The Idea of Manipur

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Subir Bhaumik’s memorial lecture at Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Akademi on multiple ethnic assertions in the Northeast has provoked us to such limits that it is giving us sleepless nights in the last few days. One may have several reservations on Subir’s idea or options but we should thank him for provoking us and giving enough food for thought. One of the major areas of concern in the state has been the idea of Manipur set against the backdrop of several ethnic assertions. We will not deliberate on the ethnic issues of other Northeast states although the situation is more or less same. We will flag the conflict of ideas and territoriality which had induced a gaping divide among major communities in Manipur head on, and we will not beat about the bush. But first we must have the courage to say that we will sort out differences between ourselves and India should not be given the opportunity to play the judge in such a discourse. Subir’s lecture was indeed interesting when he said that the ‘divide and rule’ policy was in fact floated by Kautilya alias Chanakya, the mastermind of Indian statecraft much before the British. Chanakya’s four principles of statecraft Sham (Political Reconciliation), Dam (Monetary Inducement), Danda (Force) and Bhed (Split) have been used in varying mix to control and contain the violent movements in the Northeast. Of the four, the most important is the fourth principle of ‘split’. One may remember the stories of Indian intelligence agencies encouraging other ethnic assertions in Assam to counter the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). The case is the same with counter-insurgency operations in Manipur. Intelligence agencies, the regular army and the paramilitary forces have been very active in encouraging new ethnic assertions and splits in the various insurgent groups in which the KCP is the prime target now. It is common knowledge that a few factions of the KCP operate from the army and paramilitary camps. It is happening in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. And what have we done about it. Coming back to the point with regard to several ethnic assertions, there is a genuine need for sorting out differences among the various communities inhabiting the state at people to people level. Secondly, we must keep in mind that nothing could be achieved by putting across alternative arrangement either with the government of India or the government of Manipur. The governments have a peculiar way of working among the communities and they always refuse to understand the people to people relations. Previously there was this idea of a greater Nagalim and after the refused visit of NSCN-IM chief Thuingaleng Muivah in his home village Somdal the Naga narrative in Manipur has turned into a sort of alternative arrangement for the Nagas in Manipur, while the Kuki groups contained by the Suspension of Operations (SoO) are openly voicing for a Kuki homeland. On the other hand, there is the case of several ethnic assertions from minor ethnic groups. These assertions have resulted in overlapping territories and that is precisely where the role of civil society groups comes in to represent the concerns of the various ethnic communities inhabiting the state. Perhaps a Track Two consultation is required to resolves the issues. The presently jailed UNLF Chairman Sanayaima once floated an idea when he was free about a Manipur wherein the different communities big or small should have an equal representation in governance. He had a vision and that we must respect it whether we agree to or not. Peoples have different historical experiences and people have the right to aspire for self-determination. It does not matter whether have a historical justification or not for seeking self-justification. It is the human spirit that matters. Man was born free and he cannot be caged. And it should be left to the peoples of the Northeast to decide on what kind of self-determination or arrangement they want. And that could be the right the right beginning of the idea of Manipur that has been haunting us in the past few decades.  

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