Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Swan Song: End of an Era of Hope & Sovereignty

Ato Kilonser Thuingaleng Muivah is an old man. He carries on his broad shoulders the hope of the believers – arm wielding cadres and young generation who are yet to learn traditions of a shared past and co-existence beyond the bubble like world of the Nagas. Ato Kilonser Muivah is indeed an old man, and for the first time he’s encountered the reality of realpolitik. His exasperation over the current fiasco (sic. visit to Somdal) echoed like an anguished old man, who desperately hinges his hope on the Almighty, in his case the Government of India. Dilemma and frustrations encountered by Muivah is primarily on account of his failure to correctly read the “political-ness” of few issues. First relates to his inability to shed off completely the underground garb that he has worn for the major part of his life. For a person who has trod the path of insurgency backed by able armed cadres, anything was possible. However, donning the face of a civilian and leadership role as a mainstream statesman/politician demands following certain rules of politics, which for him as well as his party is a new experience. Equally related to this is his misreading of the Indian State and historicity of Manipur. The last two categories are decisive factors on Muivah’s imagination of Nagalim and these would ultimately shape his persona as a statesman/politician even if the NSCN-IM backed Naga civil society bodies utter otherwise.
The Idea of India vis-à-vis the Indian State
Jawaharlal Nehru envisioned one of the most profound and philosophically powerful idea of India when he said that everyone is free to have an idea of India, which is compatible to one’s own ability and limitation, and shaped by own experiences. Intellectuals received Nehru’s futuristic idea of India like a vision and appreciated him as someone informed by multiculturism and love of plurality as well as diversity. However, experiences say otherwise. The Indian State does not tolerate voices of dissent; Hobbesian absolutism continues to be the other face of the Indian State. This is totally against the Nehruvian understanding of India that operates on the plane of ideas and idealism.
Take for instance the story of Dravida Kazakam or Tamils’ demand for separation from India, the story of Akali Dal in Punjab and closer home, the story of Mizo National Front and Gorkha National Front, etc. These are historical instances in which the Indian State exhibited her might and finally were able to co-opt within the fold of the mainstream politics of India. Voices of dissent are co-opted in the name of multiplicity of ideas of India, nonetheless within the fold of the Indian State. Each one of the leaders who have genuinely spearheaded a greater cause for own people ended lives like any other ordinary man. Subhash Gising, Laldena or Zoram Thanga are persons who have fought for a greater cause but were co-opted by the Indian State promising the unattainable.
Despite the proclamation for multiple ideas of India, India continues to roll in its most statist mould. Trajectory of co-optation did not end with Mizo National Front but continues to be paraded with similar stories of the Bodo, Ahoms, Telangana and at present engaged with the NSCN-IM. More than 50 years of Naga’s demand for sovereignty has frittered down to statehood of a different kind (sic. Nagalim) wherein Muivah claims chunks of land from Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The India State at the same time promises integrity of territorial boundaries of the above mentioned states. In order to convey the encrypted message to Muivah and NSCN-IM, the Central Government has “given” permission to Muivah to visit his home village. The Indian State in its height of diplomatic and political vision must have surely foreseen the development in Manipur, given Muivah’s track record as a criminal punishable under the Indian Penal Code.
What needs to be appreciated is the game-plan of the Indian State, for example, sending Muivah (who have spent major part of his life abroad cutting off from the ground reality and who have depended on reports sent by his subordinates) to see for himself the varied hues of resistance from various quarters. Irony is, the Central Government is going to wash off its hands and say, “C’mon, Ato Kilonser Th. Muivah, we did the best for you but as you can see, the Manipuris are against your visit!”
If politics is a game of possible, then it is also the game of the impossible. The impossible in the present context is created by the Indian State. Having co-opted Muivah and his party, now the Central Government has thrown the ball into his court. And interestingly enough, Muivah can no more rely on his armed cadres to address the issue unlike his days as an insurgent leader, precisely because Muivah has fallen into the ploy of the Indian State, and at present he is a civilian who has to depend on his political wits and statesmanship. This demands first of all, accepting on the part of Muivah, NSCN-IM and the Naga civil society bodies that what stands between Muivah and Somdal is the rule of law, which is derived from a corpus body of people, be it the Manipuris, Nagas or the Indian. Any logical comprehension of the issues at hand would reveal the same, and this is the political weapon the Indian State wields at the moment, for Muivah has accepted to work out a solution within the Constitution of India. Failure to read such a revelation, by Muivah as well as the Naga civil society, would disrupt any peace process and end in futility. The Nagas have to create room for manoeuvres in such a situation, and stop blaming the Meiteis, if all Muivah has to remain as a legacy in the history of the Nagas.
The Swan Song
Any common man would agree with Yenning that Muivah is an old man and that decades-long struggle spearheaded by him must culminate to a conclusive end. Read in this line, Muivah has to put up a final performance, first in order to safeguard his legacy and finally, keep the Nagas closer in spite of their inclusiveness and diversity. Transformation from demands of sovereignty to statehood was not his making, but the transforming or the co-opting power of the Indian State. Nevertheless, Muivah has to keep up a straight face and declare to his worshippers: “Look here, we are able to win the civilizational race we have always had with the Meiteis, break their chauvinism and arrogance. Nagalim is possible. I am here in person to promise you that”.
This is an incredible story of where the initial enemy (sic. Indian State) of the Nagas has become the arbitrator and brothers are the enemies (sic. Nagas and Meiteis). And the Swan Song that Muivah sings is exactly the same falling victim to the ways of power of the Indian State.
The emotional yet the historical Manipuris do not like their ancestral ties to be broken up and thus, send a political message to Muivah and the Naga civil societies by putting up counter economic blockades. But they do not kill or harm the Naga denizens who stay in the valley or otherwise. The emotional in them says Muivah does not have the right to tear asunder the territorial integrity of Manipur and thus should not be allowed to visit Manipur. Muivah’s Swan Song does not appeal to them.

But there are also the rational yet compassionate Manipuris. Keeping in view the future of Manipur and the historical relationship we have shared with the Tangkhuls, Maos, Angamis, Poumais and Zeliangrongs, and so on, no hardship be imposed upon the hill brethren. Muivah first of all is a Tangkhul, and on humanitarian grounds, he should be allowed to visit his birth place. Accept him as a Manipuri as we have accepted his community as a part and parcel of our civilizational moorings from time memorial. Same school of thought also proposes/urges UCM and AMUCO to accept the invitation proposed by the Naga civil society, with the precondition that economic blockades imposed by the Naga civil societies be removed from both the National Highways. They have extended their hands for dialogue to us because there is a problem. Having a dialogue once the problem is over would not carry any meaning. However, such a gesture do not necessarily mean succumbing to ultimate disintegration of Manipur or singing along with Muivah his Swan Song but the recognization that an era of hope and sovereignty promised by the Naga Lebensraum has come to an end.

This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, May 16, 2010

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