By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
There is an ongoing tripartite talk to discuss the demand of the UNC for the separation/secession of Naga inhabited areas of Manipur from Manipur itself.
I have a gut feeling that whatever the outcome of the talk, the boundary of Manipur is inviolable.
‘Manipur’ is for all the Manipuris while archaic ‘Kangleipak’ is for the Meiteis, incorporating the Imphal valley. It was the water-filled Imphal valley that dried up, not the hills.
The equally archaic word ‘Meetei’ of the Poireiton period should be replaced by the smarter modern ‘Meitei’ (Meithei in old English), in the same way ‘Yumphal’ is replaced by Imphal. ‘Meitei’ is not a phonetically corrupted ‘Meetei’. It is a word inducement – an act of bringing a desired result in phonetics. All school children should be taught to use the word Meitei, because it is modern. If you type Meitei on a computer it will recognise it, but it will not recognise Meetei. Language is constantly evolving by natural selection and by omitting language that is not articulated. Examples are Archaic English, Old English and Modern English.
Old is not always gold. Old age is not synonymous with intellectual maturity. It may be the other way round because of senility. But what has this tripartite talk got to do with my “gut feeling”?
Gut feeling is intuition, meaning looking inside. It deals with our innate sense of right or wrong. The energy created by the ‘Chakras’ (wheels in Yoga) and the way they channel it is felt as odd sensations in our body.
Knowledge of the Chakras was first formalised by Patanjali about 3,000 years ago. The third centre (chakra) in our subtle system is called “nabhi” or “Manipur” chakra. Its physical location is at about the level of the navel. It looks after several important aspects of our being, primarily with the organs of digestion but also with our sense of right or wrong – an odd sensation that we feel in our gut. This is the gut-feeling. This is all I have about the end-result of the tripartite talk. You may call it intuition.
I have full understanding of the UNC challenge. Their demand arose from an innate desire to identify with their gut feeling and a longing to maintain a good social order with fellow ethnic Nagas of Nagaland. But my empathy does not play a role in judgement of the subject of disintegration of Manipur or alteration of its boundary.
My article argues logically why the “territory” of Manipur that covers the hills and the plain can not be transgressed. That is, it must stay in status quo forever.
Since the fag end of the crisis-ridden 20th century, everyday, the political and ethnic dissonance continues to mount secessionist movements all over the world, either to achieve politically independent governments or ethnically homogenous communities – from Bosnia and Chechnya to Sri Lanka; from Francophones in Quebec, Canada to Basques in Escudo, Spain.
Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union there are more than 60 countries, one-third of all the members in the United Nations that are operating either for full sovereignty or lesser degrees of political self-determination.
Even the disgruntled taxpayers on Staten Island want to secede or demand greater autonomy from New York. A lot of progressive Americans started talking seriously of secession, such as the Texas Nationalist Movement.
Attempts at or aspirations of secession from the United States have been a feature of the country’s politics. The United States Supreme Court ruled unilateral secession unconstitutional while commenting that revolution or consent of the states could lead to a successful secession.
The swelling number of secessionist movements has evoked a vigorous response from political philosophers but with no right political answer in sight.
The basic concept of ‘territory’ concerns itself with water, food, shelter, clothing and economics for survival though there are variable concepts of territory. With these in mind I intend to build up a valid argument from true premises, and arrive at a true conclusion through inference that the territorial integrity of Manipur could not be violated.
Under international law ‘territorial integrity’ is the principle that nation-states should not attempt to promote secessionist movements or to promote changes in other nation-states.
In recent years there has been tension between this principle and the concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’ under Article 73.b of the United Nations Charter – “to develop self-government to take account of the political aspirations of the peoples.”
However, territorial integrity and humanitarian intervention collided head-on in the Kosovo War in 1998-99 between ethnic Albanians (Muslim) and Serbs (Christian) causing the death of 150-250,000 people.
The history of the Concept of Territory and its evolution is a vast subject with varying degrees of agreement and disagreement and newer concepts such as “Palestine” territorial concept, which simply refer to one’s native home, place and birth.
The territorial concept is a spatial concept. Space has long been studied in relationship with geography, economy, and management. Though some effort has been made to define space there is still lack of definition in a world where spatial actions are more and more global.
The newer concepts complicate the environment of Manipur where relationship with space for a composite Manipur (Hills and valley) is no longer a simple question of preserving space but a legitimate proposal to keep the right conditions which emerge from proximities (Gael Le Boulch).
The concept of territory is not only spatial but also a product of human imagination and beliefs. It is closely linked with sovereignty. This is the Meitei territorial concept of Manipur.
The territorial concept endorses a set of properties attached to a complex system (Monk 2000), referring to structure and dynamics, putting forward the question of time irreversibility and its necessity to be taken into account.
The Territorial concept of the Meiteis also means an embryonic territorial awareness, though reference to social awareness rather than to political one, which has been accepted and defended from time immemorial and is irreversible.
In the history of redefining territory with political integrity by many political units claiming a definite territory by intrusion into another territory where there are a co-ethnic settlements, was regarded as an act of war. This is similar to the current territorial redefining
of the NNC (IM) with an intrusion in Manipur’s territory where there are ethnic Nagas.
The question of Manipur’s territorial integrity claim must be viewed from the perspective of Indian constitution, age-old boundary of Manipur (as in the present map) demarcated in 1881 by a Boundary Commission under James Johnstone, and “the state of Manipur”, the sovereignty of which was handed over to Maharaja Bodhchandra at 12 midnight, Thursday August 28 1947, including the Hills that had been under British control.
Thus the territorial claim by the NNC (IM) like the ‘Chinese Irritable Border Syndrome’, with collusion of some Nagas of Manipur (UNC) is in international law, an act of aggression, to the Meiteis, Kukis, Pangals and the smaller tribes who have been living peacefully in Manipur for a few thousand years.
When the right of self-determination is invoked by secessionist ethnic groups, the state almost always invokes the principles of the territorial integrity of the state and the inviolability of its borders. It is a violation of international law to recognize unilateral declarations of independence by secessionist groups and territories against the wishes of federal or central governments who are engaged in resisting the separatists.
While the Constitution of India does not allow Indian states to secede from the union, a large percentage of the population in India would choose to secede from their respective nation states if given the opportunity. This is not a simple option.
In the continuing wind of change for secession all over the world the government of Manipur
should tread softly-softly by seeking a formula to appease the UNC at the tripartite talk, perhaps an ethnofederal relationship without disintegrating Manipur. They need to formulate conflict-sensitive approaches that enable mediation and dialogue to take place.
In conclusion, we must resist the well-known view of German anarchist Gustav Landauer (1870-1819): “The state is a condition, a certain relationship between beings, a mode of
behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently.”
We are all together in this land of Sana leibak Manipur and we will keep the integrity of Manipur intact forever.
In order to present my line of reasoning in a logical and consistent fashion I have approached my arguments with such a strong attitude without ignoring evidence that contradict other people’s thinking.
But as TS Eliot pointed out, between the thought and action falls the shadow as does between idea and reality. I find it easy enough to will the end but can I will the means?
The writer is based in the UK