Manipur Social Character and Individual Design: Dogged refusal to move forward

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By Amar Yumnam
Two great souls have left for heaven recently. Besides their significance to the national articulation and concern for issues of development transition, both of them have been two of my most rewarding interactions on this planet. Last year we lost L.C. Jain, a loving and caring person to the core. Within this week we have lost B.K. Roy Burman. Roy Burman is a serious and concerned social thinker of post-Independence India. He has some very important qualities critical to the well-being of Manipur and North East Region. He was always tireless of working and thinking for the people of the region. He is the one who brought the solution of the problem of Sami tribes in Western Europe to the notice of the intellectuals in this country. He constantly put forward his opinions about the issues and people of the region. It never mattered to him whether his opinions were accepted or not in general, but the sincerity of his concern was visible in every articulation. Above all he was a great soul. He would never hold grudge against people who always hold opinions contrary to his, but instead would care for their progress. He was not from the region, but his heart was always in the region.

I am particularly referring to his personality traits for the Manipuris have a lot to acquire in this regard. He was a person who would not feel envious of progress of others. He would rather be very supportive of that and celebrate personal satisfaction out of it. He was a soul who would be happy with the well-being of all. This character is visible and dominant among the people in almost all the progressive societies. It is through this process that the global presence and national importance of the members of these groups of people are established and always sustained. This ensures three very critical outcomes. First, the individual excellence and involvement of the individuals are given a much wider base. Secondly, their cooperative competition approach and mutual support mechanism ensure the presence of the members of these groups in national and international decision making bodies. Third, the society is always oriented towards greater goals and much wider concerns than bogged down by traits of individual jealousy and strategies for mutual destruction.

Elements of these characteristics are visible among the people in Meghalaya in our region. From the Vice-President to some very important statutory positions of India, we have had people from this State. During the last few weeks, we have had intelligent individuals from Meghalaya having been appointed to very significant positions in national bodies. Besides the personal excellence of the individuals, the mutual support mechanism is loud, audible, clear and effective.

Now look at the scenario among the people of our own homeland and in our own society. Here the prevailing characteristics are absolutely opposite to the progressive ones being experienced by the people elsewhere as explained above. Manipuris have shown excellence at individual levels but the sustainability of this at wider levels has never been achieved. The dominant social feature has been one of ganging up by the rest to ensure downfall of the rising individual; no individual should be allowed to have sustained rise. The notion of the society banking on the rise of intelligent individuals has yet to take birth in Manipur. The concept of a mutual and collective support mechanism for pushing our excelling individuals to the positions of national and international bodies does not appear in the psyche of Manipuri people; anybody possessing capacity to rise should not be supported to rise to positions where the self cannot reach. It is always either the self rising or pull anybody else down. While rising there would be very little mutual or collective support, but while trying to pull down there would always be a gang. Manipuris have perfected the art and science of ganging up and propaganda building for pulling down. If they fail in this endeavour, the gang members start behaving like slaves to the successful person or unscrupulous criminals to somehow eliminate their target. The mass media in the land as well basically cater to the needs of this regressive social behaviour.

Individuals from societies comparable to Manipur’s or even lower levels of educational advancements, economic well-being, and other attributes have been placed in positions of national and international significance. Individuals from societies with lower densities of excellent persons in every conceivable area of modern social advancement have been placed in positions of national and international consequence. All these have been the landmark markers of wider world manifestation for further collective advancement and mutual support system of these societies.

This is where we need to collectively ponder why is it that we are always thrown back individually and collectively before we cross a threshold level of display of national and global presence. The individual excellence has created a social corpus of persons capable of proving worthiness in national and international arena with attributes of conscientious articulation, human values and effective functioning. But all these call for a push factor base of mutual support mechanism in the home ground. This is not happening.

A few examples would be in place here. We already have a few, if not many (few and ipso facto need a robust mutual support mechanism), persons of proven capacity to think on educational and social issues. The retired vice chancellors could be an example of the corpus. Anywhere in the world, such individuals are not allowed to go waste; the society and governance would endeavour in every possible way to utilise their services for social good and push for their positions in national and international bodies of decision making of wide implications.

Another example is the case of the present head of law enforcing agency (read police) in the State of Manipur. One thing very clear in his case is that he is the first case of an individual from Manipur having risen to the position of leading the organisation with a nationally proven track record of competence. But when on the eve of recent elections he was moved from his position, the people talked of every possible disqualifications of him. It never occurred to the psyche of the larger population that he had other notable merits in his possession and initiatives of wider networking mechanism of his organisation to his credit. What mattered most to the collective psyche were the weaknesses and lapses of which he might not be having much personal control over. The weakening, though it turns out to be absolutely temporary now, was to be celebrated but the societal need for ensuring sustenance of the capable individuals with social roots was never thought over.

Fortunately, we now see signs of social reawakening with new orientations. The widely mentioned crab in the bucket behaviour of the Manipuris is now being debated and questioned more widely at group levels than ever. There are small though sure signs of the progressive attitudes taking roots in the soil. If we could deepen and widen this, the future would be ours forever. Time for collective resolution or wait forever for advancement. Time is for replacing jealousy burning all the ethics by an atmosphere of appreciation and mutual progress.

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