What Ails India's North East? : Book Review
- Book by Bhanu Pratap Shukla -
James Oinam *
Title: What Ails India's North East?
Author: Bhanu Pratap Shukla
Publisher: Suruchi Sahitya, Jhandewala, New Delhi
First Edition: 1980
This old long-forgotten book tumbled out 'from the closet' while my room was painted recently. I would not recommend this book to anyone who is prone to emotional outburst as the author takes a hardline stand, generally how the Christian colonial British and fundamentalist Muslims played politics in the Northeast region to further Christianity, and to carve out Muslim and Christian territories. In this review, I will focus on what I consider to be the takeaways for Manipur from this book. (For that, I did a select read of some passages of the book only.)
First, according to the author, the notion of 'animist' was introduced by the British (census commissioners) in the first census held in 1881. The census officer in 1931, Sir Hutton, showed tribal religion as separate from the Hindus, Muslims and Christians, even though he accepted that demarcating them was difficult. In the 1941 census, the tribal people were shown as a separate community irrespective of the religions they followed.
Second passage of interest is the 'Reid Plan' proposed by Sir Robert Reid, the then governor of Assam, in the early forties. The plan was to carve out a 'Crown Colony' (also called New England Scheme) from the hill areas of Northeast region and parts of present Myanmar (the Shan states). According to Reid, 'We have no right to allow this body of Non-Indian and animistic people and Christians to be drawn into the struggle between Hindus and Muslims which is now and will be in future...' (page 42).
Mr. Hutton, advisor to the Government of India, saw many advantages in forming this 'North East Frontier'. English could be the common language for official purposes. Imphal in Manipur was proposed to be the natural capital for the province (page 43).
The third passage from the book highlights the deep suspicion and schism in our society. Shri Manaubi Singh, known as the pioneer of Meitei cultural reformation, dropped the surname Singh in 1951 and asked Manipuris to 'desanskritise' their children's names. He, as the president of Manipuri Cultural Research Association, called a number of Meitei scholars for a marathon six months long debate in 1969 for rediscovery of Meitei script.
The state government headed by Shri Y. Shaiza accepted the genuineness of the Meitei script. A cabinet minister Shri Chandramani Singh made a bonfire of Hindu scriptures at Kangla Fort. The devout Manipuri Hindus held protest meeting under auspices of Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
The author quotes Shri Y. Yumjao Singh to show Hinduism was deeply rooted in the region: '...in olden days Vishnu was a very popular deity in Manipur, the little sacred stone of Vishnu (Shaligram) that accompanies the Maharajas wherever they go out and in the most imports royal insignia is at least of the 15th century A.D.... Manipur used to worship the Vedic god Indra under the name of "Soraren" a phonetic decay of Surendra, as their rain giver ... Savitha, the sun god and Soma, the moon god had their counterparts in the religious system under the disguised forms of Sanamahi and Pakhangba ... according to the Vishnu Sahashranama, Guru is another name for Vishnu. Thus it is quite evident that both Vishnu and Guru Sidaba are identical' (page 67).
* James Oinam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at jamesoinam(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on April 18, 2016.
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