Recalling Christopher Gimson’s visit to Longa Koireng village

 -Yangsorang Rongreisek
Contd from previous issue
In the meantime, words reached the villagers of the area including four or five villages in the valley that a Whiteman in the person of Christopher Gimson, I.C.S., the Political Agent in Manipur would be visiting Longa Koireng Village to make survey of the area. (Gimson was a tall Batsman who spent most of his career in Manipur, eventually becoming Political Agent in 1933. He retired in 1947 to return to Leicester, London where he died in 1975). All arrangements were made to ensure that nothing ugly happened in the reception of the political agent and his entourage. The entire village was fully prepared to greet the foreign guest in a befitting manner. Perhaps, it was the first event for them to receive an Englishman. A hut was raised at the outskirt of the village for the visiting dignitary all haphazardly.
The Political Agent really showed up on the 13th February, 1940 in the midst of unlettered villagers. Oldies told this writer in the early 1970s that only one of them was able to read and write some Manipuri in the 1940s.  Villagers thronged the hut to have a glimpse of him. The British Officer travelled on horseback without any security guards. He was accompanied by four Muslim Kangshuman (Cooks) and some porters. It is said that a big mithun was killed in his honour and villagers of Longa Koireng area feasted with him on plantain leaves. He could converge with the villagers in Manipuri without the help of interpreters. The welcome the village folks accorded to the political agent might have been dramatic, seventy-nine years ago. After a night halt, at dawn, he called the village functionaries out for a walk involving a hazardous trip on the 14th February, 1940 but it was a matter of habit for the Englishman to walk for miles and miles. He climbed a hill, south-west of Longa Koireng village to make an on the spot inquiry of the area. A rugged foot-path led to the hill-top called Saptongbi (named after him) wherefrom he could see the whole Imphal valley and a portion of Loktak Lake. For him, it was like an outing after trekking for hours across the grassy slopes of the hills.
Scratching a blank paper in ink-pen at the hill-top, he passed an order after demarcating the boundary of Longa Koireng Village Land. Thus, “I have seen all the places concerned from the top of a hill between the Leinganglok and the Sajilok. This case concerns the boundaries of Yonga Koireng and Maha Koireng and the right to thatch grass within these boundaries. Maha Koireng is supported by Senam Khaitong and Senam Jolhol, but those Villages have no Locus-Standii in the case. In H.M.No.560 of 1925-Mr.Weightman passed clear orders that the land between the Lokchao and the Sajilok belonged to Yonga Koireng, but that 7 other villages had a right to cultivate there without paying lousal. I have little doubt that at some time previous some of this land belonged to Maha Koireng: but Maha Koireng ceases to exist here before the Kuki Rebellion. It tried to re-establish itself some years later, but never really succeeded and now had only one house. For this reason, it needs the backing of the Kukis of Senam Khaitong and Senam Jolhol, who have no claim at all to the land beyond a right of cultivation free of lousal. Mr.Weightman’s order is, therefore, perfectly correct and Mr. Sharpe was right to follow it. My “Obitter Dictum” in Appeal No.41 of 1934, which concerned different villages has no authority and in any case was not an order. Even though the land was recognised as being within Yonga Koireng’s boundary, he saw no reason why the State should not claim the right to the thatch Mahal which was sold by the Hillmen to the Manipuris of the neighbouring villages. If the state sold it by auction, it would be necessary to leave enough to the hill villagers for their personal use (C.Gimson, I.C.S., Political Agent in Manipur 14-02-1940 Camp:-Yonga Koireng, Memo No.3313/Hill Dated, Imphal, the 8th March, 1940).
Since the year 1940, nearly 1/3rd of the Longa Koireng Village Land had been reserved by the State of Manipur. The reserved land is known as Longa Koireng Grass Mahal. The National Highway No.37 covering around 8 Kms runs inside the boundary of the village land. And the highway is going to become the most important lifeline for the people of Manipur when it is upgraded to four lanes. In addition, the Tarapur Railway Station at Silchar has also been upgraded to a major railway station. Sometimes till today, traders and passengers travelling from Imphal to Silchar take the shortcut by passing through Longa Koireng Village even if the road condition is highly deplorable, steep and narrow--not fit for heavy vehicles to ply on it.
