The Role Of Manipuri Women In Administration
- Part 2 -

Pangambam Bharat Singh *

The First Nupi Lal 1904 (Women agitation against british - From a painting from RKCS Art Gallery
The First Nupi Lal 1904 (Women agitation against british) - From a painting from RKCS Art Gallery
These images CANNOT be reproduced in any form or size without written permission from the RKCS Gallery

First Nupilal (1904)

Manipur was under the British Government from 27th April 1891. The great grandson of Maharaja Nara Singh Minor Churachand Singh was appointed as King of Manipur by the British Government on 13th September 1892.

But the administration of the kingdom was performed by Major Maxwel, the then political agent before attaining the majority of the new king women were unhappy to the new British administration. When the Bunglow of the Assistant Political Agent was burnt by some unknown persons at night in 1904 the British Government issued orders for re-construction of the said Bungalow by donating money all kind from the people of Imphal.

The orders of the Government was challenged by the women folk and demanded for cancellation of the said orders. Lastly, the orders was cancelled by the Government. This is known as the first Nupilal in the history of Manipur. The role played by the Manipuri women against the British Administration during the said period is praiseworthy.

Second Nupilal (1939)

During October - November, 1939 the price of rice and paddy was suddenly increased due to less production of paddy due to drought in previous year and also export of rice by the businessmen stationed at Imphal Khwairamband bazar outside the state. The price of one sangbai of paddy was Rupees one only from half of one Rupee called Makhai. Lastly the increased price reached upto Rupees seven which was too high. It had severely affected the people.

Reaction to such situation, women fold particularly women vendors of Khwairamband bazar, Moirangkhom bazar, Police line, Singjamei bazar, Heirangoithong bazar, Kongba bazar, Lamlong bazar, Tera Keithel bazar and Kwakeithel bazar launched agitation for stopping the export of rice outside the State.

Stoppage of two rice mills of Kasturichand Patni and Thangjam Tolchou Singh perated during the period and reduction of price of paddy and rice immediately. Along with stocking rice for the common people who could not effort to purchase the rice at the increased rate due to poverty.

The main part of the agitation was played by the women vendors of "Sana Keithel" known as Khwairamband Keithel, Police Line Keithel (Yaiskul), Singjamei Keithel and Heirangoithong Keithel. they stopped the bullockcarts with paddy for supplying to the businessmen of Khwairamband Keithel by stationing in their respective vendors at night.

They approached Mr. Jimson, the then political agent of Manipur for fulfilling their demands. The Political Agent himself went to the rice mills along with the women agitators and stopped the rice mills.

The Political Agent told the agitators that he could not prevent the export of rice outside the State without the approval of the Maharaja who was at Nabadwip at that time.

Then, the agitators went to the office of the State Durbar for meeting the Durbar Members for the same cause. They insisted Mr. T.A. Sharp, Assistant Political Agent (President, Manipur State Durbar) to send telegramme to the Maharaja. Later on they brought him to the Telegraph office forcibly and a telegramme was sent but reply from the Maharaja could not be received.

When the Telegraph office was cordoned by the agitators, the Assam Rifles personnels in full uniform with arms guarded the Telegraph office. Suddenly the doors, walls and windows of the Telegraph office were broken due to pelting of stones from unknown persons. The angry Assam Rifles Personnels charged the women agitators with bayonet and some of them injured seriously. Then all the agitators challenged the Assam Rifles.

Then, the agitators continued by the "Praja Samelalni" a Political front of the Nikhil Manipuri Mahasava at Imphal Police Line Keithel. They discussed the matter in the meeting held on daily affair in the evening near the Police Line Keithel. They were very angry for injuring the women agitators and for not fulfilling their other demands. Mr. Jimson, the then Political Agent issued orders for stopping the export of rice outside the State on 13/12/1939.

The leaders of the said Nupilal were
1) Bamon Chaobiton Devi
2) Loitam ongbi Tombimacha Devi
3) Khambi Devi
4) Mongjam Ibemhal Devi
5) Wahengbam ongbi Tongou Devi and
6) Kaboklei Achoubi Devi.

The list of injured women were the followings :-
1) Khumukcham ongbi Yaimabi Devi (Injured on forehead)
2) Bachaspatimayum Sakhi Devi, Khagempalli
3) Nongthombam Ningol Ngangbam ongbi Angangjaobi, Wangkhei Khunou
4) Khundrakpam ongbi Chaobi Devi, Khagempalli
5) Lairikyengbam ongbi Chaobi Devi, Lairikyengbam Leikai
6) Khaidem ongbi Tolhaibi Devi, Nanbam Chuthek
7) Sougrakpam ongbi Thambal Devi, Tera Keithel
8) Gurumayum Pishak Devi, Khongman Mangjil
9) Seram ongbi Pishak Devi, Checkon
10) Sougrakpam Ningol Amubi Devi, Liwa Pukhri Mapal
11) Kshetrimayum ongbi Anou Devi, Kshetri Leikai
12) Leihaothabam ongbi Ibempishak Devi,, Nongmeibung
13) Naorem ongbi Thonu, Heirangoithong etc.

The Praja Samelani was led by Hijam Irabot Singh. When he was arrested and kept in jail for three years after proper trial, the agitation was slow down day by day.

The first Nupi Lal was agitation against unjustified orders of the Government while the Second Nupilal was agitation against scarcity of food poverty and bad economic condition of the State. These agitations might or might not be treated as a part of Indian Independence movement. However, these agitations were important chapters in the Indian freedom movement.

These movements will be treated as red letter day in the Political history of Manipur and the country.

To be continued...

* Pangambam Bharat Singh, IAS (Retd.) wrote this article as part of the "Manipur Today" - Published by DIPR on Khongjom Day 2013
This article was posted on May 22, 2013 and later updated on May 27 with a date correction.

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