Halloween party ideas 2015

(With special reference to the Hmar tribe living in Tipaimukh Sub-Division of Churachandpur District, Manipur)

By:- Pu Zarzosang Varte
Research Scholar, NEHU.
INPUI Exclusive

Tipaimukh Sub-division (Latitudes: 24 degree. 13’ longitudes: 93 degree.3’) is composed of one block and has a total population of about 35, 500 with 53 villages. However, the area can be geographically also divided into two parts with the Barak River in the middle namely Vangai and Hmarbiel. Economically speaking, the two area are distinct in their own as Hmarbiel area is more economically advanced and is the area where the Block Headquarter is located with NH-150 running through it while the Vangai area have only inter-village roads with no bridge or roads connecting it with Hmarbiel and other areas making transport and communication much harder. Thus, relative socio-political and socio-economic isolation leading to slower development and lesser outside exposure can be seen in Vangai area.

Allow me now to delve into the past and present development scenario of the area. Before the Europeans came to that area or set up their trading post in Tipaimukh, the Hmars living in Tipaimukh had little or no contacts with the outside world except for random contacts with some Bengali traders or lumbers who were brave enough to venture into the area inhabited by headhunting ‘barbaric’ tribes always on the warpath or lurking in the shadows for any unwary strangers or enemies. Due to this isolation, the Hmars were however very independent with regards to their own needs. For the moment it will suffice to say that they were socio-culturally, socio-economically socio-politically self-reliant and independent all aspects of life from the indigenous knowledge point of view. The Hmars of this area first came into full contact with the outside world, in this case the British, around 1872, i.e. during the Mizo Expedition (1870-1872) carried out by the British Government and the setting up of the trading centre in Tipaimukh so as to subdue this war-like tribe and therefore make its frontier safe from their incessant raids on British subjects and the tea gardens in Cachar, Assam. After the fateful contact between the Hmars and the Englishmen, the second major contact with the outside world came in the form of Mr. Watkin Roberts, a Wales missionary who came to the area in 1910 to preach the Gospel of Christ to the ‘heathen’ tribals. For the Hmars, both major contacts with the outside world are both a blessing and curse. On the brighter side of things, the cultural contacts opened up a big new world for the Hmars in the form of economic, political and educational transmutation. The 20th and 21st century development has changed the life of the people by making them prone and addicted to the influence of our so-called development and modernity with the self-reliance of by-gone days an almost extinct element of this tribal society.

The hitherto closed world of the Hmars were not as exposed during the British rule as the British administrators did not actually want to annex the area which, according to them, does not offer much economic potentials. They just wanted to keep the volatile tribal out of their holdings in Cachar by bringing to them, through brute force and afterward by means of trade and commerce, the message that the British Raj is to be respected; that its properties are never to be disturbed again; that the British Raj is capable of going to any area of the world and defeat any foe it chooses to fight (Lewin, 1912). Even the missionaries did not do much to bring the Hmars to the outside world. They were content enough with the fact that the Gospel was preached and accepted by the people. All in all, the Europeans, even though they paved the way for future incursion of foreign elements into the Hmar life while they themselves left an impact on the Hmars, they were, as mentioned, not too concerned with the area and the people as long as the Hmars refrain from disturbing the peace in the frontier areas of British Cachar or as long as they were able to teach and spread the gospel of Christ among the ‘savages’ and this time, (unlike the usual fashion of many blame-masters) the full blame or genesis of the present situation cannot be poured only on the British administrators and Christian missionaries. Actually, the real impact, according to me, came only after the British left India. Before independence, when the Indian economy as a whole was near stagnant, the tribal areas were generally kept secluded and out of the normal process of administration and economic action. There was little infrastructure in the tribal areas. The character of the tribal policy of the British government was isolation of tribal people from the rest. Some of the British officers genuinely felt that left to themselves, the tribal people would remain a happier lot.

