I AM MANIPUR – Discovering my roots.

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The theory of our origin has baffled us for many years and especially in Manipur where we seems to be unnecessarily divided on the basis of the land we occupy and the not so different cultures and traditions we embodied.

Personally as my father decided to pack-up and leave us, I never knew much about him and what he was like. My brother and me grew up as our mum singlehandedly forged to build a family and provided the opportunity to be educated. Much of our childhood we had to live with other kids commenting on our absent dad and the fact that he was from the Meitei community didn’t make it any easier. So I grew up building a wall between others and me and tried many ways to deal with this issue. My society dictates that I have a father and everywhere I go, they would ask me whom my dad is. Mum never spoke about it and it wasn’t easy for her so we left it at that. People didn’t stop asking and we didn’t stop living. As tough as it used to be, we devised a coping mechanism around this rather sensitive issue and we did a pretty damn job.

As I grew older and even as I was on my way to Delhi University to do my further studies I thought people would stop asking and I can slide away quietly from this fact.
How wrong was I? The questions never ceased and now the same question is accompanied by what is his name and which tribe or community does he belong to. So the question of identity was an issue that needed to be dealt with at some point.

So dad was Meitei and mum was Gangte -This is important for the purpose of my article. Growing up in Manipur, which is a melting pot for different communities, discussions about identity, dominates many conversations in our society and beyond. Sometimes our conversations leads to arguments and in some unfortunate occasions it has led even to killing each other. We love playing the race card whenever we confront each other and hurl racial abuse and hurt each other leaving scars which stays with us longer than needed. On a personal note, having a mix parent was very confusing for me as a child.  I grew up among the tribal community of Kanggui and I consider myself one of them and I am one of them. So I used to get really embarrassed when I was teased for having a Meitei father. He was my biological father and that’s where it started and ended unfortunately. I grew up a Gangte and I am very proud about it. However, having the guts to talk about my paternal background came to me very late and it hasn’t been long that I am comfortable talking about this. Needless to say, I have always been very intrigued about my background, my ancestors and where I am from. So I decided to discover my ancestral origins and trace my lineage with a personalized analysis of my DNA.

My results didn’t come as a shock at all. However to read through some of the results was exciting, educational and changed my mind-sets on several levels. So, here’s the overview of my results:

1. I am 90.2% East Asian and Native American
2. 8.5% South Asian
3. 0.1% Sub-Saharan African
4. 0.1% European
5. 1.3% unassigned.

To break this down, overall I am 90.2% East Asian and Native American. It is quite interesting that the people of East Asia and the Americas have a shared genetic history. Their common ancestors left the Near East as early as 80,000 years ago, migrating across Asia. The ancestors of Native Americans began to cross into the Americas 12,000 to 15,000 years ago.

So there is a further analysis and within the 90.2% East Asian and Native American breakdown, I am 32.2% Chinese. No surprise here either as China being the world’s most populated country and the third largest by area. One of the world’s earliest civilization, China is home to at least 56 distinct ethnic groups. The Han ethnic group makes up more than 90% of the population.

I am also 10.1% Mongolian: Once the largest land empire in world history, the Mongol empire extended from today’s Ukraine to China and Korea. Today, Mongolia is situated between China and Russia and is the world’s most sparsely populated country. Ethnic Mongols compose more than 95% of Mongolia’s population.

Furthermore and rather interesting too. I am 22.9% South Asian. I wasn’t expecting this I must say. But for the diverse populations of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, scientists believe that when modern humans first left Africa they travelled along the coast of southern Asia, reaching South Asia very early. During the last few thousand years South Asia has been influenced by both Europe and eastern Asia. And the remaining links are 18 % broadly East Asian, 3.9% Native American.

Another interesting find was the difference between my Paternal and my maternal haplogroup. My Maternal haplogroup is A4c.

My ancestors ventured out of eastern Africa, they branched off in diverse groups that crossed and re-crossed the globe over tens of thousands of years. Some of their migrations can be traced through haplogroups, families of lineages that descend from a common ancestor. Now my maternal haplogroup can reveal the path followed by the women of my maternal line. Maternal haplogroup, A4c, traces back to a womanwho lived approximately 12,000 years ago. That’s nearly 480 generations ago! The common ancestor of haplogroup A was a woman wholived approximately 25,000 years ago, perhaps in the northern reaches of East Asia. Members of haplogroup A are widespread in Asia today, where they generally make up less than 10% of their populations. The haplogroup reaches higher concentrations in some parts of China, Korea and Japan. In some ethnic Chinese populations, such as the Dong and the Yi, nearly 30% of people belong to haplogroup A. One branch of the haplogroup, A4, reaches levels of more than 15% among people who were tested in the city of Wuhan in central China.

Moreover my paternal haplogroup is O-Page23.

A paternal haplogroup is a family of Y chromosomesdefined by a particular set of genetic variants. Your paternal haplogroup tells you about your paternal-line ancestors, from your father to his father and beyond.

O-Page23 is a subgroup of O-M122, 30,000 to 35,000 years old from Eastern Asia. O-M122 is a branch of the major haplogroup O, which was carried to Eastern Asia roughly 35,000 years ago. Haplogroup O-M122 is closely associated with the Han Chinese ethnic group, which began expanding throughout eastern Asia more than 2,000 years ago. Han Chinese populations account for more than one sixth of the world’s population. But Haplogroup O-M122 is associated with Koreans,Filipinos, Malaysians too.

My Meitei Father belongs to O-M122, which is the main haplogroup of the Han Chinese. My Gangte mother belongs to haplogroup, A which was found on a woman who lived approximately 25,000 years ago, perhaps in the northern reaches of East Asia. So we have established that we share the same roots – People from the Hills and the Plains. My conclusion is lets start treating each other with more respects and lets make Manipur a nicer place to live in. Lets make our schools, churches, temples, mosques, synagogue and our community centres a safe place for our future generation to thrive and build a collective dream for Manipur. Next time you want to hurl insults, remember that person is no one else but close relatives. I am writing this within the context of Manipur because I was born here and my heart bleeds each time I see my people falling out and building barriers. Beyond Manipur, in this vast universe, we must acknowledge all life as one massive singularity and our own as part of the multitude. As humans we must embrace change and see the opportunity that lies ahead by reinventing and forge the needs to see multiple possibilities for a common future. As we ponder further about who we are, let us consider this, we truly grow our identities when we are guiding lights to not only ourselves but to others.

This article was sent by Lien Gangte, who is the Founder & UK Coordinator of Kanggui Hope, who can be contacted at lienkanggui(at)gmail(dot)com.
Website: www.kangguihope.co.uk

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