In defence of 'Babumayum' Dr J Suresh as Chief Secretary, Manipur

Yambem Laba *


Of late there has been a lot of hue and cry over the appointment of Dr J Suresh Babu IAS as the Chief Secretary of Manipur from sections of the student community and others to the effect that he is a non local and that there are other officers senior to him hailing from the State.

My point is that if their love for a local person is genuine and that his appointment is detrimental to the interest and welfare of the State being a non local then where were they when Shriman N. Biren Singh the Right Hon'ble Chief Minister of Manipur unceremoniously sacked (removed from office) O. Nabakishore Singh IAS as Chief Secretary with some three plus years still left for his superannuation.

O. Nabakishore Singh happens to be the first Meitei to hold the top post in the Government and by that account a local man. He was born in Ningthoukhong and went to St. Stephen's College in Delhi before entering the service. Prior to him it was H. Jelshyam who became the first local Chief Secretary of the State and the then Chief Minister W. Nipamacha Singh is said to have told him "you are the Chief Secretary not because of your administrative acumen and talents".

The next person who could have become the CS was Rajkumar Phalguni Singh the first directly selected Meitei IAS officer. But there were resentments from amongst sections of the Manipuri bureaucracy to the effect that he had changed his cadre from Manipur-Tripura to that of Karnataka belonging to his wife so he too missed the bus. Phalguni had to be contented to round off his career as the Secretary of the NEC in Shillong.

The next most eligible candidate was Ameishing Luikham who is now a Secretary to the Government of India and he had told me that the Ibobi Government is not only anti-tribal but anti-Tangkhul. I later put him in touch with Dr. Ksh Ratan Singh then Works Minister to sort things out but Ibobi the shrewd businessman that he is, chose DS Poonia instead as a fellow tradesman a la MDS affair etc.

The third also happens to be my friend Ram Muivah who is now the Secretary of the NEC in Shillong. The first person from Manipur who could have been appointed as Chief Secretary of the State was Thangupao Kipgen but he had to be contented as the Chief Secretary of Goa. Also another native of the State W.Shaiza had also held the post of CS of the Delhi administration in the 1970s.

The moot point here is that if the love for a local man to be the CS of the State is so genuine or real why was there not even a single murmur of protest from any section of our students community or visible mention in the media questioning the move to give the marching orders to O. Nabakishore Singh from the post of CS, it was as if he was a non local or a son of the soil. No explanations were offered as the appointment and removal of Chief Secretaries and Director Generals of Police and the Advocate Generals of any Indian State is the prerogative of the Chief Minister of that particular State.

All that apart my contention is that although not born in Manipur Dr. Suresh Babu IAS the present Chief Secretary of Manipur qualifies to be termed as a naturalised Manipuri for the simple reason that his present wife is a Meitei and their children were born of a Meitei mother very much like the Brahmins (Bamons) and Pangals (Muslims) of present day Manipur who had initially come to the State from India as Mayangs.

That is the reason why Brahmin Adhikaris and Goswamis, etc are today called Adhikarimayum and Gosaimayums amongst the Manipuri Hindu Brahmins and Phundrremayum, Samjetsabams etc amongst the Manipuri Muslims, Pangals of Manipur the Muslims being given surnames according to their trade after being given Meitei wives by the King's decree. Although the Brahmins were given the choice of choosing Meitei women as their wives the Muslim Pangals did not have that much of a choice then.

Yet both the Brahmin and Muslim communities have maintained a strict caste based code of conduct of not marrying outside their communities which they had brought along from India. Also sociology assimilation and stratification apart Dr.Suresh Babu is first class administrator and had never left the State on deputation except for a term with the Tobacco Board of India.

As the Deputy Commissioner of Thoubal District he had revolutionized administration by introducing the Yellow Book, a book containing all the details of every citizen of his district containing his land records, electricity connections, ration card, family size et al, a first in the country. He had also paved the way for Kakching Town to emerge as the second city of Manipur in 1994.

And as Commissioner of Education he had halted the "hitherto established process of auctioning" of teachers posts in the Government schools through selection of candidates by weighing their academic records from High School to the University level so much so that there was a mini revolt amongst Ministers in the then Ibobi Government for deprivation of their reserved source of income.

Also he was the man who drafted the ILP Bill that was passed in the Manipur Legislative Assembly, which unfortunately was not approved of by the Government of India. And lastly as the Addl. CS in charge of Home he was the man who brokered the lifting of the crippling economic blockade of the United Naga Council.

He is simply said to have told the UNC leaders that there can be no question of roll backs in the creation of the seven new districts as the Code of Conduct has already been imposed on the Government of Manipur by the Election Commission of India.

Lastly I wish to bring to light two "mayangs" who had played a historical role in Manipur around 1891. They are two Bengalee Clerks in the appointment to the Court of Manipur namely Rakshilal Kundu and Bamacharan Mukherjee. Both married Meitei women and Kundu's descendents today goes by the surname of Babumayum while Mukherjee's descendents although have still maintained their Mukherjee surname have all amalgamated into the Meitei Society, the Dr. Kanti Mukherjee Hockey tourney is named after one of his descendents .

Unfortunately the Meiteisation process seems to have ended around that time while the process is still on with the Nagas coercing smaller tribes to identify themselves as Nagas.

My last contention is that if Dr. J. Suresh Babu's name is changed into that of Babumayum will the tirade against him end.

Yours most sincerely,
Yambem Laba,
Uripok Yambem Leikai,

* Yambem Laba wrote this letter and published at The Sangai Express
This article was posted on May 28, 2018.

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