Actual planning in India, with regard to tribal areas, started only after Independence. Accordingly, it was decided to provide socio-economic and socio-political protection to the tribal communities in the constitution of India which came into force on 26th January, 1950. In the Indian constitution, several protective measures for the tribals were included. The development and welfare of the tribal communities have been the national goal and the special responsibility of the central and state governments and, steps have also been taken accordingly in this respect like setting up of tribal Development Block (T.D.B.) for the tribal communities in 1954, etc. The policy of tribal development has been specifically spelt out even by the first Prime Minister of India. In his own words: “We cannot allow matters to drift in the tribal areas or just not take interest in them…At the same time, we should avoid over-administering the areas and in particular, sending too many outsiders into their territory. It is between the two extreme positions that we have to function.” (Elwin, 1960:13). The task of tribal development has been defined as socio-economic development of the tribal people through integrated area development and other programmes that suits the socio-cultural and economic condition of the tribal people. In pursuance of this policy, the Government Tribal Development Programmes implemented by the government has been unceasingly implementing several development programmes in Tipaimukh area like Education, Medical, Social Welfare, Road and Building, Agriculture, Power and Water, Banking, Co-operative Societies, Poverty Alleviation programmes like NREP (National rural Employment Programmes), JRY (Jawahar Rozgar Yojana), PMRY (Prime Minister Rozgar Yojana), IAY (Indira Awaz Yojana), EAS (Employment Assurance Scheme), etc. Coupled with these development programmes, from the middle of the 20th century economic liberalization, modernity and globalization has been unleashing an onslaught in every nook and corner of the world. These factors are also a sine qua non part of tribal life everywhere.

During my fieldwork and occasional sojourns to Tipaimukh, I find that in spite of the various approaches and efforts towards tribal development the Hmars in this area are in fact a poorer and discounted lot ever than before. This condition is surprising as the most logical and appropriate thing to be seen should be a better, happier, richer and more independent after so much effort. So, one cannot help ask the question: “Is something wrong and if yes, when, where and why does something that have been apparently well-planned and implemented coupled with enough funds and manpower possibly go wrong; and what exactly is the level of dependency and impoverisation?”

Due to the policy of isolation of the British, the tribal people were rendered isolated from the mainstream and continued to be so, at least to an extent, after independence till today resulting in the ever increasing tribal segregation and gap in development between them and others. As a result of this isolation and exclusion of the tribals from the mainstream, even after the advent of development and modernization, the gap between the numerous Indian tribals who have been living in isolation or partial isolation from time immemorial and the people living in the valley who are politically and economically more powerful and often linked to national or international market and the people living in the hills who have been in relative deprivation, have grown bigger due to lack of infrastructure and other basic amenities for development. Many hill people still practice primitive modes of production and nomadic land use, for example, shifting cultivation, hunting and gathering with a village-based administration which does not extend beyond the community and have thus retained many social handicaps and economic hardships which set them apart from the mainstream or the more affluent society in the valley leading to further marginalization (Dena, 2006). Tripathy (2000) remarked; “The central issue to our mind is: Has the investment on tribal development in fact led to tribal development or has the money dried up in the pipeline, thanks to the political, bureaucratic and private intermediaries all along the line? …, the illiteracy rate, the isolation of the tribals, their poverty and simplicity combine to make them more vulnerable than other communities” (p: xiv). Thus, inter alia, de-isolating the tribals like the Hmars in Tipaimukh through intense implementation of development programmes among the tribals may seem to be the answer to minimize the gap in development. However, de-isolation through development, if sudden and improperly planned, can have a very degenerative repercussion.

Sudden introduction of an alien system among the Hmars without formal preparation or plan, random selection of the approaches, the sudden exposure to ways of the western world as a result of new and better infrastructures result in a completely new dimension of conflict between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ that threaten to break down and altogether destroy the very socio-cultural fabric of the Hmar society.

