also had to face criticism for attacking a sovereign nation without any provocation. The British monarch was furious and decided to punish Tikendrajit with charges of treachery and murder.
They sent a much bigger military unit with three different regiments. The regiments were named Kohima, Silchar, and Tamu. On March 31st,1981 the anglo-Manipur battle started. The war lasted a month but finally, Manipur was won over by the British. Soon after its capture, Manipur was declared a princely state, and a minor named Churachandra Singh was put on the throne. Tikendrajit Singh, with others, was captured.
Angered by the hangings of his officers, the governor was in a rush to punish Tikendra Singh. He was soon sentenced to death by a fast-track court. On 13 August 1891, Tikendrajit Singh was hanged in a polo field in Imphal. The field is now called Bir Tikendrajit Singh park.
The ‘Bir’ in his name symbolizes his courage. It means fearless in Hindi. One’s respect for Tikendrajit Singh would rise even more when we actualise the difference between the two kingdoms at war. The British, who were ruling all over the country, were rightfully named mighty. Manipur, on the other hand, was one of the smallest kingdoms in the Indian subcontinent. It takes courage to go to war with thousands behind you but it takes even more courage to lead an army of just hundreds.