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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 50, New Delhi, November 28, 2020

Rapping the “Token” Intellectuals of Pangal society | Md. Chingiz Khan

Saturday 28 November 2020

by Md. Chingiz Khan *

The multi-ethnic state of Manipur in north east India is home to different indigenous (yelhoumees) communities including the Meiteis, the Pangals, the Nagas and the Kukis. The Pangals speak Manipuri language as mother tongue like the Meiteis while the tribes such as Kukis and Nagas speak their own dialects. It is seemingly said that among the Pangals of Manipur, there are still lesser number of writers, poets, scholars, civil servants, historians and intellectuals. Earlier, there were some poets, writers and scholars such as Maulana Rahimuddin, Kayamuddin Pukhrimayum, MA Janab Khan, etc., who are no more but their contributions in the Pangal society are being acknowledged and considered noteworthy. In this context, one can see the springing of “token” intellectuals in the Pangal society for some years.

The puzzling concern related to the spurious rise of “token” intellectuals in the society of Pangal community has been enquired by the common people but it has become a legitimate yardstick contemporaneous that has been feasibly sanctioned in the social media only rather than it has been diagnosticated by the community itself. It has been pointed out that originally, the illustrative and reflective evidences from the certain number of local vernacular texts called Puyas including the Cheitharon Kumpapa [1] (the royal chronicle of Manipur), British colonial texts and Persian accounts reveal that the Pangals came as soldiers and nobles in the state in the seventeenth century rather than the alleged claims of their earlier settlement by some local scholars as peasants are quite imaginably known to the people of Manipur. In this context, some of the pertinent questions are given as: What are the theoretical frameworks of “token” intellectuals? Is the Pangal society a pure intellectual or “token” intellectual society? Are the Pangals backward due to the presence of “token” intellectuals? Which factor does it play mostly? Are they pseudo scholars or discernible apologists or pick and choose scholars or what? Are they looked upon through the prism of their origins? Are they influenced politically or by some other interests? This short article aims to address all these possible enquiries and concerns related to Pangals.

Some of the Pangals became Qazi-ul-Quzzat (Chief Justice) starting from Muhammad Shani (the commander-in-chief of the troupes of 1606 AD) during the reign of King Khagemba for seventeenth century to Ira qazi in the reign of Maharaj Surchandra during the late nineteenth century. [2] Will those qazis be considered as intellects or nobles? Does the term ‘intellectual’ indubitably exist in the Pangal society? If so, who are those intellectual people in the Pangal society? There are certain classes in any society of Manipur, particularly in the Pangal society. Some sections of the Pangal society from the Pangal dominated areas made an uneasy conjecture that their society is considered as intellectual class society and synonymously at par with the whole Pangal society. However, considering their society and their contributions based on ground reality, their society can be regarded as unadulterated “token” intellectual society which comprises of some “token” intellectuals who are seemingly champions in the social media networking sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, etc., only to hoodwink themselves as gasbag. After pondering over their actual reality, they seem just insignificant. They are usually giving mouth honour only to the Pangal society which in actual does only duck egg at the ground level. They sometimes talk of reservation and educational development for the Pangal community itself without even knowing what the reservation and development are. It is just like a tub-thumping for any cause. It can be easily said without a critical rumination that an LDC has become a lambent star among the certifiable Pangals nowadays. They are too slow to have the perception of who is a Manipuri Pangal in and outside the state.

While concerning the frameworks related to “token” intellectuals of Pangal society, it is pointed out that theoretically, renowned orientalists such as Edward W. Said told that the term intellectual is a difficult and complex one but necessary to know who is an intellect and who are the intellectual class people in the globalised world. He further mentioned that “The difficulty of the tension for the individual writer and intellectual has been paradoxically that the realm of the political and public has expanded so much as to be virtually without borders. We might well ask whether a non-political writer or intellectual is a notion that has much content to it”. [3] Such debate had occurred in the American Universities after the end of the Cold War. Even in the Arab-Islamic world, it is traceable that they used two words for the term intellectual namely muthaqqaf, or mufakir, where the former one is coined from thaqafa or culture (a man of culture) and the latter one is derived from fikr or thought (a man of thought). Many dynastic republican governments like those of Egypt, Iraq, Libya, or Syria, etc., have religious and secular intellectuals for the leadership but they have no longer received the honour of being the intellectual by the political authority even though governments have been adept at co-opting intellectuals as mouthpieces for them. [4] But the debate is still going to search for true and authentic intellectuals instead of “token” intellectuals who are discernible apologists. If this situation happens in the Pangal society, what would happen?

