We Manipuris are indeed a strange species on the earth, when it comes to the collective personality. We can certainly understand the symptom of split personality among individuals. A split personality is when a person can be two different personalities at one time. On occasion they can appear nice, helpful, a good friend or even a good lover and without warning they could become selfish, arrogant and cruel. They flip back and forth between the two personalities. There are a number of cases involving such an identity disorder. But at the level of a people, such identity disorder is very rare. Perhaps it is the duality of Manipuri culture and the pangs of a pluralistic society which is engineering such splits. It begins with the term ‘Manipuri’ itself. Sometimes it is used to mean the Meiteis only and on the other hand it also refers to the collective identity of various communities inhabiting the state. This sense of collective and accommodative identity again becomes limited in the case of the Bishnupriya Manipuris. Manipuris are very proud of their history and the wealth of heritage that it has inherited from its anscestors. We basked in the glory of our martial tradition, the glorious wars that our people fought, the territories that the Manipuri kings controlled at different times and the 2000 year old civilizational history. This pride induces among the Manipuris a superiority complex and a feeling of ‘Hum kisise kum nahi’ or that we are not lesser as against any people. Here, we are not only talking about the Meiteis but the other communities as well. A deep sense of superiority runs among most of the communities of the state. That is why the spirit of ‘we were independent and we were not ruled by any outsider’ runs in the veins of these peoples. It is perhaps because of the collective historical experience that we shared. Look at the fabulous story of a girl like Mary Kom from a very small community achieving the feat of 5 times world champion in boxing. It is the daring attitude and the will to achieve. Remember Ng Dingko who boxed his way to an Asian gold despite odds and hurdles. There are scores of individual achievers not only in sports but education and other sectors as well.
What is more intriguing is that another mindset also runs parallel. A sense of insecurity and helplessness also runs deep among the Manipuris. This personality effects occasional demands of a support structure or special protection so as to enable them to achieve among peers or to overcome difficulties. An example could be the desire for OBC status among the Meiteis or the controversy of Scheduled Caste inclusion of other groups besides the traditional Lois. Yes, we quite agree to the fact that the inclusion in OBC and SC category has paid dividends in all India services and gainful employment. But the sense of pride or competition and daring spirit has been thrown away for the sake of opportunities. Another aspect of this negative mindset is the imagined threat which haunts our societies. The power of assimilation and the inherent capacity to absorb outside cultures within our stride in our collective history have simply been forgotten. Selective amnesia takes over and we began looking for support structures or special protection for thwarting the imagined threats. We also began thinking in terms of bans or walls to stop cultural invasion. We start believing that unless we put walls we would be swept away or overwhelmed by outside pressure be it culture or migrants. Tragedy is that, this negative personality seems to have taken over or it is eating more of the positive personality. So, the time has come for thinking heads to come together.