By- Michael Samjetsabam,
Research Scholar IIT Bombay
Department of Information and Public Relations (DIPR) released some facts on the Census of Manipur in local dailies on the 11th of February.
These facts on the Census of Manipur came to light after ISTV’s discussion on Manipur’s demographic profile according to the 2011 census report. DIPR’s facts on Census seem to have some problems.
First, the bar chart, with the title “Manipur Census 2011 as per mother tongue, religions and ST population,” takes into account the linguistic data on mother tongue, data on religion and data on schedule tribes in the 2011 Census. The bar chart categorises the population into Meitei/Meetei, Tribals/Schedule Tribes, Meitei-Pangal/Muslims and Others (for outsiders). Linguistic data of the 2011 census tells us that the total number of Meiteilon speakers in Manipur is 1522132.
These Meiteilon speakers are both Meitei/Meetei and Meitei-Pangals. When we see the linguistic data, we do not know how many of the Meiteilon speakers are Meiteis and how many of them are Pangals as they have the same mother tongue. Dr Moirangthem Manimohon, in the said ISTV discussion, argues that we cannot find out the number of Meiteis from this linguistic data. But, we can infer the number of Meiteis from the religion data of Manipur in the census.
Dr Moirangthem finds the population of the Meitei community through subtracting the Muslim population from the Meiteilon speaking population in the linguistic census data of 2011. He states that since the population of Muslims, according to the 2011 Census, is 239836, the total number of Pangal is also 239836 since as Pangals and Muslims are the same. DIPR estimates the population of Pangals based on the population of Muslims in the Census’ data on religion. It estimates the population of Pangals as 239836, the same as Dr Moirangthem’s numbers. This equation of Pangals with Muslims has serious problems. First, there are claims that politicians have made that there are Bangladeshi Muslims and Rohingya Muslims in Manipur.
If all the Muslims in Manipur are indigenous Pangals who speak Meiteilon, then there are no Rohingyas and Bangladeshi Muslims in Manipur. Second, these numbers on Muslims in Manipur do not give any estimate on Pangals of Manipur. Outsiders population which is around seven per cent, according to Dr, Moirangthem and DIPR charts, includes Assamese, Bengalis, Hindi speakers, Punjabi speakers, Malayalam speakers and speakers of many other Indian languages. A large portion of these outsiders could be very well Muslims in religion. Afghans and Kashmiris who are living in Manipur, according to the Census, are Muslims.
These outsider Muslims are not indigenous Pangals. Neither Dr Moirangthem nor DIPR bar charts make distinctions between the outsider Muslims and Pangals. The Muslim populations, which is 239836, consists of Afghans, Bengalis, Assamese, Kashmiris, Malayali, Hindi speaking and Punjabi Muslims along with Pangals. Therefore, the Pangal population cannot be estimated as 239836. It has to be estimated lower than this number. It means the Pangal population cannot be eight per cent of the total population. The eight per cent is for the combined population of Muslims and not for Pangals.
There is a separate table for Muslims in DIPR’s facts on the census which all the local dailies published. There are no separate tables for non-indigenous communities or the hill people. The separate table on Muslims highlights that DIPR wants to convey the growth rate among Muslims in Manipur. The population of Muslims in Manipur saw a decline in 2011, according to the 2001 and 2011 Census. DIPR facts on the census fail to mention it. It gives no specific reason for these actions. However, it is not surprising that such data is being presented when the movement against CAB is going on furiously in Manipur. The focus must shift from non-indigenous to Muslims. It seems to be the plan. CAB did the same thing in Assam. From NRC for all, it became CAB for Hindus. The debate shifted from expelling all non-natives to expelling only Muslim non-natives. Such shifts did not work in Assam. It would not work in Manipur. The line is clear. It is not a matter of religion here. The case is about indigenity. This shift of focus from Mayangs to Muslim religion hides the fact that the non-indigenous population increased from one per cent in 1901 to eleven per cent in 1981 in Manipur. The non-indigenous population in 2011 is seven per cent. These drastic changes in the non-indigenous population are hidden in these DIPR charts and tables.
We need to calculate the number of outsider Muslims to estimate the Pangal population with some accuracy. If we cannot estimate the Pangal population closely, we would not be able to determine the Meitei population from the linguistic data properly. Given the inaccuracy in estimating the Pangal population, the already inaccurate Meitei population seems more inaccurate. There are more things which should increase our doubts about these numbers. The census data is generally doubtful. These pieces of information can be easily manipulated given how state machinery functions in Manipur. It is also probable that people can fill in their mother tongue as Meiteilon when their mother tongue is something else for economic and political reasons. Second, sometimes it is good to doubt the numbers that the government provides. Many journalists and politicians have accused the BJP government of fuzzing GDP data and parameters multiple times to show that India is growing well. When we can doubt growth indicators, we can go one step further and question the census data too. We need to doubt it, especially when Muslims are isolated in the CAB row so that the Hindu mayangs do not get the heat of the anti-CAB struggle. The movement of indigenous people is not against Hindus or Muslims. It is against the settlers coming to the lands of the natives and the state that empowers these settlers. So, it does not matter whether settlers are Hindus or Muslims for the indigenous Meiteis and Pangals.