In a day, we will be entering the New Year 2016. As always the event is an occasion for celebration the world over. Celebrations understandably overshadow every other consideration by and large at this time of the year, but nobody should need a reminder that a beginning implies an end too. The year 2015 is ending, and that should be a matter for nostalgia, and for Manipur a time for deep introspection and retrospection. As is expected, 2015 has been a year of a mixed bag of fortune but unfortunately, we must admit, outweighed by misfortunes. The uneasy thing is, too many of the concerns that caused these misfortunes will be carried over into the next year. On the one hand is the demand for the implementation of the Inner Line Permit System or an equivalent to check inflow of migrants into the state, the agitation over which led to the death of a young school going boy of promise. The issue remains inconclusive, therefore as a time bomb, ticking away somewhere. On the other, once again demonstrating before the world the deep inner rifts between the communities in the state, in opposition to three bills which the government had passed in the Assembly, hoping they together would serve as the halfway house to meet the demand for the Inner Line Permit System, Churachandpur rose in raging fury, resulting ultimately in the unfortunate death of nine young people. The nine are still not buried, and obviously this will remain as another time bomb ticking. It is difficult not to recall Irish poet, W.B. Yeats’ lines under such a circumstance: “Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart./ O when may it suffice?”
There were other contrasting images of triumphs and tragedies. Of the most dramatically poignant were the pictures of Chadong village in the Ukhrul district slowly but surely becoming submerged in the flood waters of the artificial lake created by the Thoubal Multipurpose Dam. Over the village’s graveyard is today a beautiful lake, and around it is spawning the potential of a new tourist and fishery economy. We hope Chadong’s tragedy ultimately turns to its fortune, showered by this new economy after the issues of compensation for their losses have been settled satisfactorily with the government. We do hope the final reconciliation comes in the spirit of the adage that “you cannot make an omelette without breaking the egg.” There are other issues with potential trouble still unresolved. The foremost of these is the much anticipated Naga Peace Accord. Depending on the shape of this accord, Manipur and indeed the entire Northeast can be up in flames again. But, if those who matter have learnt anything from experiences from the recent past, what now seems like a dark cloud looming can actually transform into an optimistic and silver-lined horizon for all. Geographical destiny has bound together the different communities living in the region, and for ages, without being told, they have live by the terms of this destiny in mutual accommodation of each other’s needs and limits. We hope again this destiny is acknowledged and with it, reap the peace dividends of mutual accommodation together.
New Year is also a reminder of the cycle of life. As life ends, life begins. But from a cosmic evolutionary perspective, this cycle may even go beyond life. The Big Bang happened about 5 billion years ago, scientists have surmised. For more than four of the 5 billion years, the universe has been in existence without life. The Cambrian Period, when primitive unicellular organisms developed into more complex life forms and began acquiring definite body architectures, was just about 500 million years ago as studies of the Burgess Shale indicate. The first humanoid, Lucy, began walking on two legs just about 66 million years ago. As Bill Bryson wrote picturised in “A Short History of Nearly Everything”, if the 5 billion years life span of the universe so far were to be represented by the outstretched arms of a man, the portion that represents human life, would be like the tip of the man’s foremost fingernail, capable of being wiped off quite completely with a single stroke of a medium grain nail file. Life is good and life must continue, but the fact is, even if life becomes extinct, the universe will continue, and perhaps somewhere in another part of the universe, some more billions of years later, in a bigger cycle of birth and extinction, life would begin again. This yearend reflection is not aimed at fostering pessimism or helplessness. On the other hand, this is an advocacy for the need and virtue of humility. Nobody can escape the larger destiny determined by the way of the universe, so why not leave our little squabbles and together search for peace and harmony so all can live out their lives, short as it is, to the fullest.