Freedom and Frustrated Hopes: Assessing the Jadonang movement, 1917-1932

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Abstract / Description of output

In the year 1931 unrest erupted, connected with the rise of Jadonang, a Naga, in the Indian state of Manipur. It was said that he started a “new religion” that would overthrow the existing British administration and enable his Naga tribesmen to take revenge on their enemies, the Kukis. He was credited with “supernatural powers”, treated as a “Messiah”, and universally spoken of as the “King” or “Spirit King”. These colonial descriptions interpret the “Jadonang movement” as crude millenarianism, based on a strong belief in the imminent end of the world through drastic disruption. My assertion however is that the Jadonang movement is not simply a “flash in the pan” but must be understood over the longue durée by examining three developments.

Firstly, the British saw the Jadonang movement as a law and order problem with messianic overtones, related partly to the Kuki rebellion (1917-19), the socioeconomic situation and administrative mismanagement in the region. In its immediate aftermath, the British noted that the movement appealed to those disillusioned largely because of these factors. This goes to show that the colonial imagination of a harmonious state was far from real. Secondly, the tradition of prophecy, dreams and signs as resources through which indigenous resistance is mounted must be taken seriously if we are to understand the Jadonang movement. Thirdly, there are conflicting accounts as to what exactly Jadonang represented. Was he the “king” that tradition said would come, or was he a religious reformer? These claims are assessed through his own confession of being a priest, maiba (in the Manipuri tradition) who would transform, rather than a revolutionary who would bring about the end of the world. It is through this kind of transformation and their daily activities that the Jadonang movement can be better understood.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNortheast India
Subtitle of host publicationA Place of Relations
EditorsAmit Baishya, Yasmin Saikia
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108123372
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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