History cannot be the sole issue, neither can any belief inbrotherhood past or present. The ultimate deciding factor in the present political face off between Naga integrationists and Manipur integrity defenders will have to be rooted in the current reality. It will be good if the two can exist side by side without the need for each to obliterate the other. As we have been consistently arguing in these columns, we see no reason why this cannot happen given the will, imagination and most importantly, accommodative spirit. Why must the boundaries of identity, both cultural and political, be rigid and absolutely non permeable. They can work in non-antagonistic concentric circles, whereby someone can be a Meitei, but also Manpuri, an Indian, an Asian etc, and ultimately a human being at the outermost circle. What then is the current reality? Two perspectives are obvious: One, the aspiration of the Nagas to come under one political roof and two, the survival question of Manipur, whereby its two geographical constituents, the valley and its surrounding hills cannot but remain together under a single administrative control.
In a reversal of the popular portrayal of the scenario, we would even say that the Manipur integrity issue is not about emotions at all at its core, although on the surface it does appear to be so. Quite to the contrary, it is about hard-nosed political geography of survival deep down. As we have argued so many times before, a valley and its surrounding hills must complement each other and form one composite living space. The valley, any valley for that matter, will never let go of the hills that surround it, for it is a matter of its survival. Asking Manipur to give up its hills, would be like asking Israel to give up the Golan Heights. They will never agree, for it would amount to asking them to disintegrate voluntarily. The rightness or the wrongness of their refusal becomes only a matter of perspective and subjective judgement. But if Israel’s right to exist, or Manipur’s right to exist, are to be acknowledged, their right of control over territories extremely vital to their survival cannot but also be acknowledged. To not acknowledge this would amount to war. Leave aside the Israel parallel, but must this right necessarily have to limit the aspiration for Naga integration. The challenge must be to work out a political dispensation where Manipur integrity and Naga integration can happen simultaneously without crossing each other’s core interests. The manner in which even independent nations are melting down borders to evolve into common regional entities, gives hope that this can work.
If the engine that drives the Manipur integrity campaign is emotional only superficially, we would also argue, without attributing any value judgment, that it is the Naga integration movement which is emotional. Disparate tribes, discovering a fraternal bondage in a generic name may be a transcendental journey as Prof. BK Roy Burman puts it, but still it is nevertheless an emotional thread that is the binding force ultimately. It must however be acknowledged that this emotion is a powerful reality that must be factored into any lasting solution to the problem that is unsettling the region. The other reality is that this is the age of partnerships. We do not refer to only the Naga integration-Manipur integrity equation, but also to their relation with India. It does not have to be a binary antagonism always. As in all partnerships, conditions that suit each partner can always be worked out so that relations are cemented in mutual benefits and hopes. If a pride in the self and an all round prosperity can be guaranteed through these partnerships, what else is there to fight for. The ability to come to terms with these realities will be the key to the return of peace and normalcy. It will also be the definition of the true calibre in our situation.