Angomcha Bimol Akoijam
On 13th August, Manipur celebrates “Patriots’ Day”, paying homage to those Manipuris who died fighting to defend their independence in Anglo-Manipur War of 1891. Officially, the Governor and the Chief Minister led the function by paying floral tributes at the Shahid Minar at Kangjeibung where the then Yubraj Koireng (Tikendrajit) and Gen. Thangal were publicly hanged till death on this day in 1891.
Two sides of a Patriotic Sentiment
Incidentally, according to Shri Yumnam Yaima, a former Cabinet Minister in the State Govt and ex-MP, when the then State of Govt. of Manipur wanted to officially celebrate the Day, the Union Home Ministry reportedly instructed the then Chief Minister Md. Allimuddin NOT to commemorate the day as such commemoration, according to the Ministry, might encourage ‘separatist’ armed insurgency in the state! Just as Mr. Alimuddin and Shri Yaima (who were the Chief Guest and the President of the first State Commemoration) were about to go to the same site where the Governor and the CM paid their homage today, the instruction not to attend the function were handed over to them in the form of a telegram!
Perhaps, in some sense times have changed. Even Mr. Lal Krishna Advani attended Patriots’ Day celebration as the Chief Guest in a function organized by Manipuris in Delhi some time back. And we do have a small gulli (lane) in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi which has been named after Tikendrajit (On a lighter vein, I noticed the lane with a sign board that reads as “Beer Tikendrajit Marg”, and I drew the attention of the then DRC of Manipur House there to this “beer” business; Now the sign board reads, “Bir Tikendrajit Marg”).
But does this mean that the suspicion on the “patriotic sentiment” associated with the history of this State called Manipur is no longer problematic for the Indian “nation-state”? I am not sure.
But what is unmistakable is that this “patriotic feeling/sentiment” is real. As one can sense, it is the same sentiment that makes many from the state of Manipur stand up, feel proud and excitedly followed Mary Kom’s and Devendro’s performance in London Olympics. It is about Manipur for them just as for the Manipur that the ‘national media’ hails as the entity — and the rest of Northeast— that appeared on the radar or map of the “national” consciousness, if I may add, 65 years after the postcolonial Indian “nation-state” came into being!
Indeed, isn’t it revealing that 65 years after the postcolonial Indian State came into being, people still talk of the need to ‘integrate’ Manipur, and the other northeast Indian states, into the so-called ‘national mainstream’?
It was 1947, this Indian State came into being just as some had become Pakistanis while some Jat farmer came to know that he’s an ‘Indian’ through nationalist leader like Nehru and today, it is 2012 and in the Parliament, the political bigwigs talked about “we” (‘national mainstream’) must welcome “them” (‘northeast’) while some other talked of the need to incorporate “the northeast” into the school curriculum in the country, and following this London Olympic, ‘Mary Kom has put Manipur (and the northeast) on the map’ or ‘Mary Kom has put Manipur on the radar of the national mainstream’ has joined these ironical utterances, that too, with a paradoxical appreciation that many are struggling to locate Manipur on the map!
Does one have to feel happy or feel obliged? I for one would say, ‘Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn’! For I am aware of the silencing of or making ‘northeast’ invisible all these years, which, incidentally, has also been acknowledged by the above utterances.
In fact, some of these utterances obfuscate things while ostensibly highlighting realities…I say this because I wonder as to whether these ‘nationalists’, ‘democrats’ and ‘patriots’ dare say that Irom Sharmila and the fact that the military has been deployed as an aspect of the regular administration under the ‘democratic’ polity of the country only in the ‘northeast’ for more than half a century are issues that have actually put Manipur or the northeast on the map or the radar screen of the ‘national mainstream’? Answer to this shall have direct bearing on the much talked about politically loaded expression `integration`.
While one is fully in touch with the immediacy of the glitters, laughter, happiness and the new found mediated realities, including the `social media` and manufactured consensus of media hypes, one is still quite awake to the fact that it’s still the midnight hour and ‘tryst with destiny’ is still a distant promise in (not only) Manipur (but also the ‘Northeast’), the land of Mary Kom.
What is this Manipur Anyway?
But what is this Manipur we are talking about or feel so proud of?
That’s the question, I suppose, that shall haunt beyond the euphoria, a legitimate one, that we sense during this London Olympic and the annual “ritual” of Patriots` Day celebration on 13th August every year. As I sense it, the answer(s) that we give to this question shall make our celebrations of Mary Kom’s achievement and Patriots’ Day more “authentic”.
I think a two-fold concrete foundation will be useful to answer this question. One is the definition of Manipur as a constituent State of the Indian Republic in the First Schedule of the Constitution which reads as follows: “The territory which immediately before the commencement of this Constitution was being administered as it were a Chief Commissioner’s Province under the name Manipur”. It is a definition of “Manipur” that acknowledges its historicity which is implicated in such commemoration as “Patriots’ Day”. After all, the geo-political entity that existed before the commencement of the Constitution as a “Chief Commissioner`s Province” was a “State” which became a “Native State” as the colonial British Empire expanded its hold in this part of the world in the 18th & 19th centuries.
The other is how do we look at and do about the realities of a messy and miserable Manipur today wherein grotesque violence, institutionalized and rampant corruption, self-denials and all round decadence rule the roost. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that it has become a hellish “little paradise” wherein the word “darkness” is both literal and metaphorical.
As a person from that state called Manipur, “Patriots` Day” must remind us, I suppose, the historicity of Manipur, a state about which we seem to be so proud of (so that we do not behave like rootless, if not bastardized hedonistic, creatures who know about their life as much as a centipede knows how it walks with its hundred legs) and also that we do not get caught in a time warp. After all, historical consciousness is about the awareness of one’s existence in time rather than a sense of the past per se.