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Preserving Manipuri Lol by Hill people

Meetei mayek topper promoting Manipuri lol

Meitei must be proud of our forefathers for gifting us Meitei Mayek and Meitei Lol. The modern Manipuri society which comprises different ethnicities must embrace the Manipuri lol to unite and connect among ourselves. The language which is spoken much earlier than 20,000 years is one of the oldest languages in the World.

Some lamented that Meiteilol/Meeteilol (Lon) has been replaced with Manipuri Lol. However, the Manipuri Nation requires a common language that is accepted by every community. When we talked of Meiteilol, we are limiting the language to one particular community. The language spoken by citizens of Manipur, the diaspora of Manipur must be called Manipuri language.

We are not discarding our Meitei lol when we use the term Manipuri. No one can take our language, rather we need to preserve the Manipuri lol. Just try to promote it, rather than lament. Starting today, when we buy goods from Thangal Keithel or Paona Keithel, why should we speak in Hindi?

The question is 30 years gone after the Manipuri language was included in the 8th Schedule of the Constitution. As the custodians of this language, how much effort we have made to preserve and promote it? Instead, we feel awkward to speak Manipuri in front of the public.

To preserve and promote Manipuri lol, we need to make a law where government employees – be it in the Administration, Hospitals, or any service providers must listen and converse in our mother tongue. These days, some doctors working in government hospitals cannot understand Manipuri, causing unnecessary harassment to the patient and their families. We should also converse in our Manipuri lol, rather than English or Hindi even in the Secretariat office.

It has become a civilized fashion to call Mummy, Daddy, Uncle, Aunty, Bhaya, Bhabhi, Bhai while addressing people. Even the Leikai are replaced with Lane 1, 2, etc. in almost every Municipal body. The trend is worrisome for many elite Manipuri who are settling in other Indian cities and abroad and have almost forgotten Manipuri lol.

The concept of starting online Manipuri language courses by the government or stakeholders will help them. The primary and high school level must have options for the promotion of Manipuri medium. Most parents craze to send their children to those English medium schools. Why can’t we encourage the Manipuri medium school to educate our future generations? At the University level, we need to make policies to promote the language and the Manipuri researchers.

From 1950 to 2010, more than 230 languages have gone extinct and our Manipuri lol is also categorized under the vulnerable classification by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

To add to this problem, some outfits in the hills are issuing diktat not to learn or use Manipuri Lol. The first wave of such talibanisation started in the remote places of Ukhrul districts in the late 90s and early period of 2000s when the demand for Southern Nagalim grew momentum.

Despite their hidden agendas, the people are still using the Manipuri language. A Tangkhul boy and a Chothe girl made news in the State when the Tangkhul boy named Wosoron Chingthu from Nagaram became the subject topper in Meetei Mayek in the High School Leaving Certificate Examination in 2016.

Chongnem Chothe, Elementary Maniipuri topper of HSLCE in 2016

Chongnem Chothe from Oinam Kabui Khul in Bishnupur district also topped the Elementary Manipuri (Roman script) in the said examination conducted by the Board of Secondary Education Manipur. The topper in an exclusive interview urges the students to promote Manipuri languages and excel in it to bring development in the region. She also said that she did not want to disregard her mother tongue. She loves the subject and opted for Elementary Manipur as she lacks fluency in the Meetei Mayek script.

The hill leaders of the past were the promoters of the Manipuri language. They have tried their best effort to preserve the language. On the 12th sitting of the Assembly First session of the First Manipur State Legislative Assembly in 1948, Tribal Administration Minister Major Bob Khathing informed the House to keep records like printing, countersignature, and language of petition in Manipuri language only.

The speaker and other members are of the opinion of keeping records in English as well. However, Bob Khathing supported his points by saying that whatever is written in Manipuri is good. If it has to be translated into English again, it will only show that our Manipuri language is yet not recognized.

The excerpt from the 14th sitting of the Assembly further showed how much importance the Manipuri language has been given by our elected representatives. When the Legislative Assembly Business Rules were passed by the Assembly, the then Education Minister Dr. Leiren Singh told the Speaker TC Tiankham to translate the Business Rules into Manipuri language. The reason was that most of the members did not know English.

A vote was done where 37 votes for and none against the proposal of translating Business Rules into Manipuri. In the same Assembly sitting, MK Shimray informed the House that the so-called Manipuri language of the day could not be understood as there were several Bengali words that they never studied. He also requested the House not to put the translation in such language.

The Speaker agreed and supported Mk Shimray’s suggestion and suggested the translator see into the matter as far as practicable not to use Bengali words while translating into Manipuri.

The 31st State Language Day was observed on 20th August 2022 with CM N Biren, MP Maharaja Leishemba Sanajaoba, and Education Minister Th Basanta Kumar Singh as dignitaries, pledging to preserve the Manipuri language. Under the leadership of CM N Biren, the present government is making an effort to seek the Manipuri language as the 7th Classical language of India.

While acknowledging the contributions of those unsung heroes who have dedicated their time and effort to the promotion of Meitei Mayek or Manipuri lol, we must remember the late CM, Yangmasho Shaiza. He is the one who resurrected the Meitei Mayek from obscurity. We are able to replace the Bengali script with our indigenous script due to Yangmasho Shaiza.

Let us promote our language and script. For this, let’s start with removing loan words from other cultures. And we must feel proud to speak Manipuri always!

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