ARE THE MEITEI GETTING A SHORT SHRIFT FROM THEIR TRIBAL BROTHERS?

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By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh

Of course, they are. A crying baby gets more milk. With the free infant formula milk from New Delhi, the feeding is easier. The idea is at least, as old as Jesus.

The idea that Jesus went to Rome after his crucifixion is getting a short shrift. So is the legend that Jesus was brought to England as a boy by his uncle Joseph of Arimatheia. The story that Jesus survived the crucifixion and died and buried in Kashmir is also getting a sort shrift though thousands visit this run-down shrine (BBC News March 27 20100).

Another saga is also falling by the roadside. Those of you who have travelled to Rome must have seen a small church in the southeast of Rome, called Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis, a tourist attraction.

By the Roman Catholic tradition, the spot is where Peter (St. later) supposedly saw a vision of Jesus when the former was fleeing Rome to escape persecution. He asked Jesus, Quo Vadis, domine? Whither goest thou, Lord? (King James’ Bible). Jesus supposedly replied, Eo Roman iterum crucifigo. I am going to Rome to be crucified anew. Peter felt ashamed, went back to Rome and was crucified.

According to modern Bible researchers; Paul actually met Jesus there as he continued to preach until he reached Rome where he was last seen at Ephesus at the age of 76 (Author’s book, My Search for God p204).

Why talk about Jesus in relation to Meitei? It’s partly because I know the Bible as the back of my hand. That includes Jesus. There is an analogy between Jesus and Meitei? It sounds like hard graft but not really.

It is their historical unaccountability and capacity for serendipity. Like Jesus, the authenticity of the Meitei origin is smothered by stylistic artifice.

Jesus is the most controversial figure in history. Who is Jesus, still haunts imagination of many thinkers including myself; because there is no evidence or proof of his existence external to what his followers wrote.

Likewise, the origin of the Meitei is in obscurity. There are many unverifiable narratives, beginning from regional creation to migration from Africa, interspersed with imaginary original locations like Kamtilong.

The “history” of Jesus and Meitei clumsily dates back to just over 2000 years ago. The existence of Jesus is unknown until his 30th year (Author’s book, Quest Beyond Religion p183) and the origin of the Meitei is equally unknown before 33 CE (Cheitharol Kumbaba). Without prevarication no doubt, there will always be Jesus and Meitei.

Let me begin from the beginning of why the Meitei are getting a short shrift. In the preterit and existing political and social disorder in Manipur, the romantic déjà vu of the Meitei over their grandiose past is still an intrinsic part of the pretty scenery of Meitei euphoria.

Despite all the well-ploughed furrows of Meitei history, the Meitei continue to sit like a tin of condensed milk with corrosive scepticism, refusing to assent to what they think to be a non-evident proposition – the rumble of the slide of a tectonic plate of Meitei history.

The current history of the Meitei is in a state of kinetic friction and inertia, having their mechanical energy stored in the fabric of Meitei space as they brace the internal tensions of Meitei insurgency and Naga energy density fields.

Despite impeccable heroic credentials, reckless bravado, tornadoes of rage, floods of tears, the Meitei remain solemn in cadence and stentorian in tone. The Meitei persona has dipped beneath the radar in the past 20 years.

“To be or not to be”: that is the question – Hamlet’s question reflects his anxiety about his responsibilities and he is clear about it. Both Brutus and Hamlet reflect at over the need to act. Brutus acts immediately while Hamlet does not.

The tribal elite act immediately like Brutus while the Meitei eggheads are in the doldrums, asking the question –“To be or not to be”- unable to make a decision like Hamlet.

For the Meitei whose instinct is politically naïve, they set about like static electricity, which though has potential to shock, does not flow in its electromagnetic field. The Meitei are apprehensive, but do not throw back and are happy to stay inert.

The forefathers of the Meitei must be choking with “tarpon” offerings by their offspring to know that their descendants fail to scratch themselves to relieve itchy political gaps! The Meitei lack some assertive ethnic nationalism even to the limit of conjuring up tension as pleural nationalism is hardly the one which is most popular and is hardly the best of circumstances. It’s time the Meitei are tickled to be a tad sensitive and feel overlooked if an epidemic misses them out?

