By RK Rishikesh Sinha
Guwahati has seen sudden surge in its population. It has undergone a complete change in a decade or so, the observation is very visible for those who have witnessed Guwahati in 90s.
The impression of Guwahati on me in the mid-90s is very different than it is today. It has somewhere got lost in the flat culture. However , I have noticed one thing that the population of Bishnupriya Manipuris in the capital city has seen a sudden increase. Today, the state of affair is that : You are a Bishnupriya Manipuri, you cannot ignore your brethren in the lanes of Guwahati.
You jostle to board a bus from ABC bus stop, you will find there are co-passengers who are also struggling with the same spirit to board the bus! You are sitting in a rickety tracker at Ganeshguri, listen carefully, a mother is talking in Bishnupriya Manipuri with her daughter. You distract your attention to their conversation, and you fix your eyes towards a person who is standing at the rear end and framing your mind that the person is Bihari in his look and behavior. You are relishing your taste buds at Hatigarh Chariali at evening with aloo chop or gungni, you will find young boys sputtering Assamese, Bengali and Bishnupriya Manipuri in one breathe. Not enough, you go for shopping at Borbari, not one or two, but grocery-wala, internet wala and couple of shops being manned by your brothers and sisters. In all these circumstances, you will find person with Bishnupriya Manipuri. This is the state of population of Bishnupriya Manipuris in Guwahati.
For those who have spent enough time in Guwahati and Silchar, they will come to the conclusion that Bishnupriya Manipuris are more visible in Guwahati than in Silchar. It seems the young boys have migrated from villages to make Guwahati their second home for employment. It is not only their presence, but people after retirement are setting foot in the capital city. They make Guwahati their most preferred destination to spend their half life.
Places like Bamunimaidan, Panjabari, Hengrabari , Borbari, Dakhingaon, TV Tower, Kahilipara, Maligaon, Bhangagarh, ABC…the list of names is too long…where Bishnupriya Manipuri have a sizable population. If any survey is done to count the places where the migration of Bishnupriya Manipuri is high, it would be none other than Guwahati. And it seems, the population has increased in the city in a decade or so at a astounding figure. There are settled Bishnupriya Manipuri with permanent residence and there is another population in migration, in rent houses.
Bishnupriya Manipuri Power Politics
With such big population, change of ethos and structure in the population is liable, and so is with the power politics. Many factors play a pivotal role to the formation of power center for the community in Guwahati. First, the definite geography of the capital city; since all the Bishnupriya Manipuris are concentrated to Guwahati, the population itself creates its own political power. Second, the mushrooming of the civil societies cum pressure groups in the field of art, culture, empowerment in the city, which also helps Guwahati becoming a power centre. Third, and the most important reason, is the Guwahati (Dispur) being the capital of the state in terms of politics, administration, judiciary, and commerce. Now the million dollar question is: Has Guwahati indeed emerged as a power centre for Bishnupriya Manipuries? Whatever may be the answer, it is sure and final that one cannot ignore the Bishnupriya Manipuris staying in Guwahati.