TODAY -

A historical introspection : The Manipuri Women's struggle of 1939
(Nupi Lan)

Kh Surchand *

 Nupilan Ningshing Numit : Nupi Lan Observation :: 12th December 2012
Nupilan Ningshing Numit : Nupi Lan Observation on 12th December 2012 :: Pix - Jinendra Maibam



The historic Manipuri Women's revolutionary struggle of 1939 was a great political event in the 56 years of British Colonial rule. The struggle was inspired by the great Marxist revolutionary Hijam Irawat. The intrinsic cause of the militant movement was directly related with the colonial and feudal exploitation.

With the reign of British colonial rule, the nonManipuri business sharks gradually began to dominate trade and commerce that was earlier under feudalism and was at the hands of the Manipuris. The colonial creations and its fallouts: In order to fatten their exchequer, the colonial authority introduced free trade in Manipur.

Under their disastrous free trade policy, the British authority began to export huge quantum of local rice produced by the peasantry. If we have a glance at the then data of rice export, it can be seen how much of rice was aggressively sold outside by the colonial master.

Year wise -export quantum 1897-98-25,230 maunds of rice;
1898-99-36,436 maunds of rice;
1922-23- 80,000 maunds of rice;
1925-26 -1,55,014 maunds of rice.

As such, till 1925, the plundering of Manipuri rice had assumed an agressive proportion. It certainly affected the local market, the internal consumption of rice could not be met due to the export of rice. Hence, the price of rice was bound to hike and people suffered a lot as they could not afford the steep price. The Manipuri people began to oppose and demanded that disastrous free trade policy be abandoned.

The British authority handed over the rice export to the trading community which had huge capital investment and shared the profit with the British. In such subtle colonial practice, the Britishers could enjoy the colonial exploitation. The permissible duration of rice export of six weeks meant one and half month. In the initial stage the load of local rice was carried by the bullock carts.

But with the use of motor vehicles the rice export business expanded immensely with rapid pace. The rice export was done with two different slot-"Cart Tax" and "Land Pass" System. The free movement of Manipuri rice was allowed by paying cart tax under the first system and the latter system was made through contract between the colonial administration of Manipur State and Assam.

With the second slot the unlimited quantum of rice can be exported to the Kohima Civil Stations of Naga Hills and Assam Rifles battalions posted all over Assam. Through the cart tax system the colonial administration could earn huge revenue but after some time the revenue was radically transformed to fatten the trading community.

Earlier the revenue accumulation was pursued through an administrative order of the Political Agent (colonial ruler). However, with the new policy in 1932, the sole responsibility of collection was given to a powerful trading community and a certain revenue was shared with the State.

The new system gave great impetus to the growth and concentration of private capital as well as the quantum of rice export reached a new height-2,77,389 maunds as against 1,05,287 maunds in the previous years. In the meanwhile, the area under paddy cultivation did not increase considerably, as only 10,672 acres could be enhanced.

A comparative study can be made regarding the expansion of area under cultivation and push of the huge volume of rice export. In the mid 1920s, the grand total paddy cultivated land was 1,75,537 (acres) and in the late 1930s the total area could expand upto 1,85,213 (acres) only. The increase was minimal ie only 10,672 (acres).

The expansion was in the fertile valley only, though the cultivation was wet-cultivation, but very primitive and subsequently, the rice harvest per acre was utterly low. The Manipuri peasantry used bio-fertilizer only that too not in appropriate quantum. In vast hill areas, rice productivity was much more lower than the valley due to the geographical reality.

The peasantry in the hills could practice terrace cultivation only. The helpless peasantry could not expect the paddy harvest more than their subsistence. Even own produce could barely meet daily consumption. Other available crops, vegetables, bamboo shoot, pumpkin, gourd, etc. supplemented the food shortage. This was how the tribal people survived in the hills.

In Manipur valley, the annual rice harvest could meet the domestic consumption, as the production was self-sufficient but not abundant. No concern for the people–British and Manipur authority : In such a situation, with no concern for the people, the British colonial administration colluded with puppet feudal ruler of Manipur State, and pursued the free trade policy, particularly rice export.

The trade volume of rice export had inceased tremendously reaching upto 3,72,174 maunds in 1938 (one year before the outbreak of the Nupi Lan) as against the 1,55,014 mounds of 1925-26. It caused the artificial scarcity of rice in the local market.

The Manipuri prefer rice as their staple food item. Therefore, whenever the rice output was scanty owing to natural calamities like flood, drought etc they were not accustomed easily to any other optional food instead of the tasty Manipuri rice. Along with this problem of Manipuri food habit, the colonial policy of rice export brought down the agarian economy of Manipuri people particularly the economy of the peasantry.

