TODAY -

A bit of raillery to all the Cachar Pangals smitten with the 'Choudhury' surname

Siraj Makakcha *



What started off as a logical and opinionated comment on a Facebook post in a closed group on the surname "Choudhury", a controversy of sort engulfed the miniscule Meetei Pangal community in Cachar. It blows in such out of proportion that I will not be surprised receiving a call from 'Law & Order' agencies. Maybe, I am over accentuating the situation. Seeing the kind of mudslinging and hate venting out at a personal level compelled me to write this piece. It's not aimed at clarifying myself nor hoping that those angry lot understand my argument, for I know their angst and tirade will die a natural death. You know the lifespan of controversies on social media. This one didn't even trend, or I would have been famous.

Please do not expect any leniency on those educated fools and their followers who blindly challenged and continually tried to defame me on Social Media. I also doubt those abusing me have even gone through my comments. Unfortunately, my comments and the relevant post were deleted by the 'Administrator' of the Group. We may agree to disagree but not at the level of hatred unleashed by those fools. Few does not even know how to write in their own mother tongue let alone in English. Having said that, I am not claiming to be an expert in English. So, without digging any further on their behavior and attitude (I do have lots), I want to refresh the readers a bit of Pangal history.

I see that almost every Pangal knew a bit of their history, "How the Pangals came into existence?" My understanding is this, Mughal (or Pathan) army from erstwhile Bengal were given Meetei women in marriage during the time of Emperor/Ningthourel Khagemba, and their offspring came to be known as Pangals (from Bangal, hope they meant the place). I want to stress that Khagemba (from Khagi ngamba, means conqueror of Khagi, present day China/a part of China), was an Emperor by virtue of his conquest, benevolence and just rule.

I wonder and failed to imagine the grand marriage ceremony or ceremonies involving hundreds, if not a thousand Muslim men and Meetei women. Were the ceremonies performed through Meetei tradition, or through nikah, the Islamic ritual. No historian cared to mention this episode clearly or I have not come across. If Meetei tradition was followed, as may be the case, we the Pangals then were illegitimate children as per Sharia/Islamic law.

In my opinion our forefathers, the newest Pangals were not conservative and half or even less Muslim then we are today (Apologies Allah, if I am wrong, only You know). I pray to Allah for their place in heaven/Jannah and thank them to give us our unique identity. There are many historical records available detailing/listing the names of those first Muslims that arrived in Kangleipak, unfortunately no "Choudhury" surname is available on records. Fortunately, those first settlers were conferred clans in accordance with Meetei culture and tradition.

So, the fact remains the first wave of Muslim settlers in Manipur, the Pangals were devoid of Bangali Muslims and Choudhury's. Years later those Pangals flourished with their neighbors and live together happily. Then the invasion of Burma happened in consequent intervals, historically noted as "Chahi Taret Khuntakpa" (Seven years devastation). Irrespective of Meetei or Pangals countless citizens were either butchered, enslaved and taken away by the Burmese invaders. Those were settled in parts of Burma even to these days.

Many saved themselves by fleeing the Meetei country to neighboring Cachar, Tripura and as far as Bangladesh. Those fleeing farthest being the most timorous lot. One can imagine the situation, ones next of kin, spouse, parent, children were killed in the most fearful ways. Read history and one would understand the terror unleashed by the Burmese. Those displaced migrants arriving in Cachar and elsewhere were given shelter and well treated as both the rulers of Cachar and Tripura have had Meetei pricesses as their queens or mothers.

Historically, Meetei rulers have had good relations with Cachar, Kamrup, Tripura, Burma and even Nepal, through transnational marriages, giving Meetei Princesses' on marriage to other Princes (Ngai sanaba). Mashel and Mabai rarely fight. Meetei king also married Nepal Princess (there is record) and Nepali settlement in Manipur were part of the entourage that followed their princess. Advent of Hinduism in Kangleipak manifested a great impact and brought about racism to an otherwise agrarian socialist society. We may discount the account of a few Kanglei rulers who are ruthless and happy in terrorizing the subjects in this account.

Coming back to those migrants in Cachar, they were enjoying the best of hospitality and all that's on offer on the Barak Valley. The best that had happened to them was, the taste of Elish fish (may be with taro root, paal) and enamored by it, they almost forgot "Pengba" fish, the tastiest in Manipur. The Meetei's and Pangals were settled side by side in harmony on the banks of the mighty river. Shall I say they were affected by floods as nature pleases, as they do these days. Historians didn't mention of inter caste marriages between the Pangals, Meeteis or Bengali at that time.

Eloping (nupi chenba) was a taboo, even today in Cachar to some extent within the Pangal community. Well, they flourished without much hardship and issues, but the longing for the motherland torments many a soul. One would wake up in the middle of the night, step out of one's hut, walk across to the other end of the lawn (sumang) to pee. Looked up at the full moon and hear the bird sing sitting on the leihao pambi.

He remembered, those romantic nights, hearing the 'tamna' sing, plucking a leihao, slowly smelling it, fixing the flower on his beloved's 'samji". I know for sure; his longing was more for his lost love separated from him fleeing the war. But not every lad had longings for their lass. Somewhere there was fire burning bright in some hearts, lava waiting to burst for the love of motherland. There you go, two brave Meetei princes (brothers) were building the agenda or driving the Burmese and recapture the lost throne.

