The recent statement by the UNLF chairman, R.K. Sanayaima, alias Meghen, that he is ready for a settlement of the Manipur-India conflict by any other honourable means even if it is not by a plebiscite, would come across as loaded with meanings to any close and concerned observer of developments of the underground politics in Manipur. Since the statement was not elaborated, it is never certain what was exactly implied, whether it was just a response to a purported statement by another underground organisation on the issue of plebiscite as a conflict resolution mechanism in Manipur, as was vaguely implied, or if the UNLF leader was unilaterally indicating his and his party`™s willingness to open up to other ideas and formulas which can bring about a resolution to the problem at hand and thus usher back in peace in this trouble-torn state.
This is encouraging, if not for anything else then at least because it means not putting all the eggs in one basket. Ideally, every important blueprint for a peaceful settlement must have a Plan-B, and indeed Plan-C and D, E, F… all of them, it goes without saying, bound together by a single goal. This is important since the project being pushed is important and cannot afford to fail. If one plan becomes unfeasible, there must be other options to replace it.
The million rupees question at this juncture is, does the state have any alternate plan or plans? Quite in despair we are quite certain this is unlikely. This question is relevant not just for the government but also to the numerous peace workers and NGOs in the state. Have they been doing anything in the regards? What about the Manipur University? In the political science department, we can quite confidently say there would be numerous scholars who had done or are doing their M.Phil and Ph.D theses on the issue of insurgency. Quite predictably, most of these would also be virtually the same dog-eared sketches of the history of the phenomenon, with few or none of them providing any fresh insight into what can be the way out. We hope we are wrong, and there indeed are some which can shed light at this crucial juncture on the festering issue. We understand that the university is also developing a peace study centre. We wonder if this initiative has also done anything of relevance when it comes to the crux, as indeed it is now.
The vacuum of intellectual material with relevance to real problems on the ground is frustrating, but more than this, it also points to the trend of academics in the state as a whole. The pursuit today is for degrees which can guarantee government jobs, and not in the real spirit of education, which is generally defined as acquisition of problem solving skills and insights into life`™s myriad challenges. The uneasy reality today in Manipur is, government jobs have acquired a Kafkaesque reality of its own, and they have become ends in themselves, so much so that even the meaning of the pursuit of education and knowledge has come to be skewed unrecognisably to mean only the acquisition of relevant paper qualifications to make the candidates eligible for these jobs. When real problem solving needs, especially very crucial one as the state is faced with currently arise, what everybody is faced with is a big intellectual void on the matter.
This is the tragedy of modern Manipur. The time is simply ripe to begin a new journey to explore peace possibilities, for opportunities are knocking at the door. If these extremely rare openings to a new and peaceful future are allowed to go waste, the history will never forgive the present generation. Though in an intellectual vacuum in matters of peace models currently, the government and the entire intelligentsia must come together to rise to the occasion. The exploration for different avenues for peace and reconciliation must begin in earnest without further loss of time. This reconciliation must be broad based too, for by no means can any resolution to Manipur`™s problems, we would venture to say much more than any other north eastern states, can be a linear one. As much as Manipur is multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic and multi-religion, the divisions within its society are as myriad and complex. To conjure up a holistic vision to accommodate all its problems within a single blueprint, what is called for is what John Paul Lederach terms as the `moral imagination` `“ an imagination that extends beyond the ordinary linear vision of established rules and legality, or individual likes and dislikes.