  27th Nupi Lal Ningsing Lamjel from Nupi Lan Complex to Singjamei Super Market on 12th December 2018
27th Nupi Lal Ningsing Lamjel from Nupi Lan Complex to Singjamei Super Market on 12 December 2018 :: Pix - Shanker Khangembam



The rice business tycoons exploited the Manipuri peasants through forward trading and did not give the remunerative price to farmers when they procured the paddy and rice for exporting outside the State.

The unlimited rice export policy of British authority brought unbearable economic hardship to the life of the common people. This was the dangerous coalesce of politics and economic condition of colonial Manipur just before the outbreak of the second Manipuri women's struggle.

The immediate causes :

The immediate cause for the outbreak of militant women's agitation was explicitly related with exploitive free trade policy of colonial ruler and the nefarious milling and trading activities of the crony capitalists-the trading community. The devastating economic hardship due to the plundering and looting of the British colonialist was already piled up in Manipur and the artifical rice scarcity further intensified the economic hardship of the common masses.

On other hand, the ruling elite and the feudal class were enjoying the comfortable life with nothing in their mind about the suffering of the masses. In the meanwhile, nature also was not kind to the people. One was the excessive rain in the last week of July and first week of August and again another heavy rainfall in the last part of September and early part of November 1939.

The heavy rain of July and August had destroyed standing crops and vegetables. The latter rainfall repeatedly affected the early paddy harvest. In mid November again hailstrom damaged the standing crops ready for harvesting. Due to this unexpected natural calamities, rice production was very much low.

As a consequence , the price of rice was hiked considerably from one rupee and four annas to the tune of two rupees per maund. Even the costly rice was not available in the market. In such critical situation, the food crisis became acute. The magnitude was similar to some extent with the tragic Bengal famine of early 1940s.

The struggle began and its tremendous effect :

The hungry womenfolk who had to manage the day's meal went from pillar to post searching for rice, but none was available. The womenfolk could not forget her child who had starved since yesterday.

Instead of returning to their respective home without a handful of rice, they marched towards the office of the political agentMr Gimson. On 12 December 1939 at forenoon several hundreds women of Khwairamband Keithel (Imphal Market) were in the forefront.

The agitated womenfolk raised the slogans against free trade and the rice export policy. Urging the colonial administration to abandon export of rice and the rice mills run by the trading community, the militant women encircled Mr Sharpe, then, the President of the Manipur State Darbar, asking him to issue an effective official order to halt both the working of the rice mills and the export of rice.

The number of women increased in and around the State capital, Imphal. Then the colonial official asserted that the British administration could not abandon the free trade and rice export policy without the approval of the Manipur King Sir Churachand. Accordingly, Mr Sharpe came to the Telegraph office to send urgent telegram to Nabadwip (West Bengal) to get the consent from the Maharaja who was on pilgrimage.

But the women stood their ground and said that approval of the King was not necessary. However the British official insisted on it which annoyed the womenfolk who then confined Mr Sharpe, Major Cummins, the Civil Surgeon, Major Bullfield, Commandant of the 4th Assam Rifles along with some others officials in the Telegraph office, even refusing to allow them to go for lunch.

At around 2 pm a platoon of the Assam Rifles rushed with 303 rifles and fixed bayonets. But instead of retreating, the Manipuri womenfolk confronted the colonial forces. As a consequence , the historic clash broke out between the sepoys and women agitationists. The blood of Manipuri women was shed to confront the brutal charges of lathi, bayonet and butt of the colonial forces. A large number of agitationists got wounded and some were hospitalised.

The historic militant women struggle for food gave a profound political impact and awoke the anti-imperialist stance and also the women resistance shook both the colonial and feudal rule in the State. The great Marxist revolutionary Hijam Irawat inspired the 1939 women struggle. For his headlong involvement and guidance of the women struggle, he was imprisoned for three years and deported to Sylhet jail.

Other women leaders - Shabi Devi, Tongou Devi, Chaobiton, Khongnang, Leipaklei Devi etc got jail terms. The Leftist women organisation-the Manipur Mahila Sanmelani was the product of this struggle.

On 7th January 1940, the Manipur Mahila Sanmelani was formed under the initiative of comrade Irawat. The nomenclature of Mahila Sanmelani changed to the All Manipur Nupi Marup of present day.


* Kh Surchand wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is Asst. Secretary, MSC/CPI
This article was webcasted on December 13 2020 .



