Imphal, June 2:
A One Day International Webinar on Manipur Diaspora & Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha (NHMMS) was organized jointly by the Intellectual Forum of North East & Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Samiti, Manipur Prant, on Sunday, the 30th May 2021 starting from 10 am onwards. The Webinar was organized to commemorate the historic moment of the Manipuri diaspora and Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha, which started on 30th May 1934. My hearty welcome to everyone present in this webinar. Dr. Shukhdeba Sharma Hanjabam, Asst. Prof., Dept. of Social Work, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University-Regional Campus, Manipur (IGNTU) gave the Welcome Address. His welcome address also gives an introductory of the webinar. The Vote of thanks was proposed by Dr. Kshetrimayum Chitrabhanu, a faculty member in the Dhanamanjuri Community College, DM University.
From the pages of history, it can be known that due to various factors the Manipuris have migrated resulting to their scattered settlement. At the same time, we also can see the Manipuris while keeping their pristine culture intact and uneroded also have harmoniously adjusted to a way of life and cultural practices of the land where they have migrated and settled. Even then, while doing so and also because of their minuscule population the apprehension and consternation of losing their social and cultural identity always loomed large.
In the early part of the twentieth century, elders who have already envisioned it and were greatly concerned about the wellbeing of Manipuri nationality came together and started charting out a path to strengthen the fraternal bond and foster social integration among the Manipuris living in the native land and those scattered in different places outside Manipur. It resulted to the birth of Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha with the whole hearted support of Maharaja Sir Churachand Singh KCSI, CBE becoming its President and had its first session on Wednesday, the 30th May, 1934. It was a very noteworthy and remarkable day of the Manipuris. In this age of globalisation, the role of Diasporas in the development and progress of their country of origin is becoming more prominently known.
Manipur had at one time worked progressively towards this front in comparison with other states of India. Truly speaking, Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha (NHMM) was a very well thought of wholesome and holistic step involving the state and the people in unison to promote solidarity and oneness among the Manipuri nationality transcending the territorial divide. Recognising this importance, of Diaspora the Government of India have been observing the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (since 2000) to engage the overseas community of Indian origin so as to not forget their cultural roots and also to provide opportunities in mutually beneficial activities.
The objective of the Mahasabha was to ‘bring about social integration of the Manipuris living in different parts of British India and Burma separated by historical and other factors. Within a short period of time, the NHMM carried out the activities to bring together the Manipuri diasporas who got dispersed and involuntarily migrated due to war and unite them by a love for their native homeland and nationality. It was indeed a historic occasion which made a serious attempt to bridge the gap and bring closer relationship.
The Mahasabha successfully organized three major meeting at three different places such as Imphal, Silchar and Mandalay participated by Manipuri delegates from all the different places settled by the Manipuris at that point of time. It was recorded that nearly 400 delegates attended the Mahasabha in all the three meeting.
The Mahasabha meeting at Chinga, Imphal in the year 1938 was not attended by Maharaja and it was in this meeting that two landmark resolution, that is to drop ‘Hindu’ from the Mahasabha’s name and to become a political body was taken. The Maharaja denounced the Mahasabha, and all Government employees resigned from the Mahasabha. The meeting took 13 resolutions and none of them relates to the Diaspora of Manipur. Mahasabha’s activities have remained inactive since then.
Amidst the gloomy spell and apprehension of being swarmed in and losing of cultural and social identity by the smaller nationalities being cast by the likely impact of globalisation, it is very much paramount and imperative to work concertedly for promoting solidarity and oneness among the Manipuri diasporas settling in the foreign countries of Bangladesh and Myanmar, and Assam and Tripura in the territory within India.
There was deliberations and discussions against this background by the Presidium members who all were well known for their academic eminence, resource persons who themselves were diasporas of Manipuri origin speaking about the particular issues and concerns they have in their resident settlements, and learned delegates from various walks of life.
Prof. Naorem Lokendra, Head, Dept. of History, Manipur University delivered the keynote address. In it he highlighted in detail the proceedings of the first session of the NHMM which was presided by Maharaja Churachanda with Hijam Irawat as its Reception Committee Chairman. The said session took altogether 21 resolutions, among which included – promotion of Thang Ta (Indigenous martial arts), protection of those who follow Vaisnava faith, imparting of education in Manipuri language and script, etc. He concluded by expressing that he looked forward for a very fruitful deliberations and discussions which will bring into light the problems and concerning issues to the Manipuri diasporas which they faced in their place of residence, the changed scenario brought about by Globalization and the need for concerted effort and solidarity for sustained cultural rootedness, emotional integration and other mutually beneficial activities with the country of origin
The webinar was graced by Prof. Ganga Prasad Prasain, Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, Tripura University, Tripura; Professor Paonam Gunindro Singh Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, Manipur University of Culture, Manipur; and Prof. Nongmaithem Rajmuhon Singh, Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, Dhanamanjuri University, Manipur respectively as Presidium members.