This writer, in his write-up published in The Sangai Express on 5 October, 2005, suggested that the village still with wide landscape stretching from Thangjing Chiru to New Keithelmanbi would be a better location for a Sub-Divisional Headquarters under the control of the Additional Deputy Commissioner of the erstwhile Sadar Hills. Longa Koireng is the most convenient place as it also lies in between Dolang Khunou and Leimakhong.
At the same time, the location is very close to the state capital. Halfway up a hill south-west of the village on the highway in between Kotlen and New Keithelmanbi, there is a scenic beauty called Plain View. From this spot, one can have the full view of Imphal valley. This writer mentioned this also in the same write-up that the state govt of Manipur could construct a tourist home at that spot. Fortunately, Shri T.N.Haokip happened to be the Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Govt of Manipur in 2012, and he was all the more keen enough to award a tourist home to the villagers of Longa Koireng area to be constructed within its boundary. The villagers viewed his keenness as a good gesture. Three years later in 2015, the Department of Tourism, Govt of Manipur started construction of an Integrated Tourist Circuit on the bank of Longa Koireng River in collaboration with the Manipur Development Society (MDS) under the supervision of Executive Engineer, Shri Munthuijir Sialloa Aimol. Construction of the circuit has been completed, but the well-built circuit is yet to be inaugurated, and it is only a km away to the south-west of the now flourishing Sangaithel Park in Imphal West.
The village, which had been visited by dignitaries such as  His Highness Maharaja Bodha Chandra in 1949 and 51, the Great Patriot Jana Neta Irawat in 1950, Shri Rishang Keishing, former MP & Chief Minister in 1952 and 62, Shri Rungsung Suisa, former MP of Lok Sabha in 1957, Shri Mairembam Koireng Singh, former Chief Minister & Shri Baleshwar Prasad, former Chief Commissioner of Manipur in 1967, Shri Paokai Haokip, former MP of Lok Sabha in 1967 & 1972, Shri N.Tombi Singh, former Education Minister of Manipur & MP of Lok Sabha in 1969, National Prof.B.K.Roy Burman, Renowned Anthropologist and Social Scientist who stoutly opposed the imposition of AFSPA in Manipur in 1975, Mohammed Alimuddin , former Chief Minister, later Finance Minister of Manipur in 1978, Prof. Gangmumei Kamei, former Minister of Hr.Education and Forest of Manipur in 1975, 1981 & 1988, Shri Gaikhangam, former Dy.CM of Manipur in 1989 and 2016, Shri R.K.Jaichandra Singh, former CM of Manipur & Shri Soso Lorho, former Health Minister of Manipur in 1989, Dr.Ram Dayal Munda, former Vice Chancellor of Ranchi University & Dr.Masangthei Horam, former Chairman of Hill Areas Committee of LA of Manipur in 1990, His Highness Meidingu Leishemba Sanajaoba in 2001 and Shri O.Ibobi Singh, former CM of Manipur in 2016, remains backward with very poor infrastructural facilities.
Besides, Earth Scientists and Geologists had visited the village during land depression which took place in 1989.
To conclude, except for an Integrated Tourist Circuit constructed on the bank of Longa Koireng River, no other progress has been visible in the village. The villagers have been demanding for opening of a Primary Health Sub-Centre in the village for more than forty years now. Every visiting former chief ministers of Manipur assured them of a medical facility for the village but it is still a pipe dream for the villagers to see one such facility for them. The inhabitants have sustained to survive with no basic amenities available for them. They have suffered a lot having no political and bureaucratic backing in the state. Opening of such a health sub-centre is their long cherished demand. So, this time at least, let them see the light of the day by the grace of the present govt led by Shri Nongthombam Biren Singh who is known for cementing Hill-Valley Connection.
The writer can be reached at yangsorang [email protected]