Sunday, November 15, 2009

History of Manipur and the question of ‘Original Manipuris’

In the pre historic period, the land was formerly divided into small territories occupied by different clans of peoples, namely Khumal, Moirang, Angom, Luwangs, Ningthoujas, etc. The territories were after the names of the respective clans and they lived side by side in Manipur for centuries until the Ningthouja clan occupied all by degrees.

The people of Manipur comprise both the migrants of East and West who came to Manipur in different periods of history. During the earlier period migrants were in general assimilated and assigned to one or other to the clans, no doubt according to the area in which they settled. The history of Manipur witnesses the process of racial fusion undermining the geographical features. So the mass people of Manipur is a composite one to which the Mongoloids, Dravidians, Pongs, Chinese, Siamese, etc, were contributory. Today, the people of Manipur are divided into Hindus and Christians, Tribals and Non-tribals, Hill people and Valley people, Touchables and Untouchables, Reserved and Unreserved people and so on. These distinctions did not exist before Hinduism came and followed by Christianity. Today, Manipur is a land of fractidal blood-shed between these divisions.

At this very moment some people has started thinking seriously about changing the name Manipur to some other indigenous name which will reflect the identity of all the ethnic groups like changing Burma to Myanmar. But in reality changing the name 'Manipur' into something agreeable to all the ethnic groups has always been the problem. I remember some years back there was a big meeting with all the ethnic groups, but they failed to arrive at a particular name. Some groups of our chingmee brothers insisted that 'Hao' be there in the name, for reasons known to them. However, it was not agreed by all.
  1. "We can broadly classify the people into four groups, namely, (i) the Meitheis;(ii) the Vishnupriyas;(iii) the Hill-men and (iv) the Pangans” – Religious development in Manipur in the 18th and 19th Century/ Dr M Kirti singh,Imphal, 1980, page 12-13
  2. “Manipuris are divided into two main tribes – the Khalachais, who call themselves Bishnupriyas, are supposed to have been the first cultural race and the Meithis or Meitheis, who call themselves real Manipuris are supposed to have been next immigrants.” – The Background of Assamese Culture/ R M Nath, , 2nd edn, 1978, Page 83
  3. “মণিপুরীরা দুইটি শাখায় বিভক্ত । যথা: খালাছাই বা বিষ্ণুপ্রিয়া ও মৈতৈ ।” - আরণ্য জনপদে/ আবদুস সাত্তার, পৃষ্ঠা ২৯৭
  4. "Majority people of the state are Manipuris. They are sub-divided into two racial and linguistic groups namely-Bishnupriya Manipuri and Meitei” – Cultural Heritage of North-East India/ Bidhan Singha,1999, page 21
Also past is past. Manipur has assimilated many of those so called late-comers, and they even have enriched our cultures etc. and they are no longer attached to their original roots now. So to my opinion, it is not good to say again and again they their forefathers were the cause of all these problems. What matters now is how do we proceed further leaving behind those unwanted parts.

As a matter of fact, it is said that even ‘Oirginal Manipuris’ came and started settling down in imphal. When such is the case, there is no point in saying 'this place belongs to our ancestors and they are new' etc. We can learn a lot from US. Those early whites came and settled there in US. Now they would rather proudly say they are American and not some British etc.

We should forget the idea of 'this is mine and that is yours'. For whatever reasons we are at this small place called Manipur and we should work hard to make it a developed and peaceful place.

Already there are so many divided groups, with its own so called agenda. Does all these things accelerate or decelerate our vision of Manipur?