Manipur has forgotten to celebrate these days. It only knows how to observe days of gloom. If there is anything as a dark era, this must be it for the state. While this tells of a somewhat omnipresent oppressive atmosphere, it also speaks volumes of the mindset of its people. It is as if the place has never seen anything as victory, or any other occasion to celebrate in its recent history. The coincidence is uncanny, but even in areas where victory and defeat are juxtaposed in close proximity of each other, the place has picked out the defeat to make it an occasion to observe and neglect the victory. Hence, the dark annals the Chahi Taret Khuntakpa (Seven Years of Devastation) under the Ava Kingdom, (Burmese) is observed but not the victory of Maharaja Gambhir Singh and his cousin Nara Singh who succeed him in later years and was king for some years until Gambhir Singh’s son Chandrakriti, an infant when his father died in 1834, came of age, which ended the Burmese oppression. There are some celebrations, but these have more to do with religious beliefs and myths, and practically none of these events are from the real world of recorded history. To make it worse, this oppressive mindset is being preached with vehemence and sometimes even brutally enforced.
There is an element of what Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramski called “hegemony of idea” in this. Gramski’s proposition is a little more nuanced and in fact he is of the opinion that political ideas, and indeed idea itself, more often than not carry with them an element of coercion. Re-interpreting Gramski, it would appear that as much as the missionaries of cultures and religions were guilty of this when they set about conquering the “uncharted” world of the uninitiated “natives”, aggressive revivalism born as resistance to these forces cannot claim innocence either. In Manipur, while the former has mellowed with age and maturity, it is the revivalist movements that have acquired all the characteristics and fundamentalist zeal. This cannot be good either, or for the revivalist movements themselves or for the society at large. This is so because the human spirit is such that whatever is forced always elicits a reciprocal and opposite reaction, almost by a direct application of Newton’s Third of Motion in the pure science of physics. The reactions may not come open immediately, but they would definitely accumulate within, incubating till they are mature enough to do so. The best and most durable way of conquering minds is by allowing people the free exercise of rationale, a faculty all humans are gifted with, and come to believe in the truth of any claim by reasoning. Let us never be so presumptuous to think that the general masses are unaware of what is good or bad for them, especially in a literate and liberal society, therefore must be taught and administered pre-concocted prescriptions. Let our social agenda be to engender an atmosphere conducive for the continual, free growth and maturing of rationality and not seek to intimidate and bind this faculty.
There is tremendous energy and passion in Manipur. But unfortunately, the sense at the moment is one of an impending implosion, rather than this energy finding creative outlets. It is for this reason that we propose that our society remember its triumphal moments too, and celebrate them with as much fervor as it recalls religiously its moments of defeats and tragedies. Let our children grow up to be outward looking and positive, rather than be grudging, embittered, angry, negative-thinking denizens of the future. For the good of everybody, we must have to defuse at least some of the suffocating implosive energy that now envelops us all. Let us place our defeats in history in their proper perspectives, and also bring out our triumphant marches out of the social cupboard. Both are part and parcel of any given society, but the difference is in how each manages to cope and sublimate them. The agrarian society had harvests and the first rains of April heralding spring, among others to celebrate. Surely, our modern society must also have its springs and autumns, apart from its winters and scorching summers of discontent. Let not the cherished fight against oppression become an instrument of oppression in itself.