International Conference on Manipuri Muslims held at Imphal: A Report

Dr. Syed Ahmed *

 International Conference on Manipuri Muslims held at Imphal
International Conference on Manipuri Muslims held at Imphal

A two-day International Conference on Manipuri Muslims: Past, Present and Future was held on 2nd and 3rd March 2019 at Sangai Hall, Hotel Imphal, North AOC. The conference, organised by All Manipur Muslims (Meitei Pangal) Welfare Association (AMMPWA), was participated by Manipuri Muslim delegates from Manipur, Tripura, Assam, Bangladesh and United Kingdom.

The inaugural session was graced by the Titular King of Manipur, Meidingu Leishemba Sanajaoba as Chief Guest, Vice Chancellor of Dhanamanjuri University, H. Deleep Singh, IAS and Former Director, Centre for Manipur Studies, Professor N. Joykumar Singh as Guests of Honour and President, AMMPWA, A.R. Khan, IAS Retd as Functional President.

Secretary General, AMPWA, M.A. Salam, in his key-note speech, stated the main purposes of organizing the conference, which included:
to identify and document the common heritage, culture and traditions of Manipuri Muslims settled in Manipur and outside;
to share the common issues and challenges in education, health, socio-economic development;
to make suggestions and strategies for improvement of the deprived communities in general and minority ethnic groups, Manipuri Muslims in particular;
to analyse the impact of economic changes and development policy on Manipuri Muslim society;
to provide opportunities for networking among researchers, professionals and institutions, etc.
and to interact with diaspora Manipuri Muslims.

 International Conference on Manipuri Muslims held at Imphal
International Conference on Manipuri Muslims held at Imphal

Titular king Sanajaoba, in his speech, warmly welcomed and expressed his gratitude to the Manipuri Muslim delegates from Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh for paying their visit to Manipur, their motherland. He further said the different communities, including the Manipuri Muslims, that entered Manipur in medieval times were settled by the rulers by giving them Meitei women and sageis, and they were allowed to follow their own religious faith.

In course of time, they became an integral part of the Manipuri society, and made rich contribution in different fields. The Muslim community should preserve their local cultures and traditions, while the Manipuri Muslims settled in different areas outside Manipur should not forget their roots and culture, he added.

The inauguration session was followed by invited talks, given by Prof. N. Joykumar and Research Scholar Hareshwar Goswami from Manipur and delegates from Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh. Prof. Joykumar and Goswami talked on the contribution of the Manipuri Muslims in Manipur, while the other delegates spoke on the distribution and spread of Manipuri Muslim population in their respective states and country.

In the first technical session, Ms. Mussamat Badrunnesha, Founder Chairperson and CEO of Empowerment and Human Development Society, Sylhet spoke at length on the initiatives taken up by her NGO in educating the Manipuri Muslim women in Bangladesh, while Dr. Abul Khair Choudhury, an Assistant Professor from Cachar, read a paper which examined the socio-cultural and economic life of the Manipuri Muslims in Assam.

President of Human Relief Society, Tripura presented a profile of the Manipuri Muslims settled in Tripura, while the Secretary of the Society showed the socio-economic and educational status of Manipuri Muslims in Tripura with data and also flagged some of the key issues the Manipuri Muslim community, numbering 4,000, faced.

A renowned research scholar from Manipur, M.A. Rahman highlighted the cultural traditions of the Manipuri Muslims in Manipur, while the Secretary of Writers' Union, Manipur traced the literary movement of the Manipuri Muslims. Advocate and research scholar, M.M. Ahmed showcased the narrative arts practiced by the Manipuri Muslims.

A joint paper of S. Bhogendra Singh and Md. Feizul Haque, faculty members of S. Kula Womens' College, analysed the socio-economic role of the Manipuri Muslim women and the changes seen over the years. Dr. Syed Ahmed, Assistant Professor of D.M. College of Arts and Research Scholar, Dr. Badaruddin read papers which traced the advent and settlement of Muslims in Manipur and examined the role and contribution in the pre-modern period. Dr. Maqbool Ali presented a report of the socio-economic survey of Keirak village. The technical session was moderated by Prof. Joykumar.

