The Story Behind Songpi, Churachandpur and Lamka

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The Story Behind Songpi, Churachandpur and Lamka
By Ginza Vualzong

It might sound confusing but if you know the histories and origins of both these places, the two are not the same and should not be confused with. The real Churachandpur is a hillock 15 kms west of Lamka, which was previously known as Songpi. Songpi was later changed to Churachandpur to honored the Maharaja Churachand. Lamka, the current District headquarter, on the other hand existed separately and had no connection with Songpi. Songpi was the old sub divisional headquarter which was abandoned in 1930. After 10 years of this abandonment, the new Sub-Divisional headquarter was moved to the present Lamka town, which was incorrectly put in the paper as Churachandpur by the people from the valley.

 Background history of Songpi as SDO office:
After the Zou gal (the Kuki Rebellion) in 1919, the administration of the Hill Tribes was in the hand of the British Officers, Political Agents, Vice-Presidents and Presidents of the Manipur State Darbar (Manipur Raja). However the British Government refused to hand over the hill administrations to the Raja of Manipur citing that they would be too dangerous. (Notes written by Col. Maxwell, Col. Woods and Col. Shakespear. 29 July 1937, File No. G.S. 2753 of 1940, Dillip K. Lahiri & Binal J Dev: Manipur Culture and Pollitics 1987, pp 111-112)

 From Songpi to Churachandpur:
In the year 1919, Manipur Hill areas was reorganized and the whole of Manipur Hill Areas was divided into three administrative units. Songpi was made the South-west Sub-Divisional Headquarters, the others headquarters being at Ukhrul and Tamenglong. In 1921 Mr B.C. Gasper, the SDO of Songpi threw a feast in honour of the France returnees and the Maharaja of Manipur, Churachand Singh also took part in the feast. On that occasion Songpi was renamed to Churachandpur after the name of Maharaja Churachand.

 How Churachandpur (Songpi) was abolished:
On 1st January 1930 the South-west Sub-Division was abolished and the headquarter abandoned. The whole area was placed under the President of Manipur State Darbar with two Sub-Divisions - Western Sub-division with its headquarter at Tamenglong and the eastern part annexed to Sadar Hills Sub Division with its headquarter in Imphal. This was how the Churachandpur Sub-division abolished.

 From Songpi to Mission Compound:
After the abandonment of the Songpi Sub-Division Headquarter, the Darbar Resolution No 2A of 29th January 1930 approved to leased all Sub-Divisional properties to the North East India General Mission (NEIGM) with a yearly fee of Rs 600. Later on 26th September 1930, after the verbal agreement of Semthong Haokip, the chief of Songpi and Mr Coleman who represent NEIGM, the chief agreed to transferred the land and all the rights he had to the mission. Accordingly the NEIGM made payment to the village chief for the land and called Mission Compound and not Churchandpur. However some people still refer to it as Old Churachandpur.

 Origin of Lamka:
In 1930 around the same time two Paite gentlemen established the present Lamka. Pu Phungkhothang Guite established the present Hiangtam Lamka and Pu Zenhang Valte established the present Zenhang Lamka. This two villages were together called Lamka. At that time when they established this twin villages there were no other villages nearby and the whole area was under thick forests, abound in wild animals, teemed with mosquitoes and devoid of people. Malaria was too common and people from the hills were reluctant to live in the valley. But slowly Lamka began to flourished from village to town and the population increased rapidly.

 How Lamka became District Headquarter:
Ten years after the abolition of Churachandpur, there was need to re-established the Sub-divisional office. So Mr. Pearson and Pu Thangkhopao Kipgen came for site selection for the SDO's Office. They went to see the old site at Churachandpur (Songpi), but found abandoned structures left behind by the American troops after the World War II. Considering the poor condition of the old site Churachandpur, Lamka seems to be a better location for the SDO headquarter. Therefore, the Circle Office was housed at the present residence of the Deputy Commissioner, Lamka. However with the political manipulation of the Meitei, the new SDO headquarter at Lamka was still imposed with the old name of Churachandpur, which was already given to Songpi.

 On 14 November 1969, Manipur was re-organized into 6 administrative units and Lamka/Churachandpur was the headquarter of Manipur South District. Later in 25 May 1983, Manipur was re-organized again into Districts and Churachandpur District was one of the hill district.

 Chief of Hill Town Pu Dongzakai Gangte who was the Municipal Chairman in the year 1986 declared that Lamka was the correct name for Churachandpur District via 44th Municipal Board Meeting Misc Agenda No. 4 Dated 18.12.86 and the Municipality Board forwarded the request to the government for approval.

 On 27 October 1982 the following 7 chiefs gave their consent for the correct name Lamka, and agreed to the memorandum that was submitted to the Deputy Commisioner by APSU to change the name from Churachandpur to Lamka : (1) Hiangtam Lamka, (2) Bijang Loubuk, (3) Bungmual, (4) Tuibuang, (5) Chiengkonpang, (6) D. Phailien and (7) Headquarter

 Let me also add what Pu H.K. Neitham, Executive Officer (Town), Autonomous District Council, Churachandpur, 1982 have to say about it:
"In my opinion the present Churachandpur Town will be more appopriate and correct if it is called 'Lamka' in view of the fact that during the British Rule in Manipur State, this place was called as 'Hiangtam Lamka'. The so called Churachandpur which was after the name of late Sir Churachand Singh, Maharaja, was at a place of the present Mission Compound or Old Churachandpur or Songpi, a distance of about 15 kms from the District Hq, Churachandpur"

 Conclusion:
Songpi is history now, which was an abandoned sub-division headquarter and it should not be confused with Lamka - the current District Headquarter. Although the name Churachandpur applied to Songpi, the meitei manipulated the government record and incorrectly called Lamka as Churachandpur. The aspiration to change the name of Churachandpur District is to correct the imposed name of Lamka which is the current District Headquarter and not the Churachandpur that was associated with Songpi.

 Book reference:
1. This is Lamka by Dr. Tualchin Neihsial
2. Account of the valley of Munnipore and of the Hill Tribes by Major W. McCulloch 1859
3. Foreign Deparment Report on Chin-Lushai Hills, Sep 1892
4. Dr. H. Kamkhenthang "Lamka Town vis-a-vis Churachandpur, 1995

[This article was posted on March 29, 2015. It got posted in the local newspaper - EIMI TIMES and received many critical acclaims. ]

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