TODAY -

Cementing the bond of hill and valley people

Samarjit Kambam *

 Mera Houchongba , re-affirming close bond and ties between hill and valley people at Sana Konung and Kangla :: 18 October 2013
Mera Houchongba , re-affirming close bond and ties between hill and valley people at Kangla in October 2013 :: Pix - Gnet



Big troubles always abound in our small state of Manipur. This state resembling the crater of a volcano with ranges of hills circling a small valley is never short of thorny issues. This small hillock state spews out umpteen vexations that can make even the gods go crazy. In fact, our state is an anthology of conundrums, troubles and issues on myriad interests which may be political, economic or social. Of all the nigglings, rattles and fizzes what really pains me is the issue of hill and valley, hill people and valley people, tribals and Meiteis.

Since time immemorial the hill and valley people have been living as brothers regardless of whether the hill brethrens were under the rule of the valley kings or not. There are stories of love, brotherhood and peaceful co-existence of hill and valley people since millenniums. Mera Wayungba and Mera Houchongba are celebrated every year to mark the bond of brotherhood between valley and hill people. Every Lai Harouba of the Meeteis are adorned with tribal dances which reflect the age old bond between hill and valley people. Politicians, leaders and big honchos played their vicious parts in creating the rift between hill tribals and valley people. for their own selfish interests. While the valley people are blamed for everything, it is an irony that the leaders of the hill people themselves stay in the valley giving little care for the hill people by siphoning out huge resources meant for the development of hill people.

We the Meeteis are not short of characteristic traits which come as an anathema to the hill tribals. We are egocentric and bullish. We have the wrong notion that whatever we think is above reproach. We are a class of people who think that we are impeccable where others are incorrigible – a deviant mindset. Each one thinks of himself as omniscient, has an impatience for listening, and most of all pulling down others without thinking of his own situation and position, one of the most hazardous mindset which leads to sprouting of arguments and leakage of reasoning. But we have a soft spot too. We are fast to admit our mistakes, fast to forgive an injury and forget an insult.

The Meeteis began to possess superiority complex since the time of King Pamheiba when he forcefully converted the religion of Meeteis into Hinduism after he was thoroughly brainwashed by Santidas Godsai, a preacher from Sylhet, Bangladesh. The Meeteis once upon a time were tribals, leading the tribal way of life with Sanamahism as the main religion and Sanamahee is still worshipped in almost all Meetei households.

But deep inside, the love for hill people in the heart of every Meeteis is an inborn trait, something which is embedded deep inside the DNA. However, there is one reality which cannot be swept aside - that the hill brothers are sometimes not consulted at crucial issues, a natural and logical reason to get hurt and hurt the hill people are because deep inside the bond is still there just like the member of a family getting hurt for not consulting him on important issues. The valley people owe a big apolology to the hill brothers for such lapses. The Meeteis in the future mustn’t make the mistake of sidelining the hill people on any important issues particularly social issues.

The hill people are drowned with apprehension and anxiety particularly on the ILP Bills with many questions galore. The hill tribals are clouded with anxiety as to whether the indigenous people residing in the hills do not fall into the category of Manipur People as per Protection of Manipur People Bill 2015. However, the anxiety can be cast aside as the state government knows the sensitivity of the situation and it is an open secret that the bills are specifically designed for control of influx of outsiders from mainland India and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar.

To the people of the valley and JCILPS, hill tribals are generally taken as indigenous people and part and parcel of the state. The cut off year of 1951 is another source that draws apprehension among the hill tribals. Well, that is one reason that really perturb the minds of the hill people as most of the hill villages do not have records on the National Register of Citizens and Census Report prior to 1951 as the government machinery were not able to reach the area due to remoteness of location, connectivity deadlock and backwardness.

However, their records in Village Directory of 1951 and records of descendents held by Village Chiefs/Khulakpas will come to the rescue which is given in the Clause 2 (b) of the Protection of Manipur Peoples Bill 2015. The hill people are also unsettled on whether the clauses of the Bill have some hidden agenda to weed out the hill tribals from their settlement but that is an out of the box assumption as the valley people, JCILPS and state government have no such agenda and the Bills are meant for collective protection of all indigenous people of hills and valley.

The valley people especially the Meeteis have no intention to reside or settle in the hills for we are quite satisfied with residing in the valley. Besides, the hill people are protected under the Manipur(Hill Areas) District Council Act 1971 and Article 371(c), as such, angst in this regard may also be shed. However, we need to listen to the hearts of the hill people on any issues, policies and programmes if the matter concerns the whole state of Manipur.

Apprehension amalgamated with doubt was the main cause of death of seven, injury to many and destruction of public and private properties in Churachandpur. The movement for implementation of ILPS by JCILPS was taken up since many years back keeping in mind the protection of both hill and valley people from the lethal influx outsiders and prevent ourselves from being totally engulfed or getting sidelined and protect the unique identity, culture and tradition of each and every ethnic groups of the state. ILPS is the only tool for the indigenous people of Manipur against this nefarious population warfare of outsiders.

True, a policy may sound unsettling to the interest of few groups or communities but everything can be worked out in a mutual way by sidelining violence at bay. Instead of going the violent way there’s always room for resolving and reconciliation. The valley based organisations are always ready to pour their hearts out to the various tribal civil society organisations and student bodies and if all the tribal organisations had called upon the valley based civil organisations at the discussion table the unwanted incident might not have occurred.

Violence always breeds violence and it will remain the greatest spoiler to peaceful co-existence especially in a pluralistic, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic state like Manipur. Tolerance, patience, respect for one another and mutuality should be the bible for peace. Narrow mindedness and distrust are the most hazardous elements on the path to peaceful co-existence.

Its time we shed our indifferences and look beyond our narrow outlook for we have a larger issue at hand that of Manipur being gobbled up by outside elements. So all policies and political actions on the ILP issue should be seen in the perspective of Manipur Vs Outside Manipur and not My Community Vs Your Community.


* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 05, 2015.


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