by Dr Gunadhor Okram, Indore, MP
This Second part is in continuation of the two part series, the first part can is available in the following link . Towards a peaceful Manipur: Part I
This recalls me the very surprising expression of the former director general of council of scientific and industrial research and renowned scientist, Raghunath Mashelkar. In convocation at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur in mid nineties, he asked the topper, “If he is given a chance to inaugurate or design a bridge, which one he would prefer to do?” The answer for the engineering topper was for inauguration, in stark contrast to what his qualification is. This is what he wanted to point out about the perception of people (engineer) in society at a lecture at IIT, Delhi. This means that the boy perceived that inauguration is done by a minister or a higher authority, not by the engineer who usually designs to make the bridge visible!
In the above contexts, discrimination of any form, verbal or implication by some individuals should be moderated on the individual or in all levels. For example, mistreating a hill person by some valley person (shall one read it as mainly or solely, Imphalite) should be avoided as a cultured being, not the otherwise. Verbal attack leads to physical reaction, which spoils everything! This is what has been deteriorating the relationship gradually. This must be stopped/ checked systematically. I heard that some valley-based big dignitary yelled a slang *** *** (a slang used in the name of a hill woman’s private part) so that his neighbor with higher dignity but hill individual could hear it and get hurt.
In another, once I was travelling through a small hilly hamlet in Nagaland on the way to Guwahati from Imphal by bus. Light shower was dripping non-stop and land-slide made the traffic jammed for a pretty long time while the late cloud-covered evening goes dimmer and dimmer much faster than one could imagine. Everybody was worried whether they could get rid of the situation.
During that time, the bus conductor (from Imphal) of the bus in which I was also travelling expressed his disappointment by saying “whether the traffic could be started its movement sooner or not (in Meitei-language)”. In reply for that one shopkeeper (quite young) girl who seemingly knows that boy made a kidding to the boy, “Hold the night here.” The boy replied quite sarcastically, “Who would like this ***-khul (village of ***; *** may mean sarcastically tribal).” The girl attempted to mend her point, but the boy was visibly showing his upper hand.
In another occasion, it was during the time (1998) I visited Manipur from my Japan stay as a science and technology agency fellow. That happens to be for a personal meeting. For this, I arranged two of my friends from Imphal who had reached the venue at a location on the Regional Institute for Medical Sciences, Imphal campus little ahead of me. Their conversation was on something outside Imphal (municipal) area. To my utter surprise, their talking, slangs prefixed ***** (***** means ‘uncultured countryman’ which as such was not in its meaning but accustomed to express this way only) used to other valley people outside Imphal in almost every sentence in the conversation, suddenly subsided and all the slanged words vanished immediately just the suspicious moment that I had arrived there! The topic was as such not related to me. Arguably, same is true for one leikai (colony) to another within Imphal. Does this show the cultured nature or decency?
Such nonstandard or uncivil vocabularies behind the scenes are seemingly rampant and may be considered as one of most important factors leading to unrest. The number of people doing this might be small; but one spoiled grain spoils a granary. This is evidently happening in Manipur today. Hill people have seemingly openly spoken against this in social diasporas. This was told to me by one of my friends who, a social activist visited recently at Indore. Because these create far reaching implications: words are more damaging than swords. Or “Akaiba wa eeshing changaga pummi.” (A cracked bamboo rots as water enters.) In short, one should respect others so that he gets respect in return. Or else, is it that who will teach a teacher who teaches wrong!
Why should we allow it to happen just like that? One point I notice is that why people think so great in being at/ from Imphal or Imphalite. This looks to be so for an Imphalite even when he/ she is in New Delhi, New York or London. It may not be in majority, I assume. This should be made incorrect and has in fact been mystified.
For example, one boy and a girl who stayed on rent separately in Imphal have finally really fallen in love with the dream that one of them could cheat the other as Imphalite. Both were pausing to be so. They got married finally just to know that none of them is. And similar other stories go on in large number.
Such incidents naturally create an influx trend of other people who are not intelligent enough to understand the ground reality to Imphal from around. They as more intelligent people if they think so must avoid doing this so that Imphal is not overpopulated due to influx and went out of gear for its management and town planning. This is not good for Imphal and as a whole of Manipur. Human development requires uniform distribution of wealth or infrastructure for peaceful coexistence. Take the example from industrialized developed countries.
Then, why such an individual can’t be made cultured! It cannot be easily, because they have ingrained like this or have they realized that this is wrong! This requires introspection of the individuals and hence its environment. By just being at Imphal cannot one be super-hero, -intelligent, -smart and something like that in whatsoever way it might be. Why MC Mary Kom or many others, not from Imphal? This is so even when they are not doing any physical work like those in most of the rural areas. This sentiment should be borne to such people if Manipur is to be brought to a peaceful and livable place. As such it should be a big social issue to campaign. This might create a very effective way to reducing the conflict to its minimum or nearly zero.
Chauvinism of many newspapers and others is such that the time-tested term Manipur valley is also now used as Imphal valley. Then, is Bishnupur, Kakching or say for that matter any other towns in the valley/ whole of Manipur Imphal? Is this the reason that all the news (happenings) from Manipur is tagged as Imphal? One will not find this almost anywhere except in Manipur. The news might be told to an Imphal reporter, but actual source should be given importance whether some X or Y from the place concerned informed of it. Such scribes should also correct their mind set for fulfilling a livable place to enhance nearly conflict-free society. For a person, brain means head (Imphal) alone cannot function independently without the whole (Manipur), yet healthy body! Simply, an angry person does not feel hungry.
