Chingna koina pan saba Haona koina pan ngakpa;
Manipur sana leibakna Matau asumna pallami,
Maong asumna leirami.
Friends, Manipuris and countrymen; I’ve come to bury ethnic-strife, not to praise it. Gone are the days of lying between the sheets all charred with mendacious happiness, with head over the pillows tainted with romantic dreams. A lesson on a formula of a composite Manipur should be bedtime reading for those who have no time to read.
Gone with the wind are the stories of Meitei/Naga chivalry that no longer fit into the lean, callous Indian news machine. In the existing tumultuous political and social disorder in Manipur where gun-toting youths dictate the community’s life, we should begin bemoaning with flickers of angst, the existing ethnic divide.
Manipur is the most unsafe state in India, unlike Kashmir where its insurgents do not harm their own people. Everybody in Manipur can expect a bullet or a hand grenade any day from any of the various groups of insurgents, particularly KCP.
Manipur has been standing with one foot in hell for a long time with anarchy and seasons of ethnic discontent. It’s time for all the players in the theatre of war, to come to the negotiating table to work out the issue of ethnicity and inequality.
All Manipuris are familiar with the above ballad. It means something to anyone who looks back at the history of Manipur. It’s time for the young and old folks of Manipur to familiarise themselves with its core meaning.
The lyricism of this narrative song is a sentimental explication that the chingmees and tammees lived together in and defended Manipur in historical times.
I have been writing to establish with empirical and some archaeological evidence that Manipur belongs to both the hill and plane people and that Manipuri language is not a Tibeto-Burman language. Divided, the Meiteis will survive and so will the Nagas, but just be able to eke out a living with handouts from Delhi every year. That’s not the life for our children.
They are preamble to my conviction that Manipur will remain as it is, unchanged by forces of nihilism, as will Kashmir. Who will dare ask the Chinese to hand back the part of Kashmir in their occupation?
India promised plebiscite in Kashmir and Junagard, and then it reneged. The UN is helpless as India says it is an internal matter, which is cogent in International law. India has yet to agree to a plebiscite in Manipur ie a proposal to cede Manipur from India.
In the meantime, all of us in Manipur should join hands to build a strong Manipuri identity and sing “Auld Lang Syne”. Why? Without it we will lose our cultural and ethnic identity and we will remain forever just as “Northeasterners”. Manipur will continue to live under military occupation, curtailing our freedom – not having the same rights as other Indians. Further, the inherent neglect by Delhi will turn into a legitimate excuse for not developing Manipur.
Time changes and with it human nature changes with culture and religion, which have an intense effect on human behaviour. Because they determine how people react to others and express their feeling to others.
Manipuris are at a crisis situation, at a point of time when a critical decision must be made. Ethnic discontent and internecine fighting are hampering our progress.
We must have a certain future and a progressive goal as the Americans have – known as ‘American dream’. We need a dream – a ‘Manipuri dream’ and a plan for our posterity. We cannot leave their destiny in the lap of gods.
A few school children from Manipur sent me emails asking for guidance as ‘they are confused’ about their future. A Naga doctor from Dimapur sent me an email, equally confused about his origin.
The scenario I am proposing is not predictions or depictions of a desirable future, which I wish to promote. It is designed to help people understand the major trends that would shape our Manipuri identity. The aim is to challenge, inspire and excite so that people feel motivate to plan for a better, more sustainable future for Manipuris.
We need to form a “federal” Manipur, based on the Swiss Federation. The word “federation” is loosely used here, in the sense that all the ethnic communities resolve to build a prosperous Manipur despite the variance in culture, language and religion.
Evidence as the foundation of history will show the chances of an independent Manipur vis-à-vis the Government of India and the possibility of forming a greater Nagaland vis-à-vis the Meiteis. But good luck to those who are still struggling for an independent Manipur or wanting to integrate parts of Manipur with Nagaland.
The insurgency is quiet on the northern front (Nagaland) and inside Manipur. Even the anti-AFSPA movement is as quiet as a mouse. Everyday a few insurgent cadres are getting “nabbed” by the security forces, and a few surrender intermittently. In view of the total number of insurgent cadres, the fighting force will soon decimate to only a few effete Kalashnikov holders.
