TODAY -

Manpower Matters

By Seram Neken *



The great Meitei nation began with the establishment of the powerful Ningthouja Kingdom by Pakhangba, who ruled Manipur for 150 years from 33 AD. Historically, the Meiteis had their days of glory under a mini empire stretched from Kohima to Chindwin River during the reign of king Garib Nawaz in the 18th century. Meiteis could well consolidate the empire by defeating the Chinese, Burmese, Assamese, Tripuris, Cacharis and many other tribes in Manipur. The Meiteis were considered brave, courageous, and gallant in the face of challenges threatening its composite existence. It was because of the blood, sweat and tears of the Meiteis that the construction of Manipur as a nation was amply effected.

Around thirty different ethnic groups compose the Manipur nation. Before the nomenclatures of Naga or Kuki were introduced by British for administrative convenience, the various tribal groups had been known in their ethnic brands as Aimol, Anal, Ao, Angami, Chiru, Chothe, Kharam, Koireng, Kom, Kabui, Khongshai, Lamkang, Lotha, Maring, Mayon, Monshang, Mao, Maram, Thangal, Thadou, Tangkhul, Tarao, Paite, Poumai, Hmar, Zeliangrong, Sema and so on. Meitei tradition indicates the existence of seven tribes namely Ningthouja, Angom, Khuman, Moirang, Luwang, Sarang-Leishangthem and Khaba-Nganba. The Khumans had appeared to be the most powerful until the Moirang became prominent after its decline. And ultimately the Ningthoujas subdued the whole and the name Meitei became applicable to all of them. In fact, the name 'Manipur' was also created only three centuries ago during the reign of king Pamheiba.

The geographical structure of Manipur marked by a valley surrounded by rows of mountain ranges, is a main factor for maintaining a kaleidoscopic unity-in-diversity entity. Manipur was a feudal and non-capitalist country before its accidental merger into Indian union. Self-reliant economy was perfectly feasible in Manipur as the agricultural produce and natural resources were just enough to feed all the families. There was enough land for cultivation of rice. There was sufficient water because of many rivers and rivulets crisscrossing the valley from the surrounding hills.

The Meiteis had long developed the art of weaving, spinning and dyeing. Manipur is also considered the origin of silk worm. They grew cotton plants. They made their own cloth of cotton and silk. There were a variety of seasonal vegetables, fruits and fish to provide the Meiteis with a balanced diet - the results were athletic and muscular Meitei warriors. They bred a kind of Meitei ponies that were trained for war. They loved sports, which were played all the year round.

There were many lakes that sustained a variety of fish, fowls and edible vegetables. They knew animal husbandry and hunting techniques. Money used to buy local food stayed in the local economy, which in turn helped sustain the economy. They did not import any essential goods from outside and there were no favorable trade relationships with other neighboring states to supplement their economy. They were capable of producing basic necessities for survival.

Not only in the Imphal valley of Manipur, are the Meiteis also residing in parts of Assam, Tripura, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The term Meitei now connotes Meiteis, Meitei Pangal and Bamons (Brahmins). It may be said without an iota of doubt that Meiteis have been taking a major role in preventing Manipur from tearing apart since long time ago. Under the present tendencies for establishing separate homelands for certain ethnic groups, Meiteis stand whole-heartedly for a unified and composite nation. Many ethnic Nagas want to take away parts of Manipur to Nagaland with them. The Kukis want to carve out a Kukiland. Zomis of Churachandpur wants to merge with Mizoram. Not surprisingly, a handful of Hmars too expressed their willingness for separate homeland. The Meiteis have the key responsibility to handle such disintegrating tendencies which may disturb the existence of composite Manipur nationhood.

The human resources are the most precious as far as the mould of national character is concerned. However, it is not a healthy development that Meitei population has been dwindling due to various factors. Strict adherence to family planning norms of 'one or two children' by most urban elites has hastened the decrease in Meitei population size as compared to other communities like Meitei Pangals, whose socio-religious sanctions give room for more wives and children. The rural Meitei families have now begun to follow such family planning mantras in defining a contented family life.

There has been a trend of shifting settlements among Meitei educated and business elites to other cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Guwahati etc. and abroad either due to employment necessities or for avoiding the unrest tendencies of conflict. Moreover, there is a new trend of many excellent, educated and employed Manipuri girls married to outsiders. In the recent past, we have witnessed medical professionals, scientists and academician Meitei girls belonging to well-to-do families preferring to marry with outsiders. Over and above these factors, many young Meitei boys have been killed immaturely in the conflicts, drugs and AIDS mania. Many young married women have become widows and hundreds of children have become orphans.

Immigrant population of non-Manipuris has also increased considerably, causing concern in saving the indigenous identity of Manipuris. Nepalis, Biharis, Bangalis, Madrasis etc. have settled in huge numbers in the name of running business and began to claim their social status as a Manipuri. Among the international immigrants, Nepalis are the most numerous with their settlements concentrated mainly in Senapati district of Manipur. In 1974, a Nepali in the person of 'Kishore Thapa' was elected Member of Manipur Legislative Assembly from the Kangpokpi Assembly constituency. Today, there are a number of Nepali representatives in local bodies. Not only in political arena, have they also occupied high administrative positions in the government.

A recent news report quoting findings of a civil organisation says that migrants constitute around 60 percent of Jiribam population while 30 percent people there belongs to indigenous tribals and 5 percent Meiteis. It is surprising that around 4000 voters in Thangmeiband assembly constituency are non-manipuris. Similar figure of non-manipuri voters is also registered in Sugnu assembly constituency. The Bangladeshis are also a common immigrant in Manipur. They generally reside in Meitei-Pangal populated areas with involvement in socio-economic activities of the state. Many Myammaree Kukis and Myammaree Tamils are also settling in border town of Moreh as business people. (Ref- Influx of migrants into Manipur, A threat to the indigenous ethnic people; published by: United Committee Manipur, 2005)

Internal immigrants influx into Manipur include Hindi-speaking belt of India - Bihar, UP etc. who have settled as semi-skilled and unskilled laborers. They have snatched the manual jobs from the local laborers. South Indians from Kerala and Tamil Nadu have also immigrated into the state as teachers of English schools and missionaries. Their presence has adversely affected the education system of the state. There are also Marwaris who reside in huge numbers in the heart of Imphal city in the name of business. Such uninterrupted influx has not only threatened the indigenous Meitei identity but also causes concern in moulding a unique national character of Manipuris.

It is rightly opined in various elite circles that family planning norms shall not be enforced and followed by Meiteis, if we vie for a strong Meitei national character. Meiteis have been the unifying force to balance the equilibrium of co-existence among various other communities. It is high time the Meitei elites pondered over the dwindling population and found ways for increasing its size at any cost.

A social vigil has to be made on the trend of outside settlements and abroad marriages of Meiteis. Influx of immigrants has to be monitored carefully by the state government and civil organisations through proper implementation of Inner Line permit system.

Whenever the Meiteis remain adequately strong and self-reliant, a composite Manipur as a nation will be protected and preserved.

(This article was filed under RK Maipaksana Journalist Fellowship)




* Seram Neken wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao.
This article was posted on February 01, 2011.


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