The idea of Manipur

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-Shri M Asnikumar Singh
The 'idea' ignited MTF(Manipur Thinkers Forum) mind, and it started wandering in different directions in quest of a real 'Manipur'- historical, geographical, political, cultural, traditional, racial and other manifestations.
At this crucial juncture, the "idea of Manipur" must be solidly reaffirmed for the generations to come. So today, MTF is conducting a discourse on the Idea of Manipur by inviting a small group of intellectuals of our state belonging to different communities with a genuine intention to take forward the idea of Manipur in the future.
'Manipur' as a title (nomenclature) has been referred to as our land since the time of Pamheiba or Garibaniwaz (King) at the beginning of the 18th century. Before that, the land had been indigenously known by many local names. However, the Burmese remembered us as Kathe; the Chinese & Shans called us Kase; Ahoms identified us as Makeli or Moglai.
State formation and Kingship started at the beginning of the first century AD. We have a recorded history since Circa 33 AD. In the same year, the coronation of the first king Pakhangba took place at Kangla, and the ceremony was attended by almost all the clan/tribe chiefs of both hills and valley.
They together witnessed the game of Sagol Kangjei ( polo) just after the coronation ceremony ('Cheitharol Kumbaba' and 'Manipur Past & Present' Vol -1).
We are not very sure about the dates of the pre-historic period of Manipur. Still, historians opine that our civilisation is about 3000 years old in the hills and approximately 2500 years old in the valley. Makhel a primordial place at Mao is now recognised as the legendary place of the common origin of the oldest ethnic families of the land.
Today Manipur is the home to 37 ethnic groups. The Manipuri language is the lingua-franca (communication language) of the people of Manipur. There are more than 35 living dialects in the State. Each ethnic group is proud of its dialect. Authorities have great difficulty accommodating the dialects as a medium of education, broadcasting, publication etc.
Racially we are predominantly Mongoloids. Our present population is about 3.2 million. The theory of Indo-Aryan or Tibeto-Burman origin remains a polemic issue among scholars and historians. To me, Manipur is a melting pot of many ethnic groups. Historical reasons like migration, amalgamation and settlement greatly influenced the people in terms of their cultural and material advancement.
At present, the geographical area of Manipur is about 22,327 sq. km. It is a hilly region with a plateau having an altitude of about 2500 ft above sea level. Manipur is surrounded by Nagaland in the north, Myanmar in the east, Mizoram in the south, and Assam in the west.
In the past, the geographical area of Manipur fluctuated from time to time depending on the military might and capability of our erstwhile rulers. The Kingdom of Manipur had the most significant geographical extent during Garibniwaz Maharaj, whose area of influence and control extended beyond the Chindwin river (Ningthi ) in the east and beyond the Brahmaputra in the south-west.
In the modern period, the present political boundary of Manipur was more or less recognised as early as 1826 (Treaty of Yandabo )and then in 1891(Anglo- Manipuri war); by 1947 (Independence Act ) and 1949( Merger with India), Manipur as a geo-political entity was well established.
Manipur got political emancipation from British Raj in August 1947. With the enactment of the Manipur State Constitution Act,1947 by the then King, Maharaj Bodh Chandra, the election of the Manipur Assembly (Parliament) was held in July 1948 based on universal adult franchise, the first of its kind in the entire sub-continent.
All 52 members were elected for three years. It was a unicameral legislature. The law-making and policy framing authority of the legislature was subject to the assent of the Maharaj. That was a kind of Constitutional Monarchy.
However, Manipur got merged with the Dominion of India on 15th October 1949. With the application of the Constitution of India on 26th January 1950, Manipur became a 'Part C' State of India. The Union Territories(Laws) Act 1950 came into force in April, and Chief Commissioner became the Administrator of Manipur.
A council of advisors with five members, three from the valley and 2 from the hills, was constituted to assist the Administrator, and this arrangement continued till the election of the Territorial Council in 1957. The same year, under the Union Territories Act 1956, the election of 30 members of the Territorial Council was held.
Manipur had a Legislative Assembly consisting of 30 elected members under the Union Territories Act 1963. There was a Council of Ministers to aid and advise the Administrator. The Assembly had the power to make laws with respect to all subjects enumerated in the State list and Concurrent list in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution in so far as any such matters are applicable in relation to the Union Territories.
Immediately after the declaration of Statehood in January 1972, the Legislative Assembly of the State of Manipur was held in February. Today we have 60 Assembly constituencies.
The "idea of Manipur" survives as long as the hill and valley stand united and people live together. Harmoniously, no power on earth can dismantle us as we stand as one people (37 ethnic groups). Valley hegemony is the thing of the past.
Deep down, any individual of a sound mind will realise that there is no point whatsoever in getting swindled by communal tensions, which has destroyed many great societies in the past. There’s also a saying, ‘one who doesn’t learn from history is bound to repeat it.
The ‘People’s CM’ N. Biren Singh has made it a personal mission to bridge the gap between the hills and valley of Manipur in the last four years; a lot has also been achieved in this regard. The success of a vision depends on the level of influence it has on the hearts and minds of the people the vision is meant for. In this context, it would be safe to say that it is a mission that has shown a lot of positives for those who genuinely want a peaceful and united Manipur. The only road ahead is coming together, both physically and intellectually, of all the communities to create a better and prosperous Manipur, which embodies the true essence of our Manipuri identity; an identity of mutual respect, harmony and positivity.
Let us endure with the idea of Manipur.
(The writer is founder Secretary,MTF, Chairman of Manipur Development Society and also spokesperson of BJP Manipur Pradesh)