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The question of survival

IFP Editorial: The values of genetic distance between the Meitei and other populations are consistent indicating that the genetic character of the Meitei is the average of the surrounding populations.

ByIFP Bureau

Updated 25 Oct 2022, 6:09 am

Representational Image (PHOTO: IFP)
Representational Image (PHOTO: IFP)

Nowadays, everyone seems to be talking about the survival thing. Yet, everyone has an opinion and a solution about it. With regard to the Meitei race, many panic buttons have been pressed in recent times. The favourite among them is the ‘Ani-Thokpi’ culture where there is lack of unanimity on almost every subject and this is often painted as a negative vibe.

Well, the opposite is ‘Hoi Laoba’ in which everyone follows the leader or the voice of the majority whatever be the consequences. This is simply not the case among the Meiteis. They always question the pros and cons of everything before forming an opinion. Whatever people say, we consider it as a manifestation of a sense of democratic spirit among the Meiteis.

Some other malaises cited with regard to the survival question of the Meiteis are imbalance between population pressure and land resources, lack of constitutional guarantees in terms of jobs and opportunities, inadequate mechanism to check influx from other states and neighbouring countries, drugs and corruption etc.

With regard to land resources, terms like ‘ancestral land’ and of Meiteis encroaching upon ‘tribal land’ have severally been quoted to press home politically induced narratives and demands as against the narrative of a shared historical experience among the different communities. Even the question of who really were the first indigenes in this part of the world have been thrown up.

According to archaeological evidence, the present Manipur valley was under water during the Quaternary period, and the earliest human settlements in the hills gradually extended downwards and to the valley over the centuries.

A successful response by the Meiteis to the challenge of draining a water-logged valley through a network of small waterways and their consequent transformation from food-gatherers and hunters to sedentary cultivators, eventually gave birth to their rich culture and distinctive way of life in 33 AD.

The valley was naturally the core region where a bigger and inclusive Manipuri culture and way of life also took shape later on.

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Among the Manipuris, the Meiteis form the largest ethnic group and they have traditionally inhabited the fertile valley region. The surrounding hill ranges are settled by many hill tribes. They are broadly grouped together and known as the Naga and Kuki tribes.

While the Meiteis thrive on wet cultivation, the tribal population subsists largely on the slash and burn technique of cultivation and depends heavily on the valley for their basic needs.

A binding interdependence between the hill and valley peoples have been detected not only by geo-political realities but also by genetic affinity between the Meitei and the surrounding tribes.

Recent findings in DNA mapping among the Meiteis and hill tribes have also reaffirmed genetic closeness of the Meitei with their tribal brethrens.

The most pertinent finding of interest is that the Meitei, the major community of Manipur occupies the central position of the other populations.

The values of genetic distance between the Meitei and other populations are consistent indicating that the genetic character of the Meitei is the average of the surrounding populations.

Manipur being situated on the crossroads of Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, has experienced racial migration in waves and streams passing through it since prehistoric times. By and large the people of this region belong to the Mongoloid race and speak different dialects of the Tibeto-Burman linguistic family.

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The people of Manipur, for the matter of convenience, may be classified into indigenous people and later immigrants.

Indigenous people of Manipur can be broadly divided into three major groups, such as the Meiteis, the largest group and two tribal groups, viz. the Kuki-Mizo and Naga. There are 33 scheduled tribes of these two groups.

While genetic studies have indicated South-east Asian origins among the tribal populace in the state, recent findings among the Meitei suggest an admixture of incoming Mongoloid groups with already existing proto-Australoid elements.

Further studies might throw more light on the origin theories of various communities inhabiting this state.

But, it has more or less been established by findings that the Meiteis had once upon a time inhabited the surrounding hills and had come down to the valley seeking fresh pastures and new ways of life. And, a larger and composite Meitei identity was forged out of the clans through a long historical process, and that many tribal elements from the hills and many streams of migrating people from both east and west naturally became a part of the cultural melting pot.

- EDITORIAL

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First published:

Tags:

meeteimeiteisancestral landtribal land

IFP Bureau

IFP Bureau

IMPHAL, Manipur

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