Edward W. Said emphasises a thought that there is a tradition in the American setting that why the word “intellectual” is used lesser in the academic discourse is because of professionalism and specialization that provides the norm for intellectual work much more than they do in Arabic, French, or British English. Similarly, the clique of such deftness has never ruled the world of discourse for all intents and purposes in the similar manner of USA. The other rationale is that even though the USA is actually full of intellectuals hard at work filling the airwaves, print, and cyberspace with their effusions, the public realm is so taken up with questions of policy and government, as well as with considerations of power and authority, that even the idea of an intellectual who is driven neither by a passion for office, nor by the ambition to get the ear of someone in power, is difficult to sustain for more than a second or two. Profit and celebrity are powerful stimulants. It is arguable that peace cannot exist without equality in such a manner that this is an intellectual value desperately in need of reiteration, demonstration, and reinforcement. Edward Said further clarifies that to answer the question why, in this and other similar contexts, individuals and groups prefer writing and speaking to silence, is equivalent to specifying what in fact the intellectual and writer confront in the public sphere. It means that the existence of individuals or groups seeking social justice and economic equality, and who under Edward W. Said stand (in Amartya Sen’s formulation) that freedom must include the right to a whole range of choices affording cultural, political, intellectual, and economic development, ipso facto that will lead one to a desire for articulation as opposed to silence. [5] Such is the practicable peculiarity in the intellectual savvy world. Therefore, the intellectual remains exactitude and steadfastness whichever possible that leads to engender the symmetry of various expectancy and yearning into verisimilitude. Such theoretical scaffoldings for intellectuals need to be materialized in the Pangal society instead of the goose egg of “token” intellectuals who are discernible apologists and phony scholars who used to create disunion rather than singularity for the development of community.

Politically, educationally, economically and socially, the Muslim community is the most backward community in all fields comparing with the different communities staying in the state as is reflectively and structurally evidenced from the data available in many sources such as All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE, 2018-19) [6], Report on Socio-Economic Survey of Meitei-Pangals (SES-MP, 2004) [7], Census Report 2011, NSS Report, Sachar Committee Report 2006 [8], Post Sachar Evaluation Committee 2014 under the chairpersonship of Prof. Amitabh Kundu [9], etc. The possible reasons are that in all possible ways, there are zillion incompetent and illiterate Pangal leaders who have been trail-blazing the Pangal community as torch-bearer of each subject. Still, such community lacks some qualified and experienced leaders who have knowledge of tactical and technical skills and who can move the community forward without the motive of self-vested interests. Such benighted leaders used to win every election either at the Councillor or Panchayat or General Election through high rate of bribes or muscle power or “Sagei politics” (Clan politics) in the Pangal dominated areas. Until and unless there is development of modern education and forward-looking thought without thinking an edge of “Sagei politics” based on small and big clans in the Pangal dominated areas, there has always been a backward community and they will have pantomime situation as they used to get represented and accelerated by some “token” intellectuals mainly based on “sageism” (clanism) since many decadal eras. [10] Sometimes, it can be seen incontrovertibly in big socio-cultural programmes in the name of onerous effectuations such as giving of awards to an inexcusable and unseemly one, impolitic leaders as a representative of Pangal community, big feasts among the clans for their contingent interests and lobby that lead to one perfect specimen of necropsy and embarkation rather than coadunation of the community itself. Such system will never aggrandize the polity and socio-economic condition of the community that leads to enable them as the most shrivelled and backward community in the state. The “token” intellectuals will bring only ignominy to the Pangal community who are only giving unctuousness to the cause but can never be conducive and worthwhile for the amelioration of Pangal society and they draw their legitimacy based on nepotism, tendentiousness, partisanship and ‘sageism’ (clanism) which can be a greater deterrent and stumbling block in the all-inclusive welfare of the community. [11] They should be occluded from the Pangal society from all precincts. Otherwise, this community would not be allegorized and considered at par with other communities that will further make the community into prorogation instead of acceleration as they are full of carpet-beggars and scum among the Pangal leaders. It is aptly justified in the context of Pangal society by saying an adage: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing”. The sadistic irony is that can the Intellectuals and “token” Intellectuals of Pangal society be compared between hedgehog and fox, like Tweedledum and Tweedledee?

* (Md. Chingiz Khan is a Doctoral Candidate at the Centre for Historical Studies, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi


[1Saroj Nalini Arambam Parratt, The Court Chronicle of the Kings of Manipur: The Cheitharon Kumpapa, vol. 1, Routledge, London, 2005, pp. 1-17, 67.

[2Rafayattullah, Yaddasht Kursi-Nama, Lahore, 1929, tr. Maulana Muhammad Jalaluddin et al., Circles, Imphal, 1997, 1-35; O. Bhogeshwor Singh and M.A. Janab Khan, ed., Nongsamei Puya, Manipur Stationery and Printing Industries, Imphal, 1973, pp. 1-200.

[3Chapter 1, Edward W. Said. The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470775967.ch1

[4Ibid.

[5Ibid.

[6All India Survey on Higher Education (2018-19), Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of Higher Education, New Delhi, 2019.

[7Report on Socio-Economic Survey of Meitei-Pangals (Manipuri Muslims), Directorate of Eco. & Statistics and Directorate of MOBC, Govt. of Manipur, 2004, pp. 1-302.

[8A Report on Social, Economic and the Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India popularly known as Sachar Committee Report, Prime Minister’s High Level Committee, Government of India, New Delhi, November, 2006, pp. 34, 224 and 379.

[9Post Sachar Evaluation Committee, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Government of India, 2014, pp. 1-181.

[10Md. Chingiz Khan, ‘Reasons of the Backwardness of Pangals in Manipur’, Mainstream Weekly, Vol. LVIII, No. 43, 2020, pp. 1-6.

[11Ibid.

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