Manipur has become of great concern in recent times to all of us in the light of recent incidents and the paper war still going on. Naga Meitei relationship seems to be reaching a new low. We are saddened and disturbed by this. The immediate compulsions and reasons behind the ongoing conflicts/current developments must not be underestimated. They are realities demanding our serious attention so that from them will emerge solutions that will give hope for all. They need not be allowed to sabotage the future we need to achieve together to succeed together in the fast changing world.
We are reminded that in the early 1960s, amidst Assam Police atrocities and Assam Government initiated legislations which were violative of Naga human rights, the late Bhupen Hazarika, well-known singer/artist even then came to Kohima singing “We are in the same boat brother”! He helped reduce the possible complete rupture in Naga-Assamese relations. Crises often throw up new initiatives, opportunities and leadership and they give hope when things appear hopeless. They also make possible for suffering/victimised peoples to keep going. The point we want to stress is that our neighbours are very important to us just as we are important to them.
We are greatly concerned with the steady decline in the relationship and goodwill between the Nagas and the Meiteis. Both sides will agree we do not often understand one another properly and there are differences of various kinds. Several recent incidents have obviously added fuel to the smouldering fire in our relationship. Each side has its own points of view and stoutly defend them refusing to give in even an inch. As both sides stick to their points, they have been missing the view, that of the larger picture of two neighbouring communities needing one another. The attitude of “I am right; you are wrong” is making both sides lose. With such attitudes we can only win the battle at most but risk the very real possibility of losing the war!
Some of us Nagas are of the opinion that as small societies, with great cultural heritages, living side by side in the ocean of the Indian Milieu, and in a situation of prolonged conflict, if also located in a geo-strategic region, desperately need each other for the very survival of our peoples and to secure the future of those who will come after us. If we stick to who is right, none of us will survive or make meaningful contributions to show significant signs that we have lived and there will be no trace of our great heritages as there will be no legacies left behind.
In this cauldron of conflicts, the Government of India and its agencies have not helped either in a manner that we believe is worthy of India. With no clear-cut policy positions and seemingly no feelings for the peoples involved, the Government has only added confusion to the already difficult situation and given more room to those, including its own agencies, who wished to fish in troubled waters. This is not just reprehensible but tragic. The Government of India is not doing itself any good as it plays out its role in this volatile region.
A great example of India’s insensitivity, and total disregard, for the peoples of the North East is the way Government of India continues to remain blind and deaf to the unending protest fast of Irom Sharmila against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). All North Easterners have raised their voices against this despicable Act but nothing has been done till date. India has had some areas on the mainland which have created worse problems than North East in the past but it has not dared to promulgate the same Act in those areas. What does this say to the peoples of Northeast India? It gives them the feeling of being second class citizens.
For Nagas, the Meiteis, the Assamese and all other neighbours are important. The Nagas of Manipur, no doubt, have had cause to feel aggrieved. Likewise, most Nagas also think that the Meiteis have sometimes felt hurt by Nagas. Surely, there will have been numerous occasions for differences of opinion and even quarrels. But such things do happen between neighbours. These should not become unmoveable divides/walls that keep us segregated. We must always keep the larger view in sight for the good of all of us.
There has often been bankruptcy of ideas on both sides. Our proclivity not to meet as neighbouring communities at appropriate levels only make things worse. Our feelings of hurt get multiplied by our own suspicions, mistrust, hurt, fear etc. What were once just feelings and rumours very quickly become facts in the minds of people on both sides. This cannot go on or it will go on only at the mutual cost and loss of our peoples which neither side wants.
We believe it is time that concerned persons from both sides begin to meet and share their views and opinions. Till now, the Nagas living close to the Meitei community have been at the fore-front of Naga-Meitei relations. This is natural and right and Nagas from other parts must give due credit to them for maintaining good relations. However, there are also Nagas from Nagaland and other parts who are concerned when it involves Naga relations with neighbouring communities. So, there ought to be avenues for neighbours to be able to freely meet and share whatever they wish to at different levels. Persons of goodwill from both communities must begin the process of reaching out to one another and building understanding before our relationship is completely ruptured.
We are aware of the difficulties that exist within the families of both sides. So, the process must mean (entail?) both Nagas and Meiteis also conversing honestly within their own families as well as between the two communities to evolve ideas that will be adequate for the coming years.
We must all remember that we belong to the ship of North East India. Each of us have a cabin on this ship. Sure, we all like to make our cabins beautiful and comfortable for ourselves. There is nothing wrong in this. But our individual cabins will not survive if the NE ship sinks! So, for our own survival, we must take care of the ship itself first. And the sustainability of our relationships will ensure that the ship of the North East will stay afloat and will have a chance to take us to our God-given destinations.
1. Rev V K Nuh
2. Niketu Iralu
3. Rev Kari Longchar
4. K K Sema
5 Chingmak Kejong Chang
6. Nyamto Wangsha
7. Dr P Ngully
8. Rümatho Nyusou
9. P S Lorin
10. Monalisa Changkija
11. Pheluopfelie Kesiezie
12. Bano Haralu
13. Dr Dietho-o Angami
14. Vaprumu Demo
15. Charles Chasie