Healing Wounds

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The powerful image of India as a wounded civilisation sketched by Sir 
Vidia S Naipaul, comes to mind in reflecting on Manipur today – of 
course minus the Islam hatred evident in the Nobel laureate’s accounts. 
What is it that Manipur is unhappy about? The question needs a much 
deeper introspection than the usual and familiar escape into the 
familiar loss of sovereignty story. Would for instance things have been 
for the better had history took a different turn in 1949? Would the 
ethnic strife and mutual suspicions amongst communities been any 
different? Would many of the chronic problems, including that of the 
perennial fund crunch been any better? From the exchanges of letters and 
opinions between representatives of various ethnic groups even at the 
time of the drawing of the pre-merger Manipur constitution, the 
impression is Manipur’s problem is much more deeply embedded in its 
social structure than just the dissonance caused by a single major 
historical event. In other words, while the brash and coercive manner in 
which the Merger Agreement that made Manipur a part of the newly formed 
Indian Union was executed, may have opened up further a festering wound, 
the event in itself is not the sole cause of this wound. The present 
turmoil could have been as bad, or even worse. No doubt, for whatever 
its wisdom, the Indian state did do everything to add insult to injury 
by reducing the sovereign princely state of Manipur into a chief 
commissioner’s province after the merger by making it a Part-C state. 
Perhaps, the nascent Union, a major chunk of its territory having been 
formed by the merger of over 560 princely states, many of them 
rebellious and unwilling, wanted to ensure that they all felt very small 
and powerless. The scheming, wily, Chanakyan mindset at work, we 
suppose.

This notwithstanding, it would be wrong for any serious problem solving, 
peacemaking campaign to ignore Manipur’s own inherent weaknesses which 
have ensured that it lost sync with the times. Another familiar 
expression, often heard in business and corporate performance analysis 
is apt in describing this situation: “Who moved my cheese?” Well the 
fact is paradigms, be it in business, politics or social relations, do 
move, and the only guard against it to know where it has moved. Better 
still the remedy would be to be able to anticipate where it might move 
next so that preparations to take the best advantage under the new 
dispensation can begin early. Political vision is precisely about this. 
Those who fail in this project have often ended up in ruins. Those who 
refuse to accept the reality of the digital age for instance would 
ultimately be destined at best to a corner in a museum or archival 
library. We are witnessing how this prophesy is unfolding even Manipur 
in its cinema world. Likewise there has been democratisation of 
education, new awareness of rights, international peer groups demanding 
similar rights etc, enlarging visions, inducing reassessment of social 
predicaments, giving new colours and insights to old issues.  Even the 
equation between power and politics has transformed unimaginably and 
both today have come inextricably linked to the notion of justice. This 
has in turn empowered previously disempowered sections. The indigenous 
people’s movement for instance is now a force to reckon with even at the 
UN level. A brutalised section of the world’s population, once 
slaughtered, enslaved, inhumanly discriminated against, still do not 
have either the military or economic might to match their former 
tormentors, but they now have a new source or power – the universal 
understanding and acknowledgement of rights and justice. Coming to terms 
with this reality is where Manipur has failed, and the sad part of it 
is, there are little evidences that it is willing to change its vision. 
Hence the resonating lament continues to be about a lost glory of the 
past and consequently various attempts at rationalisation as to how this 
sorry predicament is solely the responsibility of forces external to 
itself. Old glory, “aeon” old relations, old values are all things of 
the past. The new mission must be to try and locate the new paradigms on 
which Manipur must base its new relations and politics. As we enter this 
brand new year 2011, we wish such a healing process begins in this 
wounded civilisation of ours. We all owe this to the future generation.
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