By M C Arun
Manipur produced a number of dreamers in her long journey in history. The greatest dreamer at the juncture of history which was preparing to strive out from ancient thought to modern thought was King Pamheiba aka Garibaniwaz. His dream was to separate religion and state, to create a new identity of Manipur beyond the linguistic and religious identities. He wanted to create a Greater and Stronger Manipur in the Indo-Burma region. Again, when the modern Manipur was about to be born, the dream of King Bhagyachandra aka Chingthangkhomba emerged out of the several armed conflicts with external enemy, the Awa. His dream of consolidating powers and leading the people to a brighter future trigger a series of cultural experiments out of which many new ideas and traits including world-famous Raas Lila came out. Likewise, the dream of a liberated Manipur was King Gambhir Singh’s only dream; the same dream was the driving force of his war against the Burmese occupation force in the wake of 19th century. His dream collapsed around him with the signing of the Treaty on Kabaw Valley between the British and the Awa. The loss of Kabaw Valley was unthinkable for him and he died a dejected man. We can see that all these dreams of different ages share a common strand: the glory and pride of Manipur and her people. These dreamers will sacrifice their lives rather than compromise with the glorious tradition and pride of the State and her people.
The legacy of dreamers and of creating dreams was gone in 19th century after Manipur came under indirect colonialism of the British. The people of Manipur are simply reacting to the emerging historical conditions out the exogenous factors. They respond to the external stimuli only; they seldom take the challenge to change the condition. They lost the creativity of history making. Still, the only internal factor that moved the people was their pride and sentiment, deep rooted in their collective psyche. The last outburst of the pride and sentiment was seen in the Great June Uprising in 2001 when Government of India tried to test Manipur’s patience over the Naga issue. The people did not come down to communal violence, rather targeted to the national authority. This shows the value and level of the pride and sentiment. This further shows that there is no alternative to Manipuri pride and sentiment as a collective people.
The dreamers returned in the 20th century – creating dreams of different hue. The dreams range from Red Manipur in Red India of Hijam Irabot to brighter Manipur in federal India, from a Manipur devoid of exploitation to an independent country. These dreams lead to different political experiments in the long span of a century. Some dreams became obsolete in due course of time, some are still in vogue.
When the first generation of Manipur intellectuals in post-merger Manipur denied the status of Scheduled Tribes offered to the Meiteis, their only thought was the glorious and proud legacy left by their illustrious ancestors. They did not dare betray the legacy. So naturally they did not care for the material benefits and special protections associated with Scheduled Tribe tag. They rather chose to live up to the dreams and the proud legacy. In order to keep the history moving along with the collective psyche of the people, the dream(s) should be kept alive. To them, India was an answer to Manipur’s modern problems. Yet, they wanted to live with their heads held high and not as protected ‘people’. This historical paradox is the key to their jealously guarded dream(s).
Every society or for that matter State, be it the US or India or China, has to struggle. The struggles are for materialization of their own dream. The Inner Line of the Struggle is to forward dream that gives the direction, sets the strategy and even mobilizes the resources. The lost of self-esteem and confidence for the sake of survival are first steps towards defeat or of losing the struggle. Such a condition blurs the vision or loses sight of the dreams. All struggling societies and States move ahead to realize the dreams. For the Manipuri dream, demographic figures are not the only base; the census is not the sole determinant of Manipur’s reality. The worst demographic situation was experienced after the Chahi Taret Khundakpa for about a century. The ability to survive and struggle with the exogenous factors is the objective condition of “Bengal East Frontier Regulation” which was formulated for the complex British colonial interests. The Regulation was imposed 139 years ago in certain specified areas of undivided Assam and NEFA; it was retouched by India in post-colonial period 62 years ago. There had been modifications in the Regulation but the spirit of “exclusion” or patronising attitude of the “Indian government” remains. Ironically, the same people of “Nagaland/Nagalim” are looking beyond the Regulation; their demand for greater authority or Supra-State Body or the ‘alternative arrangement for the Nagas’ which is far beyond the Inner Line Permit on the political scale. They are trying to get something far better than the colonial gift of Regulations in the years-long “peace talk”.
Now, Manipur Assembly needs to examine the historical condition which is associated with the Regulation, beyond the legal framework or legality of the introduction of the Regulation in Manipur. Is demographic account sole determinant of Imposition/Introduction/Extension of the Regulation to any part of the Country? Does the State of Manipur still require the patronage of Central Government, keeping “demand for Statehood” or “Inclusion of Manipuri Language in Schedule VIII to Indian Constitution” or even the number of successful sportspersons in India in the backdrop? In short, the Government of Manipur should look into what were the political statuses and historical conditions of Naga Hills and Lushai Hills respectively when the Regulation was “imposed” by the then Government of British India.
Government of Manipur should also understand the difference between a State in British India such as Assam and Princely States like Manipur and Tripura.
Moreover, the people of Manipur should not underestimate the value of the legacy of the Manipuri dream. The objective assessment of historical condition is necessary; every response to the exogenous factors requires consideration in the backdrop of the Dream. Otherwise, before you lose the battle, your dreams will die first.