Settlement and identity of Pangals in Manipur : Counter points

Delhi Association of the Manipur Muslim Students *

Emergency Meeting-
Date 12 Nov. 2019 JNU Convention Centre New Delhi

In response to a seminar being organised by a group of mainstream civil society organisations regarding the settlement and identity of the Pangals in Manipur, and taking certain resolutions thereafter, the Delhi Association of the Manipur Muslim Students (DAMMS) held an emergency meeting after having read the way in which the seminar was organised in a controversial manner and publication of provocative news regarding the origin of Pangal community in Manipur.

DAMMS considers the manner in which the seminar was organised as highly conspirative, owing to the fact that no proper procedure was followed for an open call for paper and none of the major Pangal civil society organisations and proper resource person were duly invited. Since the topic of the seminar was on the identity of the Pangals and its relationships to other communities, proper invitations should have been given out to all important stake holders in time.

DAMMS sees a conspiracy in making since the stakeholders included in the seminar are politically aligned to different groups and ideologies. In an atmosphere where the civil societies are highly divided into interest groups, an open discussion with inclusive representation could have given an appreciative result.

We appreciate the initiative of the organisers in trying to understand the Pangal society better, which is in fact the need of the hour; however, we consider that matters related to the identity of the Pangals have to be discussed and decided with maximum participation from the Pangal community. DAMMS considers the drive as ironical and highly skeptical for the fact that some organisers were involved in publishing certain controversial texts recently, regarding the origin and demographic profile of Manipur.

We condemn this exercise in the strongest terms and considers it as provocative and sense a fishy political objective behind the screen. DAMMS do not consider the resolutions taken as a proper representation of the wishes and reflections of the Pangal community.

We would request the organisers to engage with all the necessary stakeholders for any further engagements regarding the Pangal community in future. There is a constant effort to fabricate the history of the Pangals by the very people who spread propaganda about the population of the Pangals in Manipur through Manipuri films (include reference here), and the torch-bearers of the groups called Ukal, Mesia, and likes (Mapping the Roles of Media I in Shaping the Misrepresentations and Misconceptions about the Muslim Community in Manipur’, A Journal of Media Studies, vol. 32, no. 1, January 2017, a peer reviewed journal published by the Institute of Communication Studies, University of the Punjab); lies spread through Kangla Laanpung (reference) and usage of distorted data and history against the Pangals in the Influx of Migrants in Manipur published by UCM in November 2005. Abominably, these elements also induce fear psychosis by not allowing books to be circulated (burning of Turko-Afghan gi Chaada-Naoda, 1997).

It is in this context that we are issuing the following counter points for a rethinking and igniting academic discourse in letter and spirit. We present here a few counter points to bust the bubbles of lies being built up.

Counter point no. 1

The Pangals (Muslim soldiers from Taraf) were not ‘war captives/prisoners of war ’in 1606 of Manipur. The origin of Pangals is basically ascribed to two points in time: one group of scholars began to claim that they commenced their settlements in Manipur before the seventeenth century and another group of scholars who disputed the first assumption argued that they came from Sylhet, now in Bangladesh in 1606 AD and organised their inhabitants in Manipur during the reign of king Khagemba (1597-1652 AD).The Pangals are a population living in Manipur since the 16th century, though the size increased in 1606 with around 1000 Muslim soldiers from Taraf agreeing to stay back in Manipur through a three-point truce.

First Condition:
Islam should not be looked down upon and the Muslims should not be humiliated but treated with respect and the qazis should be given adequate independence .

Second Condition:
The Muslims should be allowed to live by the rules and regulations of the Shariat. The Muslims and their descendants should never be expelled from Manipur. If any unavoidable circumstances demanded their expulsion from Manipur, then the shares entitled to the mothers of the expelled Muslims should be granted.

Third condition:
The Manipuri women who had already performed nikah should be granted property rights. (Excerpts from Rafayattullah, Yaddasht Kursi-Nama, Lahore, 1929, tr. Maulana Muhammad Jalaluddin, Kheiruddin Khullakpam and Maulana Tayeb Ali, Circles, Imphal, 1997, pp. 6-8.; ‘The Formation of Muslim Community in Manipur during the 17th And 18th Centuries, ’ Golden Research Thoughts, Vol. 3, Issue 10, April 2014, pp. 3-4; ‘Settlement and Migration of Muslims in Northeast India with special reference to Manipur’, The Quarterly Review of Historical Studies, Vol. LVI, Nos. 1 and 2, April, 2016-September, 2016, a peer reviewed journal published by the Institute of Historical Studies, Kolkata; ‘The Origin of Manipuri Muslims during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries ’in memorial magazine Thon’g published by the Manipuri Muslim Community of Bangladesh, Adampur Bazar, Kamalgonj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet on 12th March, 2019.)

