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Manipur: The Boiling Bowl of Ethnicity

by williamgurumayum
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By: Dr. Aaron Lungleng

The Land of Jewel or Switzerland of India has now become the epicenter of ethnic conflict apparent to tremor any time suspected of erupting ethnic inferno. The boiling bowl lies in the North-Eastern region of Indian Sub-continent, between 23.5oN-25.3oN Latitude and 93.4oE-95.3oE Longitudes. The total area of Manipur is 22,327 sq. Km. Out of which only 2,238 sq.km is valley while, the remaining areas are covered by Hills. The people of Manipur State are distinctly grouped into three main ethnic communities. Meiteis (inclusive of the Meitei Bamon and the Meitei Pangans). Whereas, the hills are inhabited predominantly by the tribal dividing into two main ethnic-dominations namely, Nagas in the north, east and west whereas Chin-Kuki-Mizos in the South. It will be worthy to study the sensitivities among the ambiguous ethnic anthology within one administrative entity.  
The Nagas
William Watson (1961), basically for much of history, South East Asian earliest settlers were Paleolithic or pre-Paleolithic food gatherers, hunters, fishers and folk who had made the transition to stone-using culture. A Hindu epic tells the presence of the Mongoloids in India as early as 2500-2000 BC. Archaeological excavations found, such as stone and bone tools, as well as animal remains as evidence of Stone Age habitation in the four caves of Khangkhui Caves located near Khangkhui, some 11 kilometers (6.8 mi) southeast of Ukhrul District on the border with Upper Burma (Sharma, T.C. Pandey S.N. Ed. 1985). The first evidence of Pleistocene man in the northeast India dates back to about 30,000 BC. Other notable caves nearby include Hunding Caves, 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) south of Ukhrul (Ukhrul district), Purul Cave in Purul (Senapati District) and the Song Ring rock shelter in the Beyang village in Tengnoupal in Chandel district (O.K. Singh, 1984). One of archaeologist most valuable findings is a pebble chopping tool discovered in the Maring Naga village, Machi, in the Chandel district. The Marings Nagas are one of the oldest tribes of Manipur and this finds are considered as a landmark in the Paleolithic archaeology of Manipur, as it confirmed, the area was inhabited by Neolithic people from the early Stone Age or lower Paleolithic period.
 New Stone Age findings in the Tharon Caves in Tamenglong district provide the first concrete evidence of Hoabinhian culture in India, a Mesolithic Southeast Asian cultural pattern based on historic finds from the village of Haobihian in North Vietnam. Similar relics have been found in Thailand at the Spirit Caves as well as in Burma and other places in Southeast Asia. Tharon is a Liangmei Naga village where the five caves and rock shelters were first explored in December 1979 by the State Archaeology Department. Tharon’s edge-ground pebble tools are similar to finds from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines where they were used about 7000–8000 BC. Possible dates for the Neolithic age in northeast India are between 500 BC 2000 BC. It is probable that the sites are already inhabited by Neolithic men in or around 2000 BC.
 Although the presence of Mongoloid groups in the Northeast region had been detected as early as 10 B.C. the Nagas had maintained little outside contact till the later part of the 13th century. The existence of Naga was mentioned by Ptolemy, the great Greek Philosopher of the 2nd century A.D., in about 150 A.D, who heard of this people during his visit to Western and Southern India as a wild people with a characteristic flat nose of the Mongol race. These Mongoloids groups in Asia took different reasons and routes to enter the present habitat. Some were due to pressure of population and some due to ecological and environmental hazards and for some, due to socio-political issues (Shinmi, 1988). “One of the factor of their migration within Asia was the expansion of the Chinese Han people pushing southwards as population grew in the valley of the Yellow River (Gerald, 1972). They filled up sub-tropical and tropical China and the pressure of population triggered the momentum which sets off ripples of migration which affected the whole of Asia (Sardesai, 1981). These immigrants’ tribe took different routes. Some took the Himalayan section which extends down through the Patkai, Arakan Yoma, and Banda Arch towards Sumatra and Java, and some took the Pacific section extend from Formosa through the Philippines, Borneo and on to Japan. Smith, 1925, Hodson, 1911, Hutton, 1921, Vissie, 2008 argued that perhaps the Nagas were among those tribes who migrated from China and settled on the way in the Naga Hills. The sinologist Derk Bodde posits in The Cambridge History of China stated that “for every man whom Meng Tian could put to work at the scene of actual construction of the Great Wall of China, dozens must have been needed to build approaching roads and to transport supplies”(Bodde 1978, p. 63). This was supported by the Han dynasty statesman Zhufu Yan’s description of Qin Shi Huang’s Ordos project in 128 BC. “When the populace had become, tired and weary, they started to disperse and escape. The orphans, the frail, the widowed and the seniors were desperately trying to escape from their appallingly derelict state and wandered away from their home (Yap 2009, p. 159).
As of Marshall (1960), on the basis of information received from Dr. Berthold Laufer, “the early home of the peoples of Eastern Asia was in the upper reaches of the Hwang-ho or Yellow river in China and from this center, the Tibetans moved westward; the early tribes of Indo- China Southward, and the Chinese, South-East. Accepting this view of Marshall, the Nagas can be said to have followed the early tribes of Indo-China group. “The Nagas are a blend of early aboriginal populations referred to as Mongoloid peoples that migrated from China 12,000 years ago,” (Frans Welman, 2007). By discerning into the Naga legends, tales, stories and folk songs which were verbally passed on to the succeeding generations, we locate the Nagas origin in the giant Asian Civilization.
 From the early period, Chinese civilization maturely developed. Elizabeth Seeger, in “The Pageant of Chinese History’, New York, 1934, writes “when the Pyramids were being built in the valley of the Nile, China too was building up her early kingdom along the Hwang-Ho, and when Babylonian wise men were studying the stars measuring the sky, Chinese were making a calendar and foretelling the eclipses.” Similarly, the Nagas believe to lead by reading human events through cosmological phenomena. They believed that if the corona of the sun is circled by a ring, it signifies the death of a chief or nobles. On the day of AZ. Phizo rainbow over Khonoma was said to witness, again prior to Issac Chishi Swu a circle on the corona was manifest and on his death, a rainbow over his native village was testified. Such were the two major events Nagas seen during their decade of resistance movement when their greatest national leaders’ die.
Nagas are a speaker of both Sino-Tibeto and Tibeto- Burmese language. Names such as ‘Hung/wung’/Tatar etc. and other names like, ‘Hungshi’ ‘Yang’ among the Tangkhul Naga traced their history to Hwang-Ho River or China. Human sacrifices when chiefs died drawn parallel practices among the Chinese and Nagas are some of the instances. The Chinese and Nagas share a common belief that the spirit of a person could work actively; these are the few illustrations of the common belief of the Sino-Nagas from the very ancient times.
Oral traditions abound among the many Naga tribes regarding how they came, dispersed, etc., Folk songs, folk tales and stories of Nagas tells the latest waves of migration and the particular spot from where they took off are traced back to China as their root habitation. According to Shimray, R.R. (1985), the Nagas had first followed the southward movement and after reaching the coast or some island, they turned north-west, but left their brothers somewhere near the coast or perhaps in some island. They take the westward movement and finally reached Burma from there they came to the present hills. The hypothesis of the Nagas that come from the sea cost or at least from some islands is strengthened by the lifestyle of the Nagas and the ornaments being used till today. Their fondness of cowrie shells for beautifying the dress, and use of conch shells as ornaments (precious, valuable and prestigious to them are marine gastropods which are found only on the sea beaches) and the fact that the Nagas have many customs and way of life very similar to that of those living in the remote part of Borneo, Sarawak, Indonesia, Malaysia etc. indicates that their ancient abode was near the sea, if not in some Islands. It is also said that in remote past one party having pierced ears left Chiangmai area in Thailand. This group of people with pierced ears is again seen by the Burmese who know them as Na Ka (Na means ear and Ka means holes in Burmese) so in Burmese Na ka means people with holes in the ears. This event is further substantiated by the account of Burmese. “According to Burmese Census report, successive incursion of the so-called Tibeto-Burman people come from a region of western China between the source of Hwang-Ho and Yangtse-Kiang rivers” (Chatterjee, 1950).
Many scholars of the Nagas are of the opinion that the Naga migration waves took from two directions, namely Southeast Asia and Eastern Tibet or Western China. It was followed that the Nagas passing through the mainland and the Irrawaddy and Chindwin valley during the Paleolithic or Neolithic Age had gradually moved up and finally settled at Hsawngsup, now Thangdaut in Burma (pronounced as Samsok in Tangkhul) from where they finally moved to the homeland that are occupied today. Their migration movement is traced through legends, stories and folk songs and that most of the Nagas tribe affirmed to have come out of a ‘hole’, here the hole in the earth is likely to refer to a cave or wall or to a rugged ridge (Shimray, R.R, 1985).
Another authentic theory on Naga dispersal is that; the Nagas forefather came from a watery domain through the ‘Hourie river’ (tributary of Chindwin in Myanmar) and reached the valley and settled there, but because of mosquito menace they move northward to a place called Makhrefii (which is commonly called Makhel). Hardly, any theory may stand against this popular theory of dispersal as belief, taboo, and relics which many Nagas tribes considered as sacred to them holds the support with evidences. This sacred place is situated at Mao- Maram region 7 kilometers away from the National highway 53. The name for Makhel is ‘Makhefii’ in Mao, ‘Mekhroma’ in Angami, ‘Makhel’ in Tangkhul and ‘Mahou’ in Zelliangrong. Therefore, Makhel occupy a very important place from a historical point of view not only for the Mao alone but for the Nagas as a whole. (Maheo M. Lorho, 2004).
 The Nagas is a generic name applies to all the people inhabiting in the Naga Hills that refers to the confluence of India, China and Myanmar. The area which lies at the tri-junction is about 1, 20,000 sq.km lies within 93°E-96°E longitudes and 23 ½ °N-28°N latitudes (Raising et. al.,1994). In the word of J.P. Mills (1922), the area inhabited by the Naga is “bounded by the Hukawng valley in the northeast, the plain of Brahmaputra valley to the north-west, Cachar to the south-west and Chindwin (river) to the east. In the south, the Manipur valley roughly marks the point of contact between the Naga tribes and the very much more closely interrelated group of Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe.
The area of the present Nagaland State is 16,579 Sq. Km and the Nagas areas in Manipur measure 15,519 sq. Km. Many Nagas such as Somras Tangkhul, Kongyaks, Khiemngans, and Yimchungers etc. are living in the Naga Hills of Burma (Myanmar). Today, one will find the Nagas in four divided folds in India and another two folds in the province of Kachins and Shans State of Burma (Myanmar) numbering to 4 million in population” (www.tangkhul.com assessed 21/4/2010). In the Indian side, there are 16 tribes in Nagaland and 32 tribes in Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. Tanai in Kachin state of Myanmar is populated by the Tangshang Nagas while Khamti Township is populated altogether by all the Naga tribes. Around 120000 Nagas are said settle in the Naga Self-Administered Zone (Sagaing Division). Therefore, the stretch of Naga Hills in the tri-junction of China, India, and Myanmar is the home of the Nagas with its exotic culture that branched from Chinese civilization.  
Initially, the first confrontation with the British was when Capt. Jenkins and Capt. Pamperton marched from Manipur and set foot into the land Angami region in Naga Hills in 1830 via Popolongmai and Samaguting (B.C. Allen, 1905). Then, an imaginary line within the Naga Hills stretch started to draw for the convenience of the British administration. Further, Indian after she freed from the British yoke, divided the Nagas and putting them under different administrative states such as Assam, Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh to loosen the Nagas cultural and political solidarity. As a result, the greatest conglomeration of Nagas scattered into pieces. The present Nagaland State of 1963 came into being as an outcome of the divide and rule policy of India executed through the Naga People’s convention (NPC) to douse the flame of nationalism when the Nagas spirit runs very high for self- determination. Thus, the majority Naga population and their land are divided and placed under the sympathy of the different Indian Unitary Government. The present struggle for the self-determination is due to the repercussion of the Indian divisive politics. Historically, Nagas are not Indian subjects. The Indian national anthem openly and vibrantly declared its people and geographical landscape. The present Northeast was not at all part and parcel as well as the dream of Bharat. Rabindranath Tagore in sound mind and knowledge composed the anthem according to what and what who Bharat was. The occupation of the Nagas solely confined to the Jawaharlal Nehru egotistic interest of subjugation else the Nagas lives within a good social and political set up of socialist democratic fully in self-independent sovereign village state.
The Meities
According to Iboongohal Singh, “The original inhabitants of Manipur were the Kiratas (some tribes of Nagas), by that time, Manipur valley was full of water” (Singh, 1987:10). The present valley inhabitants (Imphal valley) were known by different names by their neighbors prior to being called the Meitei. Shans or Pongs, and the Keratis called the area Cassay, the Burmese Kathe, and the Assamese Meklee. Mythological origin dates back to 1500 BC begin with the reign of the “Konchin Tukthapa Ipu Athoupa Pakhangpa” (Pakhangpa was the name given to him meaning “The one who knows his father”). He gave birth to seven clans. 1. Mangang, 2. Luwang, 3. Khuman, 4. Angom, 5. Moirang, 6. Khapa-Nganba, and 7. Salai-leisangthem. According to Cheitharol Kumbaba, the royal chronicle, Nongda Lairen Pakhangba (33–154 AD) was the first ruler and the creator of Meeteileipak or Kangleipak (possibly could refer to mosquitoes, ‘kang’=mosquitoes, ‘leipak’=land as mentioned in the Nagas folklores that the mosquito menace cause to migrate at a higher altitude). He was the first historical ruler whose reign began in 33 AD according to the Cheitharol Kumbaba. Contradictions surface when recorded historical facts are referred. The Ningthouja/royal dynasty recorded Panheiba (1720-1751) as the first monarch and Bodhchardra Singh (1941-1949) as the last king of the 16 monarchs of Kangleipak. Therefore, Horam observed that the origin of the Meiteis is obscure (Horam 1990, 4). This has become a subject of endless debate (Tarapot 1993, 62). Kumar states that great controversies still persist regarding the origin of the Meiteis (Kumar 2001, 3). This is because most of their written records were composed after they became Hindus and therefore are not very reliable (Bhattarcharya 1963, 180; Dun 1992, 15).
The literature shows that the name of the present Manipur was given to this land after the declaration of Hinduism as the state religion during the reign of Pamheiba (1702-1751) whose Hindu name is Garibniwaz, in the beginning of the eighteenth century (Kumar 2001, 1) that the name ‘Manipur’ came into being. According to Kumar, she (Manipur) had different indigenous names such as Tillikoktong Ahanba in Hayi Chak, Mira Pongthoklam in Haya Chak, Hanna samba konna loiba in Khunung Chak and Muwapali Mayai Sumtongpan in early Konna (Langba) Chak.  In the later ages of Konna (Langba) Chak, it was popularly known as Kanglei Pungmayol, Kangleipak, and Meitreibak. Her other names were Chakpa Langba, then Muwapali, and then Wangang Tengthong Mayung Kuiba Lemthong Maphei Pakpa and, later on she was called Poirei Meitei after the advent of Poireiton (Kumar 2001, 1-2).
            The Kanglei which is now called “Kangla” was the first capital of the kingdom called “Kangleipak”. The “Kangleichas” (the valley settlers now Meitei) were the subject of this small dynasty strictly restricted to the present Imphal valley. During the reign of its 16 royal kings there were no historical accounts of the Meitei invading the Naga country and vice-versa though relatively surrounded to his kingdom. She was instead privilege to have Nagas who strongly instituted socialist democratic village state engaging internecine ferocious Head hunting that sealed any foreign invasion.
            Most of the time, Meitrabak/Kangleibak was engaged in the game of throne. History would say that the defeated brother would flee to Carchar or Awa in most of their confrontations to refuge in their kingdom. Gaining their favor, they would come back to Meitrapak either in assistance of the Awa or Cachar or Ahom and in the later British East India Company. There were a number of wars between the discontented royal brothers.
            In 1758, the Burmese King Alaungpaya invaded Meeteileipak. Then, Meidingu Marjit (1813–1819) who fled to Awa after defeating Chaurajit by the suzerain Awa King ruled Kangleipak for six years. The catastrophe of Chahi Taret Khuntakpa (the Seven Years Devastation (1819–26) that nearly depopulated was the outcome of annoyance or ungrateful attitude shown towards the Awa (Burmese) King who enthrone Meidingu to Meitreibak kingdom. The new king of Awa, Bagyidaw, invited Marjit to attend his coronation ceremony to pay homage to him. Marjit refused to attend the coronation, which offended the Burmese king. Thus, he sends a large force under the command of General Maha Bandula to humble Marjit. Has human grateful attitude learnt Meetrabak/ would never face such catastrophe as that brought about by the Burmese conquest and brought under the rule of Awa for the seven years between 1819 and 1826, which is known as Chahi Taret Kuntakpa in the history of Meitreibak until the British East India Company’s interest to conquest the southeast Asia surface in 1834 (Anglo Burmese War). Then on, Meitreipak fought for British Suzerainty during the Battle of Yangon (May–December 1824), Battle of Danubyu (March–April 1825), Arakan campaign (February–April 1825), 17 September 1825, an armistice and the Battle of Prome (November–December 1825) until the Burmese were forced to accept the British terms to end the war, signing the Treaty of Yandabo in February 1826.
            Humiliation was not learned yet, he fled from Meitreibak to Cacahar. Seeing the kindness of the Chachari prince and weaknesses too, the fleeing prince starts vying conquest to the Cachari territory. In 1819, three brothers occupied Cachar and drove Govinda Chandra out to Sylhet.  Later, Meidingngu Gambhir Singh (1826–1834) with help from the British East India Company expelled the Burmese of Awa from Meitrabak beyond the Ningthi Turel (Chindwin River) and regained the lost Kingdom. Meidingngu Nara Singh (1844–1850) was the second cousin of Gambhir Singh and the regent. Kumidini, mother of Chandrakirti, was dissatisfied with the arrangement and fled to Cachar with her son. At the wish of the people of Meitreibak he ascended the throne in 1844 at the age of 51. He then shifted the capital from Langthabal to Kangla where he reconstructed the two statues of the Kangla Sha at Uttra made by Meidingngu Chaurajit and that the Burmese had dismantled and destroyed. The same story repeats; Meidingngu Chandrakirti (1850–86) came from Cachar, defeated Debendra and regained the throne in 1850. During his reign, all the sacred and holy places inside Kangla were developed and maintained. The revolt of the throne would go on until The Anglo-Manipur War of 1891 or known as Manipur expedition. Three columns of troops from Kohima, Silchar and Tamu were sent to Manipur. The strongest resistance from Meitrabak took place at Khongjom on 25 April.
            Ever since the inception of a princely kingdom known as Kangleipak and adoption of literature to record in its royal monarch ruled, no historical accounts mentioned either animosity nor suzerainty by its kingdom over the hill tribes (Hao) and vice versa. Meitribak might at was successively invaded subjugated three times by the Awa. But, along with the loss of Meitribak, Nagas do not lose their sovereign village state. Therefore, mentioned may not be found in any historical treaty of Meitreibak or the Awa or the Ahom and the Takhen (Tripura) that, Nagas pieces/fragments are subjected to. Unlike dynastic princely kingdom, the Nagas village state differs. To conquer/invade the Nagas one has to wage war to each and every village state in the hills. In Nagas traditional village republic state, other village does not hold any domination. Each sovereign village republic state enjoys separate autonomy and administration within their jurisdiction. In this society, the concept of submission does not subsist. The fall of the father shall be vengeance by their responsible kins or community as a whole. In such a circumstance, one may overpower anyone for some certain events, but the vengeance search party would lurk around until the heads of the games are brought home. Therefore, to venture endless warfare is undesired to the neighboring kingdom be it Ahom, Awa or the Kangleichas and even to the British. Therefore, noninterference in the Nagas affairs has been the policy ever since their first contact. So, instead of provocation, they are left isolated. Thus, semi or non-administrative zone comes about during the rule of the British East India Company. Since the ancient time, Nagas have been known to be generous and kind to the neighbors. Several times, neighboring kingdom men and royals pay a visit to the friendly Naga villages; they were treated as an honored guest due to generations’ contacts through trade even in the time of headhunting. Their sympathetic treatment cannot therefore be taken as conquest in any sense. Today the dynastic princely subjects called the Kangleichas the central valley (Imphal valley), which is made up of only 700 square miles (Singh, 1980).
            The origin of the Meiteis cannot be precisely determined from the literature available. Horam observed that the origin of the Meiteis is obscure (Horam 1990, 4). Scholars differ sharply in their opinion on whether the Meiteis are Aryans or Mongoloids. There are those who claim that the Meiteis are descendants of Arjuna of Mahabharata and are therefore Aryan in origin. But the journey of Arjuna to Manipur by the sea cannot be Manipur/Kangleipak found in the Mahabharata.
            Referring the folk tales, the mitei is the younger brother of the Nagas. Therefore, without the representation of the Nagas, Leiharaoba/Haojongba cannot be observed. This tradition is still practiced till today. “There can be little doubt that some time or other the Naga tribes to the north made one of their chiefs Rajah of Manipur, and that his family, while, like the Manchus in China and other conquerors, adopting the civilization of the country, retained some of their old customs. This is shown in the curious practice of Ranee appearing in Naga costume; also in the palace a house built like a Naga’s, and wherever he goes, he is attended by two or three Manipuris with Naga arms and accoutrements” (Sir James Johnstone, 1896). From time immemorial Nagas and Meitie does not, neither raid or conquering. It is suspected that a policy of inflicting one another and subjugation was not adopted between them which must be due to their bond of common descendant/brotherhood. Naturally, by origin if the elder brother is a Mongoloid than, younger brother must belong to the same unless matrimonial intervene to become blended or otherwise. So, traditional theory, which is widely accepted by scholars and writers, is that the Meiteis originated from the Mongoloid race. Historians and scholars such as Roy, Thumra, Horam, Hodson, N. Tombi Singh, and Parratt support this tradition. N. Tombi Singh, a Meitei scholar, states, “Many… think that there is a basic difference between the valley people of Manipur (Meiteis) and those who are in hill areas. In fact, it is not so. The entire people of Manipur belong to the same ethnic group and trace their origin more or less to the Sino-Tibetan group of human species.” (Singh, 1972). Despite the various claim, “It is difficult for the Meiteis to claim any racial purity due to their long stories of migration and a series of invasion by the Aryans, Shans, and Myanmar” (Singh 1988, 149). Beyond doubt, Meitei would show an admixture of race as seen through the many invasions by awe or expulsion to Ahom and Cachar. Such blended communities cannot be easily ascertained to one racial stock anthropologically. Yet, the majority of the population would manifest a mongoloid racial physiology due to intermingled to the same racial carrier than the smaller immigrant Bengali stock. Yet, Mongoloid-Aryans blended race existence is an admitted fact. “However, it is beyond doubt that they originally belonged to the Mongoloid race. Another group of Meitei people, who are the Brahmins believed to have come from Bengal with the coming of Hindu Vaishnavism during the seventeenth century. They are altogether a different people group, probably belonging to the Aryan race” (Rimai, 2017).
The Kuki
Sir James Johnstone (1896) said that the original home of the Kukis cannot be correctly ascertained, but there seem to be traces of them as far as south of the Malay Peninsula. Once during Hudon was on expedition in the south they happen to come across a travelling band and when asked where was their home, this was what T.C Hudon (1911) quoted the words of Kuki chief, “we are like birds of the air, we make our nests here this year, and who knows where we shall build next year”. It makes one understand beyond doubt that the Kukis are migrant nomadic tribe migrating from places to places up till the beginning of the 20th century. Whereas, the Nagas and Meiteis at that time had already set up a proper village state on the other hand the Meitie had established their own kingdom.
The probability of the Kukis migrating upward from the Burma cannot be amenable. But the genesis of the word ‘Kuki’ is woven into confusion and complexity. It is best guess that the term ‘Kuki’ must be given by the outsiders.
            The precise description of Kuki by G. A. Grierson reveals in his Linguistic Survey of India, Voll-III, Part-III, Culcutta, 1904, P. 23 that, the Kukis, are migrants, shifting their village sites every 4 or 5 years and never take to permanent irrigation and terraced rice cultivation by means of irrigation. Their cattle are invariably ‘Methun’. On the other hand, Nagas had permanent village sites and permanent irrigated and terraced rice fields and they keep ordinary Indian cattle. While Miri, Mrinal (2003) states that there is no historical information about the Kuki before the 19th century. Likewise, Johnstone, states that, Kuki settlement in Manipur was started from 1830 (Manipur and Naga Hills, 1896, p. 25) which affirms that Kukis are the last immigrants into the present northeast states of India.
            Earlier, this Tibeto-Burman language speaker Kuki spread throughout northwestern Burma, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. Now in Northeast India, they are present in all the states except Arunachal Pradesh. “This dispersal across international borders is a culmination of punitive actions made by the British during their occupation of India” (T. Haokip, 2013). At some point of time, ‘Chin’ or ‘Kuki’ or ‘Lushai/Zos’ were compounded taking as synonymous. It was due to social and political isolation even non-Kukis are also at random amalgamate into the fold of Kuki speciously by the outsiders. On the basis of linguistic affinity G. A. Grierson placed the so-called Chin-Lushai-Kuki people in the Kuki-Chin group of Tibeto-Burman family. He, however, correctly states that the people do not themselves recognize these names (G A Grierson, Linguistic Survey of India. Vol. III Part III, Calcutta 1904,) thereby a generic group such as ‘Khulmi’ who claimed to have originated from a ‘Khul’ meaning a ‘cave’ are said to be a total distinct ethnic group from the Kukis. Similarly, the Hmars (scattered in different parts of North-East India and Burma, most of them live in Churachandpur district and concentrate in and around Tipaimukh, Vangai ranges and Jiribam areas) strongly protested to be called a sub tribe of Kuki on the grounds that– the Hmars never called themselves even from their forefathers and would never do so in future. They believed that they were also originated from ‘Suilung’ somewhere in china similar to the Paite who believed that they were originated from “Chinnuai” (Chinwe) somewhere from Southern part of China or Chin hills. Different Zomi tribes hold the common belief that they originally emerged out of a cave or hole. This mythological cave is known by various names like Khuul, Khur, Khurpui, Khurtu-bijur, Sinlung, Chinlung, etc. by various tribes like Thadou (Shaw 1929:24-26), Lushai (Shakespear: 1912), Lakher (Parry 1976:4), Tedim/Paite-Chin (Kamkhenthang 1967:1-2) and Moyon-Monsang, etc. There is another Chin-Kuki-Mizo group who claimed to be a ‘lost tribe’ of Israel, a descendent of Bnei Menashe. Several hundreds have immigrated back to Israel during the late 1990’s. Due to such different notion of ethnicity resulted to Hmar-Kuki conflict in I960 and in 1997-1998 there was an instance of violent ethnic clash between the Thadous and the Paites owing to the policy of Kukiazation. Dr. H. Kamkhenthang therefore, contends that Kuki or Chin terms are used only in reference to the outside world, but not in use among and within the group. The ethnos of belonging to the Chin-Kuki group did not have a common name anymore after it was disowned by the ethnoses who were once known as Kuki. Excepting Thadou, most of the tribes now want to identify themselves by their individual tribal names and not as Kukis. [Dr.  H. Kamkhenthang, “Groping for Identity”, pp. 1-16.].
By: Laishram Ranbir
Imphal, June 16: “This is what they did to the bridge built in one night during World War 2 in April 5/6, 1944, a 73 years old British built bridge, easily shattered down, now we won’t be able to see it again anymore” said locals of Heingang
We humans do love to hear about ancient history, but we also do know that we humans aren’t always that great at preserving it. Here is the most thoughtless and just plain dumbest ways that humans have wrecked their own heritage.
In a global economy, shared history is about capital, about control over who makes the money while many are struggling to preserve our vast heritage places from those who couldn’t care less, however, most of the historic town and various bridges, a masterpiece designed by the famous architect have been destroyed.
Likewise, the Hamilton’s Bridge, built during World War 2 (1944-1945) which use to stands unharmed or corroded is now almost destroyed by some reckless invaders who only think about today.
When we’re talking of preserving a site (doesn’t mean only nature and culture), unfortunately in our country, the legal framework is very archaic. Worldwide, a whole regime exists, of protocols and recommendations to preserve a site which terms as heritage, but, unfortunately, our legal and planning instruments do not take cognizance of such things.
Now when we’ve chosen to globalise and the private sector is generating a lot of fund and has a lot to invest in public assets, we should be looking at protection in terms of potential public-private partnerships (PPPs). But our instruments of planning, of equity, all the things we need to worry about, are not being adequately developed so far.
Is this how we treat what our ancestor has left to be witness and talk about for generations?
During the Second World War “The Hamilton Bridge” built between Heingang and Achanbengei (British record)/Achanbigei was one of bridges constructed in Manipur as a passes route by the Allied forces.
These particular bridge has a very unique story which could be heard from the locals of the Heingang and Achanbengei(british record)/Achanbigei area and even from many people of Manipur, till today.
But for the future generation, the story will remain as a story, they will not be able to see the fact of the story they heard from their parents, grandparents.
Recently, Imphal Times have brought out the issue to the public where some contractors or government workers already began to tear down the aged old bridge during the WW2.
Yet none come up to put hold on the ongoing destruction work of the bridge not even the Chief Minister himself where the bridge destruction work is going on is in his constituency (Heingang A/C).
Right now, the eastern side foot of the bridge has been totally shattered down, leaving the front portion of the bridge laid on the river bank and the worst part is the rise of the river water level due to the consistent rain which has submerged some part of the bridge.
In India, we don’t have a policy for PPPs. Especially in the sector of public good, the government shouldn’t be encouraged to put assets out in the market without taking responsibility for the kind of plans they produce. A lot of heritage projects end up in court because so many scams today are related to land and property.
Conservation and protection isn’t just about the Hamilton Bridge, it’s about protecting the whole ethos. Though the workers work under the command of higher authority, do we need to bang the door of the concern government?
Does the state government not care about preserving a heritage site or just cared about using fund in the wrong way by destroying what our forefather has left for us?
“Pumudra ariba thong asi nungsi nungsina sidokhre do” locals remain still with teary eyes, watching the bridge being snatched down piece by piece, right in front of their naked eyes.
One who knows the value of a priceless items, for them it is very unfortunate seeing the bridge being snatched away piece by piece instead of preserving it as heritage site for our future generation.
Is it not our duty to preserve what is precious for our state, to understand it, learn from it rather than destroying?
Shouldn’t the state government and the concern department take up necessary strong steps to save such heritage site from being destroyed forever rather than seeing as a photos or hearing as a tale in the near future.
“One can hear the tale of the bridge being built in one night of April 5/6 of 1944 by 56 British Engineers from 58 Company Royal Engineers under the command of Lieutenant D G Jones. They were in Lion Box and were sent to a camp near where the bridge was erected. The Hamilton Bridge built between Heingang and Achanbengei (british record)/Achanbigei also connects the Airfield at Koirengei with the IV Corps HQ at Keep or Mongjam/Heingang area.”
It’s been more than 73 years since the Hamilton Bridge was built and for the tourist and for the world, it is the very example for Manipur state to be proud of. It also shows the world how technology was so advance during the WW2 compare to today’s generation.
Rather than dismantle the bridge, the concern and state government should take up immediate steps to keep it as a World War Heritage property for the generations to come.
The government needs to make a list of heritage site and grade them as grade 1, 2 and 3 as grading is a way of working out the kind of interventions that are permissible. Once we have graded sites, we can go forward and make plans for them.
“World Heritage sites are designated by the UN as places of outstanding universal value which should be protected for future generations but according to a study from the experts, urbanisation, farming, industry and deforestation are having an increasing impact on them.”
Before it’s too late, something need to be done to save the Hamilton bridge or the famous story will remain as a story for the rest of the history.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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