Source: Sanjib Meitei
Whenever I came across the word “Reconciliation”, what comes in my mind is the desperate move and appeals by Dr. Wati Aiyer’s The Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) to bring peace and unity among different Naga sub tribes. I’ll support the mission just after hearing its name mission because the phrase ‘Reconciliation and Unity’ is too good for me not to support it. It’s like democracy vs Nazism/Talibanism. The goal seems to be quite easily achievable since they are trying to unite people of a single tribe called Naga.
Often, we get to read beautifully phrased press releases from NSCN/GPRN endorsing the move and its commitment towards achieving the goal. Even the GPRN/NSCN and FGN endorse the move and express its desire to attend the highest level meeting of leaders from all the warring groups to sit down together and bring an everlasting solution in Naga society. Indeed, I too pray that peace prevails among the Nagas.
However the reality may be quite different from the press releases which covered the so called highest level meetings among the warring factions and occasional mass prayers. Random killing among the members of different groups, gunfights, accusation for territorial encroachments in eastern parts of Nagaland and Naga inhabitant districts of Arunanchal Pradesh, formation of ZUF, killing a few members of ZUF by NSCN/GPRN men are totally contradictory to all the press releases which have been published endlessly for a while in local media.
Well, why are Naga people still unable to unite themselves despite their common goal of making Nagaland a Land of Christ (again an apostle of Peace and Love)? The most basic reason is the insincerity of the leaders towards achieving the goal. Unity and peace is never possible unless people from different communities leave their false ego, exaggerated pride based on exaggerated history to show supremacy over others. You can take inspiration from the history but you can’t live with the history. Lack of heroic sacrifices from leaders and members of different communities for the sake of common Naga cause and thirst of power among leaders are also playing as obstacles for the process.
Here is where I start thinking that Nagas can learn from the process of Meitei reconciliation which happened much before King Nongada Lairen Pakhangba at 33 AD in Sana Leipak. I was always fascinated by classical Meitei folklores. The folklore of Emoinu Celebration from the story “Washak Ngakpa” meaning Keeping the Promise, written by Late Shri Ningombam Angouton Meetei and the classical love story “Khamba -Thoibi” are classical examples of successful reconciliation process of the old Meitei factions.
Although Washak Ngakpa is a story on how the Meiteis started celebrating Emoinu Day by lighting fire torches on roadside and worshiping the goddess Emoinu at ‘Funga Lairu’, the great Meitei reconciliation process was the backbone of the story when the story line is viewed at an angle different from the typical storyline. Let me tell you the story briefly:
Once upon a time, there were four kings ruling four independent kingdoms. The kings were Khuman Kwakpa, Meitei King Thawan Thaba, Selloi Nongmai Ningthou and Chingshanglakpa. There had been a mutual understanding among the kings and were friendly nations. However, the relationship between the Meitei king and Khuman Kwakpa deteriorated and in a meeting, they declared that they would no more be friends and severed all ties between them. Incidentally, the wife of Khuman Kwakpa was a Meitei woman named “Piyainu”. After returning from the meeting, the king Khuman Kwakpa summoned all his ministers and narrated the new developments in the severed ties between Meiteis and Khumans. He also promised that he would divorce his wife Piyainu since he didn’t want to be a bad example in front of the Khuman people.
Till then, he was unaware of the fact that Piyainu was already pregnant with his child. He ordered Piyainu to leave the palace immediately. Piyainu pleaded that she was already pregnant and requested him to allow her to stay till the child is born in Khuman palace. Even the ministers tried to persuade the king but Khuman Kwakpa, known for his principle of keeping promise did not bend. Piyainu had no option but prayed to the Godess of Khuman Kingdom “Emoinu Chakhong Ngahongbi” to show a miracle which would trigger a change in the stand of Khuman Kwakpa. But, nothing happened and finally Piyainu took a stand to return to Meitei land.
For once, she prayed to Emoinu that if she was innocent and a true Meitei woman who kept the virtue of married woman sincerely, then she be blessed to get to live with Emoinu Eema. Time passed, Piyainu got a son whom she named Chalamba. Chalamba grew up without knowing who his father was and he was prohibited by his mother from venturing into the land towards the south east direction of Meitei land. The reason was simple; the kindom in the sout east direction of Meitei land was ruled by enemy. During that time, there was a Meitei tradition of appeasing goddess “Meitei Yumjao Lairembi” as per the instructions of oracles. One year, an oracle forecasted that goddess “Yumjao Lairembi” would be pleased if a live deer could be offered to Her.
Chalamba was also one of the Meitei youths who set out to hunt a deer. They tried everywhere except the south east land but could not get any deer. Chalamba decided to go to the south east land for hunting without informing his mother. As he moved into the north eastern terrains, he saw a deer running away. He started chasing the deer with a promise that the first sighted deer should be offered to Yumjao Lairembi. During the chase, the deer passed through a forest which was full of yairi grasses (Rubus idens) making a loud sound. The placed was named “Yairipok”.
