Some Thoughts on Understanding Manipur

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By Rajkumar Bobichand

Can we understand Manipur? Do we ever try to really understand Manipur? Does our education help younger generations understand Manipur? Had our elders told us enough about Manipur? Do we have enough and proper literatures to let the natives of the peoples understand this little land and its natives? Do we ever share our experiences with our younger generations? Is Manipur just an idea that few people likes? Is Manipur just an idea many people reject? Is Manipur just a name given to us by the outsiders? Is Manipur continuing in this 21st century age of information technology and globalised with its past glory only? Is Manipur just a landmass where human migrations pass through as transit? Is Manipur a dumping ground? Is Manipur to be dismembered according to the wishes of few vested interest individuals or groups? Is Manipur a conflict-ridden part of the globe? Is Manipur a fragile state? Is Manipur only the valley areas? Can there be valleys without mountains? Can there be mountains without valleys? Is not Manipur an indivisible home to different ethnic groups? Is Manipur a hopeless place? Is Manipur for whom and for what? Is Manipur emerged only in the late twentieth century? Was Manipur manufactured as a commodity? Is Manipur not emerged in the historical process of its peoples? Will not Manipur be able to be an indivisible home to its different but distinct ethnic groups as Manipurese?

Rhetorically, we used to proudly say as facts of the history – that Manipur was an independent kingdom with 2000 years recorded history. Different ethnic groups have been living together harmoniously. We had had a written constitution before India became a republic. Manipur was a constitutional monarchy. Election based on universal adult franchise was held in 1948 for the first time in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Manipur had an Assembly of peoples’ elected representatives. Manipur had a Council of Ministers before its “coerced merger” into Dominion India on 15 October 1949 after a “coerced merger agreement”, which was signed on 21 September 1949. The king was just a constitutional head. The “Merger Agreement” was not ratified by the erstwhile State Assembly and void. “Chingmi and Tami” have been living together in Manipur for more than 2000 years. Now, there are more than 40 ethnic groups, namely Meiteis, Aimol, Anal, Angami Naga, Chiru, Chothe, Gangte, Hmar, Inpui, Kabui, Kharam, Poumai, Rongmei, Liangmai, Zem, Koirao, Koireng (Koren), Kom, Lamgang, Liangmai, Mao, Maram, Maring, Mate, Monsang, Moyon, Paite, Purum, Ralte, Rongmei, Simte, Suhte, Tarao, Tangkhul, Thadou, Thangal Vaiphei, Zeme, Zou and Meitei Pangal. Meiteis and Meitei Pangal are valley dwellers while other ethnic groups who are broadly categorised as Naga ‘tribes’ and Chin-Kuki-Mizo ‘tribes’ of Manipur.

Concerted and constant efforts of Thuingaleng Muivah in league with invisible vested interest groups to construct “Nagalim”, a land Greater than present India’s Northeastern State of Nagaland – encompassing most of the geographical land mass of present India’s Northeastern Region and Western region of Myanmar threatens to dismember the Region, namely India’s Northeast or Nowersesia (North-Western Region of Southeast Asia).

Thuingaleng Muiva’s anti-Meitei and anti-Kuki exclusivist agenda of forming a Greater Nagaland called Nagalim pause a threat to the centuries-old territorial integrity of Manipur, which once extended its territories beyond the boundaries of present Manipur.

However, in response, peoples of India’s Northeast and neighbouring states of Nagaland particularly Manipur stand firmly against Thuingaleng Muiva’s exclusivist agenda. There was Peoples uprising against the exclusivist agenda of forming Greater Nagaland dismembering the centuries old Manipur and Government of India’s policy of appeasing and patronising Isak Suu and Thuingaleng Muivah’s faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland – NSCN(IM). Eighteen people sacrificed their lives to protect the integrity of Manipur. Many suffered physical injuries from the bullets of the Indian security forces. In the peoples’ uprising to protect the integrity of Manipur, many India’s political institutions and symbols were burnt down. Then, the Government of India’s open policy of appeasing the NSCN (IM) was toned down and their secret businesses of peace talks have been carried out without transparency.

Many ideas including formation of a Supra State of Nagaland have been floated by the Government of India and its think tanks to appease the NSCN (IM) Now, frontal organisations of NSCN (IM) in Manipur demand an “Alternative Arrangement”. To press their demand and draw the attention of Government of India, the frontal groups of NSCN(IM) block the National Highways passing through Manipur cutting the lifelines of this landlocked State now and then.

Now, only when the demand for a Nagalim or Alternative Arrangement for the “Nagas” of Manipur are active and prominent in media coverage, civil societies of Manipur who stand firmly to protect the integrity of Manipur react  by saying that territorial integrity of Manipur cannot be disturbed. The State Government of Manipur which has a key role to play in protecting the integrity of Manipur does not take any steps towards a United Manipur in the truest sense and reality. They also just give press statement that even an inch of the land of Manipur cannot be given out. All these will never help in protecting the territorial integrity of Manipur and in building a United Manipur for the Manipurese – Manipurese is not same with Manipuri which is mostly considered as synonymous with Meitei.

It is pertinent to ask now. Is common future of Manipurese not a historical necessity? Are there not possibilities to explore a common future of all the Manipurese? Is envisaging a common vision first not necessary to build a United Manipur in India’s Northeast or Nowersesia?

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