In the case of the ‘Nagas’ of Manipur (not an eponym I would like to use for Manipuri tribal peoples who have different respectable names), they should now look into their conscience and reformulate the old plan for building a ‘Naga nation’ mainly because of economical disparity and other legitimate grievances along with better prospects that might accrue from joining Nagaland. The grass is always greener on the other side.
It is not clear who are the “Nagas” and who are not in Manipur. Generally, by Nagas it seems to mean Tangkhuls, Mao-Maram and Kabuis. What is the future for the rest of the 36 different tribal groups in Manipur?
Mixing theory with practice is not always compatible. Theory gives us framework for analysing a problem while practice gives us experience. Theoretically, the Nagas must, by now realise that in Manipur they are Manipuris but in Nagaland they are outsiders and will always be treated as such.
The NSCN(K) faction openly says that Muivah is a Tangkhul not a Naga and Tangkhuls are not Nagas. It further says (September 2003) that “The Tangkhuls were Meiteis and joined the
Naga National movement only after Nagas entered ceasefire with the Indians just to create misunderstanding.”
The leader of the NSCN (IM) at the moment is Muivah – a Tangkhul and there are many Tangkhuls in this faction. It’s a matter of worry what the outcome would be when Muivah is no longer the leader.
As an advance notice, some NSCN (IM)) killed many Tangkhuls at Dimapur on May 5 2008. This sort of events does not occur in Manipur – their state.
On March 5 2011 NSCN (IM) killed a cadre of the Zeliangrong United Front in a gun battle at Khoupum Tampak.
There is also disillusionment among the Phungyar Tangkhuls as they see the reality that because of ethnic-strife their villages would be left behind in the Stone Age. They are rightly demanding the creation of a Manipuri district of their own by dividing the present Ukhrul district into haves, pouring cold water on the UNC’s separatist policy.
Large numbers of Kabuis live in the Imphal plane scattered in fifty odd villages. They have undergone microevolution differing from their counterpart Zeliangrongs in the hills, in looks, culture and habits. They have already expressed their views of staying put in Manipur, as they feel closer with the Meiteis.
History will imitate itself. We know the plight of Bihari Muslim immigrants to Muslim East Pakistan in 1947, and the atrocities they suffer since 1971 when they were forced to go to Pakistan from Bangla Desh. They are contemptuously treated as mhajir (immigrants). They now wish they never left India where fellow Muslims enjoy equal rights and opportunities of any Indian.
During the Calcutta Hindu-Muslim riots in 1947, some Meitei Pangals took shelter with Meitei students. They are descendants of Meitei mothers ie blood relations.
ATSUM and ANSAM should be aware that dissatisfaction is not one sided. For example: the Meitei youths are far from happy that all the top jobs are given to tribal people because of the quota system and that they pay no taxes for their large remunerations. They would also like a bit of land on the beautiful Siroi ranges in Ukhrul, or near the Barak Water Falls in Tamenglong, but they are denied due to “protective racism”, while every community is welcome to the Imphal valley.
The post-modern and liberalised Meiteis believe that there is no institutional discrimination against any ‘tribe’ in Manipur though discrimination and prejudice on a personal scale exists anywhere in the world.
I do appreciate these young “Nagas” struggling for economic prosperity except that their demands are always vitriolic saying “how the majority Meitei imposes unwelcome rule on the minority tribal people, which in fact is political rather than economical.
Having posited a dismal future for all of us, my thesis is aimed at finding an amicable solution for all the Manipuri communities. That’s where our prosperous future lies.
Manipuris are marching to an unheard drum in an arid political clime. It’s time for mothballing the old history of Manipur; it’s time for burying the hatchet; it’s time for the creation and reinforcement of a collective identity for Manipuris.
We need an increased share of a common language of Manipuri and an equal share of our economy, and willingness to celebrate a plural and secular society. We have to forge ahead in the larger interest of Manipur for Manipuris.
We have a common language that does not affect the right of ethnic minorities of other languages to use their native languages. Speaking the same language makes one feel belonging to the same community.
Message from the writer:
I appreciate what many readers are saying about my name. In fact, I wrote an article in a Manipuri daily this year that all Meitei youngsters and children should do without the pseudo -Rajput name of SINGH and DEBI; because we feel as if we are living in somebody’s body when we go abroad. But for old people like me it is too late. My name is legally bound in my passport, driving licence, banking, credit cards, and electoral register and so on.
The writer is based in the UK