Nupi Lan Numit
12 Dec is observed as Nupi Lan Numit the new seeds of economic and political reforms for a new Manipur in the early 40’s. It was started in 1939 as an agitation by Manipuri women against the oppressive economic and administrative policies ruled by the Manipur Maharaja and the Political Agent –Mr. Gimson- of the British Government (1933-45) in Manipur, and later on, evolved into a movement for the constitutional and administrative reform in Manipur.
The Marwaris started their business early in the 1900’s and were settled in the British Area in Manipur, which was not administered by the State Durbar. They slowly captured the trade of cotton and handloom products and also excelled in the rice trading since the arrival of the motor vehicles. The State Durbar controlled the export of rice under two regulatory actions: 1) the Cart Tax which was levied on the rice exporters and 2) the Lal Pass which was a contract between the Manipur and Assam governments. The rice exported per unit acre of cultivated land increased quite phenomenally from 1921 to 1938. A precarious situation was reached in 1939 when there was an all record of the highest export of rice and any failure of rice harvest in the following year would bring a huge shortage of rice and might bring forth a near famine. Then, the inevitable came. In 1939, there was the outbreak of the World War II which swept the world over, and there was the excessive rain which continued well beyond the monsoon season -till October- which affected the harvest to a great extent.
Sure enough, with the hailstorm that followed in mid-Nov, the state faced a severe shortage of food. On 13th September, the State Durbar, in an apprehension of the food shortage as rain still continued beyond the usual monsoon season, passed a resolution to ban rice export by denying any license for export to any individual. However, they had to still commit the export of rice to the Kohima Civil Station in Assam as per agreement to the supply for the battalions of British soldiers. But soon, the rice export was resumed following the Maharaja’ order. This reopening of rice was directly responsible for creating an additional shortage of rice and hence to the outbreak of Nupi Lan.
As the war broke out and the harvest became low, the price of rice soared by nearly 80 percent. Since the stock of rice produced was the only source of income and livelihood for the peasants, they were forced to sell their limited stocks of rice to the Marwaris who were wooing them by offering to buy at a lower price than the local traders. This made a huge amount of rice to be in the hands of these ‘foreigner’, and the local women who were traders in rice and paddy were deprived of their means of livelihood by then. Meanwhile, the Marwaris set up their own mills and still continued to export rice to the neighbouring states.
Historically the Nupi Lan had its immediate cause in the artificial famine of 1939 caused by the profiteering activities of the Marwari traders who exported rice to colonial garrisons outside Manipur. When the ban hitherto enforced on the export of rice was lifted in 1939 to the great advantage of the traders, the price of paddy soared up, thus, seriously affecting the local small unit traders and the consumers.
On 12 December 1939, hundreds of women who were demanding an end to the free trade on rice besieged the president of the Manipur Durbar and the officials who came to the rescue of the president. In the scuffle that broke out between the women and the Assam Rifles, twenty-one women and one Indian officer and seven other ranks of the Assam Rifles were injured.
In the course of the months-long struggle, women besieged state Thana and fought several pitch battles with the security personnel. In one of the pitch battles fought on 14 January, forty women agitators and some men were injured.
Nupi Lan helped in bringing the political reforms to move away from the then form of British Administration to a more democratic new Manipur.
Nupi Lan Numit is observed every year in Manipur in recognition of the valour of Manipuri women, their struggle and contribution in shaping up a Manipur of their dreams.