Manipur Sana Leimayol & Its Jurisdiction

D Kaiphun Nganang *

Manipur is a beautiful piece of land on Earth. In Meiteilon, it is called Sana Leibak which means, Land of Gold. Late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India rightfully named it as, "Jewel of India". One Kh Chaoba Singh had made a beautiful remark as quoted below:
"Manipur Sana Leimayol,
Chingna koyna Pansaba,
Haona Koyna Pan ngakpa,
Manipur Sana Leibak

In simple translation, it says Manipur, the mainland of the land of Gold, defensively walled by the hill ranges and surrounded and guarded by the tribals whom they called Haos. The above statement speaks of its jurisdiction. Here it may be pointed out that Manipur, the land of gold is limited to the foot hills of valley areas which is separated and walled by the hill ranges, for one does not make fences beyond his jurisdiction. The area of land within the fencing is his jurisdiction. Knowing the reality of its physical position, the poet had made the above quoted remark in its befitting manner.

2. Existence of Manipur: This beautiful Sana Leibak was earlier known as Kangleipak, Meitrabak, Poireiton and by other names. The term Manipur was put into use only from the reign of King Kyamba. Writing about the existence of Manipur, one Meitei writer, O. Tomba Singh in his book: The Need to Re-write Manipuri History, p/2 had written as below:-

"As Meitei kingdom did not exist in Manipur before the fourteenth century, the story of Babrubhaban, son of Mahabharata's Arjuna associated with Meitei kingdom is also a fiction. Most parts of Manipur valley including the whole of Imphal Kangla were under water till the beginning of 15th century. Geologists have now found scientific evidences to prove that the entire Manipur valley was under water about 500 years ago. Actually there was a large lake covering the entire Manipur valley and over the years this lake shrunk to the present Loktak lake due to siltation. There is no authentic archeological finding to show that the Meiteis settled in Manipur before the 14th century. Excavations carried out by various agencies have shown that there is a thick layer of decomposed water plants undergoing signification process 30 ft. below the ground level…. p/2.

It will not be difficult to prove that Meiteis migrated from the Barak to the foot hills of Lameidong neighbouring Loktak lake in the 14th century. At that time the entire Manipur valley was under water. The first Meitei king who reigned at Lameidong or Bishnupur was a Hindu. His name was Kyamba. The Meitei kingdom was known as Manipur since Kyamba's time. Kangleipak, Meitrabak, Poireilon etc. are the other names given to the Meitei kingdom in the 19th century. The capital of Meitei kingdom was shifted from Lameidong (Bishenpur) to Langthabal (Canchipur) in the 18th century. It was then shifted to Imphal Kangla in the 19th century. It may be concluded from the various points cited above the portion of history of the Meitei's spanning about 14 centuries starting from 33 AD. as depicted in all the Manipur history books are false and concocted.." p/3.

From the above statement writings, it is clear that the tall claims of Meiteis for 2000 years of its existence history are baseless. They always proclaimed of their 2000 years history as if other communities do not have history. Every community has its own history.

3. Physical Jurisdiction of Manipur:- As pointed out in the above Para, it is clear that the jurisdiction of Manipur Sana Leibak, the Land of gold is that portion of area within the foot hills of present Manipur. They did not go beyond that limit. When people talked of Manipur, it refers to the area in Imphal valley. Shri R.K Jalajit Singh, a prominent Meitei Historian in his article," The War of 1891- Manipur Last War of Independence, in the issue of Manipur Today, Khongjom Day the 23rd April, 1994. Vol XV No.2 published by the Directorate of Information and Public Relations, Government of Manipur had stated "According to the British plan, all the three column were to meet at Manipur (i.e.Imphal) on 27th April, 1891… Immediately after taking Manipur (now called Imphal…….p/3) The hill areas beyond the fence of Manipur Sana Leibak was not covered by the Merger Agreement of Manipur signed on the 21st September 1947, between the Meitei king and Government of India.

The Governor of Assam from 1937–1942, Robert Reid in his book History of the Frontier Areas Bordering Assam writing on the areas occupied by the Meiteis had stated, " The state of Manipur consist of a central valley some 700 square miles in area surrounded by 8000 square miles of hills. In the valley there lived 300,000 Manipuris and a few hill men while the hills are inhabited by 160,000 hill men and no Manipuris. The contrast between the almost fanatical strict Hindus of the valley and the beef eating, dog eating tribesmen of the hills cannot be too strongly emphasised.