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • ADC polls: Democracy at grassroots level
  • Gaan-Ngai @ Iboyaima Shanglen #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • The making of a tourist spot
  • Life & culture in North East India :: Book Rvw
  • Republic Day at Manipur Legal Services
  • National Flag Hoisting at RGU, Arunachal
  • Imoinu Erat Thouni @ Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Gaan-Ngai, traditional festival of Kabui
  • Get vaccine shot but dont throw away mask
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Mysterious dreams :: Poem
  • Inclusiveness of women in sports is key
  • Supports Farmers' Republic Day Parade
  • Living with border disputes
  • Constructing optimistic theory
  • Food items @ Waithou Keithel #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • A Hymn for Goddess Emoinu
  • The idea of Netaji, Manipur & the INA
  • Narcotic Drugs disposal @Lamlai #2 : Gallery
  • Prize Distribution Ceremony at MitSna
  • The land of jewels :: Poem
  • The business of growing poppy
  • Prison Diary of Lamyanba NK Sanajaoba
  • Manipur Hockey Website launched : Gallery
  • The reality of life :: Poem
  • Mathematics in our lives
  • Girl Child : Marching towards a new horizon
  • Herbal beauty tips
  • A thought on the Nation's Republic Day
  • Saving Manipuri pony & polo
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Aton Yaiphengba, Hekim: eMing
  • What does civility require.. just principle
  • Nine Hills, One Valley : Special Film award
  • Bhuban cave: Holy place of TRC people #2
  • Let's get sneakered - Art & Music event
  • 50 years of existence as a State
  • A New World : Post COVID-19
  • Statehood Day Celebration 2021 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Questions over commissioning Mapithel Dam
  • Gender equality and human rights
  • Manipur first among NE in Innovation Index
  • Becoming mommy - Yes or No ?
  • Student Induction Program at Lilong Haoreibi
  • Uniform academic session
  • Bedlam beginning
  • Grandfather of Uipo Language- Mosel Khaling
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Lt Col Rajeev Bakshi : The Tiger of Tipaimukh
  • Cleanliness Program at Lilong Haoreibi
  • Racism at its worst
  • Gita - An antidote for life in Kali #3
  • Ultimatum from UNC
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #14
  • COVID-19 Status 19 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Municipal Council, Kakching Khunou
  • Disaster :: Poem
  • Signs of cervical cancer
  • Training Programme on Mushroom Cultivation
  • JCILPS for more teeth to ILPS
  • Wildfire in Dzuko, Senapati #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • IM says it's "deeply committed" to solution
  • Making of a General :: Book Review
  • Jesus, markets, state, & silenced dialogue
  • Logistics as career option
  • 'Solution expected anytime soon'
  • COVID-19 vaccination [Jan 16] #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 17 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Bhuban cave: Holy place of TRC people #1
  • Police Guest House CCpur : Gallery
  • Know-how for using herbicides in rice
  • Too much too good ?
  • Roll up the sleeves for Covid shot
  • COVID-19 vaccination [Jan 16] #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 16 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Empowering women through sports
  • Dzuko 'the Nagmani'
  • 3rd foundation day- National Sport University
  • Research & Publication Ethics Workshop
  • Living Legends of Manipur : Wall Calendar
  • Cong existence felt, will it survive?
  • Day light Thabal Chongba #3 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • School Fagathanshi @Leimapokpam: Gallery
  • The voice inside me :: Poem
  • Let's embrace youths self esteem
  • Gita - An antidote for life in Kali #2
  • Bedtime beauty hacks to look young
  • Menace on the roads of Imphal
  • Hill Valley bondage strengthened
  • Narcotic Drugs disposal @Lamlai #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Shachi Gurumayum honoured overseas Indian
  • Enthusiasm of LFCA's children
  • Energy Conservation Material Management
  • Commandant 12th Bn NDRF called on CM
  • Water education for sustainability
  • Postpone Public Hearing on Gender Policy
  • Students at the forefront
  • Fuelling the anger
  • COVID Vaccine arrived @ Airport : Gallery
  • Major (Dr) Laishram Jyotin, Ashoka Chakra
  • Mushroom training program at Langmeidong
  • 5 years of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana
  • Drugs ki lansu amani
  • 3rd State Level Jump Rope Championship
  • Vaccine and low count of infection
  • Human fails to learn lessons from Corona
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #13
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • National Youth Day at Lilong Haoreibi
  • Face it all together: threat of pandemics
  • Majuli - India's only river island district
  • More of a question when, not should
  • Tungjoy re-visited
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID Vaccination Meeting with PM: Gallery
  • Fruits & Vegetables grown in North East #2
  • 18th BIG Call : Biotechnology Grant
  • Trade hate for love : Blissful 2021
  • Jump Rope (Judges & Referees) Exam
  • Connecting via Jiri
  • Dhanamanjuri University & its Identity Crisis
  • INA's Honour at the Battle of Imphal