Cutting through the flow, may I bring in a laughable argument from a few present day Pangal pseudo scholars, mainly with 'Choudhury' surnames? They argue that a Cachar King, conferred the title "Choudhury" to a Pangal elderly based on their amount of land holding (louyam chaba). Can it get more bizarre than this? Does it hold any logic? You live at the mercy of the Cachari king, damn it. Why on earth a tribal Cachari ruler confer you with a surname "Choudhury"? Why not to a Meetei elderly, they also hold larger amount of land than the Pangals? You mean the king was a Tughlak? Mathong chadaba!

Going back to the story where I left, those two princes gathered a group of soldiers from among the Meeteis, Pangals and others at Cachar. Started their training for an assault on the invading Burmese. This was long before Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's Azad Hind Fauj. The brothers even mustered help from the British, who were stationed at Dhaka and Shillong. Britishers took it as an opportunity at setting a footprint of their empire in Munipoore.

The Britishers after a few flip-flops agreed to help the Meetei soldiers. The Meetei soldiers thus organized have more sophisticated military hardware than the Burmese, thanks to the British, which gave them an upper hand. In an ensuing battle Meetei troops were were able to show the Burmese their way home.

The advent of the Britishers to Manipur started with this help. With the Britishers in Imphal economic activities started to roll needing much more manpower/labor that the local people could not have met. British army were looking at a final assault to took over Burma then by attacking from the East and West simultaneously. Imphal was the western command for the job. Imagine thousands of British military personnel marching to Imphal from Silchar and Kohima, they brought along many Bangalies, Nepalies and other outsiders with them to help meet the logistical challenges.

Venturing into Imphal through the inhospitable hills may have been quite a task in those days. Many of those outsiders brought by the British never returned and were assimilated to the local populace. They include the Bangali Choudhury's. I started liking the Choudhury's since the days of Maya Choudhury. I didn't know Meetei's too had Choudhury surnames, my ignorance. She was my favorite; do you know her? If you know, then you'll know, what I mean. Luckily, I got a Choudhury as my better half, she brought along a platoon of Choudhurys as my *-in-laws. In these days of adversity, I have many Choudhurys quietly supporting me. Thanks to them.

With no pun and disrespect vis a vis the Choudhurys let me note that the Bangalis were having a good life indulging in farming and rest of their time with fishing, fishery and fish trade (popularly known as 'mashuwa' or 'ngamee'), yes they sleep in the night and make babies (a lot of them) in their homeland Bangladesh. They even continue to do it, making babies. Many were slaves of the Mughals too.

They were curious to know the land beyond the charming nine hills 'chinglon mapal', wanted to see the sanaleipak (they also call their land Sonar Bangla' now), as they heard many a good thing, specially the beautiful natural scenery, weather, nice and hospitable people and not the least the tastiest of rice. You don't need curry to savor the rice.

Unfortunately, those tasty rice kind are rare these days, I heard only the traders of Thangal Bazar can afford it. Not joking. Well, those Bangalies didn't think twice when an opportunity came to be part of the British military logistic operation to Manipur. Though they declined to join the first wave of Muslim invaders to Kangleipak.

Many of them including Choudhury's didn't return to Bangladesh but assimilated with Meeteis and Pangals in Manipur bringing along their surname. Following the conquest of Manipur by the British a fresh wave of Muslim and Hindu outsiders migrated thereby increasing the population of Muslims and Hindus in Manipur.

The whole point of argument in this historical and fictional write up is this, "the Bangalis including the Choudhury clans were mainly fisherman before they ventured into Manipur. Their offspring's carry their legendary surname along with them. Nothing is wrong with it.

Over time a lone Pangal Choudhury progressed and rose to higher echelons of society in Manipur, thereby commanding respect and fame. This instigated many to start adding Choudhury surname, exploding Pangal names, especially in Cachar. Every Choudhury was related to DC Mr. Helim Choudhury (success has many fathers, mothers, whatever?). May Allah bestow the late Choudhury heavenly abode! While many may have chosen to add this surname with a reason few have them appended to their names, thanks to a rare breed of primary school teachers in Cachar.

On a concluding note, the current changing geo-political situations compel one to identify oneself. Your name is your identity. Language, NOT RELIGION, binds people as one. It's about time one carry along their identity, culture, ethnicity and race (not only ID cards), start it with your name. There is so much in your name. it's a suggestion. Apologies if my lingo and use of words have hurt your sentiments. I mean no offence and insult. Also, I am not a scholar of history.

Welcome your opinion and criticism in the greater interest of knowing history will be heartily appreciated. Thank you.


* Siraj Makakcha wrote this article for e-pao.net
Siraj Makakcha, is a resident of Dubai and hailing from Jiribam. Currently he is working as a Librarian with "CRACKNELL".
He contributes regularly to E-pao.net and can be contacted at shaidar(AT)eim(DOT)ae
This article was posted on Ocotber 24, 2019 .


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