In 2006 Literature Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s “The Black Book” there is a passage describing the relationship between Turkish Jews and the Turks, dominantly Muslims. Both are the same people, yet both are so different in their outlook to life, for reasons unfathomable. Describing the situation he says: “And wasn’t it amazing, just amazing, to watch these two peoples through the twentieth century swaying to the rhythm of the same secret music, never meeting, always at a tangent, forever linked, forever condemned, like a pair of hopeless twins.” The great thing about great quotes is, they seem so uncannily applicable to similar human situations everywhere. Pamuk’s quote hence may just as well have been about Manipur and the relations between different ethnic groups and different geographic regions of the state, in particular the much hyped hill-valley divide.
Yesterday this tangential show of interests was up for show. While in the valley, the June 18 uprising anniversary was being observed, an extraordinary event in which hundreds of thousand people took to the streets of Imphal in 2001 to protest what they believed was a move by the Central government to dismember Manipur’s historical territory, elsewhere the United Naga Council, UNC, dispatched a letter to the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, seeking an administrative arrangement separate from the Manipur government for the Nagas in what they consider as their traditional territorial domain. It may be recalled, the June 18, 2001 incident that followed the Government of India’s unilateral decision to extend the NSCN(IM) ceasefire into Manipur under the blanket clause “without territorial limits”, resulted in the death of 18 protestors and the burning down of several important government infrastructures, including the Manipur State Assembly building. It is pertinent to note here that one of the main demands of the NSCN(IM) is the formation of a Greater Nagaland by merging territories of Manipur and other neighbouring states which it considers as part of a traditional Naga homeland with the state of Nagaland. In 2010 May 6 again there was another confrontation when the Manipur government did not allow the NSCN(IM) chairman, Th. Muivah to enter Manipur to visit his village Somdal in Ukhrul, leading to agitations at Mao gate in which two protestors ended up killed. At the time, the Manipur government was pushing ahead with the election to the autonomous district councils, ADCs, in the hill districts, which for reasons of their own, the UNC and some other Naga organisations objected, and the government was apprehensive Muivah’s visit was timed to coincide with the agitation, among others. It may also be recalled that while sections of the Nagas objected to the ADC elections, other hill communities welcomed it.
What can anybody make of this friction, other than what Pamuk described as “always at a tangent, forever linked, forever condemned, like a pair of hopeless twins”? If the problem seems intractable and irreconcilable, think again. It just requires for all caught in this senseless trap to distance themselves a little from the immediate and from a detached vantage, take a more dispassionate look at these same issues. From such a vantage, these frictions would suddenly begin to appear extremely limited, and this is probably also why so many observers from outside this conflict theatre are unable to comprehend how these conflicts manage to sustain for so long, for the reasons behind them appear to them as easily reconcilable. Those of us immersed in these frictions know very well how very far the truth this observation is. However, the question worth considering is whether it is these observations which are limited in vision, or else it is the inability of parties in these frictions who are incapable of rising above the immediate and mundane, to see and think outside the box. While we have always been of the opinion that there has to be a balance between the objective and subjective visions for a more accurate assessment of any conflict situation, it must also be acknowledged this also implies that either of these visions can come to overbear on the other thus skewing up these assessments. At this moment, it does seem there is an excessive and indeed unhealthy tilt towards a myopic subjectivism dominating the professed logics behind these conflicts.