“To make that happen, Naga and Meitei civil societies need to take some bold initiatives,” Lakpachui Siro.
For some sense and sensibility
By Thounaojam Brinda
Manipur today is on live wire due to the high communal tension that is present between the Naga and the Meitei communities. This communal conflagration is not the result of one day but the result of long term premeditated divisive policies and acts of the State. Both and all communities have their own legitimate struggles but have repeatedly failed to see a common ground for unity that can withstand any onslaught of the common enemy, which is the system. Both the Naga and Meitei communities have their own elite class who are the controllers and beneficiaries of India’s funds and grants. The duty is upon the civil societies of these two communities to prepare for healthy and effective communications and take all measures to prevent the respective organizations from being misinterpreted and misquoted, especially, in this high strung flammable tension that has strangulated and gripped the common people of the state which can plunge the history of the people into a dark chapter of bloodshed that will wipe off generations of the indigenous.
While each responsible indigenous of the region has the responsibility to speak and act responsibly, the Naga and Meitei civil society leaders must shoulder the responsibility of not politicizing issues or falling prey to them. Shedding partisan approach while respecting the respective struggles each community faces at the same time, the only viable way out of this imbroglio is through meaningful dialogue between the two communities through their civil societies. The stand off and the resultant rigid stands the communities are taking in this communal tension is at the cost of the common people belonging to both the Valley and the Hills. The roles of the Civil Society leaders are extremely crucial to end this impasse. It is their duty to guide the people on ways to continue with the respective struggles while finding common grounds that can unite the people to form the much needed united front of the whole North East region. The struggles cannot forge ahead in isolation of each other unless the people of the whole North East region unite for a just and equitable socio, economic and political society. The divisive Government of Manipur by transgressing all democratic rules of consulting the concerned people and taking their consents before taking decisions that pertain their interest went ahead with the creation of seven districts for political mileage at a heavy cost to the people belonging to both communities. Instead of declaring decisions affecting the people in authoritarian manners, if the people would have been thoroughly consulted and the decision deliberated upon genuinely, the present communal tension could have been prevented.
However, the political moves have been desperate and premeditated ones and so are the consequences. The Government of Manipur will not listen to the legitimate voices of the people, especially, the dissenting ones. The responsibility is upon the Civil Society leaders of Naga and Meitei societies. The interview of Lakpachui Siro, Convenor, Forum for Understanding Naga-India Conflict and Human Rights (FUNICH), research scholar and activist has been done with the intent to find out the common grounds upon which the respective community leaders feel we can work on sincerely to find a common solution for the present and a bright future. The purpose of the interview has been an attempt to find the answers and means for a unity that is paramount if we are to overcome the odds that we as an oppressed class face together.
1. Do you a see bright future when communities indulge in fighting one another? Should the fight along communal line go on?
The obvious answer is “No”.
We must certainly find a way to end communal conflict in our region.
However, we need to introspect and point out the reasons that trap all of us in a conflict situation. Pointing out the reasons and overcoming it will be positive step towards forging a common understanding. Common understanding will be an essential criterion of building up a common platform where all could work together for a better future. Therefore, the need of the hour is to find out a mechanism to figure out certain common interest. To make that happen, Naga and Meitei civil societies need to take some bold initiatives. I say Naga and Meetei civil societies, because, they either represent or have respective social base among Nagas and Meities that I consider as natives of the State. If this could not be materializing, and, on the contrary, if these two communities failed to realize certain common goals, both will continue to hurt one another. In the long run, both will fail to fulfill their interests in regards to land, resources, culture and political goal.
2. Manipur is in extremely flammable state today. What are the things we can do to calm things down and what steps to take to prevent this from happening again in future?
Most of the differences in the State can be resolved if the Nagas and the Meiteis would learn to address issue together and start communicating directly. No doubt, communication is taking place. But the communication, predominantly, appears to be limited in scope as it is restricted to certain elected elites and at some unorganized individual levels. By and large, there is comparative lapse of systematic and consistent interactions between Naga and Meitei Civil Societies.
