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Jananeta Hijam Irawat Singh

Imphal East, Manipur

June 21, 2022

Born in a humble family in Imphal on September 30, 1896, Hijam Irawat Singh lost his parents in early childhood. He earned his living and bore the cost of education through manual labour. A good student, he excelled in sports and found a place on the Manipur Maharajah’s Hockey team.

In 1924 he attended a public meeting in Calcutta, heard Mahatma Gandhi‘s address & was inspired to dedicate his life to the service of the people.

He became a Magistrate in 1927, using his position in order to study the problems of common people and develop ways to solve them. He started a mass campaign for the socio-economic uplift of the people, fighting against religious exploitation and economic oppression. In those days the British colonialist ruled the people of Manipur with the active cooperation of the king of Manipur. The Maharajah along with the priests practiced ex-communication for religious offences. This ex-communication was known as “Mangba–Shengba”. Irawat led the people’s protest against this practice of “Mangba-Shengba”, successfully.

Irawat Singh was one of the founders of Nikhil Manipur Mahasabha, established in 1934. Nikhil Manipur Mahasabha (originally Nikhil Hindu Manipur Mahasabha) was established with the aim of unifying the Manipuri people inside and outside the Manipur state. Irawat transformed the Nikhil Manipur Mahasabha into a political party in 1938 to fight against the dual rule of the British colonialists and the king.

The historic “Nupilal” (Women’s War) of Manipur took place on December 12, 1939 to the scarcity of rice. The women's agitations looked to Irawat for leadership of the movement. Under Irawat‘s leadership, the women’s movement was transformed into a political agitation. On 9 January 1940 Irawat was arrested and imprisoned in Imphal jail, later transferred to Sylhat jail. On release from Sylhat jail on March 20, 1943, his entry was banned into Manipur by the Manipur Durbar. He stayed in Cachar and worked to organise the peasant's movements. He became the Secretary and later the Chairman of the Surma Valley Kisan Sabha.

In 1948 he was elected to the Manipur State Assembly. Irawat Singh was the pioneer of social reforms and modern Manipuri literature. He was not only a mass political leader but also a cultural leader who helped to build up the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) in Manipur and Surma Valley. Recognising his contributions in literature he was conferred Sahitya Ratana, posthumously, by the Manipuri Sahitya Parishad.

He died on September 26, 1951, at Tangbaw village near the border of Burma.

Source: Information Brochure of Commemorative Postage Stamp issued by Department of Posts.