Every Meitei with an ounce of instinct for self- preservation in his blood should have immersed to a degree, in neutralising the threat posed by militant Manipur Nagas while sincerely urging them to return to a composite Manipuri nationalism. Then let due process run its course. Credibility lies at the crux.

The story that is rapidly unfolding on the doorstep of the Meitei is not an illuminating one, but rather grotesque prejudices that serve as a catalyst for a break-up of Manipur, backed by a momentum of tribal ethnonationalism, which to some extent underscores their perceived inferiority in a plural, social and political makeup of Manipur. Their self-consciousness is bigger and more arcane than the real truth.

A Meitei with an I Q of plankton would not fail to realise the absurdity of committing political suicide. There are ways of playing floodlights across the political scene so that the Meitei name would be recognised far beyond gods.

Though the Meitei is not a finished article, he stays agog in this extra ordinary volatile period in history. Determined resistance and compromise together will put the Meitei back on an even keel in this turbulent time of disunity in diversity.

Almost every Meitei is a Brutus who stave in the back, as portrayed by William Shakespeare in the famous Julius Caesar quote: Et tu, Brute? Its literal translation in English is And you, Brutus? The widely accepted one is ‘You too, Brutus? It was Julius Caesar’s last word to Marcus Brutus (Act iii, Scene i). The quotation is widely used in Western culture as an epitome of betrayal.

In looking for an answer, perhaps it is true that the Meitei alpha male breaks out in a rash when he sees another Meitei on the top rung of the ladder because of his unrealistic feeling of inadequacy in that sphere, sometimes compensated by aggressive behaviour.

The Manipur government like any other has flaws. It is said that “The better the state is organised the duller will be mankind” (Nietzsche); and that “Populations get the governments they deserve” (Jefferson), as we get it in Manipur.

Manipur has now, generous annual largesse from Delhi in terms of money, big projects and modern developments. With urbanisation there is a rise in the middle class band as in the rest of India, with movement of people from the villages and hill districts to Imphal; shift from agriculture to services and rise in wages etc.

With the changing demographics, there is some flow of wealth to the poor rural areas of India. In Manipur itself, it has begun to filter to the rural and hill districts through the ‘jamboree’ of extortions, assassinations and embezzlement.

The rise in the standard of living means improved physical circumstances in which we live. But it has the downside of making holes in the pockets of the low earners because of the hike in prices. In Manipur, a significant number of today’s unemployed young people equate economic deprivation and job scarcity to a lame democracy with the resulting violence and insurgency.

The ATSUM, which is forever bemoaning about their “ill-treatment” by non-tribal Meitei, might appreciate what really aggrieves the Meitei youths. This is their ‘non-tribal’ classification in the Indian Constitution; no thanks to the peri-independent Congress leaders.

It may sound hyperbolic but it is worth remembering how the Meitei feel when more and more top-notch jobs in the local Manipur government bureaucracy are incrementally filled by the tribal people because of their privileged reservation system. Nationally also there are more IPS and IAS officers and even Air India hostess. The tribal bosses, over and above their perks, do no pay taxes on their handsome salaries.

The Meitei are seen more in lower paid government jobs, calling “sir” to their tribal bosses. This is because the Meitei belong to the majority population, are more educated and thus fill the posts, but not by discrimination.

It’s good in a way. The tribal are getting their own back from the Meitei. The Meitei have paid penance in suffering for their ancestors “sins”, though in law, children are not punished for the crime their parents committed. It’s time to throw in the towel. There should be no more wailing tribal souls, no more hi-hop lyrics.

To add insult to injury, the Meitei have now been ‘upgraded’. They are neither a tribe nor people, just a crowd (OBC) among ‘other backward classes’. It is like Gandhi’s ‘upgrading’ of the Untouchables to Hari Jans, a reberbative eponym, now renamed Dalit.

It surprises me to no end that just after the Independence, the most backward and illiterate Meitei were listed as superior class in the Indian Constitution and now the well-educated and prosperous Meitei as backward classes. Pythagoras must be turning in his grave.

The writer is based in the UK
Email: [email protected]
Website: www.drimsingh.co.uk

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