Advantages and disadvantages of impact of Christianity and Western culture among the Kukis with special reference to the Vaiphei tribe in Manipur

    31-Jul-2019
 Dr Henna Vaiphei
Contd from previous issue
Education : In pre-Christian era, the Vaipheis were leading a nomadic life and they were not better than the nomadic people in the primitive age. They were busy only for food and shelter, working day and night throughout their life.  There was no educational institution in the Vaipheis inhabited areas both in Chin-Hills of Myanmar and North East India till the English reached their soils. It was only with the hard work and initiative of English missionaries along with newly converted Christian Vaipheis, educational institutions at the elementary stage were set up in certain Vaipheis villages. Priority was given to education by the English missionaries just to facilitate the spread and understanding of Christianity.  Pu Thangkai and Pu Zangneng were the first Vaipheis who procured education under the English missionaries. Realising and experiencing the advantages of education, these two men went to Mizoram to get education in 1907. Pu Thangkai was from Bualtang village and Pu Zangneng was from Maite village.  In the beginning of the year 1908, Pu Lungpau accompanied the two boys Pu Thangkai and Pu Zangneng who came home during winter break, to Mizoram for studying in the mission school. In 1910, Pu Thangkai and Pu Zangneng passed class-II and became the first Vaipheis to pass class-II. In 1911, after completing the primary education, Pu Thangkai opened a School in his village Bualtang which became the first modern educational institution for the Vaipheis in their history and Pu Thangkai can be rightly given the title „The Father of Modern Education  among the Vaipheis. It is said that the Vaiphei Alphabet of Roman scripts was invented in 1912 by Watkin Roberts an English missionary with the help of Pu. Thangkai, Pu Lungpau, Pu Manghen, Rev. Lorrain and Rev. Savidge. The motive behind inventing Vaiphei Alphabet was to enable the Vaipheis to translate the Bible in their own dialect. As a result, a Bible quizzes ‘Bible thu kisang’ was published in 1913. Later in 1916, the Gospel of St. John was translated from Lushai langue to Vaiphei dialect and was published with the efforts of Watkin Roberts at the B.S.I. Press in Calcutta in 1917. This became the first book in Vaiphei dialect in the history of the Vaipheis. Thus it was Watkin Roberts who not only invented the Vaiphei Alphabet, but developed the literature of the Vaipheis. Watkin Roberts did not develop only Christian cultures and ethics but also promoted the spirit of education and literature with which the Vaipheis are able to take Vaiphei Dialect as MIL in Manipur Board Exams up to class twelve today.
In the field of education, the Vaipheis stood next to the Thadou-Kuki tribe among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups and were termed as the pioneer in Christianity and Education in the southern hills of Manipur. In 1968, Pu Kaikhogin Vaiphei of Kangvai village got IPS and IFS under UPSC in the same year and became the first IFS among the Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups in Manipur. Today around 30-40% of the Vaipheis left agriculture for their livelihood and many of them served in different posts under the State and central Governments. Many Vaipheis are engaged in business by running Pharmacies, Shops, Private schools, Vehicles etc. Though it may not be proper to give credit only to Christianity for the all round development of the Vaipheis to their present stage, it is Christianity which inserted the light of education and modernisation among the Vaipheis. 
Position of women
Of the different aspects of transformation brought by Christianity, transformation on the status of women is one of the most important aspects. With the coming of Christianity, Vaipheis realized the futility of violent treatment to women and began to recognize the valuable role of women for the all round development of society. Gradually, the mindset of men looking down upon women began to disappear. In the family, parents began giving indiscriminate treatment to their wards. Preference is no more given to only male children as in the past. In the field of education, the performance of girls is sometimes much better than boys in the Vaipheis society. Today, many women are pursuing higher education under different Universities throughout India and some of them are working as government employees in different departments both in the central and state. Besides, many Vaiphei women are able to obtain Degrees and Doctorates in different streams and become first class officers under the central and state governments. This is the result of giving equal treatment to both sexes in the family, locality and society at large in modern society. Parents had no more option in giving importance to only male children. Instead, in some families, girls are given more care than boys.
In the field of manual labour, many parents considered that no work is particularly associated with men or women and began assigning equal works to all their wards without showing discrimination on the basis sex. Today, in many Vaiphei families, one can see boys performing household works like, cooking, fetching water, moping floor, washing clothes and dishes etc, which are considered as the works associated only to women in the past.   In the field of religion, no woman is restricted to perform any activities related to religion in today’s society. This is another freedom endowed to women by Christianity. So, many women Missionaries and Pastors   are mushrooming and some women have started separate missions of their own and run them independently. No harassment is meted out to woman in practicing any religion she chooses. Women participation in politics is no more restricted as in the past. Many women today choose politics to be their career and are actively involved in it. Sometimes, women contested elections from local to state level. In many social institutions of the Vaiphei society, women are elected as member or head sometimes.
In the past, women were subjected to remain simply under the supervision of men-folk, but today, in many social institutions, they are the administrators and their decisions are implemented and followed by the men-folk. Women also participate in all important decision making in the family.  In certain cases, no decision can be taken in the family without the consent of the mother. This signified that equality is penetrating in the family affairs and father could not dictate his family as he did in the past. Free movement of women is not much restricted today. Women can go out from home freely as the boys did. In many villages, women are leading in various fields, such as sports, education and particularly in religious affairs. The performance of women in church is much higher and better than men. Women are very active in church activities and the number of attendance in every church during worship services is much higher than men and it may not be wrong to say that the success of every church depends mostly due to the performance of women. 
On the other hand, it is disheartening to learn that in spite of the magnificent transformations ensued by Christianity; the Vaipheis still stick to certain cultures which directly affected the constitutional rights and freedom of the women. Right to inheritance of property is still enjoyed by the men-folk alone and women have no share at all. The property of the family, who has no son, is inherited by the head of the clan closes to it. Besides, a woman who has no children returns to her parental home when her husband dies. A woman also can be divorced at any time by her husband or the family of her husband without proper reason. Domestic violence and subjugation upon women is still seen in the society, mostly in hill areas. Sometimes, women were harassed just to appease the mother-in-law by the husbands. The gender-based exclusion prevailing in the Vaiphei society is mainly based on the cultural practices and social norms adopted by this community since time immemorial. In pre-Christian era, exclusion of women was accepted by the women themselves as it was an important culture for the community of that time. It is the culture that mainly restricted the freedom of women from pre to post Christian era. Division on the basis of sex is still lingering and always a challenge to the Vaiphei society.
To be contd