By M C Arun
It does not matter whether one calls it ‘The Great June Uprising’ or ‘Unity Day’ in observing the historic June 18 incident of 2001. What matters is the spirit and the values of the integrity for which 18 laid down their lives, thousands of men and women who suffered injuries and thousands of youths who bared their chests daring the security to shoot them. It was indeed a historic moment. The people of Manipur had stood together against the controversial decision of the Government of India and the lethargic Manipuri politicians. The people did not lose their cool even in anger or in the heat of police firing. Their focus was on one agenda: the integrity of Manipur. The event is being interpreted in different ways; there is no harm in saying June 18 was for unity of the Manipur or Manipuris or for the territorial integrity of the State or even for the renewal of Manipuri’s pride and energy to keep the pride alive. But, one thing is missing that is the strong emotional, sentimental and permanent thread of history of the people of Manipur. This historical thread is deep rooted in the living folklore of the people.
The remembrance or observation of June 18 in a cyclic manner with a pre-planned gathering is meaningless. Such observation will rather strengthen the Ghetto mentality of the smaller groups. This is just a translation of the tokenism of India to effect the over-blown rhetoric of ‘unity in diversity’ in the Manipuri context. June 18 should mean a wider historical responsibility than mere tokenism and parroting some old colonial phrases like ‘divide and rule’. June 18 is not a show of strength or of just floral tributes; it is of accommodation and revisiting the idea of Manipur. The old method of showing respect to departed souls and showcasing the pains and sorrows of victims’ families, giving long speeches do not give any new dimension in the current history of Manipur. June 18 is just to strengthen the idea of accommodation and to cultivate a new sense of identity. June 18 is far beyond the religion, language, ethnic affinities and even the hatred of the ‘wrong doers’ of 2001. So playing out religious rites and rituals of a particular sect just hampers the real spirit of the Day.
The stories of various victims of the great historical event are dramatically reported in various channels and mediums. To the extent, the victims narrated that they are helpless and they did not get any help or support from either government or people’s organizations. They are suffering as they took part in the event. These stories are blown up to show that they are suffering as they took part in the Uprising. There are thousands of persons who had been beaten up by the police personnel; many hundreds hurt themselves in burning down the offices of political parties and State Assembly. Still there are many more individuals who had injured themselves in the night processions and demonstrations. All these sufferings are part and parcel of the people’s movement to create the historic Day. Then what is the use of showing sympathy on selected few on the very day of observation of the Day. The sufferings that have been brought by June 18 cannot be compensated. Many news items in both print and electronic media that narrated the human pain and suffering of some living victims is indeed ugly side of the observation of the Day. It belittles the noble steps of the people on the Day.
The observation of the Day may be organized on different parts of the State or even outside the State. June 18 was not for a place but for a people. The observation should aim to accommodate more and more people which cannot be accommodated in a limited space (though it has its own sacredness) of Kekrupat. Wherever there is a person who think Manipur is a historical necessity, one can observe the Day. Loving Manipur, in this form or a form that should be materialized in future, is enough for observance of the Day. For loving Manipur, you do not have to belong to a group or another.
Just love it and say: Long live Manipur.