TODAY -

The demolition spree of heritage in Manipur

Thoudam Imomacha Singh *

Students protesting the decision of the Govt to abolish Bengali schools on July 2 2015
Students protesting the decision of the Govt to abolish Bengali schools on July 2 2015 :: Pix - TSE



Someone may be filled with nostalgia for his contemporary students, who had had their schooling in the then Tombisana High School in Imphal, the site of which now looks dilapidated. The writer himself had gone through the matriculation examination in 1961 from the then Johnstone High English School, Imphal, under the University of Gauhati, (Assam) and some of his friends had done the same from the Tombisana High School , Imphal (now liquidated).

The nightmare of demolition and liquidation has now turned to the Bengali High School, Imphal in front of Manipur Secretariat, (old). Both the Tombisana High School and the Bengali High School are very much a part and parcel of early education in Manipur and no doubt these alma maters have become a part of our cultural heritage too.

One of the pioneer politicians and also a former chief minister of Manipur in the 1960s, the later Mairenbam Koireng Singh was a pupil of the Bengali High School, Imphal. It must be the utmost responsibility of the state government to see that alma maters, institutions, establishments, offices and sites which are precisely connected with the heritage of Manipur are no longer demolished to the best possible extent.

Then the Civil Hospital that existed in the heart of Imphal City had been demolished and turned into a market place. However, the then Hospital and its site is indeed monumental for the state of Manipur and the millions of Manipuris. To-day, as time passes, the memory of the civil hospital has also diminished from public memory.

However, the fact still remains that public health-care and medical facilities in the olden daysí Manipur had been provided from the then Civil Hospital. The place was also associated with a number of medical personages both non Manipuris and Manipuris.

The head of the whole of the medical set-up in Manipur was designated as the Civil Surgeon. He was much bigger and more important than todayís many Directors. The Civil Surgeon was somebody very special. The place which is elegantly related with the history Medical department of Manipur had been demolished.

No doubt, it is up to the government of the day to take certain decisions regarding vital matters. But, regarding issues which are critical as well as vital, there must always be room for a second thought, i.e., what to do and what not to do.

The area of the Manipur Palace Compound from the Palace Gate Imphal, comprising the sprawling Hapta Kangjeibung, Govindajee Temple and Palace building are nothing but historical monuments. The titles like Rajas and Maharajas have become misnomer. Such titles had been derecognized by the then Indira Gandhi regime. The Manipur Palace buildings are state property and the state and administration is responsible for the maintenance and preservation of such monumental sites and buildings.

The demolition of the small hillock of Chinga, which is separated from the main range in the western side of National Highway No. 02 was indeed a misjudgment to be attributed to the then state government of Manipur. Unless naturally endowed, who can erect a hillock in the heart of a city like Imphal.

First, this is why the then demolished piece of Chinga hillock is indeed precious and it was also closely associated with World War II history, when the British forces first landed on Manipur and developed communication links.

May be a myth, however, our ancestors often used to speak about Chinga goddess (Chinga Lairembi) and also Pishum goddess (Pishum Lairembi). Pishum is another hillock near Chinga with a mythical background. Who knows these small hillocks inside Imphal city and outside it are playing enchanting role in the balancing of eco-elements.

In the heart of Imphal city, the old secretariat building, the Chief Ministerís Bungalow, the Raj Bhavan, the site of Kangla and the dilapidated ancient palace, the present M Sector Headquarters are connected with the olden days in the history of Manipur.

The role of the Art & Culture Department, Manipur, the Archaeology and the state P.W.D must be empowered to conduct proper survey to pin-point desirable monuments to be identified and preserved.

Last, but not the least, the writer would like to make a humble appeal to the leaders of public opinion, social organizations, historians and scholars in Manipuri society to take measures to restrain further spree demolition of our heritage.


* Thoudam Imomacha Singh wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
The writer is a former broadcaster in AIR Imphal. He can now be reached at imomachasingh(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on July 08, 2015.


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