Traditional shawl of Tangkhul women

Why Tangkhul Tribes of Manipur Are Not Nagas

One cannot create Unique Naga history or Nagalim in the region by showing “Head Hunter”, “Snake Eater”, “Roman Script”, or “Christianity”. If the Britishers were not in the North East frontier of India, the term “Naga” would not be created even in 2019 A.D. Indeed, the word Tangkhul seems fade away in due course. Indeed, Tangkhul tribes of Manipur are not Nagas.

Tangkhul calling themselves Naga is like few Meetei linking themselves as the descendant of Arjuna, one of the protagonists in Mahabharat epic. History cannot be discovered or invented. Both the stories were concocted during 18th and 19th Century.

Before inventing new chapters on Naga, Tangkhul researchers must study Tangkhul Saram Pakhangba and Yek Salai of the tribe.

As per Linguistic and Anthropologist definition, of the term Naga, Tangkhul were not naked tribes. . Like the Meetei, Tangkhul forefathers have beautifully weave 10 patterns of cloths.

With the coming of Christian, the western writer and the Church preachers called those native people who follow the indigenous religion as “Haomi” (people of Hao). “Kameo” is the indigenous religion of the Tangkhul community. Just like Sanamahi of the Meetei.

To define religion for the people of Tangkhul was easy if the definition was to be given based on the Christian faith they have at present but to define it from the traditional religion the people had, was one tough thing. There was no god, there was no name to their religion, rather only the spirits which also vary from village to village.

Some Tangkhul scholars says that the Nagas have been in their present settlement (known as Nagalim- created lately after 1950s) since time immemorial. However, their own folklores do not support this theory. Tangkhul folklores tell us that they originated in Myanmar.

Origin of Tangkhul is vague and scholars from the same tribe gave different versions of their origin. Some connect them with the Valley, some give Hundung (near present Ukhrul town) and some Makhen in Senapati district of Manipur.

British sowed the seed for Fabricated history of Tangkhul

They further defend that British did not interfere with the affairs of the Nagas. This is completely wrong . Even the term “Naga” was attached with different tribes of Manipur by Christian preachers, anthropologist etc, with sole purpose of setting a theocratic land in the Northeast frontier of erstwhile British India.

British gifted the Tangkhul and other hill tribes “Christian”, “Naga” “Bible”, “Roman Script” and “Western Education” as early as 1890s, yet we regarded Tangkhul as under privileged tribes in the Indian Constitution. Tangkhul is the lost tribe of Manipur.

British left India in 1947, yet slavery is there in the form of religion. When the struggle for freedom was in full swing, a section of Christian occupied ideas started demanding continuation of British rule in their area (present day Kohima). Some British officers thus, put forth the idea of “Crown Colony” between Myanmar and India, comprising of Christianize tribes from both Countries.

Mount Japvo (3000 MSL), which is close to present day Manipur border in Nagaland and other associated mountain range are much higher than the the mountains of Manipur. When head hunters was the danger faced even by Britishers, how could the Tangkhul mixed with the tribes residing in Kohima, crossing the difficult Mount Javpo?

There was not a single reference to Tangkhul and Nagaland interaction till 20th Century. These high peak act as a “watershed” for the flow of Tangkhul staying in Ukhrul and Nagas staying in Kohima.

However, it is not wrong to say the tribes of Nagaland had done business and exchange cultural symbols with the plains of Assam since time immemorial. Same as the Meeteis have done with the Cacharis, Tripuris and Ahoms for more than 2000 years.

Some 10 years ago, before Th Muivah and Government of India have come together for a Ceasefire Agreement, the real Nagas from Nagaland regarded Tangkhuls an unwelcome guest and ruled out the possibility being a part of the Nagas. I am confident this political marriage will not be acceptable by the Nagas of Nagaland even today.

If Scholars and Political researchers are claiming tribes of Manipur (be it the Tangkhul, Kabui, Maram) have close unique history with the Nagas of Nagaland, where is the connecting link between them? I don’t find any missing links here, be it in terms of business, matrimonial, language or religion. This is why we called Tangkhul is the lost tribe in Manipur.