The boundaries of the state do not enclose a cultural unit, but are rather a mixture of the limit up to which the Manipuris of the valley were in the past able effectively to extract tributes from the hill men whom they despised, for in the eyes of a Manipuri a Hillman is an altogether a lower plane of human life. He could however be made a source of profit, and till 1891 as much as tribute as possible was extracted from the hills while not a rupee was spent for their benefit. The method of dealing with recalcitrant subjects in the hills was a simple, if barbarous one based on the fact that hill tribes were head hunters.

If any village failed to pay the taxes demanded, other villages were armed with guns by the state and allowed to go in and decapitate as many of the inhabitants as they could" (p/87-88). Such was the attitude and treatment meted out to the tribal people right from the beginning in the state of Manipur. It is to say here that the same indifferent attitude even today exists and cannot be ruled out. The three bills recently passed by the State Assembly is a continuation of the said past attitude.

4. The Three Controversial Bills of Manipur Legislative Assembly: On the aggressive demand of the Meitei Civil Societies Organizations for the introduction of Inner Line Permit System (ILPS) the Manipur State Government was pushed to the wall. Having no option but to frame and pass the bills on the dictation of the civil societies, the State Assembly had passed the three controversial bills viz, (1) The Protection of Manipur People Bill, 2015,(2) The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms( Seventh Amendment) Bill 2015 and (3) The Manipur Shops and Establishment (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015, affecting the greater interest of tribal population in the state.

The state Assembly had intentionally overlooked the prescribed procedures and hurriedly tabled and passed the bills. The Constitution of India says that any matter/issue that affects tribal affairs should be referred to the Hill Area Committee (HAC) which is a statutory body duly constituted for the said purposes. The State Assembly intentionally violated the constitution of India by not referring the bills to the HAC on the pretext of it being the Money Bills and not a schedule matter.

On the top of their voice, they are shouting that the bills do not affect the interest of tribals whereas it grossly impinged the interest of the hill people. Under the law of the land, the state of Manipur consists of two categories, people and land. They are scheduled tribes and general category citizens and they are in separate categories. Tribals live in un-surveyed area of land on which they are the owners and masters whereas the general category citizens reside in surveyed land under the patta system. The existence of these two different categories shouldn't be overlooked just for the sake of one particular community while the law of the land is being enforced.

Regarding the Protection of Manipur People Bill, it is to be pointed out that the tribals are already under protection provided by the Constitution of India.T here are seats reserved under protection for the tribals in the House of the people, the Parliament under Article 330 and in the State Legislative Assembly under Article 332 of Indian Constitution. Besides this, tribal quotas/shares are there in jobs and services both in Centre and state governments. Tribals do not require another coat of protection on these matters, the present protection that exist is enough.

The Protection of Manipur People Bill passed on the 31st August 2015, was nothing but to impinge on the rights and privileges of tribal under the name of Protection. It is not a protection but to break the wall of protection by inserting a fresh phrase, "one of the small hill states…" in the statement of objects and reasons. Manipur was not a hill state, but a general class state. By inserting a new term "hill state," the State Government wants to neutralize the rights and privileges of tribals.

Looking at the seventh amendment bill on the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reform Act, 1960, it is clearly seen that new clauses had been inserted under Section 14 as Sections 14A and 14B of the Principal Act. Section 14A(1) reads as" Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, Non- Manipur persons, firms, institutions or any other similar entities who intent to purchase any land in the state of Manipur…………".

The phrase, "In the State of Manipur" includes hill areas, whereas Clause 2 of Section 1 of the Principal Act says," It shall extend to the whole of the State of Manipur except Hill areas thereof". But they (state Govt & valley people) keep on saying that the bill does not affect hill areas, tribal interest is not impinged. The land protection mechanism given in the Principal Act has been discarded by this amendment so that non-tribal people can have access to the protected tribal land. If they really consider Manipur as only Imphal valley as stated above, the bill will not affect tribal interest.

If not, this section certainly affects and had allowed non-Manipur persons as they called it and state non tribal persons to purchase land even in tribal areas. Till today non tribals are not allowed to purchase any land in the hill areas. Even in the valley area, a piece of land owned by tribal should not be sold to non tribal without prior permission of the Deputy Commissioner concern. While such is the protective mechanism, the state Govt. has opened the way for non Manipur persons and non tribal to purchase any land even in the tribal areas.

I wonder if the State Government understands what they are doing and the target it is aiming for. The substance of the three controversial bills was just to grab the vast land of the hill people and to enable the general Meitei community to get the Scheduled Tribe Status they heavily longed for. Let good will prevail over.

* D Kaiphun Nganang wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on October 16, 2015.

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