Manipur

Manipur is a state in northeastern India making its capital in the city of Imphal. Manipur is bounded by the Indian states of Nagaland in the north, Mizoram in the south and Assam in the west; it also borders the country of Myanmar to the east.

The Meiteis from the valley region form the major ethnic group. Their language is Meiteilon (also known simply as Manipuri which is also the lingua franca in the state. It was recognized as a national Indian language in 1992.

Manipur is considered a sensitive border state. Foreigners entering Manipur (including foreign citizens born in Manipur) must possess a Restricted Area Permit which can be obtained from the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office in the "metros" (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata) or certain other state government offices. Permits are valid for only 10 days, and visitors must travel only on tours arranged by authorised travel agents, in groups of four. Furthermore, they may come to Imphal only by air and will not be permitted to travel outside the capital.

Formed 21 January, 1972
Language Manipuri
Religion Hinduism 58%; Christianity 34%; Islam 7%
Capital Imphal
Governor Arvind Dave
Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh
Area 22,327 km�
Population
 - Total (2001)
 - Density

2,388,664
107/km²
Literacy:
 - Total
 - Male
 - Female

68.9%
77.9%
59.7%
Urbanization 23.88% (2001)

Other facts:

  • Polo originated in Manipur. British soldiers and planters took it back to England, modified the rules and made it popular around the world.

  • Rosa macrocarpa, the beautiful species of rose, was discovered by Sir George Watt in Manipur in 1888.

  • Sarit Sarak, a relatively unknown and unique Martial Art, comes from Manipur.
  • Manipur is famous for its classical and folk dances, including the graceful and soft Ras Lila, the acrobatic Pung cholom among others.

  • Kaibul Lamjao National Park in Loktak lake is the natural habitat of the rare and endangered Brow antlered Deer (Cervus eldi eldi). Locally known as Sangai, it is one of three species of Elds deer in the world confined to South east Asia.

  • The Siroi Lily (Lilium Macklinae Sealy) is a beautiful lily found only in the upper reaches of the Siroi Hills in Manipur's Ukhrul District.

  • Manipur has 3 representatives in the Indian Union: 2 in the Lok Sabha (Lower House) and 1 in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House).



History

Manipur came under British rule as a princely state in 1891. The Manipur Constitution Act, 1947, established a democratic form of government with the Maharaja as the Executive Head and an elected legislature. The legislative assembly was dissolved on the integration of the state with India in October, 1949. Manipur was a union territory from 1956 and became a full-fledged state in 1972.

Lord Irwin described Manipur as the "Switzerland of India".

During the Second World War, Manipur was the scene of many fierce battles between the Japanese and Allied forces. The Japanese swept over East Asia and came up to Manipur. They were beaten back before they could enter Imphal and this proved to be one of the turning points of the War. There are two cemeteries maintained by the British War Graves Commission, which are the final resting places of several Indian and allied soldiers who died here.

Problems Facing Manipur

One of the biggest problems facing Manipuri society today is drug addiction. The effects of being geographically close to the Golden Triangle are being felt now. Hundreds of youth in their prime have been laid unproductive because of the drug scourge. They have become a burden to the society. Related to this evil is the spread of AIDS. Sharing of syringes among addicts is the most common reason for the spread of this disease. Now Manipur has one of the highest per capita HIV positive patients in India.

Though many deny it, racial tension threatens the very fabric of Manipuri society. The Meiteis had lived peacefully with the other minorities for ages. But times have changed; people from different ethnic groups interact in all walks of life, competing for land, food and other resources, which are becoming scarce. The population has increased drastically in the state with no comparable increase in the number of jobs. The state, which even had a Muslim Chief minister, faced racial riots for the first time a few years back. The hills have not been spared either. The blood of Kukis and Nagas, (the two main tribal groups of Manipur) have coloured the green hills red and the wounds will take years to heal.

However the biggest problem, which Manipur faces today is the armed insurgency. The place where the Indian National Army (INA), led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, planted the Tricolour for the first time on Indian soil, is now wracked by separatist violence. Rarely a day goes by without someone falling to bullets. The separatist movement or insurgency in Manipur started years ago just after independence from the British. These separatists are known by various names- terrorists, freedom fighters, militants, insurgents and so on, depending on whose side you are. Years of neglect by the Government of India have not helped either. Due to the Mongoloid features of the natives, their unique culture, language and customs, Indians in other states find it quite difficult to believe that Manipuris are also Indians. Many Manipuris who studied outside the state had a hard time explaining that Manipur was inside India and not somewhere near Thailand. Some people looked down on the meiteis because they thought that they had got their University seats and jobs due to the reservation policy for scheduled tribes and scheduled castes (similar to the affirmative policy in the US). In fact, majority of Meiteis belong to the 'General' category and have to compete equally with other Indians in the same category. These incidents led to a feeling of alienation.

For the hundreds of unemployed youth, joining a separatist group is sometimes the only option open to them. Today there are more than 10 separatist groups in Manipur. Payments of monthly dues to these groups have become routine, that it is taken as normal today. They say that the money collected is being used to fight for freedom.

Some steps have been taken by the Central government to appease the Manipuris. The long-standing demand to include the Manipuri language in the 8th schedule was finally granted (by the 71st amendment of the constitution in 1992). Today Manipur has its own TV station. They even have a minister in the Union cabinet now. However, it is very hard to quench a fire once it has started. The Indian Government has to regain the confidence of the population, which is no easy task. Creating employment would be one way. Sending in troops would not solve the problem.

One issue which is likely to become a headache in the future is that of border disputes. Mayanmar (formerly Burma) has been encroaching quietly on Manipuri areas. While several lives were lost defending a barren piece of land in Kashmir, the Indian Government does not notice what is happening in the eastern corner of the country. Manipur is also involved in a border dispute with Nagaland.

Another major problem is corruption. Many families send away their sons and daughters to other states.