Do We Need Sanamahi And Umang Lai Council Act With Leisemba Sanajaoba As The Head
- Part 4 -

Dr. Khomdon Lisam *

Lainingthou Sanamahi Temple at Wangoi, Manipur as captured through the lens of Sanjiv Metei.
Lainingthou Sanamahi Temple at Wangoi, Manipur as captured through the lens of Sanjiv Metei.

Manipur Government's attempt to acquire the Manipur Palace

On 11 July, 2013, the Manipur State Cabinet presided over by Hon'ble Chief Minister, Shri O Ibobi Singh wanted to acquire the Manipur Royal Palace (Sana Konung) and the surrounding land of Palace Compound of about 12 acres to convert it into a historical heritage site or to convert it into a museum for tourist attraction. The Cabinet meeting decided to send an offer to the titular king, Leisemba Sanajaoba and engage the Sana Konung Semgat Lup by sending a letter that the Government's intention is bonafide and its sole objective is to restore the old palace to its former glory which would highlight the past grandeur of the kingdom of Manipur. The objective may be good but the procedure is wrong.

The sites of development as planned by the Government include temples of "Baikuntha Nath", "Pakhangba", "Nong- shaba" and "Yumjao Lairembi" and also the "Durbar Hall". But surprisingly it does not include the "princess Tamphasana's House" and the "Sana Office". Probably, these sites are occupied by influential people. The state government has deliberately ignored the recommendation of the Committee of Manipur state Assembly headed by Shri M. Koireng Singh, the then Chief Minister of Manipur.

The State Government offered to construct a structure of appropriate standard with necessary sanggoi (outhouse) with sufficient rooms for the various loishangs for the titular king Sanajaoaba on a 50 year lease at nominal rate. The titular king and his party would be allowed access to the old palace on those festivals and rituals he performs every year. Perhaps, the Manipur Cabinet may be worried about the deteriorating condition of Sana Konung, which may fall any day unless a major repair is done.

Presently, the building is leaking at various places and the titular king has to cover the leaking roof with CGI sheet. The condition of the building has only worsened day by day. Some sections in the palace may have become unsafe for human habitation because of the crumbling walls. But titular king. Leisemba Sanajaoba is repairing it to his best level with the help of Sana Konung Semgat Lup. The people welcome the offer of the State Government for repairing of the Sana Konung but without evicting the titular king. Leisemba Sanajaoba has every right to retain his ancestral Sana Konung since this is the only building available to him.

The decision of the state cabinet to take-over the royal palace for developing it into a heritage site and tourist spot has sparked protests, as its rightful owner, the titular King of Manipur was not consulted. The Sana Konung sources claimed that "As per an agreement of 2006, every decision on the Sana Konung should be taken with the consent of the titular king. " However, the government has taken the decision withour consulting the titular king.

The sit –in protest, uprising of different communities and the fasting of Leisemba Sanajaoba against the decision of the state government was a world news. More than 220 Tangkhul village chiefs of Ukhrul came to the Sana Konung and joined the protest against the cabinet decision for take-over of the Sana Konung. According to them, the Sana Konung is the reflection of age-old ties among various communities of Manipur. Barring communal differences, the people as a whole stand united to protect its king as a symbolic head.

The pertinent questions are - " What will be the status of the existing titular king of Manipur, whose residence so called 'Chonga Bon' would be taken over by state government ? what will be the fate of Manipuri customary institutions for which the titular king is the head. The people of Manipur always want its royal palace to be preserved and kept intact for the years to come as it is the living example of Manipur being an independent kingdom before it was merged to the Indian Union in 1949.

The mandatory provisions of the Manipur Merger Agreement, and also the Constitutional rights and safe-guards enshrined under articles 13 and 26 of Indian Constitution , which makes the customary matters of the people to be beyond the ambit of the Legislative Laws and purviews, and which gives no power to anybody to interfere with the fundamental rights of the others' religious freedom should be respected. Today Sana Konung has become an institution for preserving the tradition, culture and history of this land. It is the symbol of age-old civilization of Manipur and unity and solidarity among different communities of Manipur. Proposal to the Hon'ble Chief Minister

Our Hon'ble Chief Minister will continue to have absolute majority till 2017. I never saw him losing temper. He is always seen smiling. He can handle every problem tactfully. He is a man of action. He has done many development projects which no other Chief Minister has done during the last forty years. He can easily find ways and means to provide an honourable position for the titular king of Manipur. He can encourage and support the creative works of titular king in the field of Umang Lai and Sanamahism, which the titular king is already doing in greater public interest and for bringing unity and solidarity among all ethnic groups.

Where should the titular king go ? Why should the titular king live in a rented or leased building ? The Hon'ble Chief Minister can create the Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council under an Act with the titular king as the head not only to preserve and strengthen Umang Lai and Sanamahi movement but also to bring equality, peace, communal harmony and unity among all the ethnic groups in Manipur. This is the most important core issue of Manipur today.