Some people seem to object this as nobody has so far referred to the texts found elsewhere apart from the Royal Chronicle of Manipur and its versions and some Puyas which are not historical texts in strict sense as the events and dates mentioned in them have not been scientifically established using the available methods of historiography. The objection is that Muslim soldiers who stayed back in Manipur after the battle in 1606 AD were war captives/prisoners of war based on the following logics/explanations.

1) How come they did not conquer Manipur if they won the battle?
2) Why would they leave behind the comfort of the home back in more developed Taraf to settle in less developed Manipur?
3) Had it not been because of their loss and being taken as war captives, why would they choose to stay back?
4) The Muslim soldiers were very brave. So, goes the construct, the king showed mercy, gave Meitei ladies in marriage to them, land, job, servants and facilities to facilitate their settlement.
5) Was there any persuasive and rigorous threat given by any outside state?

These objections could be easily and breezily dismissed as logical fallacy by the following propositional logic.

1) The Muslim soldiers were gun-toting and actually drawn from Mughal and Afghan army, and they came to fight with sophisticated arms and ammunition. On the other hand, Manipuri soldiers did not have these weapons of war and they were of no match by any standard viz. number, weapon and training. Gun manufacture was started after the coming of the Pangals in the state of Manipur.

2) In history, has any war captive been given the ladies of the winning side, that too, by the king himself along with a whole lot of recognition and due respect?

3) The later period saw the Pangals protecting bravely the territorial integrity of Manipur and also becoming the King’s body guard. Why on earth will the king make war captives his loyal body guards, that too, very brave soldiers who if wanted could slash his throat and murder him? Even the qazi-ul-quzzat (the Chief Justice) was there during the reign of King Khagemba.

4) Most of the Muslims soldiers came to be known as Pangals as part of the already existing Pangal community and were allowed to practice Islam and Islamic practices.

5) It is certainly reasonable that there might be a feeling of fear of another invasion if they treated the Muslims in a bad condition as stated clearly in the Yaddasht Kursi-Nama. Based on the above-mentioned counter-point cum logics, it is apparent that there was a truce/agreement. Only in agreements after winning a war can one have these privileges in a new place. War captives cannot be choosers. Only winners choose!

Counter point no. 2

If Puyas and the Cheitharon Kumpapa are not duly verified, then why is not anybody making any objection against these about the origin of the Pangals? Back in the days of kings, the literacy of Manipur was very low. Nobody knew much about the writings in the Cheitharon Kumpapa. Only Maichous (royal pundits) were educated and had the skill to read and write. Even if somebody knew the events were being recorded wrongly, in monarchy, nobody dares to ask or challenge the supremacy of a king.

Even now, Pangals are very backward and not well-educated. As an example, in the 2016 recruitment of Assistant Professors in colleges in Manipur by MPSC, the reserved seats in History for Pangals could not be fully filled. What about the interpretations of the Cheitharon Kumpapa like Nongsamei Puya? This book was not written by a historian or a trained chronicler. The chronicle was written based on the official courts perspective (royal point of view) like Abul Fazl’s Ain-i-Akbari and Akbar Nama which need to be cross-checked and verified with other contemporary books.

Both the Cheitharon Kumpapa and Nongsamei Puya and its later versions need thorough verification, and they should not be taken at their face value. There are many versions of Cheitharon Kumpapa but Saroj Nalini Arambam Parratt’s translated version of the Cheitharon Kumpapa (2005) is being considered as the most read historically translated work of Manipur by academics which highlighted these concerns and issues particularly how the chronicle was dated and written through court’s perspective.

It is to be noted that the Cheitharon Kumpapa is the only chronicle in the history of Manipur while considering the date of any event happening in the state of Manipur but that is also obscure and sometimes blank in between 33 AD to the 16th centuries. So authentication must be maintained through cross verification and scientific tools like carbon dating. ‘None of the Puyas is dated, all are anonymous, and no serious textual-critical work has as yet been carried out on them ’(Saroj Nalini Arambam Parratt, The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur: The Cheitharol Kumpapa, vol. 1, Original Text, Translation and Notes, Routledge, London, 2005, p. 10)

Counter point no. 3

The “Meitei-Pangal” term is a recent construct, however “Panga(n/l)” was coined way back in the middle of the 16th or 17th centuries. The then king named the Muslim soldiers after the truce Pangals. For the next four centuries, the only term used for Pangals was the term itself. Nowadays, Manipuri Muslims and Meitei-Pangals have taken over in official parlance. How this distorted and hyphenated term became popular? Who gave credence to this and why? This is a clear case of identity colonisation, politicised term and erasure of the uniqueness of the identity. None of the so called Puyas referred to this community as Meitei-Pangals.