 International Conference on Manipuri Muslims held at Imphal
International Conference on Manipuri Muslims held at Imphal

The technical session was followed by a cultural programme, which showcased Marifat and Naat, Qawali, Khulang Esei, etc. Renowned Qari, Mohd Jalil, based in United Kingdom, presented English and Urdu Naat, while well-known folk singer from Manipur Abdus Salam presented Khulang Esei.

In the second technical session, held on 3rd March, Feroja Syed, Assistant Professor of Modern College, presented a paper on the elementary education of Muslims in Manipur focusing on the madrasa and maktab education system in the State. M.S. Wakil Shah, Assistant Inspector of Schools, read a paper on the contribution of Muslims in Arts and crafts.

A joint paper by Mohd Mustaque Ahmed, Ranee Das and S.K. Borthakur, presented by Mustaque Ahmed, makes an ethno-botanical study of the Manipuri Muslims. Research scholar Dr. Farooque Ahmed read a paper which focused on the preaching of Islam in East Asia, with special reference to Manipur, China and Taiwan.

Research Scholar, Korimayum Miraj Shah traced, in his paper, the history of Manipuri Muslims in Myanmar who were taken as captives by the Burmese during the Khuntakpa or seven years devastation of the valley of Manipur. The second technical session was moderated by A.R. Khan, IAS Retd.

The technical session was followed by a panel discussion, which included experts from Manipur, Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh, chaired by Prof. Joykumar. The session took up various issues for discussion. After the discussion, the following recommendations were adopted for implementation:

1. To institute a networking platform of Manipuri Muslims of Manipur, Assam, Tripura, Bangladesh, Myanmar and other countries for co-ordination towards strengthening the bond of the fraternity.

2. Manipuri Muslims, being one of the indigenous people of Manipur, should not be left out in any movement for protection and development of the indigenous people.

3. While recognizing unanimously the settlement of some Muslims in Manipur much before the reign of King Khagemba, it is recommended that a prominent Muslim associated with the coming of Muslims in Manipur be celebrated. The name of Muhammad Sani is decided as the right personality in this regard to be remembered by the people.

4. In order to preserve the identity of the Manipuri Muslims, the community needs to protect the culture and tradition, including language and costumes, which are permitted by the Islamic law.

5. Manipuri language (Meiteilon) should be popularized and preserved as mother tongue. Where ever necessary, the assistance of Government should be taken.

6. The need of the Manipuri Muslims' participation in the process of development is re-affirmed.

7. The Manipuri Muslim in general and women in particular of Manipur, Assam, Tripura and Bangladesh need to be empowered through education and awareness. NGOs and community leaders should initiate necessary steps in this regard in consultation with the respective Governments.

8. The history, culture, role and contribution of the Manipuri Muslims should be included in the school text-books.

9. The State Governments of Manipur, Assam and Tripura should be asked to conduct socio-economic surveys to facilitate development planning of the Manipuri Muslims.

The conference was attended by academicians, Government officials, members of civil society organizations, community leaders and students.

AMMPWA is an apex body of the Manipuri Muslims, or Meitei Pangals, formed by some of the prominent Manipuri Muslims on 2nd Oct. 1993 with a set of objectives, which included
to promote and safeguard the interests of the Manipuri Muslims in Manipur;
to promote and provide ways and means for socio-economic, educational and cultural development of the Manipuri Muslims from time to time;
to evaluate the progress of the community in various indicators;
to take up schemes and programmes for the socio-economic and educational development of the community;
to conduct studies, research and analysis on the issues relating to socio-economic, educational and cultural development of the community, among others.

The Association has, since its inception, engaged in various activities for the welfare of the Manipuri Muslim community.

The significant achievements are:
Relief and rehabilitation measures for the 1993 riot victims;
inclusion of Manipuri Muslims in the lists of OBCs (1993);
wide-scale awareness programme for education among the Muslims (1997-2012);
separate Directorate for Minorities and OBCs granted by the W. Nipamacha Singh led Government (1998);
Socio-economic baseline survey for Muslims (2004);
setting up of State Commission for Minorities and State Commission for OBC in 2004 and 2006;
separate quota for reservation for Muslims in Government services and seats in Technical and Professional courses (2006);
and free remedial coaching for backward minorities from Classes VI to XII (2006).

* Dr. Syed Ahmed wrote this article for
The writer is Assistant Professor, D.M. College of Arts and can be contacted at syed_ahmed4(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on March 10, 2019.

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