Pramot Singh | Cultural nationalist

The Meitei Leepun chief says his organisation is committed to bringing Meitei people together ‘culturally, spiritually and ideologically’

July 23, 2023 01:31 am | Updated 11:26 am IST

His Facebook status describes himself as: “Decent looking criminal.” This was possibly posted — given the ban on the Internet in Manipur — before the State police registered a criminal case against Pramot Singh on July 8.

Mr. Singh was booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity between groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., intentional insult with an intent to provoke breach of peace and other offences. The case was based on a complaint lodged by the Kuki Students’ Organisation on June 13.

Another posts reads: “Take action in silence, no lion attacks in noise.” The emphasis on silent action could have been the reason why Mr. Singh and his organisation, the Meitei Leepun (ML), were quite low-key for years until they burst onto the scene after Manipur fell into a cycle of violence from the night of May 3, allegedly because of a tribal protest against a recommendation for granting Scheduled Tribe status to the majority Meitei community.

Members of the ML, an organisation avowedly committed to preserving Meitei culture and traditions, suddenly started being seen as the main players in the conflict against Kuki tribal people, along with those of the Arambai Tenggol, a more radical and armed outfit, whose cadres are distinguished by their black outfits with red epaulettes.

The ML showed a glimpse of the things to come when it campaigned against an economic blockade imposed by the All-Tribal Students’ Union of Manipur in August 2022. The blockade was to pressure the BJP-led government to table the Manipur (Hill Areas) Autonomous District Council (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in the Assembly, which the ML said was anti-Meitei.

Kuki organisations, Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das, and the BJP’s Kuki legislator Paolienlal Haokip describe the ML as an organisation influenced by or linked to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). They claim that the ML is the brainchild of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren Singh and Rajya Sabha member Leishemba Sanajaoba, a member of the Manipur royalty, to target the Kuki community. The Kukis, comprising several sub-tribes, are the third largest community in Manipur after the non-tribal Meiteis and the Nagas.

Mr Singh, reluctant to reveal his background beyond what is available online, insisted his organisation, formed in 2015, was purely socio-political in nature and was dedicated to instilling nationalist values in the people apart from protecting Meitei people and culture from external influences. He denied any connection between the ML and the Arambai Tenggol, although trained and armed members of the two organisations are said to have operated together during the ongoing Kuki-Meitei conflict. He also trashed speculations that he has been a passive, if not an active, member of the RSS.

ABVP member

But he has admitted to having been influenced by the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, of which he was a member during his stint in Gujarat for higher education. He studied clinical psychology at the Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara from 1989-1991 and did his master’s in the same subject from the Gujarat University, Ahmedabad. His wife, Radha Wangkheirakpam, who teaches at a school in Imphal, also studied at Vadodara’s MS University. They married in May 2000.

Not much is known about what Mr. Singh did between his post-graduation and his emergence as the ML leader. Those close to him say he was associated with an NGO. Days after the Kuki-Meitei conflict erupted, he told reporters in Imphal that he worked on a project on community profiling for UNICEF. The project made him spend months in Mizoram, where he studied the Young Mizo Association (YMA), a community-based group that networks with Mizo people in India and abroad.

“The ML was to a large extent influenced by the YMA for bringing the Meitei people in India and beyond together, culturally, spiritually, ideologically, and psychologically, if not physically,” he said. The Mizos are ethnically related to the Kukis and the Chins of Myanmar.

The ML, according to Mr. Singh, has some 14,000 members. The recruitment process has been slow because not all can withstand the strict discipline and martial regimen, which includes “training with licensed arms” by ex-servicemen.

The timeline of Mr. Singh’s social media pages has videos of ML members undergoing martial training, clips eulogising Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders, and observations about the Kuki community. These include the “fake claim” by the Kukis of being indigenous to Manipur, the “fundamentally wrong” demand by “outsiders (Kukis)” to break away from Manipur, and reminding Meiteis that Kukis “do not have love for the land (Manipur) and no respect for the State’s leader (CM Biren Singh)” because “they do not belong to the land”. He dismisses criticisms about the ML, and then asks why “the Kukis and their ethnic cousins are at war not only in India but also in Myanmar and Bangladesh”.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.