Home Minister Gaikhangam’s appeal on Saturday to work for unity between the hills and the valley is indeed welcome in the backdrop of the commemoration of June 18 uprising and the gaping hill-valley divide inclusive of the recent demand for alternative arrangement in the hills. We have earlier flagged the conflict of ideas and territoriality which had induced a gaping divide among major communities in Manipur. We had also blamed the British colonial masters for driving a wedge between the hill and the valley and New Delhi for furthering the divisive policy. But there has to be a limit to the blame game. We must also exercise some self-introspection among ourselves. As the Home Minister Gaikhangam said, instead of pointing fingers at others we should look at our own flaws and try to correct them first. We have been seeing a noticeable change in Gaikhangam these days and he is trying his utmost to achieve the level of political maturity that we need for bringing the communities together. His words may be painful to some, but we could assume that it is in the interests of the state as a whole. In these days, we may not be imaginative enough to effect a process of social engineering of the sorts practiced by our ancestors. But, we could begin by applying our mind for finding a way out of the maze that we are in at present. We must first accept that the hill-valley divide is a reality. We must also be able to accept the fact that there is no divide between the common people of the hill and the valley as it has been projected in recent times. The commoners, wherever they are in the state, have had a shared historical experience under the various despotic kings and the colonial masters. Whether they are subjects of the kings or the subjects of the Khullakpas and the chiefs, they are still the ruled. Freedom or independence or self-determination was something foreign to them till Manipur adopted the Manipur Constitution Act in 1947 wherein a democratic form of government with an elected legislature and the Maharaja as the executive head. That freedom was short-lived as Manipur was practically annexed by the Dominion of India through a coerced merger in 1949. Manipur’s territory had fluctuated according to the power and reach of different kings and when the British left Manipur it had shrinked to the present territory. We are still angered with the gifting away of the precious Kabaw valley to Burma by India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. So, that residual territory was threatened with India signing a ceasefire without territorial limits with the NSCN-IM, Manipuris went on a rampage and destroyed symbols of the Indian political hierarchy in 2001. It was the last pitch effort to save whatever is left of the territory of the once powerful nation. So, the spirit of June 18 is something dearly sacred to the Manipuris and for which several others are still prepared to lay down their lives. While on the other hand, we cannot simply wish away the aspirations of ethnic communities for alternative arrangements. We do not have the luxury of languishing in a dream that is called Manipur but we all have a stake in addressing the issues blockading the preservation of the territorial integrity of the state. The discourse of conflicting ideas and people-to-people relations in history has to be grounded at the level of the civil societies of the different communities. We have earlier suggested a Track-2 approach to deal with the conflicting issues, which seems to be the only viable way out of the mess as against putting economic pressures on the government for achieving one’s demands. But for starting a track-2 process, the majority community that is the Meiteis need to shed its chauvinistic airs and for the people in the hills to do away with anti-Meitei sentiment. This is all we could pray for.