From my observation, the Meiteis in Manipur are motivated more by emotion than by rationality.
1st December, 2022
Every human being or in a larger context- the human race, are inclined to move forward towards progress. However in case of failure sometimes, they have to retract backward. The social and political movements prevalent among the Meitei community in Manipur have unfortunately been found to be moving backward. To cite an example, all their initiatives are motivated by not being based on rationality but on emotion.
Sometime in the year 2016 the Govt. of India had sent a letter to the Govt. of Manipur regarding the Introduction of 6th Schedule in Manipur and Govt. of Manipur had earlier sent a message of compliance with certain modifications.
When the letter from the Home Ministry reached Manipur Secretariat, the Manipur Meitei’s, within a week launched THE JOINT INNER LINE PERMIT DEMAND COMMITTEE. The student community were also made to be a part of the stir, to serve their political purpose.
As to whether the Inner Line Permit System comes into force or otherwise, the situation will remain the same. This will strongly depend on the reliability of the agency controlling the migration of outsiders, mainly the police force and also the truck drivers who allow the migrants to enter Manipur through discreet exchange of money behind closed doors.
Let us take an example of the construction of the GREAT WALL OF CHINA which was aimed to stop invaders coming from the west. Whether it was The Great Wall of China or the Small Wall of China, the people guarding the gates of the Great wall secretly allowed the invaders to enter China. In this way the main purpose of construction of the Great Wall of China was defeated.
Next, is the demand for inclusion of Manipuri Language in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution. In my opinion, the introduction of Manipuri Language in the 8th schedule in the constitution has practically not served any benefit to the Manipur people. This directly or indirectly affected the demand for the introduction of Meitei Mayek which was willingly accepted by the Govt. Of Manipur under pressure.
This no doubt, shows a backward movement which have made Meitei Manipuri Literature Giants like Kalachand Shastri who translated Meitei Language from Sanskrit text of Mahabharata in several volumes.
We are all well aware of the fact that Marathi Language which is included in the 8th Schedule has the same Devnagari script as Hindi. The same goes for the Assamese script which is the same as Bengali and Oriya script. To have changed Manipuri Script with a silght modification from Bengali to Meitei Mayek is unwise and an overturn to progress.
Another demand plaguing Manipur Social and Political Consciousness is the demand for inclusion of Meitei People in the Schedule Tribe list. If we go back into histoy, before Independence in 1947, the Meiteis were converted to Hinduism by Maharaja Pamheiba, also known as Garibniwaj in the year 1709. Maharaja Pamheiba ruled Manipur for 39 years and during his time, the realm of Manipur extended from the Irawadi Rivers in the East to Cachar to Tripura in the west. At some point, it even extended into the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
When Pamheiba’s father converted the Meiteis to Hinduism with the help of one Bengali Shanti Das Gossain, at that time he burnt down the Manipuri Chronicle of History Punya to ashes. King Pamheiba had 8 wives and a number of sons and daughters. His eldest son Shamjai Khurairakpa was assassinated by his younger son Chitsai who came to power after Pamheiba’s grandson Gaurishyam.
Regarding the earliest settlers in Manipur, incidentally I met one Manipur Meitei intellectual Dr. Mohendra Singh, 15 years back in a symposium organized by Manipur Museum, at the Tribal Museum in Churachandpur. Dr. Mohendra Singh informed me that there is a book published by The Asiatic Society of Bengal, in which it is written that the first settlers in Manipur were the Kuki’s. However, the Meitei’s who migrated from the Burma Valley either drove away the Kukis in the Hills or the Kukis, because of their love of hunting started to leave the valley for the hills. According to the book, the Meitei’s who settled later, married Kuki women when they came to Manipur. To illustrate this point Manipuri famous poet Khwairakpam Chaoba composed a song “CHINGNA KOINA PANSABA, HAONA KOINA PAN NGAKPA MANIPUR SANALEIBAK”. Earlier the Meitei’s used to call the tribals as ‘HAO’ which in fact was a derogatory term, signifying low caste people. I remembered my late brother who studied in Imphal Singjamei Chinga Makha UP School in Class III and IV, that the tribals were told to wash their own cup when they go to a hotel. I also recollect tribals not being allowed to enter the courtyard of a Meitei house. That was the state of affairs between the Meitei’s and the Tribals then. It is now strange and unimaginable that the Meiteis would want to become tribals. This movement had no takers in the Manipuri political party except a few politically motivated people.
The Meitei’s of Manipur are Vaishnavite Hindus who adopted the Hindu Caste system. Meitei Society consists of the Brahmin, Khastriyas, Sudras and Vaishyas.
It is difficult to imagine the class less society of the tribals to live together with the class ridden Meiteis. In Meitei society of course Sougaijam people are of the tribal Singson clan in the service of the Maharaja of Manipur who later became the most articulate section of the Meitei society.
Recently the powerful All Tribal Student Union Delegation led by its president Paotinthang Lupheng went to Delhi and met the Union Tribal Affairs Minister, Sri. Arjun Munda. It is reported that the Minister had a patient hearing, while assuring that the matter will be looked into carefully as it involved the constitutional proprietary of the matter.
We hope that sanity will prevail and the Constitutional guarantee of the tribal people under section 371(C) of the constitution, Protection of the Tribal people especially the land rights and protection of their tribal land will be safeguarded.
Recently the Meiteis declared that their demand for inclusion in the Schedule Tribe has nothing to do with reservation about service. The Meitei’s have now found it necessary for protection of their land, as they realized that Inner Line Permit System is no longer a guarantee for protection of Manipur land for the Meiteis.
To come to the conclusion, instead of demanding to become tribals, the Meiteis should rather attempt to lift up the tribal people from the Scheduled Tribe to the general category. The protection of tribal people regarding payment of Income Tax needed to be reviewed as many tribals have now become capable to compete with the general people. In many cases, even in UPSC exam, some tribals have entered the merit list.
However according to me, the most important disadvantage is the non payment of Income Tax by the tribals. I see this rather as a disadvantage for the tribals because they now do not realise how money is earned and how money is spent. Unlike the non-tribals, the tribals do not find it necessary to keep account of their expenditure. You will find that the tribals tend to spend larger amount of money than they earn. For instance, if a tribal boy or girl earns Rs. 10,000/- monthly, they will always spend 12,000-15,000/- in a month. As a result, almost all the tribals are debt ridden. This is due to the failure to keep an account. During my service, I was posted in Income Tax paying places like Calcutta and Assam. At those places, I was very careful about my expenditure but later when I was posted at Shillong and no longer had to pay my Income Tax, I started neglecting keeping an account of my expenditure. At present after retirement, my pension is 3 times bigger than my last salary during service. However I always over spend my income. This I feel, is the bad effect of non payment of Income Tax.
To close our discussion the Meitei’s if at all their attempt is successful, may benefit in terms of Govt. service. The present hunger for more land, as they live a congested life in Imphal valley may not directly or indirectly affect the tribals because even the tribals are not willing to live in the hill areas anymore. Almost 80% of the tribals, unable to live in a large chunk of land in the hill, have moved down to the foothills to live in a congested 40×70 ft. space. This is the sad effect of modern civilization which the BJP party called it VIKAS.
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