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Ima Keithel @ Kanglatongbi/Sekmai : Gallery
  • Aromatic Oil Extraction training at Huishu
  • Tulihal - Our sweet old local airport
  • Gita - An antidote for life in Kali #1
  • Training on Mushroom at Nagamapal
  • The call for new normal still stands
  • 187 Death Anniv- Maharaj Gambhir : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Biocontrol of Parthenium for biodiversity #2
  • A message from mother nature :: Poem
  • New year resolution & complication
  • NEP-2020 : A new Landscape in Education
  • Wildfire in Dzuko, Senapati #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Satyamala : Most Fortunate Manipuri Princess
  • Transforming economy of the kingdom of God
  • Events and celebration as career
  • How to protect your lips in winter
  • Poppy plantation & drug trafficking
  • We Continue To Strive Forward
  • Press Club Foundation Day : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Bereavement : Grief Reaction
  • Emergency Response System : Gallery
  • This world :: Poem
  • Bitter truth
  • Re-opening and rethinking border trade
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 # 12
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Fruits & Vegetables grown in North East #1
  • Life goes on !
  • Naga Rapper Macnivil - New Music Video
  • Awareness Prog with Women Commission
  • Farm Acts need of the hour
  • Imphal on eve of New Year 2021 #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Cold Storage @ Bishnupur Bazar : Gallery
  • Pronoia - The sociological antidote to corona
  • New Year 2021 :: Poem
  • Careers opportunity in Fashion Industry
  • Economic growth: A mirage so far
  • The law of Habit
  • Zeilad Lake in Tamenglong #1 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 04 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Biocontrol of Parthenium for biodiversity #1
  • Child Nutrition and their future
  • Guilt free self love - Not a sin!
  • 'Anguish over wild fire at Dziikou Valley'
  • Another message for another year
  • Lamphelpat: Victim of unplanned urbanisation
  • Politics and the War Against Drug
  • Ibudhou Marongkhong Haraoba #4 :: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn the Manipuri script
  • Linguistic Society of America 2020 to Manipur
  • Time for Modi-Shah duo to ink the final pact
  • Vanishing Lamphelpat calls for conservation
  • New Community Centre at Ningthoukhong
  • Disturbed Area status: An unwelcome gift
  • Paona Independence League of Burma #3
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Presentation of Tourism in Manipur : Gallery
  • Manipur's super cops
  • The passing moment- clock of life :: Poem
  • Executive Committee of 2021-22 YMC
  • Take care of your hands this winter
  • RK Bhubonsana : Profile- Literature Awardee
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Jan : Govt of Manipur
  • Prayers to honourable Home Minister
  • Book Release of Cheerom Meihoubarol
  • Chronicling activity of Veterans in Manipur #2
  • Biswajit Basu as Director (Projects), NHPC
  • Imphal on eve of New Year 2021 #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Downloadable Manipuri Calendar :: 2021
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2020 #6: Gallery
  • Bidding Goodbye 2020 with a toast of Corona
  • Let us not down NK Sanajaoba's Spirit
  • Dr Konika Khuraijam- SDP Achievers Award
  • One Day Adventure Programme at Lamdan
  • On stepping into a brand New Year
  • Welcome 2021: Will it be another happy days
  • Romita Yumnam is Mrs Jhansi 2020 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 30 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Mrs Romita Yumnam crowned Mrs Jhansi 2020
  • Year's End - 2020 :: Poem
  • Bye - Bye 2020 :: Poem
  • Maya Kuki in top 25 in Mrs Universe 2020
  • 2020: Decisive for the BJP in Manipur
  • The other side of Amit Shah & Manipuri talent
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #11
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • The cry of a disgruntled citizen
  • KVRSS Annual Research Awards 2020-21
  • Manage to reduce it
  • Life is a matter of choices
  • Painting Competition : Right to Information
  • New virus strain: The world is worried
  • Mayang Imphal Keithel #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • January Calendar for Year 2021 : Tools
  • Shanti Thokchom #43 : Trip to Grand Canyon
  • 2020 as the 'Year of Science'
  • Sampurna Raas Leela at Guwahati
  • Significant 2 hours delay in leaving lmphal
  • Biren will be Chief Ministerial candidate
  • Amit Shah @Imphal [Dec 27] : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Dec : Govt of Manipur
  • Organic cultivation of tomato
  • Xmas during pandemic - a time to reflect
  • Reviews of Loktak Downstream Project
  • Amit Shah: Man behind ILP in Manipur
  • S Lonphai, Henglep Sub-div, CCpur : Gallery
  • Works of Haobam Paban Kumar #2 : Gallery
  • Pukhrambam Narjit : Asangbi Sanagi Medal
  • Paona Independence League of Burma #2
  • Khamba Thoibi Jagoi at JNMDA #1: Gallery
  • Cherry Blossom at Mao #1: Gallery
  • Festive mood in CCpur for Xmas: Gallery
  • Ningol Chakouba @ Thanga #2: Gallery
  • State level Nupi Lan Day : Gallery
  • Sory Wahengbam - Actress Gallery :: eRang
  • COVID patient cast vote @Wangoi : Gallery
  • 'Zehara' - Manipuri Movie :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS