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Did Manipur Really Experience Cultural Genocide?

 Dr. Sougaijam Priyokumar Meitei

    Do we have any single evidence for any extinct culture or any exterminated or deported community in Manipur. Not at all, I believe. Would have been any group name Y or Z in Manipur which had been disappeared or assimilated (the whole Y or Z) to Meitei group. I don’t think so. I don’t mean to some sub sections from a group merging to Meitei umbrella which would have been occured in the past. It reminds us that we must not be psychologically victimised ourselves by future shock with selfish demands and protests. Our voices and demands should not be ethnocentric, demands should have potential and objective quality to stand alone on global platform which are acceptable universally. Otherwise, the movement will be completely a nightmare overwhelmed by subjective emotions and sentiments.
Reconstructing the past, the Meitei Kings were almost having secular ideology. Cultural assimilation of Hindu Brahmins was recognized for performing rites and rituals of Hindu Meitei, while Meitei Maibas or traditional religious practitioners were also recognized to do rites and rituals of non-Hindu Meiteis. For the social requirements, some Muslim sections brought by king were given Meitei girls and expanded pan-Manipuris. The Muslim of Manipur are given the name as Meitei Pangals or simply Pangals and peacefully integrated to form Manipuri society. Meitei King had the idea of maintainig exterior caste, do have conscious on ill effects of close kin marriages including clan endogamy. King’s court directly involved in it and  offenders of incest taboo were exhiled, referred as loi thaba either permanently or for a few years based on the degree of offences.
From the early history, it is known that Meitei lineage (Yumnak) is one useful concept of kinship system to trace the social history. For example, the art of blacksmith is as old as the formation of Thangjam lineage or earlier or as old as the evolution of Meitei. In due course, Yumnak or lineages were created responding to social and cultural purposes identifying occupation, address or so forth. From the evolutionary perspectives, the Meitei community was formed at a juncture by uniting some kings of different groups having distinct lineages. The legendry narratives often mention the kingship of Khuman Ningthou (king), Moirang Ningthou (king), probably speaking the same language with different dialects. Such reconstruction are always debatable because in the eyes of post-modernist thinkers, two or more meanings may be interpreted from this narrative. It may be happened that one of them was more powerful and built up a Meitei nation by uniting all. On the contrary, equally powerful kings or kingdoms (probably seven kingdoms or more) united through negotiation to build a federal state. The process of structuring the society could be necessarily integrative and liberal exemplified by diverse cultural practices which were carried forward down the line of evolution. Sanamahi worship was remained continued, no evidence of enforcement to give up worshipping of Pakhangba, Emoinu, observing Lai Haraoba (pleasing of god), no evidences of imposition in pork consumption during rites and rituals of Chakpa people who also fall into Meitei community.
The more we dig deeper, the more will we get. History of Manipur needs to be supplemented by the social history to make us free from positivist fallacy - the logical error, sometimes made by historians, when they confuse ‘what happened’ with ‘that for which we have evidence’. If we assume that destruction of cultural heritage, artifacts, books, arts etc. took place in the past, then revealing something from the presently available history has limitation since it was made by the then rulers based on the limited reachable data. There could be loopholes in recollection of information which were beyond positivist observation. Also, most of the politically unfavourable events or evidences were likely to be underreported during those days. Therefore, in this situation, it is those anthropologists who will be able to trace the social and cultural history to reconstruct the past from the little evidence we have by using the wealthy anthropological skills.

Huirem Naresh

Huirem Naresh, a resident of Keishamthong Elangbam has been with Imphal Times since its start, 2013. He handles mostly Press release and announcement related news. Naresh is also a social worker. He can be emailed at [email protected]

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