The Ningthouja Company — The End

Manipur, the erstwhile kingdom now under the union of India, has a record of always presenting itself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Last month, in June 2013, the government made a decision to interfere with the management and maintenance of a few parts of the palace compound in this tiny yet disproportionately chaotic state. This has provoked a scuffle between the government and the present Manipuri king, while some other concerned citizens are taking the latter’s side.

There has been no conclusion so far.

All along the king has been a titular head; and the actual governance and administration have been under the charismatic leadership of the democratically-elected government.

Leishemba Sanajaoba, the honourable king, has very little authority, as evident from his inability to tell the government to fuck off.

The king and the subjects

This issue could be nostalgic to many people. Like a true monarchy, once upon a time, the kings used to be the divine rulers for a couple of thousands of years. Their only opposition was from other kingdoms like the Shan (Burmese), the Ahom (Assamese), and the Khagi (Chinese) and their ilk. And the subjects were loyal, much more than the most domesticated pets.

Now the spineless royal authority, whose diktat is put in black and white only in obscure official papers, has been existing since the British occupied the then kingdom in 1891—possibly the last kingdom in the subcontinent to be annexed to the British India.

Here’s the news. A farce continues, with the typical Manipuri sit-in protests against the government’s cabinet decision to grab the land.

The intentions are clear, because as far as the lip service of the government is concerned, the purpose is to renovate the historically significant palace. There seems to be, however, a plenty of implications—both covert and overt, and everybody knows how with development initiatives, the elected representatives will do anything, even make a slut of their wives, their husbands a gigolo and their children bastards, as long as they get their share from plundering public resources and assets.

A slice of a Hindu temple inside the palace compound in Imphal, Manipur
Image by Mongyamba; Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons 
Only time can tell what is to become of this imbroglio, but one thing is certain: The days of the Ningthouja clan (belonging to the Mangang yek), who has been at the helm of affairs of this ancient kingdom for more than 2,000 years, are numbered.

Unsurprisingly, we do not know our future because we have been living in the present: getting away from places where IEDs are planted, getting away from stray bullets of the armies and the insurgents and indulging in mass orgy, no matter how we are living in this suffocating compartment, called a state in the national political vocab.

The Ningthouja nightmare

A recorded history from Cheitharol Kumbaba, commonly known in English as the Royal Chronicle, gives us an account of the Ningthouja clan as well as a documented history of the mundane royal activities and the like, starting from 33AD when Nongda Lairen Pakhangba occupied the throne.

There are several other chronicles including Chada Leihui, Ningthourol Lambuba and various puya (ancient texts). Shorter chronicles, including Samjok Ngamba and Naothingkhong Pham Kaba and several other haram accounts plus khunthoklon, make our collective narratives more credible.

History taught us that the Ningthoujas united the seven clans and gave birth to the ethnic group of Meitei, which is one of the groups inhabiting the present Manipur. That is all we know about the origin of the Meiteis. The other six clans include Luwang (ours!), Khuman, Angom, Moirang, Khaba Nganba and Leisangthem (Chenglei). Historians mention there are nearly 3.3 million Manipuri-speaking people across the globe, most visibly in Myanmar and Bangladesh, plus a few states in the present India.

There are as well a plenty of Bamons (the genetically modified Meiteis), Muslim Meiteis and seemingly real Meitei who fled to the outskirts of the valley, during the harsh proselytisation under the royal order in the 18th century. So, it is hard to define a Meitei, even though it is significant considering that there have been movements for cultural revivalism and calls for going back to our roots. On the other hand, the rising wave of ethno-nationalism, quite conspicuous from the political movements, both armed and unarmed, of the other groups such as the Nagas, the Kukis and others have completed the entire picture of what a mess can be at its worst.  

Just in case if you are wondering where the hell is
this piece of hell — Manipur, in light ruby red
Image from Wikimedia Commons
We have come a long way from the dragon ruler, Pakhangba. This is most apparent in the dwindling powers of the titular kings over the years on one hand. Perhaps, this is a reason why many of us are standing against the government's decision.

However, no one can deny the cultural importance of the royal family in our collective narratives even today. Sadly, ethnic rivalry has reached its height in the last couple of decades. For thousands of years, there was never such ‘large-scale’ enmity between the ethnic groups which share common roots, but the hostility developed a few decades after merging into the union of India. I don’t know what this implies.

We have another huge blunder because as far as the Manipur narratives are concerned, there has been a one-sided perspective of the dominating Meiteis in the state. One of its flag consisting of seven colours, each representing the Meitei clans, is a proof of how complex the sociopolitical maze is in this part of the world. History shows the kingdom once stretched up to the Ningthi river (Chindwin) in the east, now in Burma to the Barak river (in Assam) in the west, but we cannot afford to bask in the glory of nostalgia.

Back to the palace

It does not make sense, if the government is going ahead with its decision. We do not believe it because they have never ruled like a true authority; they are nothing more than very expensive rubber stamps from New Delhi. So, what’s cooking inside the state assembly where the elected representatives have re-conceptualised the meaning of daylight debauchery?

Passed. Next.

The government has assured it will take care of the king’s accommodation. Going by record, however, the kings had been too impotent that is making us more concerned. And the public is notorious for short-term memory loss. The mathematics is simple, because the only expression of all these equations is the totally chaotic Manipur, untamed and badly managed. It’s like the story continues unhappily ever after.

It’s a pity. The government is stepping in because it sees the king is helpless. If I were the chief minister, I would have call Him for a dinner, ask about his well-being and family, and finally, give a share from the most-recently acquired coffer. After all, the king is a king is always a king. Besides, compromise is such a fine word. Even in times of social unrest, the government has the gut to call the leading demonstrators, pay them and just finish any protests or whatsoever. Perhaps, the king is different.

The conclusion: A ruling clan is hearing the last nail making its way through the coffin. On the other hand, we have been observing the rise of a ruling derrière-licker political class, ever since the erstwhile kingdom was merged into the union of India.

It is time for us to decide ourselves, how we can be at the right place at the right time.



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