Better late than never. We can only take solace from the fact it is, in most cases, better late than never. Of course, we are referring to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s thought provoking call to give up Meitei-centric mentality. Biren himself is a Meitei and he was calling upon fellow Meiteis to give up Meitei-centric mentality. Unlike its southern neighbour Mizoram and northern neighbour Nagaland, Manipur is not named after any particular ethnic group or community. As the name suggests, Nagaland is a land of Nagas and their cognate tribes. Same is the case with Mizoram even though a few minority communities settled in different corners of the two neighbouring States. Manipur, on the other hand, is a common home of many ethnic communities including tribes and non-tribes. Even though Meiteis constitute a majority in Manipur, there is a sizeable Naga population. At the same time Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups of people constitute a major community of Manipur. With such multi-ethnic demographic profile, Manipur has over the years evolved into a pluralistic society. There cannot be any place for ethno-centrism in a pluralistic society like Manipur. No doubt, Chief Minister N Biren was addressing his own community (Meiteis) when he said, “Give up Meitei-centric mentality. As a Chief Minister of a multi-ethnic State, he should have said “Give up all ethno-centric politics”. This way he could have reached a much larger audience. If the different ethnic groups of the State must give up ethno-centric politics, Meiteis, being the majority community, should lead the way. Viewed from this perspective, the Chief Minister definitely hit the right chord and if we are not mistaken, it implicitly implied that majoritarianism should make way for equality.
There is no imaginable valid argument against the fact that ethno-centric politics and mentality should be given no space if Manipur must survive and prosper as multi-ethnic State. If any community living in a multi-ethnic society is preached to give up or abandon ethno-centric politics, the other ethnic groups must reciprocate, complement and supplement. In another word, the call to give up ethno-centric politics should be applied to all ethnic groups of the State. The idea of a multi-ethnic, pluralistic Manipur can never be complete as long as all the different ethnic groups or any of the ethnic group clings to ethno-centric politics. In addition to the multi-layered divisions of varying degrees seen in the contemporary Manipuri society in terms of ethnicity and topography, there are also divisions between Imphal and other parts of the State and between urban and rural areas. These divisions though subtle can sometimes become causes of conflict and confrontation. Majority communities should shed all hegemonic practices and suppressive attitude, and all minority communities should be enabled to exorcise the ghost of inferiority complexes. In a nutshell, there should be harmony, mutual respect and equality in order to free Manipur from the quagmire of communal distrust and conflicts. All the people should be entitled to equal shares of political freedom and economic welfare. Opportunities for development should be distributed uniformly cutting across community lines and topography. Here, we would like to supplement the Mr CM’s call to give up Meitei-centric mentality with another call “Give up Imphal-centric mentality”. The political leaders as well as the top bureaucrats need to look beyond Imphal. People living in hill areas and far off rural areas too should be given equal opportunities to reap the benefits of Government sponsored projects and development programmes. Civic infrastructure development programmes should reach every corner of the State. At the end, we would like to say, ‘people need to give up ethno-centric attitude and the Government needs to shed Imphal-centric mentality’.
Source: The Sangai Express