I strongly believe that we can collectively fight structural injustice by the regime in power, that is, whosoever rule over the Government of Manipur. Structural injustice encompasses many aspects of misrule ranging from inadequate water supply in the valley districts to arbitrary creation of full-fledged districts without any preparedness. The basic infrastructures that are needed in a revenue district are missing—be it in Noney or Kamjong or in Tengnoupal. In almost all the newly created district there is comparative absence of infrastructural growth and facilities. For instance, in the newly created districts, namely, Kamjong or Noney, which is huge in geographic spread, there is; absence of even 3 or 4 bedded hospital; no metalized inter-village road connectivity, no regular power supply in most of the villages, hardly only one higher secondary school without any college. The regime in power that is scared to debate on their poor performance and inability to provide good governance is playing cheap politics by means of creating ethnic tension. Such engineered tension is clearly exposed now. The progressive forces may come together to fight such injustice and misrule by a microscopic section that misuse political power to fulfill counter-productive personal objectives. I wish if we could come together on such issues.
3. The contradiction between oppressors and oppressed transgressed community boundaries? What is your comment on this?
The statement is quite true in our context. The elected MLAs who enjoy political powers and play opportunism—whether he/she is from the Hills or from the Valley— are responsible for creating the present crisis. The present crisis in Manipur in which economic blockade by the UNC constitutes an integral part, which had had the side effect of disrupting the Meitei festival Ningol Chakauba, was sparked off as a result of the arbitrary decision of the Government to grant two full-fledged districts without actually adhering to the norms of free prior informed consent of the denizens who would be affected by the policy. If the regime in power had some respect for the popular aspiration and dissenting voice, it could have delayed in taking arbitrary decision, thereby, rendering any form of agitation by UNC redundant. Unfortunately, the regime in power seems to have become quite authoritarian and have violated four Memorandums of Understandings signed between the Government of Manipur and Naga organisations. When the UNC had taken a firmed decision to go ahead with the economic blockade, now, the common people both in the Hills and in the Valley, whether one is a Naga or a Meitei, everyone is being affected. Interestingly the rich or the economically privileged sections across communities, whether he/ she is a Naga or Meitei politician, are least affected. While the common people suffer, these opportunist elites enjoy the accumulated privileges. What they do in such crisis moment is devising emotive campaigns to arouse sentiment, to win vote so as to come back to power.
4. Unity of the oppressed people is a priority to emancipate peoples from misrule, institutional injustice and disproportionate development. For this common psychology is essential, which will give unity a chance, for people to think beyond community boundaries. How will you endeavour to give unity a chance? Which are the policies and methods you may formulate and execute to building common psychological make up?
To make that happen there are some fundamental points that we need to agree upon. Number one, on our understating of justice we must have the same yardstick. Secondly, we must identify areas that we can work together and the guiding principles under which we may work together. Is it going to be a new one that we would have to invent collectively? Or, is it going to be based on universal rights or within the parameters of the Indian Constitution? Once, we have these foundations in place, we will able to move forward. This does not mean that differences of opinion will not exist. There has to be a common platform to accommodate differences while the objective is to have a common platform to work together on diverse issues of common interest. Take the example of international relation, say US and Japan, Russia and China and many more. At one point in time their friendship and coming together is unthinkable; however, they are now maintaining very good relationship.
5. What is/are your appeal/s to all the communities towards bringing a formidable unity?
Our leaders whether in politics or any other platform or organization must realize that we all live in the same eco-system and we are the best persons to nurture and develop our eco-system. Look around, you will see heavy militarization, corrupt system, devoid of dignity and development, and etcetera. Are these not common concerns? Finally, echoing what Malcolm X says “You are not supposed to be too blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong no matter who says it”. We must start to think beyond our ethnic line and must stop following ‘pseudo’ leaders just because he or she happens to come from my own community. Let us learn to see the entire North Eastern region as a whole entity, whose future is destined together. To make that happen, the Nagas, the Mizos and the Meiteis have important roles to play.
(The article was originally published on IFP and sent to Kanglaonline by the author to republish for general interest)