Finally, the deer ran into the palace of Khuman Kwakpa and hide below the throne of the king. Khuman Kwakpa told Chalamba that since the deer took refuge from him, it’s his duty to protect the animal and if Chalamba loved his life, then he should return to Meitei land without any further delay. But, Chalamba refused to budge and challenged the king to fight with him in person. Kwakpa agreed and took on Chalamba. However, despite of all his fighting skills and reputation of being a great worrier, he couldn’t defeat Chalamba. Finaly, Kwakpa, impressed with the strength of Chalamba, halted the fight and inquired about the parents of Chalamba. Chalamba told him that Piyainu is the name of his mother but he didn’t know who his father was. Kwakpa inquired more and it became clear that Chalamba was his own son. To be sure, he sent Chalamba back to Meitei land to ask to his mother whether she wanted the deer or anything else expecting that Piyainu would ask for the kingdom. Chalamba returned to his mother to ask her choice.
Piyainu told her son to ask Khuman Kwakpa to make a promise that he would hand over what she had asked for and if Kwakpa comply with the demand, then asked him to handover “Emoinu Chahong Ngaongbi”. Chalamba returned to Kwakpa who was waiting for him along with his ministers. Chalamba asked Kwakpa if he would promise to give what his mother had asked for else give the deer back. Kwakpa promised that he would give anything what Piyainu had asked for. Chalamba asked Kwakpa to give Emoinu Chahongbi. Kwakpa, the worshipper of Emoinu Ema Ahongbi, was shocked but his perception that Chalamba was his own son was vindicated. He could not imagine the demand. Due to Emoinu Ahongbi, prosperity in Khuman land was happening. Kwakpa told Chalamba to take back the demand. Instead of that demand, Kwakpa asked him to take whatever he liked from Khuman land be it gold, land, and even the throne. He also told Chalamba that Chalamba himself was the legal heir of the Khuman throne.
Chalamba told Kwakpa to return the deer and he was not interested in any of the offers from a King who couldn’t keep his promise. Kwakpa, gave in to the demand and handover Emoinu Chahongbi to Chalamba. Chalamba, despite his poor upbringing by single mother could not be lured away by mouth watering offers from Khuman Kwakpa (his father) and sacrificed every personal and materialistic gain that he could have achieved for the sake of the welfares of Meiteis. Chalamba brought Emoinu Chahong Ngahongbi to Meiteiland without war and bloodshed. Piyainu lit up the street to welcome the Goddess Emoinu Chakhong Ngahongbi. Finally, truth won the battle.
Of course, the unbreakable bond of love between Meiteis and Khumans had been developed by brave Chalamba and the King of principle Khuman Kwakpa. He kept his promise despite his personal losses. He applied the same yardstick to define his principle even when it hit him hard. Had Khuman Kwakpa not kept his promise, who knows, there could have been more wars and bloodshed between Meiteis and Khumans.
In the story by Late Shri Ningombam Angouton Meetei, the principle of Khuman Kwakpa who despite being the king accepted the challenge from an unknown lad to fight in person, raw courage of Chalamba with total devotion to his motherland that could not be lured by materialistic comforts, Piyainu, the woman of virtue who brought up her son and kept him grounded are depicted beautifully and still classic examples of Meitei civilization based on tolerance, courage, virtue, good family upbringing and patriotism.
Such kinds of characters are required to bring reconciliation among the warring tribes in the context of Naga reconciliation process. Leaders of Naga factions need to be more sincere and back up their numerous press releases with actions. Like Khuman Kwakpa, they need to stick to their principles, promises, apply same yardsticks for defining sacrifices that need to be made for reconciliation and more importantly they should be selfless. The restraint shown by Khuman Kwakpa when an unknown lad from enemy land challenged him should be classic example of how the leaders should lead the people by example.
Just shouting that we should unite for the sake of Christ will not bring real reconciliation and unity. Mass prayer is good but actions should reflect the intention and motive behind the slogan. Khamba Thoibi is famous for its classical love story between an orphan Khamba and princess Thoibi while a rich, talented and cunning Angom Nongban, son of a Minister of then Moirang kingdom tried to win the hand of princess Thoibi at any cost.
Apart from the love story, it depicts the strain relationship between Moirangs and Khumans. The two kingdoms continued their hate relationship till the brave Khuman Khamba took on the ‘Kau’ that lived in Eekop lake and terrorized the people of Khuman which had been hindering people from going out for fishing. The incident brought together the warring communities viz., the Khumans and the Moirangs closely.
Whatever the claim by some of the Naga leaders, reconciliation seems to be still a far line from reach for the Naga groups. Highest level meetings will not be effective unless the general public from different groups are determined to reconcile. The motto of forgive and forget the past enmity needs to be sincerely practiced.
Last but not the least, hating and blaming Meiteis for the backwardness of tribal people of Manipur may not be correct political move at all. I do not support the the idea of greater Nagalim but sincerely support the unity and peace process initiated by various civil organizations.