Colonial Divide in Manipur: A Troubled Tracing the Journey of the State Between 1835 and 1947 displayed a complex tapestry of historical events and sociopolitical transformations

Dr. Lal Dena and Lal Robul Pudaite have written that although the hill region was included within Manipur, it never formed an integral part of the general administration of the state and was governed in completely different ways throughout the historical period .

Colonial Divide In Manipur

“History has shown that the Manipuri* cannot give the hills the standard of administration they both deserve. It is our responsibility towards the hill tribes to maintain a civilized administration for them.

-Robert Reed, a British colonial administrator in India, who was Governor of Assam from 1937 to 1942 (*by Manipuri he means Meitei).

Two irreversible factors inevitably created a knot of social disharmony between the Meiteis living in the valley and the tribal people living in the hilly region – the Kangleipak kingdom was mainly confined to a valley of about 700 square miles (Sushil Kumar Sharma ), 2017:17), and, to enhance its distinctiveness, it adopted Hinduism in the early 18th century.

The British colonial rulers, well aware of this flaw in the relations between the Meitei and the hill people, intended to create a further division by separating the hill administration on the basic ground that “the hill tribes are not Manipuri and their customs and languages are completely Kind of different.” ,

In the pre-colonial period, the hill people lived as independent and sovereign nations in their respective core areas, free from any external control. Understanding this situation, William McCulloch comments thus: “Before British relations were established with Manipur, the British Government, far from exercising influence over the tribes, was unable to protect the inhabitants of the valley from their extortions and blackmail, and even after the conclusion of peace with Burma and the determination of the limits of Manipur, most of the tribes remained independent, and we knew them no more than by name (McCulloch, 1859:73).

A fundamental point of importance of British colonial policy, overall, was the recognition and legitimization of the institution of tribal chieftainship and ruling the common people according to their own customs and traditions. The decision of the village head was the final decision on any issue and was binding on all members of the tribe. He was the master of the soil of the area he occupied, ruled and ruled. He collected taxes and revenue from his subjects free from any external interference.

Quoting Gangmumei Kamei: “The Manipur state refrained from interfering in hill administration, allowing the hill villages to function as autonomous political units.” The hill tribes were outside the jurisdiction of Manipur state administration. (Gangmumei Kamei, 2015.161).

By carefully using the famous policy of ‘divide and rule’, a policy which played a vital role in ensuring the stability, indeed the viability, of almost every colonial regime, the colonial authorities thus created a huge gap, first of all among the Meiteis. and the tribal people, and secondly, between the Kukis and the Nagas. The Kukis were used to control the Nagas, and vice versa. They armed one group and disarmed another according to their whim and pleasure, and innocent tribal groups, far from realizing that they were mere pawns in the hands of a greater power, without thinking who actually wielded the power. Yes, they used to attack each other. jar.

Practically, there was no proper administration in the hill region before 1891, and the only link between the colonial authorities and the hill people was the Lam Subedar (revenue officer). The entire hilly area was divided into five parts known as Lam. For each Lam, five Lam Subedars were appointed by the political agent. The five lams to the north were Mao Lam; Tangkhul Lam in the northeast; Tamu Lam in the east; Moirang Lam in the southwest; and Kabui Lam in the west.

Seven Lambos were again appointed for each division, under a Lama Subedar. Under the colonial system, a lambu was an interpreter, a process server and a peon, combined into one. He was a messenger informing the chiefs about government orders and programs, such as building roads, building bridges, etc., mainly through the enforcement of Pothang.

A hill house tax of Rs 3 was imposed on each family in the hilly areas. Some Kuki elite were also recruited for this position. Lambas were the eyes and ears of the government. The collection of pothang and house tax was enforced by the Lambas through the tribal chiefs and their councillors.

Each time, when the Lambas visited the highlands, they would remain in silence until they were offered a jar of zu (rice-beer) and a sumptuous feast of pig or chicken. The Lambas took advantage of their proximity to high officials, acting as their interpreters, in addition to performing various tasks. The colonial authorities of the state became more dependent on colonial officials for information and advice.

There was little or no scope for direct interaction between the authorities and the hill people;

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