Sovereignty and integrity of Manipur

by Waikhom Damodar Singh
The Sangai Express
March 23 2010

Muwapalli, Tillikotomhal or Tillikotom Ahanba, Poireipak, Kangleipak, Meitreibak etc were the names that are said to have been assigned earlier to the hoary and unique “hilly-land” now called Manipur which, according to learned K Prongo of Deulaland, Imphal should be called “Haoreibak”, the land of the Hill peoples. While the truth underlying in his frank suggestion is fully appreciated it is to say that since the land has been the dwelling place of all the indigenous peoples, the Chingmis (Haos) in the Hills and the Tammis, the people in the valley from the very early period who lived together very harmoniously and with very loving relations as the two “inseparable brethren” of the same parents and family it should be more appropriate to call it “Chingmi-Tammi-Lam (Land) or Ram as an euphonic variant”, if a change in the name Manipur is preferred at all. Whatever may it be, the fact that remains crystal clear is that it existed since the early Christian era (33 A.D.) as a “sovereign-independent kingdom” established by deity-king Pakhangba and its spartan-like people under the rulings and protection of the powerful kings of his great dynasty as the independent and powerful nation having a common language as the “lingua franca” of the people formed by various ethnic groups speaking different dialects of their own, scripts, religion, high standard of marshal qualities and cultures shining like a little jewel in the vast south-east Asia region till they succumbed, most unfortunately, to the yoke of the mighty British Imperialists after their defeat in the “Anglo­Manipuri War” that broke out in the year 1891 April.

The chequered history of Manipur clearly tells that it had been once under “deluge” for ages but dried up in course of very long span of time under the natural draining out process that had taken place—the bulk of water had flowed out through the rivers running out to the south and west falling on the rivers, Chindween (Kyndween; Ningthi) of Burma (now Myanmar) and Barak of Cachar, Assam which joins with still greater rivers, Irrawady of the former and Brahmaputra of the latter and finally fall on the Indian ocean.

Thus a mountainous country or land came into existence on the easternmost fringe of the great Himalaya range in which, in due course of time, arrived different hordes or streams of Mongoloid groups of people who immigrated during the “trans-human-migration” process that had taken place during the mediavel period of the human history and they gradually settled firstly, on the north-eastern hills, then on the south western hills and later on many groups of them came down in the virgin land of the valley when it became a place more fertile and suitable for human habitation after it dried up from its highly swampy State—actually the valley portion known as the Manipur Plateau became a “lacustrine plain” (a flat land sparsed with lakes both small and big here and there) when it had been farmed out of the great deluge due to the accumulation of water in the places of lower levels.

Among the earliest settlers who migrated to the virgin land, in addition to the groups of Shelloy-Langmei etc., were the Poireis of the Sakya (Chakkhya) sub-tribes of the Himalayan Mongoloid peoples led by Poireiton, the younger brother of Thongaren who led the large group or hordes of male and female immigrants came down from the north of the Asian region and established his “khu-nung” kingdom at a place called Putao located at 97°E longitude and 29°14’N latitude near the tri-junction of east Tibet, Assam and Burma. Due to old age problem he culminated his migration journey at Putao which is also known as “Kham-Nung-Sawa”—the Manipuri meanings of the word Kangla are: dried up place; capital place etc. So his younger brother, prince Poireiton with a section of the immigrants divided continued their journey south-east wards with his sister-in-law, Leima Leinaotabi, the second queen of king Thongaren as his consort (becoming her brother-in-law’s wife is a polyandrous practice permitted for the Mongoloid peoples earlier as was done by Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandavas who were actually none but the descendents of Mongoloid ancestors) and finally arrived on the north-eastern hills of Manipur who entered through the so called “Somra Tract” of Burma known in Manipuri as “Nongpok Thong”— eastern gate. It was when Poireiton and his great horde were “sojourning” in the Somra area of Burma that they were joined by another group of Mongoloid tribes initially known as “Wung tribes” who came up from the southern part of Burma and lived along with them (Poireis) for some time with quite cordial relations — they even had social intercourse with the Poireis. These tribes who are said to belong to the tribe of Gautama Buddha and Emperor Asoka (Lichavis) under their very able leader, Tangkhu followed Poireiton’s migration journey and landed on the north-eastern hills and had settled and become to be known as “Tangkhuls”, the name derived from the name of their leader Tangkhu.

