By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh
Below is an email letter from one Mr Haokip (22nd August 2011). It explains all.
Thanks for replying. i would also like highlight that we kukis has history of fightin against the Britishers to saveguards its land. I have also came across a history book by one British historian talking about geographical expansion of kuki inhabitat areas expanding from west bengal till myanmar. though it has become a past and political overturn has made kukis as one of major population of Manipur. Now as KUKI ,i wanting to coexist with people of all communities residing in Manipur is not surprising though bt since i am aware that divisions in the same state will lead us to no whre .but one problem that we do face as hills men is that concentration of the infrastructure in imphal city ,the state govt eversince has shown ignorance towards the hill area.. a stepmotherly treatment given to them . at this 21st century they still long for basic amenities. a hungry man is bound to revolt. The prolonge undue attention not given to hill areas n its people is one of the root cause behind the existing division, according to me. My hope for better MANIPUR is overall growth.
Sir do correct me if im wrong somewhere, i want to do something for the state n im in learning process. HOPE , u will guide me.
With the NH 39 blockade entering into the 5th week the Meitei should now be ready to bear the wrath of the tribal hill people forever.
Iboby Government’s development priority is beyond the pale. It hasn’t learned from the crippling blockade of highways for 52 days by the ANSAM in 2005. Six years on the NH-37, previously known as NH 53 or Imphal to Cachar Road is still a dirt road. Ibobi should be concentrating more on the means of survival than on luxury like the establishment of IT College or another Medical College.
The fury of the Christian hill people is like that of the biblical Christian God who declared: “And thou shall love thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5), and struck those who did not obey him with thunder and lightning.
God had a reason and so have the hill people. Therefore, the Ark of the Covenant is to explore why they are unhappy.
Many years ago, in the late 1950s while I was a medical student, my friend, late Moirangthem Gojendra and I, drove a German and an American woman who came to see Manipur, to Churachandpur. We drove uphill where there was a church.
A Kuki man came out to meet us. He was pleased to see those two white women. He shook hands with them. Then instead of shaking hands with us he threw a bolt from the blue, entirely unconnected with the visit. He said: “You’ve got all the meat and we have got the bones.”
This is just to demonstrate that there is a loathing – better termed prejudice, deeply rooted in the psyche of the hill people against the Meitei. And it is not without justifications.
The Meitei cannot condemn these hill people who hate the Meitei because condemnation condemns the person who condemns as well as those people whom
the condemning person has chosen to condemn.
That will only accentuate the mutual prejudice. “There are more ways than one to skin a cat.”
The hill people do not want lip service such as the Tangkhul are the elder brother of the Meitei or “Meitei-Hao-ichin–inao” ie Meitei and hill people are brothers. They regard it as hypocritical respect. They want funds to improve their lot.
Meitei, Tangkhul, Kuki, Kabui and other hill peoples were never more brothers than they are now. But it had dividends.
It is said that brothers and sisters are the accidents of birth while friends will stick to each other to the end. It is the friendship I am hoping for, not the brotherhood.
The ethnic minority hill people have now gained a strong enough position to challenge the Meitei. They have a thumb on the Meitei jugular, which they can press at will and with surprising ease.
It will take only 15-20 members of the ATUSM backed by a few Naga gunmen to block a small stretch of the highway by heaping stones on the road to block the goods-laden lorries and then intimidating the drivers with a few showers of stones from the top of the hill.
In my search for the root causes of this loathing I have come up with three major ones.
(1) Historical roots: the events of the past history of the Meitei and other hill people though ephemeral have not only characterised ethnic prejudice and hatred but have also fuelled their growth. The prejudice was a tool whereby each ethnic group built its identity as a group for social benefits.
(2) Sociological causes: an inheritance from the past prejudice that accrued from competition for resources due to scarcity or greed that initially made ethnic people hate each other for positive social benefits associated with hatred.
(3) Economic causes: This is the most important cause. I am now referring specifically to the anger and frustration described by Mr Haokip above, which are true but with some reservations. They arise from need on the part of the hill people or alleged greed on the part of the Meitei.
In the historiography of Manipur before the British dominion all the ethnic groups were living in Manipur. It was then in the nature of humans as social creatures to band together to act in groups to advance the prosperity of their group and to then share in that prosperity.
During British Rule, the Meitei did not have any hand in depriving the Hill people of their due share of Manipur’s economy. They were directly administered by the British administration.
Since Independence on August 15 1947 Manipur has been ruled by Delhi with an annual largesse which has been very small in the First Five year Plan. Following the
insurgencies in Manipur and the better growth of the national GDP, the Delhi
Government has been increasing its annual allocation of money to Manipur, culminating in Rs. 300 crores for the year 2011.
It is also partly because mayang Indians in the Delhi Government, who clubbed together all the Northeast Indians as a single entity in the same way the colonial anthropologist did, have now come to understand that the five Sister States have different problems of their own.
In Manipur, the main problem that has been causing turmoil among the hill people concerns the “disparity” in the distribution of this money from Delhi. Manipur has no substantial productivity in any form or kind.
Imphal seems to be having more and more “bright lights” while the hill people continue to survive with only the bare necessities of life. Is this a fact? I don’t know exactly.
Who can answer this question? The incumbent government especially the minister with a portfolio for finance can. Every year during the budget session of the Assembly there should be declarations about the allocated sums of money for each district.
What I do know is that Meitei living in the far flung villages in Manipur are slightly better- off than the Hill counterparts only because of easer accessibility to Imphal to buy essential commodities of daily living.
“There is a demand for a new deal in the management of the affairs” of the hill people. I have borrowed this phrase from President Franklin D Roosevelt (1930), who borrowed it from the British campaign of David Lloyd George, who ran for prime minister in 1919 with the slogan “A New Deal for Everyone.”
Any incumbent government of Manipur will need a collection of political and economic policies, and programmes to deal with the economic miseries of the hill people.
As I suggested in my article – Causes of ethnic conflict in Manipur…July 3 2011, the Manipur political system could be based on the Swiss model by improving the current autonomous district councils. Each council should be allotted a well-proportioned
budget that they can juggle at will.
There should now be two districts for the Meitei in the Imphal valley, leaving a certain square miles of Imphal city that belongs to the Meitei, Pangal and every tribe in the plains or in the hills.
It should be named as Imphal City, Imphal ADC East and Imphal ADC West, in line with Washington and Washington DC (District of Columbia) governed by the same Municipality Council.
The current bright lights of Imphal city must be distinguished from the lights of Imphal valleys which the Meitei mostly inhabit.
Imphal is the capital of Manipur and now a city. It needs “bright lights” as does any capital such as Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai. This means it should have a better infrastructure.
This is because a city or a town is a relatively large and permanent settlement. It has complex systems of sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing and transportation. It
has government institutions, colleges and universities, prisons, hospitals and the police headquarters.
The concentration of development facilitates the interaction of all the people living in different districts and rural areas. It must have modern hotels for people to come and do business in Manipur or for tourists who would bring in a lot of money for everybody.
Imphal has colonies of Kukis such as New Lambulane and for Tangkhuls, Dewlaland and so on. There are many Kabui villages such as Sahib Manai, Major khun. The Langol Hill areas are entirely occupied by the hill people.
The Hill people who live in Imphal city enjoy the same privileges as the Meitei.
We need to study what is going on in India outside of Manipur. Once we have learned the differences between a city and a village we can open our hearts and free ourselves from the chain of intolerance which we have learned from our native cultures by default.
So, now we know what the hill people want – equity.
The writer is based in the UK