Because of this, nowadays, there is always no talk of the Pangals as independent minority community. In every issue, Pangals are made the followers, a hyphenated community. Token intellectuals and apologists from the Pangal community have been periodically and in a need-based manner made to participate without representation in events. Such individuals are pawns in the hands of their Meitei masters like the representatives of AMUCO, UCM, HERICON, UKAL, MESIA, KYKL, etc.

Counter point no. 4.

The Pangals are not ‘settlers’. The Pangal community in Manipur is a native one according to many accounts (Nongsamei Puya, ed. O. Bhogeshwor Singh and M. A. Janab Khan, Manipur Stationary and Printing Industries, Imphal, 1973; R. K. Sanahal Singh, Pangal Thorakpa, Liberty Publication Association, Imphal, 1985; Parratt, The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur: The Cheitharol Kumpapa, vol. 1).

The community started forming gradually before 1606 AD. The population size swelled in 1606 AD. These days, words like “settlement” have been consciously and strategically used by the majoritarian, chauvinist elements mentioned above to give birth to a debate of natives and settlers. Natives and settlers have always been two extreme ends of identity and rights debates. By pushing the Pangals to one extreme end, that too, calling settlers, these elements are trying to contest the history, sense of belonging, and culture of the community.

However, these forces are acting against the four century long history of increase in agricultural production, strengthening of territorial integrity, industrialisation, cultural emancipation, and many other contributions of the community. For example, they also functioned and executed in the socio-cultural and economic benefactions in the Manipuri society through Language, Paddy Transplantation, Revenue, Games and Sports, Manufacture of Paper by Sheikh Juned, Weaving, Carpentry, Tobacco Plantation, Use of Bengali Script etc. (Rafayattullah, Yaddasht Kursi-Nama, p. 13; A. Hakim Shah Khullakpam, The Manipur Governance to the Meetei-Pangal (Manipuri Muslim), Pearl Publication, Imphal, 2008, pp. 126-161, 163-174; Parratt, The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur: The Cheitharol Kumpapa, vol. 1, p. 92; M. A. Janab Khan, Manipuri Muslim, Imphal, 1972, pp. 16-22; Naorem Sanajaoba, Comp. (2006), Manipur (past and present), vol. 4, Mittal Publication, 2005, pp. 308, 459-463; Md Chingiz Khan, ‘Status and Contributions of Muslims in Manipur’, in a peer-reviewed journal Man and Society- A Journal of North East Studies, Vol. XIV, Winter 2017, published by the ICSSR Northeast Regional Centre, Shillong, Meghalaya).

So, oblivious to the contributions of the Pangals, the self-declared CSOs and their trouble-maker representatives are engaged in self-serving exercises and futile discourse, for history repeats itself for those who do not know history.

Counter point no. 5.

The population of Pangals is less than 2.5 lakh (Census 2011).

Manipur’s total population in 1951 was 5,77,635, Hindus 3,47,325, Christians 68,394 and Muslims 37,197. In 2011, the corresponding figures were 28,55,794 (total), 1181876 (Hindus), 11,79,043 (Christians), and 2,39,836 (Muslims). These data were obtained from the Census of India. In 2011, the Muslim growth was -0.4% against 2001, whereas the Christian growth was 7.3% compared to 2001. For comparison, the Christians grew 34% in 2001, whereas the Muslims grew 8.8%. Manipur’s total population increase (4.94 times) during 1951-2011 was slightly higher than that of the Hindus (3.4 times), lower than the Muslims (6.45 times), but the Christians increased 17.24 times, almost 3.5 times of total population increase.

Since 1901, Manipur’s population has increased 10 times.

2001 census kuki population (Tribal research institute and all Manipur college teachers association): 374848
2001census Naga population (Tribal research institute and all Manipur college teachers association): 326324
The above resolutions have been unanimously passed by the Pangal Scholars and students from different universities including
1. Jawaharlal Nehru University
2. Jamia Millia Islamia
3. Delhi University
4. Ambedkar University Delhi
5. Aligarh Muslim University

Muzamil Kori
Delhi Association of Manipuri Muslims Students (DAMMS)

* Delhi Association of the Manipur Muslim Students (DAMMS) wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at dammsdelhi7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on November 13, 2019 .

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