It can further be observed that the disintegration of tribal system of democracy and administration for the sake of ‘better governance’ in the line of ‘advanced’ democratic nation-state government led to the gradual marginalization and in the process, the destruction of other socio-cultural aspects of the tribal communities like the Hmars in India. Therefore, one cannot help but question the validity of democracy and development as the poor and the marginalized or, what the constitution of India call ‘weaker sections’, do not seem to be beneficiaries of development and democracy. Louis (2005) and Sharma (2005) argued that if tribal development programmes do not benefit and develop the Indian tribals anymore or if being the largest democracy in the world cannot teach us the way for a truly democratic tribal development, there is no validity in being a democratic state. To cement this argument, Sharma says: “will the planners beginning with the National Development Council at the apex down to the last functionary at the village level accept with grace the spirit of this vital change which is crucial not only for the welfare and advancement of the tribal people, but for the very survival of democracy in this country which claims to be the largest democracy of the world? The rest of the country, for a change, can learn a few lessons in democracy from the people in the wild” (Ibid; p: 154, Emphasis added). There is no point in carrying out any sustainable development programme for any community unless it is ensured that it is a programme based solely on the principle of for the people and of the people. Cultural loss as a result of a sudden cultural evolution due to culture-contact leads to a culture-shock with an often devastating effects. This is exactly what happens with the Hmars. If this is development, what do the Hmars gain in terms of life, and culture, even going along with a rootless economy of the dispossessed marginalized poor? If development is used as a tool for the preservation of tradition, it will simultaneously bring along development. However, it is often believed that tradition create hurdles or chains the society away from development (Shila, 2002). The tribal ways of life, especially the archaic form of egalitarian administration of justice and other justice related customary laws were completely discarded and overlooked by the government as primitive and not germane to the modern democratic ethos leading to the total demolition of the traditional system with which the tribals were acquainted and then to be replaced by a new, alien administration which the tribals are not adapted to follow. The breaking down of the hitherto strict tribal laws resulted in mystification and disarray creating the biggest hurdles for lasting peace and development.

Self-reliance, the key word for modernity and development is lost among the Hmars and many others as a result of development and the careless pumping of development funds along with the spoon-feeding trend adopted by many as the only way to care for the ‘hapless’ Hmars thus leading to the increase in the dependency syndrome which has become common the Hmars and in many tribal societies, if not all. This is a direct result of the disintegration and elimination of the close relationship of the tribals with their environment and tradition by shallow and short-sighted development programmes that are devoid of any cultural consideration. The article of self-reliance and confidence of the indigenous abilities got subsequently weakened resulting in the appearance of an incarcerated economy. The self-reliance of the Hmars in Tipaimukh has never been as low as it is now. In olden days, the Hmars hardly depended on others to do something which they themselves can do. They were able to meet almost every of their daily needs from the smallest to the biggest. They have their own technology, versatility and creativity that spring from their own vast source of indigenous knowledge system that enables them to create, produce and innovate. Their oneness with nature has been gradually destroyed by the invasion of many external elements. For instance, they were told that Jhuming have a negative impact on their environment and they should seek alternative means for their livelihood but without providing or educating the people on how these alternatives are to be obtained; they were told that they should go for modern accessories and modern education if they are to catch up with the rest of the outside world; telling them to let go of their traditional and customary laws and administration and instead follow the ‘modern’ and ‘democratic’ systems without however teaching the people on the pros and cons of these so-called transition from the ‘primitive’ to the ‘modern’. One very ironic and somewhat hilarious example of improper and blind development initiative is the pumping in of funds for setting up of a fishery in Parbung village where getting water for just cooking and washing is a nightmare for many. There is no water supply system and the only water source is a small mountain spring where, in winter time, people need to get up at around 2:00 or 3:00 AM and await their turns for hours to fill their pots and sometimes need to come back empty-handed as the water in the spring has dried up. A fishery in such a place is therefore simply unbelievable. Surely, there will definitely be other things the people need more than fisheries while they themselves have barely enough to drink, wash and cook! Hence, in actuality, the Hmars were, in a sense, much better off in life and economy before they became corrupted and invaded with new ideas and technology such as the above and that too sans the proper knowledge, preparation and infrastructural facilities needed to attain them. They are now in a dilemma - not sure which way to go and are therefore the general public, excluding the few who feed on the ignorance of others, generally distrustful of new ideas. Consequently, instead of progressing and catching up with the mainstream, they are filled with dread and lack of confidence amounting to hyper inferiority complex coupled with a general feeling of incapability when it comes to facing things outside their villages or areas. In short, their fear of the unknown has been magnified due to lack of confidence nurtured by the gradual disintegration of their socio-cultural life by so-called ‘modern’ ways of living. Moreover, due to the onslaught of all these modern elements, the Hmars in Tipaimukh has somehow got wise to the ways and vices which previously were found only mostly in big concrete jungles called cities and are now sullied with all the formulae of sophisticated corruption, cheatings and easy living resulting in the increase in overt and covert negative elements that threaten to altogether annihilate their society which hitherto was known for its honesty, contentedness, humility, altruism, sense of community feelings and trustworthiness. All these hay-wired results of so-called modernity and development are due to shortsighted and wanton disregard for the Hmars’ distinct socio-cultural, economic-political and geo-physical setup and the sudden invasive ideas that pay or accord little value to traditional and cultural values - elements that forms the basis of world societies. If this trend continues, the tribals will someday come out in the street openly and demand a separate administration altogether. Thus, as Horam (2006) puts it: “if the government does not rectify the mistake as early as possible, there will come a day when a most unexpected but strongest protest will come from the usually simple and tolerant tribal people” (p: 4, Emphasis added).

