Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Manipuri women show their commercial might

Khwairambandh Bazar, popularly known as Ima Market (mother’s market) or Nupi Keithel (female market). Located in the heart of Imphal city this market is unique as all the sellers are women alone. But, beware, Manipuri women are the no-nonsense kind... An article by Dhanya melody

BILASINI DEVI’S day begins early in the morning. She wakes up at 4 am, performs her household chores and then departs for Imphal, the capital city of the Northeastern state of Manipur by jeep. There she goes to Khwairambandh Bazaar where she sits in her little stall selling vegetables till late evening. She then goes home to prepare her family’s meals and retire for the night. She has to work really hard as her fisherman husband’s earnings are too meagre to support the six member family.

Merma Devi’s life is quite a comfortable one. She lives with her husband, two sons and daughters-in-law in a posh locality of Imphal. As in countless Manipuri households the daughters-in-law share the burden of almost every household duty between themselves, leaving Mema with loads of time on her hands. Rather than waste it at home the latter prefers to go to Khwairambandh Bazar at 10 every morning, and sits in her stall selling “phaneks” or the skirts worn by Manipuri women. She exchanges gossip with her friends, chews “kwa” or paan and is content with life.

These two women are only two instances of the hundreds of women sitting in Khwairambandh Bazar, popularly known as Ima Market (mother’s market) or Nupi Keithel (female market). Located in the heart of Imphal city this market is unique as all the sellers are women alone. One gets almost everything the heart desires from fish and vegetables to exquisitely embroidered shawls and beautiful crockery. A walk through this market is an experience in itself. The market is on the ‘must see’ list of every tourist who comes to Imphal.

Manipuri women show their commercial might
Manipur boasts of strong woman power. The ‘Nupi Lan’ (Dec 12) was a famous uprising of common, mostly unlettered Manipuri women against the all-powerful British rule. A monument in the town square in Imphal commemorates this incident.

Manipuri women are also called ‘meira paibis’ or torch bearers as they come out with flaming torches to protest against unlawful incidents. Women stand for panchayat elections, sit on councils and are also extremely hardworking within the house.

I recall my grandfather’s anecdote regarding a colleague’s visit to Ima Market and his shock at witnessing the slapping of a persistent and unruly bargainer by a woman stall-keeper. Manipuri women are the no-nonsense kind. But they are also very gentle with children and very religious. In Ima Market one may see women like Bilasini Devi who are there to eke out a living sitting side by side with well-off women trying to kill boredom. Whatever the case this is woman-power at its peak.

In a world, particularly a country like ours where dowry deaths, female foeticide, discrimination against women and other crimes against women seem to be on the rise, Ima Market stands out like a beacon, a tower of female strength. May the power of women -- the power of the Mother Goddess rise and many more Ima Markets come about.

Courtesy: http://www.merinews.com/

Monday, June 23, 2008

Manipuris settled in Tripura compromise is the mantra for survival

In the struggle for survival, it has not been an easy task for the Manipuris who had gone to settle and make Tripura their homeland under some compelling historical circumstances to keep alive their cultural heritage.

''In Tripura, all the Manipuris have to speak Bengali, put on their dresses and the women apply Sindoor on their foreheads and Bindi on their temple. Because this is one of their means of survival in Tripura'', 52-year old Ranjana Devi said.

However, within the confined of their homes, Manipuri women do put on Phanek and on special occasions they wear Phanek Mapan Naiba and Wangkhei Inaphi to show our traditional dresses in pride to others', she added.

The total population of Manipuri people in Tripura which has a geographical area of only 10,486 sq km and a total population of around 32 lakhs people is just around 25,000, and their settlements are scattered around in tiny villages.

Interacting with a team of mediapersons from Manipur who had gone there recently to cover the function held in connection with the unveiling of a statue of Jananeta Hijam Irabot at Rajbari in Dharma Nagar Sub-Division of North Tripura District, A Churamani, a spokesperson of the Jananeta Hijam Irabot Memorial Trust, informed that though some of the Manipuris have been able to join the Government service in Tripura, no gazetted officer, doctor or engineer have emerged from among the Manipuris so far.

However, atleast one Manipuri MLA has been able to get elected to the 60member Tripura Assembly.

Most of the Manipuris in Tripura are daily wage earner engaged in various odd jobs like digging earth, construction of houses, jungle clearing or in labour farms as manual labourers. None of the Manipuris can also open shops and run their business like the Bengalis are doing nor could they take up agricultural activities.

Inspite of the fact that the Govt of Tripura has brought the Manipuris under the category of OBCs, they have not been able to enjoy any benefit as there is no reservation for the OBC with exception to certain relaxation in admission of students in schools.

Otherwise, there is no reservation for OBC in admission to colleges and in recruitment to Government jobs. This is in spite of the fact that there is reservations of 30 percent of the seats for ST and 13 percent for SC in Tripura State. Even though all the Manipuris in Tripura are Hindus, there is no priest for them to conduct religious rites and rituals.

For performing such rites, those who can afford have been hiring priest from Silchar in Assam spending anywhere between Rs 5 to 10 lakhs.

However, it is different story for poor people who cannot afford.

Most of the Manipuri women in Tripura are housewives and those in Government service are only in teaching profession. The awareness of Self Help Groups among them is still low. Churamani further disclosed that many of the Manipuris in Tripura could not read Manipuri language properly. One of the main reason for this is that Manipuri language in Bengali script is taught in schools only from class I to V but there is no proper conduct of the examination in Manipuri language. Even if the examination is held, the marks scored is not allowed to be included in calculation of the aggregate marks. So, many of the students hesitated from taking up Manipuri language as well as in appearing in the exam.

In order to ensure a proper status for the Manipuri people living in Tripura against all odds, there is the need to put pressures on the Government, Churamani noted.

Source: The Sangai Express

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bishnupriya Manipuris in Assam Threaten stir if demands not met:...

Silchar, Apr 25: At least six organizations of Bishnupriya Manipuri community have sent a joint memorandum to the Governor and the Chief Minister of Asom urging them to immediately fulfil of the long-standing demands of the community.

If no action is taken immediately, the organizations will start a road and rail blockade from May 21.

The leaders of these organizations have alleged in a press meet here that the Centre has given its green signal to the departments concerned to start Bishnupriya Manipuri programmes in AIR and Doordarshan. The organizations claimed that the programme would start this year.

Sujata Sinha, the organizer of an NGO, North Eastern Developmental Council, has been pursuing the matter for a long time.

Source: The Sentinel, Guwahati, 26 April 2008