This is something-like the protests being made against the Doordarsan, New Delhi sometimes back for clubbing whole of north-east or something like this as one in reporting, say weather and so on, instead of separate states or their capitals. It is because just Imphal cannot be a microcosm for Manipur in this world of global village. Everybody has his/ her own dignity and every place and individual should be given importance accordingly. People should work as a whole of Manipur, not for some individual or place.
Another story is this. It seems that there was once a two-beaked bird, one in the front and another in the back. The back beak keeps on complaining that it also should be given chance/s to eat or something whatsoever the front one is doing. In this proposal, the front one never gave in. Then, what happened? The opposite beak once found that it also could eat a fruit. It knows that the fruit was a poison. Still then, it ate the fruit. In brief, the whole bird was died as the front beak was not ready to listen to the opposite one. Moral of the story is that due consideration at the right time is a golden rule.
In terms of development parity, development is for the people and by the people. Development is automatic if the people are hard-working and methodical. Broker-like or parasitic existence, the ones who do not work, should be reduced to minimum or eliminated. Or else they should feel ashamed of it. If one is dutiful, idea of corruption naturally does not arise. This is what is prevailing in industrialized wealthy countries.
One also should keep in mind that the developmental work can be done better or faster in reasonably densely populated areas (730 per sq. Km. in valley), not sparsely populated areas (54 per sq. Km. in hills) in the case of Manipur, unless the government, if it does sincerely, is very rich like Japan or America (read USA). In this example, Japan is highly densely populated (337 per sq. Km.) while that in USA is quite sparse (32 per sq. Km.).
This must be recognized very-very well to understand each other better. Actual human development requires good infrastructure that includes several factors including, but not limited to, availability of potable water, electricity, good surface transport, railways, airways, viable (heavy) industries, (higher) education, science and technology. Economy is a great factor to it, requiring hard work a must with systematic approach. This is what is done by all the so-called industrialized developed countries.
In the local context, particularly the disappointing voices from the hills are that hill regions are made backward. This in fact is completely not true if one recognizes the ground reality of the actual development in Manipur today. In 1993, my letter to the editor of Times of India (TOI), Bombay was published with lots of surprise to me as well. This was in support of an article on the view of the NE reporter on “Step-motherly treatment” of NE region by the central government. This was written in the context of some important national issue being asked at Shillong, Meghalaya to the then Home minister, basically from Maharastra. What the minister replied was something like this, “Why should I comment on this important national issue at such a far-flung place?”
This is what the reporter wrote very disappointingly on the view of north-easterner as perceived by the mainland Indians, even by a home minister! I wrote in support of his views. When I showed the letter to some of my close friends, my fellow hostellers in IIT, Bombay Hostel 1 were so praiseworthy. Some people asked me whether editor of TOI is my friend or not and this and that. Like this, it spreads like a wild-fire in the hostel as it was put up on the hostel notice-board as suggested by one friend from Shilchar, Assam. I thought that everything is fine and will go on fine!
However, to a great and stunning surprise to me, one fellow from Karnataka along with some of his friends stopped me at the hostel lounge with lots of visibly angry and fuming face asked me, “Do you think that development works are not in progress properly and required funds are kept pending only in the north-east? Not elsewhere like Karnataka?” He gave quite a few examples of such cases in his own region. I was a bit stumbled as I am dumb on those issues and I am not so good in arguments also.
The message in this particular scenario is that hill people may take the ground reality into consideration so that things are settled amicably as a reasonable and understandable elder-brotherly manner as per the history goes by for the relationship between hill and valley people who are brothers. Therefore, gross discrimination to hill people does not seem to be justified. The response of MP Thangso Baite, “Meiteis settling in the valley are not in any way snatching away the share of tribals living in the hills” about misuse of tribal funds by Meiteis and its comments from the readers in various newspapers of Manipur (17 Jan 2013) corroborate this clearly.
It is therefore not time to blame each other. Time is never late to start for development. Let us start with good plan. But first peace! Independence from corruption by working hard by one and all is the need of the hour for every individual for all-round development.
We should make an endeavor to inculcate all these ourselves, not just by borrowing from others. This requires hard work, peaceful coexistence and cooperation from all, not the pulling down of somebody by some others. This shall prove our peaceful coexistence from the time immemorial and make our place one of the top locations like Singapore, USA, UK or Japan. Although there are exceptions, multicultural society has proven to be synonymous with advancement in today’s world, which is vividly clearly exemplified by the USA or Singapore.
Why should we not emulate this in our case also so that we are better than theirs? Ours is among brothers and sisters, by descent. Why not we prove this to the world: Make Manipur an industrially developed state, like USA but the name should remain Manipur, not just Imphal, such that people like to visit this place from which we extract part of our living as well! Shall we not set a target to it like 20-50 years? Let us strive for peaceful coexistence only and nothing less. Long live Manipur!
- Feedback taken from Prof N Nimai Singh, Imphal (GU, Guwahati), N Sanjib Meitei, Imphal (Software scientist, Indore, MP), Momocha Kshetrimayum, near Pangei (Orthotics, Indore, MP) and Dr W Shambhunath Singh, Singjamei (Sr Lecturer,MC, Imphal)