Lainingthou Sanamahi (The origin of soul) is worshiped by Tangkhul tribes in Manipur during Luira phanit festival as Ameo. Taibang Semba Mapu as Thuruikhong is kept in the house of Wungva or piba or chieftain or each clans.

In early days, important and most prosperous Tangkhul villages of Ukhrul, Tolloi, Ngaimu, Somdal, Tuinem and Phadang have business relationship with the Meetei in the valley.

Today, the cultural promotion group among the Tangkhuls are proud of their rich colourful dresses like the Haora (shawl) which they now called Naga Shawl.

While promoting the beautiful design and colours of Leirum phi, kairao phi, Lai phi, Longkhum Kasum, Sukham phi, Pordesum phi the group should not forget to mention the Meetei for providing those indigenous dyes used by the weavers of Tangkhuls. Maring Sangbai (Maring Basket), Tangkhul Leirum (Tangkhul Shawl), etc are the catch-words of the Meetei households and folklore.

Forgetting the roots

Distortion of words and terms to get a unique history is a blunder doing by the scholars nowadays. They want every Meetei name or termed to be abolished from the Tangkhul village to delink the age old history of Tangkhul in Manipur to represent themselves as Nagas. On the contrary, even today, one Tangkhul village can’t understand the dialects of another village in Manipur.

Many places and villages in the remotest Tangkhul region have Meetei names. To cite few, Jessami is Phundrak, Svemi is Chingjaroi, Ramvah is Lambui. If Meetei have not reached these villages, there won’t be any necessity of naming these place.

Many young Convent educated historian claimed that Manipur Kingdom was valley based only. British expand the map of Manipur to hills. The question is “Are Britishers Meetei king’s close relatives or friends”?

These Convent educated historian forget the ABC of British Colonial Imperialism. Those who talked of Manipur got the present Hill districts from British should know that the British Imperial never tolerated any independent authority which they thought obstacles in their rule.

When the Britisher who came as late as 1890s knows about the history of Manipur, why the Tangkhul and other communities who have been living in the land for many centuries didn’t understand the history of Manipur?

Modern Manipur was neither created after 1947 nor created by the British in 1830s. It had been there, ruled by valley based Kings, indeed, the longest dynasty to rule any kingdom in world history! British accepted the situation and the borders of Meetei Kingdom.

When Manipur was defeated in the Anglo Manipur war, Britishers posted an political resident as done in all principalities in their occupied Kingdoms. Thus Manipur was also included in British India. The hills of Manipur were in the territory of Meetei King and the King was under the British. If the Hills were outside the King’s authority, then it would be outside the British Empire.

In nearly every Tangkhul Village, the title “Khullakpa” was given to an officer for convenience of administration of village affairs. There is also an officer titled “Meetei Lambu” who knows the Meetei language more than other villagers.

Now, every tribes of Manipur who are proud to call themselves “Naga by Blood” must answer Where is Naga, what language does Naga speaks, What religion does Naga follows, how old is the political history of Naga?

If Tangkhul consider themselves as Naga, why there is not a single Tangkhul word in the Naga Nationalism? Why can’t the torchbearers of Southern Nagalim in Manipur unable to insert a single word in the political domain of Naga?

Tangkhuls and other tribes of Manipur were in their own world when the seed of Naga Nationalism was sown. They have no idea of a Naga movement until 1950s when A.Z.Phizo came to Manipur to gather soldiers for Naga National Council (NNC). When Naga boycotted the first Indian election in 1952, why Tangkhul send Shri Rishang Keishing as the first Lok Sabha MP from Manipur?

NNC itself is a united representatives of various Naga communites and symbols of each Naga are seen in the group. The Highest and must respected “Naga Parliament” came to be known as “Tatar Hoho” after the Sema, Lotha and Ao word for “Village elders” (tatar) and the Lotha and Sema word for Assembly ” Hoho”.

Rengma word for king or supreme head “Kedahge” was used for “President” of the Federal Government of Nagaland. The Yimchunger word for village Councillor was used to represent Ministers as “Kilonsers”.

If unable to give a reply, the best way is to embrace the traditional and native culture, religion and language which every proud community is following to promote their roots.

(C) Naorem Mohen
The Writer can be reached at Twitter @laimacha

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