Prof. Ganga Prasad Prasain (Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, Tripura University, Tripura) emphasised the need to provide institutional support to the Manipuri Diasporas to strengthen the rooted connectivity with their country of origin. Diaspora communities being minority in the countries of their settlement always have a threat of being swarmed in and getting assimilated to the cultural practices of the host population. Hence, Manipuri in their countries of settlement should consciously preserve and practice their mother tongue and pristine cultural elements. Manipuri Diasporas longed and yearn to visit their native homeland, Manipur. To create a friendly and enabling atmosphere, there should be provision for affordable accommodation. It is very much desirable and also endorsed at the personal level too to commission diaspora study centre at the state and central universities in Manipur. Even if institutional grant is not available, resources could be mobilised and generated to maintain a corporate fund for fulfilling the said purpose. There should be increased proximity of exchange and interaction with the Diasporas and the home state to remain rooted and keep in touch and familiarise them with the native cultural practices. He also endorsed his support for adopting 30th May as Manipuri Diaspora Day.
Professor Paonam Gunindro Singh (Vice-Chancellor, Manipur University of Culture, Manipur): Concerted institutional support should be provided to popularise and propagate the pristine cultural elements of Manipur to the Manipuri diasporas. There should also have close interpersonal connectivity and frequent interactions among the Manipuris transcending the territorial divide. Considering its relevance and historical significance, he also endorsed his support for adopting 30th May as Manipuri Diaspora Day.
Prof. Nongmaithem Rajmuhon Singh (Hon’ble Vice-Chancellor, Dhanamanjuri University, Manipur): May 30 is a day of great historical significance as it was on this day that the NHMM was founded in 1934. NHMM is the forbearer of diaspora movement for the Manipuri nationalities as it had the objectives of preserving and promoting native cultural elements among the Manipuri Diasporas and also to engage them in mutually beneficial activities. In this connection, it would be worthwhile to revisit the book, ‘Nikhil Hindu Manipuri Mahasabha’ compiled by Loitam Yaima and Rajkumar Maipaksana and published in 1964. The perspective on diaspora should be broad enough and inclusive of all the Manipuri migrants who have settled to more developed countries to better their professional and economic prospects. Opening up of research centres in universities to engage in studies of culture, diaspora sports, etc. is very much needed. He also proposed to press and urge upon the government for providing institutional support and adopt 30th May as the Manipur Diaspora Day
The webinar has four separate technical session for Burma (Present Myanmar), Bangladesh, Tripura Session and Assam. In the Burma (Present Myanmar) session, representatives from the different Manipuri inhabited village of Amarpura Bamon Khunjao, Hninsi Chan Khul, Lairik Yengbam Leikei, Mindde Ekin Khul, Nithem Purit Khul and Sagaing Bamon Khul gave presentations. The presentations highlighted the religious practices and elaborate rituals prevalent among the Hindus primarily Brahmins of Manipuri diasporas in Burma. Poor internet connectivity greatly disturbed and inconvenienced the proceedings of the technical session. In the Bangladesh Technical Session, Shri A.K Sheram, President, Bangladesh Manipuri Sahitya Sangsad gave the lecture highlighting the contemporary socio-cultural and political life of Manipuri diaspora in present Bangladesh. In the Tripura session, Shri L Birmangal Singha, General Secretary, Manipuri Sahitya Parishad, Tripura gave the presentation. Prof. Khumujam Dhiren Singha, Department of Linguistics, Assam University, Silchar & General Secretary, Assam Manipuri Sahitya Parishad; and Shri. Saikhom Kamalakanta Singha, Retired principal, DNK Higher Secondary School, Silchar & Chairman, Committee on Culture for Peace and Integrity spoke at length in the Assam Technical Session.
After thorough and threadbare discussions and deliberations in the proceedings of the webinar by the presidium members, resource persons, and learned delegates from Bangladesh, Myanmar, and India, it was unanimously agreed to resolve the following five points:
1. To urge the Government of Manipur (GoM) to declare 30th May as the Manipur Diaspora Day.
2. To urge the GoM to construct and commission a Diaspora Guest House at Imphal.
3. To urge the GoM to initiate the Centre for Manipur Diaspora at DM University, Manipur University of Culture, and Manipur University.
4. To publish an edited book on Manipur Diaspora.
5. To organize an International Conference on Manipur Diaspora.