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E-Pao! Manipur History :: Nupi-lan

Nupi-lan
- (Women's War Of Manipur, 1939 A D) -

Lalit Pukhrambam *


At the beginning of 1939 large non-Manipuri merchants from outside Manipur and a few local rice-mill owners started purchasing local paddy in bulks and exported it outside Manipur.

Suddenly, rice disappeared from the market and the price soared. The people of Manipur were suffering, specially poor women who lost their earnings from husking the paddy.

On 12 December 1939 women in thousands from Imphal and neighboring villages marched in procession from the Khwairamban market to the State Secretariat in a demand to terminate the rice exportation.

The Secretariat was swarmed by women. Mr. T. A. Sharpe, the President of the British Manipur Secretariat, expressed his inability to concede to their demand because Maharaja Churachand was away to Nabadweep on a pilgrim.

He indicated that Maharaja has the highest authority to grant such a demand. His casual reply provoked the women further and the agitation was intensified. Under those circumstances, Mr. Sharpe agreed to send a telegram to the Maharaja in Nabadweep in order to obtain his permission.

He walked up to the Telegraph office, which was not far from the Darbar Hall (Secretariat). The women followed him and surrounded the Telegraph office. By that time, the number of women had already swollen to more than fifteen thousand.

After sending the telegraphic message, Mr. Sharpe was about to leave. But the women insisted that he should take a seat and stay there until a reply was received from the Maharaja.

He expressed that he had already posted the maessage, and it was past his lunch time. After hearing the reply, some women started shouting that they had not eaten anything for the past two days, and if Mr. Sharpe cannot wait for a few more hours, he should learn hunger by himself as well.

Second Nupi lan
Picture Courtesy: RKCS Art Gallery


Their slogan was intensified. On receiving the news of Mr. Sharpe's arrest at the Telegraph office, the commandant of the 4th Assam Rifles Major Bulfield and Civil Surgeon Major P.H. Cummins came to investigate the situation.

Both of them were allowed to enter the building but prevented from going out. From the Cantonment boundary Post at the Kangla Complex, where the Union Jack Flew high atop on a big iron pole, the movement was being monitored by the army.

By 2 PM, troops were called in and a platoon of the 4th Assam Rifles under a British Commanding officer began to clear the crowd. Some of the women were thrown out of the balcony and some in a nearby pond in the sub-zero water.

Others were trampled, physically man-handled or charged with bayonets. The wounded lay on their backs with clothings soiled with blood all over until 10.30 PM.

Yet, they stuck on the ground until early morning hours of the cold December night with a thin shawl (Inna-phee). They left the area only after the Civil and Milliatary officers assured them that the army were withdrawing from the scene .

Thus, the Women won the war. The morning a telegram came from the Maharaja that all exports of rice must stopped immediately.

This struggle of Manipuri Women is known as "NUPI-LAN" (Women's War), and December 12 is a state holiday in honor of this heroic (heroine) event.


* Lalit Pukhrambam, from USA, wrote this article on 11 April 1997. This article was taken from a website that was alive around 1997/98.


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