Imphal Valley People vis-a-vis Hill People

R Rungsung *

The traditional Mera Houchongba festival re-affirming the close bond and ties between the hill and valley people

The land we cherish and the place where we live for centuries have its values for our sustenances. Once it was a pride for its people with the coined name "Chingna Koishinba Manipur Sana Leipak" (Surrounded by hills-Manipur the golden land). Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called it 'Switzerland of the East,' meaning that European peoples cherish and love Switzerland for her prosperity and peaceful life plus for maintaining friendships with al nations. Hence, for full security and safety, rich people of the world, including Indians, have secret bank deposits with Swiss Banks.

Our Creater made the world good including Manipur. All creations were perfect for our happy life and sustenance. Imphal valley people were happy and pleasant in celebrating various festivals with overflowing granaries and old game Polo. Tangkhul Elders told us that Meiteis of Imphal have horses flying like eagles in the air (referred to Polo game). During 1950s, football game was the main sport item well-played at Imphal Pologround with the regular participation by Tangkhul football club. They travelled wholeday on foot and halted one night at Litan and reached Imphal the next day by an old bus made of old abandoned WWII Chevrolet truck. Sometimes they came with champion trophy or runners-up cup. During the construction of Khuman Lampak Sports Complex Rs. 4.5 Crores were diverted to it from the Tribal Welfares Funds.

We tribal youths joined Thabal Chongba at various leikais and enjoyed it well. There were no troubles but peace prevailed. When we reached hostel the time was almost 1 to 2 a.m. and we did not see when the day broke. A good many Meiteis were friends in the college. I have a love-lost tale with a Meitei Leishabi as down the memory lane.

In the channel of religions and cultural celebrations different forms and rituals were performed according to its own belief and custom. Christianity in Imphal valley then was forbidden except at a place between D.M. College and Chingmeirong. Khuman Lampak and Dewlahland were barren with big big local mango trees grow here and there. A Meitei elder told me that the place is called Awah Leikai and the history has it that when people settled here there will be turmoil and war broke out. I think that was not a conjecture.

Today in religious aspect, Meitei Christians are suffering at the hands of Non-Christian Meiteis at various leikais and places. It is a great concern for all Christians, not of Manipur alone but beyond the State. We ought to know that religion binds people of different castes and races around the world. As such "Nagaland For Christ" carries its volumes irrespective of different communities and lands.

In the channel of hill people who have settled and living in Imphal Valley, Meiteis seem to have grudge for not allowing them to settle and like in hill areas like tribals living in Imphal. The charges and allegations against it are:

(1) Meiteis are not given chances to enjoy facilities that are available in hill areas,
(2) Hill people are not developing but destroying lands and buring forests,
(3) Hill people are foolish (Haobang) and lacking knowledges, backward and illiterate,
(4) United Naga Council under the command of NSCN is working to disintegrate Manipur. All charges and allegations against the Nagas are true to the best of my knowledge. All charges have their meanings in themselves. Let us go further for better understanding.

Since the time of Meitei Maharajas time and upto this day the permanent practice of thumbing rule is deeply rooted in the name of majority and more advanced people. Imphal valley thinks good for its causes though the hill people bleed. Imphal valley seeing and looking at the lush and deep forests plus unexplored minerals in the hill areas have a sigh of covetousness. But could not touch them. What causes such chasm is that good feeling toward one another is missing and full understanding is totally lacking. It would not be wrong to say that Imphal valley peole is travelling in one way traffic. Hills are lacking in all respects due to want of proper uses of funds that had and have accumulated at Imphal valley. Hill people who claim leaders are in that pool. It would be wrong to point accusing finger at Meiteis only. Both of them are equally responsible for the present crisis.

In addition to that shady ongoings, many hill leaders (excluding simple purely self-manageabe persons) have permanently established houses and buildings elsewhere in Imphal in collusion will majority rulers. His/their sources of income have nothing to do with the assets they possesed except misused of public funds. True Lokpal Bill will answer them. Many of them have simple two or three rooms tin roofed houses at their respective villages. Some do not have his/their house except in the village house counting record. Some of them may come to his village with flying colour like once in a bluemoon. Doling out a few thousands and left again for Imphal never to be seen again. They are fully merged with Imphal Valley people. Do not call them Hao but Hill Meiteis. I have no hatred for them.

The right choice for my life is me and to determind one's life is self-oriented. Many Indians (including Meiteis, Nagas, Mizos etc.) have permanently settled in U.K. (about three lacs), U.S.A. (more than two lacs), Canada (about one lac), Australia (about twenty thousands) and elsewhere. So the same with the hill people of Manipur in Imphal Valley. Nothing wrong with them. The choice is theirs.

In the channel of development, we already have seen and seeing them clearly that had recently built known as Mini-Secretariat of three storeys at hill headquarters. Those are the landmark of hill developments. The value of that building will be equavalent to some rich Meiteis families alone. Your guess please. 80% hill areas are in darkness. No proper road communications. Many died unheard due to want of road communication and health care. Schools are just in namesake. Some teachers are studying outside the State doing Master Course drawing his/her pay regularly. This is Manipur. Arrest me if I am wrong.

Finally I want to ask any of you (valley or hill persons) to give us crisis solving answer to the following questions.

1. Whenever there was a road blockade for (say) one week Imphal Cry foul and feel bitter against the blockaders. Can Manipur live without Mayangs?

2. Which one is better? (a) To cry foul against the blockade or (b) To discriminate against hill people.

3. What resources and other things Imphal have in store for future sustenances?

4. What sources Imphal Valley produce to share with/give to hill people?

5. Hating Christianity but want to sleep with unmarried girl is sin. Can we have peaceful family?

6. Call us any name-good or bad but give the exact meaning of "Chingtam-amatani".

Let us draw facts. Eagerly waiting for reply in good spirit. God Bless you all.

* R Rungsung wrote this article for The Sangai Express.
This article was posted on February 13, 2012.

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