Clearing the Apprehensions of the JACATB and ZC vis-a-vis the Movement for Inner Line Permit System in Manipur till 2015
- Part 3 -

Homen Thangjam / Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam / Aheibam Koireng Singh *

ILP : Around 5000 people from Singngat area took march from singngat to Churachandpur :: August 30 2016
ILP : People from Singngat area took march from singngat to Churachandpur on August 30 2016 :: Pix - Thangpu Simte

The Anglo Manipur war of 1891 brought about tremendous changes in the history of Manipur. It marked the end of independent status losing sovereignty of Manipur. On 27 April 1891 administration of Manipur was in the hands of General Collett under him Major Maxwell was appointed as the Chief Political Officer. But soon be was authorized to discharge both civil and political duties in the state. The administrative power permitted by the British to the native ruler was only nominal. All civil and political-powers were directly administered by the British officer.

It was during the period of 1891-1907 when hill peoples were administered by irresponsible and illiterate Lambus and Kompaks, official representatives of the Manipur king, sent to collect taxes from the hill areas. Iboongohal Singh states, “It was an open secret in those days that Lambus and Kompaks oppressed the innocent hill people in order to extract money from them.”[ L. Iboongohal Singh, Introduction to Manipur, Imphal, 1963, p. 164].

In 1907 the Manipur State Durbar was established. It consisted of the Raja as the President, who was only the nominal head. The Vice-President of the Durbar was an English Officer. Thus the state was permitted to re-establish native rule under the I.C.S. Officer who was directly responsible for administration of the state. Besides, the British officer seven other Manipuri members were also appointed to look after the state.[Chingkhei Chinglen, History of Manipur,Imphal. Golden Publications, 1991. p. 24].

Different portfolios were assigned to the Manipuri members. Whereas the President of the Durbar held the charge of education, medical and state police, the Vice-President of the Durbar was given the charge of administration of the hill tribes, finance and state revenue. Moreover, foreign affairs, post and telegraph, etc. were also in the hand of the Vice President.[Lal Dena (ed.), History of Modern Manipur: 1826-1949, New Delhi, Orbit publishers and Distributors, 1991, p. 80].

Subsequently, British negated the both the Lallup system and Mera Haochongba festival in its being “pastness” (thus primitive) and as wasteful expenditure. Banning the festival could serve the purpose of de-linking the organic ties people in the two geographies shared, all the more severe allegiance to the Manipur sovereign power, nullify native hegemony and finally, forge loyalty towards them.[Homen Thangjam, “Colonial Ethnicization: The Manipur Experience”, in Arambam Noni & Kangujam Sanatomba (eds.), Colonialism and Resistance, New Delhi: Routledge, 2015 For obvious reasons the British were keen to keep the hill administration under the exclusive charge of the President, Manipur State Durbar, i.e. away from the control of the Manipur administration represented by the king in Durbar.[ Ibid., p. 141]. In 1892, at the time of British takeover of Manipur, Major Maxwell proclaimed that the hill tribes were henceforth to be ‘treated as on a footing as distinct from His Highness’ subjects, being only “dependent on” the Manipur State’.[ Quoted in Kamson 2009, p. 173.] This hastened process of ethnicization and widen the gap between natives of the hills and valley in Manipur as we witness today.

The outbreak of the Kuki Rebellion (1919-1920) introduced still more far reaching changes in the administration of the hills. The most significant result of the rebellion was the overall re-organisation of the administration. W. A. Cosgrave, the political agent was of the view that “the whole administration of the hill tracts should be handed over to the exclusive management of the political agent”[ Op.cit., Lal Dena 1991, p. 132.]

The Chief Commissioner of Assam preferred to place the hill tribes under the government of the Maharaja.

However, in all things connected with the hill men, the Maharaja was to be guided by the advice of the political agent. He further suggested to the Viceroy to establish British Sub-divisional Officers at suitable places in the hills. In October 1919, Sir Nicholas Dodds Beatson Bell, Chief Commissioner of Assam visited the state. In an open Durbar he declared the decision of India to grant the state financial concession to carry out the scheme for the better administration of the hill people.

Under the new scheme three subdivisions were formed - Churachandpur, Tamenglong and Ukhrul. Each sub-divisions was place under the charge of the European Sub-divisional officer who was directly accountable to the president of the Durbar. [Ibid., p. 134]. For smooth functioning of the administration of the hill areas, in 1920 the hill administration was separated from plain.[N. Basanta, Socio-Economic Change in Manipur(1891-1947) Imphal, 1919, pp. 85-86].

Separation of plains and hills administration continued till the lapse of British paramountcy in 1947. So what we have today, is the British legacy of divide and rule. But this does not mean the hills were separate entities in Manipur. The enactment of Manipur State Hills Peoples (Administration) Regulation, 1947 was for decentralizing the administration in the interior hill areas of Manipur[Dr. T.S. Gangte, “Exclusive ‘Naga Inhabited Area’ - Non-Existent”, Imphal Times, Imphal, September 13-14, 2015].

Table 1: Number of Villages and Tribal Ethnic Groups under the Regulation*

Table 1: Number of Villages and Tribal Ethnic Groups under the Regulation9
Table 1: Number of Villages and Tribal Ethnic Groups under the Regulation

Note: * refers to the Manipur State Hill Peoples (Administration) Regulation, 1947
Source: Dr. T.S. Gangte, “Exclusive ‘Naga Inhabited Area’ - Non-Existent”, Imphal Times, Imphal, September 13-14, 2015.

Table 2: Total number of villages in the entire hill areas of Manipur, 1947
1. Sadar Circles :
(a) Naga - 121 (b) Kuki - 244 (c) Others - 67 = 432
2. Ukhrul Circles
(a) Naga - 118 (b) Kuki - 194 (c) Others - 32 = 344
3. Tamenglong Circles
(a) Naga - 120 (b) Kuki - 173 (c) Others - 4 = 297
Grand Total: 359 611 103 1037

Source: Same as above.

According to T.S. Gangte, “When the people of India gave themselves Constitution of India with the status of a Republic on the 26th January, 1950 the above Regulation, 1947 stood abrogated, with it, changes took place. Yet, the above equation of villages remain more or less intact and stable, if not radically disturbed, but for population growth and increase in number of villages” [Ibid.]. In fact, with the enactment of the Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act, 1956 that came force on April 18, 1957, the Manipur State Hills Peoples (Administration) Regulation, 1947 was repealed.

The Manipur (Village Authorities in Hill Areas) Act, 1956 extended to the whole of the hill areas of the Union territory of Manipur as the Chief Commissioner may, by notification in the Official Gazette, declare to be hill areas. In other words, the Village authority did/does not function as separate administrative bodies but as appendages to the Government of Manipur. The same applies to the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Legislative Assembly which is empowered by the constitution to monitor the law making and the administration for the hill areas.

However, the regulation as well as HAC do not provide a separate political entity to the hills of Manipur. One also needs to read “The Manipur Hill Areas Acquisition of the Chiefs Right Acts, 1967” and “District Council Act 1971” to have a proper understanding of the administration of hill areas in Manipur.

Lastly, it is worth recalling one of the toponomy aspects to ascertain how much the hill areas were part of Manipur. Take for instance, the present Churchandpur District was named in 1921 by Mr. B.C. Gasper, the SDO of Songpi, who threw a feast in honour of the France returnees. On that occasion Songpi was renamed to Churachandpur after the name of Maharaja Churachand who also took part in the feast.

To be continued.....

* Homen Thangjam / Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam / Aheibam Koireng Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at akoireng(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on November 15, 2016.

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