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Pro-Change Candidates Win BMC Election

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

(November 5) The first elections in five years for the B’nei Menashe Council of Manipur, held today at Beit Shalom synagogue in Churachandpur, have resulted in a hard-fought but resounding victory for the forces of change in their battle against the continued control of B’nei Menashe life by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel. By a vote of 28 to 18, W.L. (Lalam) Hangshing, a retired chief commissioner in the India revenue service, won the post of BMC Chairman in his contest against pro-Shavei candidate Shlomo Seijalal Kipgen, chief of Boljol village, while by the narrow margin of 24 to 22, Degel Menashe activist Ohaliav Haokip defeated Shavei-backed Khanan Singsit for the position of Council Secretary. Two other candidates, Obed Thangniang of the village of Muolkoi and Simeon Singson from Zohar, were chosen Finance Secretary and Treasurer without opposition.

Elections delegates listen to proceedings.

All 24 of Manipur’s B’nei Menashe congregations participated in the elections, in which each had two votes. (Two delegates were not present when the vote was held and failed to take part in it.) Until the last moment, it was unclear whether Shavei Israel, which had unsuccessfully sought to organize a boycott of the proceedings, would run candidates of its own.

The vote was conducted by a secret ballot. Preceding it was a floor fight over the seating of four of the delegations. In a repetition of a move made by him in a meeting of the Election Committee last week, its official Convener Aharon Vaiphei, a Shavei supporter, moved to disbar the representatives of Petach Tikva, Pejang, Phalbung, and Saikul on the grounds that they had not been recognized by Shavei Israel as part of the B’nei Menashe communal structure – the first three for practicing the Ashkenazi rather than the Sephardi liturgy demanded by Shavei, the last for having rejected Shavei’s insistence that its members leave their small village and relocate to Churachandpur.

Speaking against Vaiphei, fellow Committee member Nechemiah Lhouvum argued that Shavei had no authority to dictate to the BMC and that there was no room in the B’nei Menashe community for discrimination of any sort. When the Committee failed to make a unanimous recommendation, the question was put to the plenum, and Vaiphei’s motion was rejected by a show of hands after a lengthy debate. The challenged communities’ votes may have helped swing the election in Lalam Hangshing and Ohaliav Haokip’s favor.

The counting of the ballots.

“This is a turning point for the B’nei Menashe community of Manipur,” Hangshing declared after the vote. He was seconded by Beit-Shalom’s Vice-Chairman Demsat Joseph Haokip, whose staunch support for holding the elections helped sway several fence-sitting congregations to take part in them. “The B’nei Menashe of Manipur have spoken,” he said. “This is a victory for the will of the people.”

Whatever the actions and policies of the new Council will be, the elections mark a revolution. Nearly twenty years of domination by Shavei Israel have come to an end. At long last, the B’nei Menashe community of Manipur has its own independent voice and will be able to speak for itself. A new age has begun.



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