Sophistication is disaster in itself if it is devoid of elements of human societies and the values attached to them.

Thus, inter alia, the key to a better life for the Hmars is nothing but recognition of their cultural and traditional values and their diverse applicability to contemporary systems, grass-root mobilization and involvement. In order to foster a meaningful and sustainable pattern of rural development among the Hmars and other tribals, certain existential realities are to be noted in its historical context. Without understanding the ethos of community practices and traditional skill and patterns of livelihood and occupation and other indigenous-based knowledge systems; continuation of the underestimation of the time and effort their tradition requires for proper evolution, any efforts in modernization- be it infrastructures like educational institutions, health centers, roads and communication, dams or any development initiatives imposed upon the Hmars or other tribal societies are bound to have half-hearted if not badly distorted results in the form of further marginalization and impoverisation. As a concluding remark, let me quote Sahu (2004): “As the benefits of governmental policies and programmes are being questioned and there is rising awareness that the conventional model of development and growth have worked in favour of the rich and powerful. Therefore, the need is “problem based interventions” rather than “solution based” thinking. In order to overcome the weaknesses of the rural development programme, it is necessary to decentralize the developmental process. This will lead to greater participation of women and will also increase accountability on the part of the authorities. The conventional world of social development has been slow in recognizing the significance of indigenous knowledge. Experts have been very much disinclined in appreciating the vast storehouse of indigenous knowledge systems. Local knowledge repossession and local knowledge management has been a major omission in our conventional pursuits of development goals and activates. This has resulted in local communities appearing as a bundle of problems, rather than as plethora of opportunities. Therefore, we watch the feverish and obsessive doings of the technocrats who design solutions before having identified where the real problem lies” (P: 295).


Dena, Lal. 2006. Historical Perspectives of the Process of Marginalization: A study of the hill peoples’ experience in Manipur. Paper presented at a Seminar on The Marginalized Indigenous Hill People in Manipur: Problems and Options, 2006. New Delhi: Sinlung Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights Organization (SIPHRO) & Zomi Human Rights Foundation (ZHRF).

Elwin, Verrier (ed). 1960. Report of the committee on Special Multi-Purpose Blocks. New Delhi: Ministry of Home Affairs.

Horam, V. R. 2006. Manipur Government’s Policies Are Discriminatory to the Tribals. Imphal: Manipur Online.


Lewin, H. Thomas. 1912. A Fly on the Wheel: How I Helped Govern India. Aizawl: Directorate of Research and Tribal Development. (Reprinted: 1977).

Louis, Prakash. 2005. Development, Democracy and Governance: Scheduled Marginalization of the Tribals. In Joseph Bara (Ed) Ordeals and Voices of the Indigenous Tribal People of India. Guwahati: Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, North East Zone.

Pudaite, R. 1963. The Education of the Hmar People. Indo- Burma Pioneer Mission. Sielmat.

Sahu, B.P. 2004. Rural Development: A Vision that failed the mission. In B. Datta Ray, Gurudas das (eds) Dimensions of Rural Development in North-East India. New Delhi: Akansha Publishing House.

Sharma, B.D. 2005. Post-Independence Policies of Tribal Development in India: A Critical Appraisal with Special Reference to “Sub-Plan Strategy”. In Joseph Bara (Ed) Ordeals and Voices of the Indigenous Tribal People of India. Guwahati: Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, North East Zone.

Shila, Sukham. 2002. Tradition Vs Development.


Tripathy, S.N. 2000. Glimpses of Tribal Development. New Delhi: Discovery Publishing House.

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