Dr TS Gangte: The pioneer of higher education in the hills of Manipur

Ngam S Gangte & Ngamgousiem K Gangte
Far from the madding crowd who played political one-upmanship at the expense of the innocent public and amidst the mad race for self gratification, swayed and overwhelmed by egocentrism, there shone a man, an agent of light, with vision and panache – who revolutionised higher education in the hills of Manipur and who preached unity among all communities of Manipur. British statesman and politician Benjamin Disreali once said that “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” This famous saying aptly describes Dr TS Gangte. He left us a name, which we try to honour by living a life of integrity. He also left us with the inheritance of great example.
Thangkhomang Selpho Gangte, fondly called “Mangcha”, and better known as Dr. T.S Gangte, MA, Ph D was born to (L) Lalzalien Gangte and Mrs. Thangkhonieng on November 30, 1932. Dr TS Gangte was an author, academician, educationist and a mentor. He was passionate about educating people. He had his early schooling upto Class VI at ME School in Ukhrul before and after the World War-II. He completed his matriculation from Johnstone High School, Imphal in 1954. He graduated from St. Anthony’s College, Shillong in 1959 and obtained his Master’s degree in Sociology from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi in 1963. He was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy in 1990 by the Anthropology Department, Calcutta University, West Bengal. Dr TS Gangte was the founder Chairman of Council of Higher Secondary Education, Manipur; Director of Education (University and Higher Education); Chairman of Board of Secondary Education, Manipur; Founder Principal, Churachandpur Govt College - the first college in tribal areas of Manipur; Headmaster of Gandhi Memorial High School, Molnom, Ccpur.
A Fulbright scholar for the study of Higher Education System in the United States, Dr TS Gangte had travelled extensively to Los Angeles, New Mexico, Orlando, New Carolina, South Carolina, Louisville, Washington and New York. He also attended international academic conferences in Mexico City, London, USA and Frankfurt. Besides, he represented India in the World Conference for Peace at Copenhagen, Moscow and Athens in 1986 and 2000 and travelled to London, Paris and Madrid in 1990 to attend World Congress of Sociology.
Apart from these, Dr Gangte’s magnum opus ‘The Kukis of Manipur’ (1991) is a highly acclaimed book in the aura of national as well as international scholastic circle. He also contributed several papers in International, National and State level seminars besides contributing well-researched articles and write-ups on contemporary issues of the State and ethnicity in esteemed daily newspapers of the State and journal of national repute. To his credit, he also came out with another analytical book, ‘Nehru and the North East India,’ (1993) which received wide admiration and appreciation from the academic sphere. He was married to Lhingjaneng Sitlhou (Ex-MLA and the first tribal Padmashree awardee) and Priyadarshni Maisnam (Tingneihhoih). He had four children – Mr. (L) Lienchungnung Gangte M.A Senior Lecturer (History – HOD) Churachandpur Government College, Churachandpur; Mrs. Niengpichong M.A, M.Phil (JNU); Mrs. Hatneikim, Manager, SBI, Dimapur and Mr. Thanglienlal Gangte MBA (Mktg.) Product Manager, Toshiba India.
In 1964, under many social, political and financial difficulties he founded the Churachandpur College. After the Churachandpur College was recognised and absorbed into mainstream Government institution of the State, Mangcha was promoted to the post of Director of Education (U), Government of Manipur. Later, he became the Founder Chairman of Council of Higher Secondary School, Manipur.
Since 2008, the Manipur University, Canchipur, Imphal, Manipur has awarded meritorious Anthropology students with the Dr. T S Gangte Gold Medal Award for excellence in the subject. Dr Gangte was a learned man; a man of high calibre, an erudite scholar, one of Manipur’s finest academicians and educationists, a passionate teacher, a prolific writer, a pioneer of higher education among the people of Manipur and held various responsible and administrative positions during his lifetime. He touched the hearts and minds of the people through his altruistic deeds. He has the moral fibre to be a true leader in multi-ethnic places like ours. His life, zeal and enthusiasm in revolutionising higher education and his establishment of Churachandpur Govt College is a saga worth recollecting, retold and of course revering. His manoeuvre in setting up a higher learning centre at the heart of the Babel of tongues that is Churachandpur is awe-inspiring.
An Educationist: He was a true visionary whose mission was to revive and enlighten the various tribal people by bringing higher education at their doorstep. True to his principle of bringing social enlightenment and preservation of peace through education, Dr TS Gangte, with firm determinations, had painstakingly tried to stump out ignorance and illuminate the ignorant tribal minds by providing them better education. He succeeded in establishing Churachandpur College and that too with excellence in imparting college education to the potential youths.
