Aspects of Bringing Peace and Harmony in Manipur
- Part 1 -

H. Bhuban Singh *

I am extremely grateful to Mr. T. Sitlhou, Director of Information and Public Relations, Government of Manipur for tasking me to contribute an article on "Aspects of bringing Peace and Harmony in Manipur". The conspicuously missing words in the subject matter assigned to me are "Law and order."

In the United Kingdom, they use terms like "Law and order" and the same terms are used in India also, since our country was a part of the Great British Empire. In the United States of America, I understand they use "Peace and order".

The word harmony is used in regard to affectionate, cordial and loving relationship between peoples and tribes or communities. Further, since the article is to appear in "Manipur To-day", which is a Government of Manipur publication, the limits of my articles are to be within the confines of Manipur State only.

I had the good fortune of serving in the erstwhile Manipur State Road Transport Corporation and toured almost all the nooks and corners of Manipur to assess if passenger buses could ply in those areas and found that all of us, Manipuris could speak and understand Manipuri language. This language known as Manipuri that is Meiteilon was adopted as the official language of our State during the Chief Ministership of Yangmaso Shaiza, a Tangkhul tribal from Ukhrul.

Also, I know of a few tribal students of Manipur, like Mr. Raikhan who was with me in the Manipur Public Service Commission, and he appeared in the Matriculation examination of Calcutta University during pre - partition days with Manipuri literature in place of Alternative English which was more difficult for getting marks, and scored more than 60% marks in Manipuri literature, which was First Division grade.

Ex-MP Mani Charanamei, had to speak in Manipuri language in a public meeting at Ukhrul, when his English was incomprehensible to Tangkhul elders and women folks. Indeed, connectivity in language is a great asset in establishing harmony and affection.

On the contrary, the State of Nagaland had so many tribes, who all spoke different dialects. When the British set up Naga District of Assam Province, they brought many Assamese- speaking and Hindi-speaking Babus (clerks) to run their offices.

Thus, Nagamese, a corrupted mix of Hindi and Assamese was invented automatically. That language has found its use in markets and villages. I congratulate the peoples of Nagaland for inventing Nagamese and uniting all sections of peoples of their State.

My next point for 'Peace and Harmony' is establishment of a single administrative unit, right from the beginning of history. Further, this administration has got to be shared by all sections of peoples or tribes. Shared administrative set-up is necessary. Imposed administration is counter-productive.

So, Meitei Kings established Hao (Tribal) Loisang (department) or Department of Tribal Affairs in the Palace compound itself. They were provided with proper residential quarters for the nobles and hostels for the ordinary. Meitiei Kings did not desire to assert their authority but solicited the loyalty in token form, from the Tribal Chiefs.

To ensure the loyalty of Tribal Chiefs, Meitei Kings used to invite all Tribal Chiefs to Kangla Fort of Imphal on the full-moon height of Mera (Kartik) month and dance, drink and enjoy feasting. It is said that the moon shone so brightly that one can needle a thread in the moon-lit night of that particular night. I had my personal experience.

There is still a stone-slab at Kangla, called San-Hatpham (cow-slaughtering stone). It is mandatory for the Tribal Chiefs to bring a small or token present for the Meitei King. The present may be a Tangkhul blanket known as Leirum or a Kabui spear or a tasty pumpkin etc. The stress is on their presence and allegiance.

Relations between the Tribal Chiefs and Meitei Kingdom were so good and cordial that one fore-fathers and my generation of peoples used to sing :-

Cheengna Koina Punsaba
( Barricaded by rows of mountain ranges )
Haona Koina Pun -ngakpa
( Protected by tribal peoples )
Oh, Sana-Leipak Manipur
( Oh, Golden country called Manipur )
Now, this old song has been modified to "Chingmee-na Koina Pun-ngakpa" merely' because the term 'Hao' is considered derogatory. As for me, I affirm very convincingly that the initial 'H' in my name our family surname of Haobam and all Haobams are converted from tribal.

The original and first ancestor of Haobam occupied the post of Tribal Affairs and he was known as Hao (tribal), Pham (Office) on Haopham and later Haobam. Incidentally, Major R. (Bob) Khathing, M.C., M.BE was also Minister in charge of Hill Affairs in the Interim Council of 14 August 1947, during the reign of Maharaja Bodhchandra Singh of Manipur.

The buttom-line is that I am very proud of raj tribal or Hao origin. The above administrative arrangements did not diminish the esteem and respect for the Maharaja in the valley and in tribal areas of Manipur.

After the British conquest of Manipur at the Battle of Khongjom in April 1891, the Staff was ruled by Maharaja Sir Churchand Singh KCSI, CBE, through a Darbar, presided by till Maharaja himself.

Attending Darbar sessions at pre-lunch and post-lunch sessions was too much of official work for the frolick-some young Maharaja, that he decided to quit Darbar and with the permission from His Excellency, the Governor of Assam, the Chair of President Manipur State Darbar (PMSD) was passed on to a British Officer and the Maharaja got fret from attending Darbars. But, Darbar resolutions were required to be put up to HIS Highness for approval.

During Maharaja Churchand Singh's reign, the Imphal Jiribam road was non existant. Only a very narrow bridle path, known as Tongjei Maril, which literally means the narrow pipe between the smoker and his hookah, existed. The Maharaja desired to visit his westernmost small town of Jiribam, where a sizeable Meitei, tribal, Bengali and Assamese subjects inhabit.

So, on one anspicious day in early 1920s the Maharaja went by car upto Bishnupur / Bishenpur and from there he went partly on foot, mainly on palanquins carried by porters, with a huge retinue of Brahmin cooks and a Security Guard of SMP (State Militry Police) -later Manipur Rifles, now merged into IRB -masalchis for cutting vegetables, or for cleaning utensils or for running various errands.

The Maharaja's halting places were predetermined and bamboo bashas (huts) with straw-roofing and straw-doors and -windows were arranged. Hillmen porters were organized by Lambus (petty officials for hill administration), through Tribal Chiefs. There were close co-operation, mutual understanding and respect for each other.

To be continued....

H. Bhuban Singh

* H. Bhuban Singh wrote this piece originally. This was published in "Manipur Today" - a publication from DIPR, Govt. of Manipur. This article was webcasted on November 10th, 2009.

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