Only the test of fire makes fine steel. Manipur is undergoing such a test at the moment. If it withstands this test we have no doubt a greater Manipur will be the result. The need of the hour however is to negotiate the fire we are in the midst of, for as much as it can purify, it can also destroy. As we see it, apart from the open show of public will regarding the matter, a realistic assessment of the situation is also called for. As an elderly statesman who has seen Manipur politics more than most still living today, and who wishes to remain anonymous, appealed in a tete-a-tete with IFP, there is a question each those behind the centrifugal forces threatening to tear Manipur apart as well as those behind the centripetal forces swearing to keep the state’s integrity intact. The latter must realise that the their campaign has not meant the ensuring the spiritual union of Manipur, while the latter must also know that their divisive campaign has only cemented the resolve amongst a greater section to ensure no harm comes to Manipur’s integrity. He is further of the opinion that the flared sentiments in both camps must be tempered by the realisations that between their intents and their outcomes, there is an ever widening chasm and will continue to do so.
There may be a point or two to note. Perhaps the questions to be addressed now is, how real are the threats and how real the aspirations that are leading to the present conflict situation – in the immediate context this is the anticipated Framework Agreement between the Government of India and the NSCN(IM). The fear amongst those opposing the FA is that the Centre may negotiate a settlement within the constitution of India with the NSCN(IM) by conceding to one of the latter’s major demands — that of an extended Naga homeland compromising besides the present state of Nagaland, territories of neighbouring states, most particularly that of Manipur. In the event of the Centre actually contemplating such an option, the dangers of an open ethnic war is obvious. The areas of Manipur which are proposed to be ceded to this new entity, if at all there is such a proposal, is also the home of several other ethnic groups most particularly the Kukis, and this multiplicity of ethnicity is also the part of the hard political reality called Manipur. How can there be peace in a settlement that seeks to ignore these realities? The Centre has said such a division is ruled out, but again the question is, are mere words enough or should there be other more tangible forms of assurances ? The question is not so much of standing against anybody’s aspiration, but of negotiating the practical reality before all of us today.
Under the circumstance, the question that not just the Nagas but also all other ethnic groups in the Northeast should ask themselves to have a sense of the reality they are in is whether it is likely India will ever concede to even a watered down version of sovereignty demand by anybody? This is important, for there is no gain in insisting to run against the wall no matter if this wall is unlikely ever to break. The far more intense frictions in Kashmir and the outcome of it ought to be the case study while attempting an answer to this question. Quite obviously, the answer is a big “no”. Under the circumstance of sovereignty being ruled out, and if greater Nagalim is just a matter of a larger Nagaland state within the constitution, are all the frictions generated by the issue worth it? The question can well extend to those opposed to the FA as well. Is sovereignty still on the agenda? If not then should not the present debate have a different flavour and direction? Even if the unlikely scenario of valley and the hills coming to be separated becomes a reality, what differences would it bring to either of the two entities? Would the hills be any better off? Should the valley also not ponder if a cut diamond is not more beautiful and worthy than an uncut one? As for our personal opinion, we are for peaceful coexistence, compelled not so much by the hyped slogan of hill-valley fraternal bondage, which quite ironically is often akin to the old farcical Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai slogan, but by the realisation of an inevitable shared geographical destiny. Slogans can change so can politics and politicking, but not this geography. The truth also is, so long as this realisation does not dawn, all the slogans and politics which run counter to this reality will fail. As Manipur as a state of the Indian union turns 46, we reiterate that Manipur is beautiful because of its ethnic, religious and cultural variety. Rather than split it up physically on ethnic lines, we have no doubt that all should join hands to build on precisely this variety and give ourselves a Greater Manipur.