Not only being the first college in the hill areas of Manipur, the college has now enjoyed the reputation of being the best college under Manipur University. The number of high and mid level officers, religious leaders, scholars, academicians and valuable citizens produced by the college every year since its inception speaks aloud for itself. Dr TS Gangte was also instrumental in setting up Moreh College, Moreh; Maram College; Bethany Christian Higher Secondary School, Ccpur and Rayburn College, Ccpur. How he enriched and transformed human lives through these educational institutions will remain an inspiration for generations to come. He had simply rejected the lure of a respectable Indian Audit and Account Service (IAAS) to render his service to his people as an educationist. Indeed it is very rare for one to surrender and forfeit the prestigious IAAS for the sake of his people whom he considered in need of a good higher educational institute and was very clear that he would be able to render better and yeomen service.
Champion of Unity: He was a staunch proponent of hill-valley unity and harmony among all communities. More importantly, in his effort to foster unity among all communities of the State and weave the social fabric, often frayed by distrust, division, exclusion and of course ethnic aspiration, Dr. Gangte, as a true son of the soil, championed and defended unity and peaceful coexistence of all communities. His role as a peacemaker when ethnic aspiration and fissures had threatened to tear apart the State was worth remembering and celebrating. He was a man who stood for the preservation of the unity and integrity of the State. His open-mindedness and love of peace, for instance, was manifested when he involved people from all communities of the town in the setting up of the Churachandpur College, as is evident from the composition of the College’s first governing body.
A Mentor: Though providing jobs to deserving youth of his time was beyond his capacity, he motivated, inspired and groomed many youths to face challenges confronting them. Anyone who approached him for help never returned empty handed. As was evidence, he groomed many unemployed youths of his time to suit various vacant government posts. It however does not mean that he misused his office or exploited the disadvantaged lots for personal gains. Through motivation and proper guidance from him, many individuals overcame challenges. It was only that he had a heart that he helped many of his people.
During his lifetime, Dr TS Gangte mentored hundreds of youths. Like a true father, the well-being of his people politically, socially was his main concern. He remained guarded against anything that could threaten or harm the existence of his people. In the words of Prof Lokendra Arambam, “TS Gangte never flinched in matters of his community’s interests, that he showed sterling qualities of resilience and ability to stand by what he considers was right in the midst of crisis. It is a sad reflection of the social and political scene in Manipur that cut-throat power games in the subterranean life-worlds of men rule the behaviour and conduct of politicians and TS Gangte was no subscriber to the game.” By the same measure he would have fought against the subjugation of his people. It was his firm resolute to protect the Gangte identity at any cost that made him all the more immortal at critical and tumultuous phase of the tribe’s history.
Honour: Besides his other achievements and accomplishments during his lifetime, Dr TS Gangte was aptly revered/honoured with the title ‘Father of the Gangtes’ by the then Gangte Youth Association in June 1997 without any prejudice, considering the pioneer work he has brought. It will not be an exaggeration that he was the one who brought about particularly in ‘the renaissance of education’ particularly among the tribal populace in particular and the state, in general. According to KSJ Gangte, the then president of GYA, ‘Father of the Gangtes’ title was given to him not in any sense or considerations otherwise but only on the ground that he was considered the driving force behind the protection and welfare of his tribesmen, the Gangtes. As Shannon L Alder said, Dr Gangte “Carve his name on hearts, not tombstone.” His achievements are no mean task for ordinary people from a humble background to achieve. Only few could match his feats. His sterling qualities of resilience, indomitable spirit to walk the extra miles, his relentless quest for knowledge, his charming personality and above all his strong attachment to his root possessed the hearts of his fellow tribesmen.
Eulogy: It will be pertinent here to quote Pu (L) Henkholen Sitlhou, who thus eulogises Dr Gangte:
Eternal is the creation of Man;
Undying thoughts Dr Gangte bequeathed,
Which death can never extinguish;
Down through ages will transcend,
As stars shimmer in lightless sky.
Dr TS Gangte had done great things for his people. As Sitlhou rightly puts, the greatness of a man is not evaluated by his position or riches, or a great conquest or reputation or fame or by the words of applause he receives. But it is measured by his deeds which miraculously transform and enrich human lives. Dr Gangte had achieved much on his own rights. But what made him so adorable is his strong concern for the wellbeing of his people. Although he has the rights to join the elite clubs of the country, he never once forgot his people who are dying under the spell of poverty and ignorance. His response to the call of becoming a mentor for the poor fellow tribesmen is worth pondering. In his pursuit, he has with integrity and all his ability achieved to affect those around him positively.
The best tribute to Dr TS Gangte would be to contribute our might and resources towards the realisation of his dreams of revolutionising higher education, equitable development and peaceful and prosperous Manipur where all tribes and communities live in harmony, without any fear and strive to achieve higher. In him, we can find aspiration as another saying goes, “All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.”
[PS: To commemorate his 13th death anniversary (29th July), his Bust, erected by the Gangte Students’ Organisation (GSO), Churachandpur is being unveiled inside the campus of Churachandpur Govt College with the permission of the College authority.]
(Ngam S Gangte is president of Gangte Students’ Organisation (GSO) Churachandpur and Ngamgousiem K Gangte is vice-president of GSO Churachandpur. They can be reached at [email protected])