Proposed Objectives of the Sanamahi and Umang Lai Counci Act

1. to strengthen the Sanamhi movement and to protect and preserve the Umang Lais
2. to conduct research on various aspects of Sanamahism and produce Holy Book , Key Beliefs, Teachings, forms of worship, Places of Worship, and lay down procedure of rituals like birth , marriage, death and festivals like Lai Haraoba as mentioned in various Puyas.
3. to maintain the Sanamhi temples and Umang Lai temples in Manipur
4. to conduct research on various aspects of indigenous religions of other ethnic groups and support the revival of these religions
5. to establish an apex body to deal with matters pertaining to Umang Lai, Sanamahism and other indigenous religions with clear cut duties, responsibilities and authorities. 6. to register the details of all Umang Lais
7. to support the age old tradition of customary laws and settling disputes regarding Sagei Pibas, Pibaren, Sagei Ningthou, Umang Lais, Lai Haraoba etc by the Chairman of the Council (Titular King )

Proposed structure of the Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council

1. The Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council will act as an Apex Body for Umang Lai, Sanamahi by repealing all other exisring relevant acts.

2. All the followers of Sanamahi religion may be registered with the Council and a registration no. and ID card will be issued to show the increasing trend of Sanamahi population.

3. The term of Office may be five years. The list of members will be updated every year.

4. The Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council may be headed by the Titular King in the capacity of Chairman and will comprise of Maichous/Pandits /Experts in the field of any of the Indigenous Religions of Manipur , Academicians, Lawyers, eminent persons, government representatives.

5. All the voluntary organisations connected with Umang lai, Sanamahi , Meittei Mayek may work under the council without loosing their identity.

6. The Chairman (Titular King) may be given adequate managerial and financial authorities to carry out his functions .

5. The Chairman may be given the salaries, perks, allowances and rank of a Cabibet Minister

6. The Council will have some skeletal staff on pay.

7. It will work as an autonomous body with its own rules and regulations and with Government funding.

8. One Deputy Secretary and one Finance Officer may be deputed as members of the Council.

9. The Council should not be put under any Government department.

Suggestions :

1. The existing Lainingthou Sanamahi Temple Act 1976 may be repealed . No attempt may be made to enact a separate law on Umnag lai. All these functions and many more may be incorporated in the proposed Council.

2. All the organisations working in the field of Umang Lai , Sanamahi and institutions like Uttra Sanglen, Royal Council , Maiba Loisang, Maibi Loisang, Maichou Loisang may be brought under the control and supervision of Council. The council will be headed by a chairman (the Manipur Titular king) .

2. Whatever provisions relating to Umang lai and Sanamhi religion like Maibi Loisang, Maiba Loisang may be deleted from the Shri Shri Gonvindaji Temple Act-1972.

2. The Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council may have 21-31 members. The state government may depute three of their representatives. The state government representative should not be below the rank of Deputy Secretary. Some Members may be nominated by the chairmen from among academicians, lawyers, eminient persons and senior citizens. Hill chiefs may be included in the council.

3. The chairman should be given the rank of cabinet minister with all perks, salaries and allowances. Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council may be given some skeletal staff by the State Government-to be appointed by a committee headed by the chairman.

4. The main functions of the Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council may be management of all Sanamahi Temples, Umanglais, revival of Sanamhi religion, finalising a Holy Book , organising festivities like Mera Houchongba, Hiyang Tannaba and any other fesivities with the support and help of Hill village chiefs. The Council will be the ultimate authority regarding disputes in Lai Haraoba, disputes among the Sageis, Sagei Pibas, Sagei Pibarens, Sagei Ningthou , Umang Lais etc. The Council will give guidelines to or codification of the procedure of Lai Haraoba . It should not be under any Government department. The decision of the Council can only be challenged in the High Court or Supreme Court.

6. The Sanamahi and Umang Lai Council may raise funds through donation, subscription etc.

7. The Sana Konung may be immediately repaired immediately without evicting the titular king and his family members to prevent it from crumbling . This builing is more than 100 year old and it may crumble any day. This will encourage and enable the titular king to conduct his buisiness in connetion with religious and customary laws. The acquisition of the immediate surrounding land of the palace compound may be done without evicting the titular king strictly according to the recommendation of the Koireng Committee constituted by the Manipur Legislative Assembly. The palaces of other princely states have got many buildings. So the members of the royal families continue to live in one or two buildings when the main buildings are purchased by the State Government. But in case of Manipur, we have only one palace building. The Government of Manipur may show it to the tourist as a living museum.

I would like to appeal to the Hon'ble Chief Minister, his cabinet colleagues and MLAs kindly to think why more than 43 countries in the world including developed countries like U.K , Japan , Sweden, Norway etc are still maintaining monarchy system. We have abolished the monarchical system to abolish dynastic rules. But we are still having another dynastic rules (Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, Abdulla dynasty in Kashmir, Yadav dynasty in U.P, etc.) in India and in many states. In India, the Political Dynasties prospers in power . I am not pleading for revival of monarchy system but to protect the human rights of the titular king of Manipur.

Please note that I am not writing this article on the instigation or influence of any person. This reflects only my humble opinion without any bias and I am solely responsible for these opinions.


* Dr. Khomdon Lisam wrote this article for
The writer is MBBS, MHA(AIIMS), HSMC( London), MA(LEEDS,UK), CCEA( Chula, Bangkok), PDCE( UCLA/USA) Ex- Medical Superintendent/JNIMS ; Ex –Consultant , NACO ; Ex-Project Director /MACS and can be contacted at khomdon(dot)lisam(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was posted on January 25, 2015.

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