The Poireis under Poireiton moved further down towards west and landed in the Kanglatombi highland areas and established their powerful principality which gradually extended to the valley portion of the Iril river on the east of Imphal and they were the indigenous tribal people who became the leading clan—salai (Ningthemacha) in the formation of the dominant group of people of the land emerged out later on known as the “Meiteis” as resulted from the “fusion” of all the clans, the Luwangs, the Khumans, the Angoms, the Moirangs, the Khaba-Ngabas, the Sarang Leishangthems and the Hao, Lei-nung, Lei-hou, Khuman, Nga etc elements of the Tangkhuls, the Kukis and all the Chingmis.

The Poireis were an admixture of Himalayan Mongoloids (neo-Tibetans) and Tai tribes inhabiting on the southern side of Mekong river on northern Thailand and were the most powerful tribes migrated and settled in Manipur.

Under their king Naothingkhong they defeated the Mangang Haos under their chief Konkhucha of Bodo origin who came from the west and inhabited in the Laimaton Phourungba area on the western hills and absorbed them in their community as a result of strong cultural impact of the latter that felt on the former.

The two peoples who so got admixed became to be known as “Mangangs”, the leading ruling clan (Ningthemcha) amongst the seven clans of the Meitei set up emerged out later on, the other two clans of Poirei originality are the Luwangs and the Khumans.

The migration of other Mongoloid groups of people, particularly of the Tai group from Cambodia (Lais), the Austro-Asiatic groups such as the Funans, the Marings etc of the Funan-Mon-Khmer group, the neo-Tibetan and Tibeto-Burman groups, the Kukis, the Chothes, the Chirus, the Koms, the Anals, the Aimols, the Marams etc had taken place on the southern and western parts of the hills. The most unique feature that was in existence inherently amongst these various ethnic groups of people is that they are compartmentalised by having each of their own dialect. The total number of different tribes so migrated and settled in the hills and valley of Manipur number more than 30 and they along with the Meiteis made the unique “Ethnic Integration” of the State who quite peacefully and happily lived under the protection of the “sovereign independent rulings” of the kings of the Pakhangba dynasty till the year 1891 April. All the ethnic tribes, sub-tribes who so lived as “one people” under the “canopy” of the rulings of the kings were however known each by their individual indigenous tribal names as the “appellation Naga” under which the Tangkhuls, the Zelianggrongs, the Anals etc are enrolled now did not exist at that time.

The word Naga derived from the two Sanskrit words, “Nanga” meaning naked and “Nag”, serpent and application of the meaning of either of the two in the naming of the indigenous tribes of Manipur does not “fit” at all. It was actually the Ahom (Assamese) people living in the upper Assam region who came into contact frequently with their neighbouring hill tribes in their valley markets like the Aos, the Semas, the Konyaks etc and because of the half-naked features, particularly of the Konyaks they (the Ahoms) called them “Noka-Manu” from which derived the appellation “Naga” in the form corruptly pronounced to mean “Nanga-naked”, pertaining to a “look-down” meaning of being uncivilised and savage people.

As for Manipur, it was the British who when landed in the land began to call the indigenous major tribes, the Tangkhuls, the Mao-Marams, the Kabuis etc by the “sobriquet” the assumed or borrowed name, Naga clubbing them together as a particular group of hill tribes in order to differentiate them from the other groups of hill peoples, the Kukis and their cognate sub-tribes.

The imperial rule of the British over India and all the native States numbering some 600 ended from the midnight of the 14 of August 1947 under national and international compulsions erupted immediately after the end of the second world war with creation of two interim Dominions, in the names of India and Pakistan. The British who were well aware in advance of their inevitable compulsion of granting independence to the Indians soon, had prepared and passed earlier an Act called the Indian Independence Act, 1935 which the British Parliament allowed the creation of the two Dominions named above and all the native States were given options to join either of the two Dominions or “remain” as an Independent State of her own if decreed for it by the wishes of the majority of their people. Thus the British hold over Manipur taken place since 1891 April 27 ended on the 14th of August 1947 midnight and “She restored her age-old independent sovereignty de-facto” from the early morning of “the 15th of August 1947 with the king, Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh as the ruling Head (king) of the independent sovereign State assisted by a team of Ministers directly appointed earlier by him in the designation of Durbar Members who were allowed to continue as the Ministers of the interim Council of the independent State.

However, the good hearted, highly religious, far sighted king, Bodhchandra Singh being not a stubborn “autocrat” had soon handed over his sovereign powers to the people who began to rule their State by their representatives duly elected in October 1948 under their own constitution framed and enacted called the Manipur State Constitution, 1947 and the Maharaja remained only as a Nominal Head of the State which began to exist in the form of people’s Government under “Monarchical Democracy” as per provisions of the State Constitution contained in the line of the British system and according to the newly framed Constitution and adopted 52 Assembly Members were elected and sworn in on 18 October 1948 out of whom 7 of them, including a Chief Minister were elected as the Cabinet Ministers who began to rule the State with its sovereign powers distributed amongst them. Out of the 7 Cabinet Ministers, 2 were from the Hills and one from the Muslim (Pangal) community.

Thus independent Manipur switched over to a democratic form of Government of her own in exercise of the “inalienable right of self-determination of her people”, though it was a monarchical one to begin with. However, the Dominion of India abolished the people’s so rightfully elected Assembly and the Government formed by an order (imperious) issued by them with the “might is right” attitude and the State was merged with them from 15 October 1949 onwards, rather in a forcible manner, reducing very shamefully, her status from a tall-order of a “sovereign independent kingdom status” to a mere part C State of third class status.

The merger so done on the basis of “accession” of the State to the Dominion of India signed by Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh at Shillong Government House under duress on 19 September 1949 was not taken as a fully “bonafide act” and a process “free from Legal loop-holes” as it clearly violated the third mandatory provision of the Indian Independence Act, 1935, in that Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh had no more the authority to sign in the Merger Agreement as he was only a Nominal Head at that time who had already handed over his sovereign powers to the representatives of the people rightfully elected by them and thus the agreement in which he signed (the contents of which actually concerns mainly of his very temporary interests) became “null and void” and was very much “unavoidably” required to have been “rectified” by the Cabinet on behalf of the people and duly signed by the Chief Minister in the capacity of a Prime Minister of an independent State or country who alone possesses the “plenipotentiary powers”.

In fact, the Council of Ministers had already passed unanimously their resolutions for a “status quo” ie the State to continue to remain as an independent Democratic monarchical Government as strongly desired by the majority of the people both of the valley and the Hills and the communist party under jana-neta Hijam Irabot Singh. It is in the context of the “illegal aspect” that had been in the process of the merger of Manipur with the Dominion of India, unlike any of the native States of India, done with effect from 15 October 1949 that it became a matter quite “faulty” and “disputed” and remained as a very unsatisfactory “outcome of things” and a thing that becomes the cause for the people to be quite in a sulky mood.

The restlessness in the minds of the people, particularly of the Meiteis, is aggravated by their extreme anxieties caused due to the “uncertainty of things” prevailing because of the very “adamant” move of the NSCN(IM) for the creation of a greater Nagaland or Nagalim by integrating all the Nagas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal, in the process of which if carried out at all. Manipur will be the greatest “looser” in her age-old territorial and ethnic integrities, if the Government of India happens to accede to the demand of the NSCN(IM) in the name of heralding “peace” in the north-eastern region. According to the latest media­information that came out the Government of India is said to have “turned down” the demand of the outfit for “sovereignty and integration” saying that their demand is not at all “feasible”.

So it remains to be seen as to whether the Government of India will really “stick” to their words or “succumb” at last to the pressure put on them “one sidedly”. As had already been mentioned at the outset that Manipur has been the hoary land where both the Chingmis and the Tammis have been living as the “two inseparable brethren” of the same parents and family and as such the “hypothetical proposition” of an ethnic and territorial disintegration on the basis of having “two planks of two separate communities or entities of people”, the so called “Nagas” and “Non-Nagas” (be it the Meiteis, the Kukis or else) is considered not at all advisable and pragmatic.

If such non-feasible proposition “enforced” to take place occurs its consequences are bound to “end-up” with most fearful and disastrous results ie living of all the people, both the communities of Chingmis and the Tammis peacefully and in communal harmony as had been the case so long will obviously be no more possible—this is what very strongly felt and feared by the majority of all the sections of the people.

In fact, the tribal communities, particularly, the Tangkhuls, the Kabuis, the Anals and many other tribal groups and the Meiteis are now living in full communal harmony with very loving and close relations in a very freely mixing-up atmosphere amongst themselves without any more social “barrier” and “prohibition” and with more social-intercourse taken place in between them than what it had been done by them earlier.

The writer, who is solacing in his old-age period of life and living quite happily being served well by two of his tribal daughter-in-laws, one Chiru named Laino Akip alias Indira and another Tangkhul, Ringphami alias Anandi most fervently prays to the Almighty God for His kind blessings so that “all” may live “ever peacefully”.

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