In the light of the above understanding it becomes crucial to find out where were the mistakes that had been committed wittingly as unwittingly in the process of our existence as peoplehood and nationhood. Secondly we need to find out what were the enduring values that had been evolved, nurtured and sustained.
Manipur, today, is embroiled in a plethora of problems and crisis. Small territorial size and population of Manipur is betrayed by the number of vexed issues and events that have inflicted Manipur's polity, and economy. It is no exaggeration to say that post 1949 Manipur's story is predominantly the narratives of loss of lives, frustration, misery, melancholy, fear, conflicts and fragmentation of our social lives on various lines - tribe/non-tribes, hills-valley, Naga-Kuki-Meitei etc. Today's Manipur is akin to a human being who is over-burdened with problems, issues, events and crisis from which never to be resurrected. One can ask what is not happening in Manipur? Many outstanding issues such as armed conflict on the question of sovereignty, territorial integrity, pauperisation of masses, widening gap between the rich Manipuri and poor Manipuri etc are haunting the people of Manipur time and again. It is, therefore highly necessary that we accept all these outstanding issues as our reality and challenges that has to be recognised and accepted and re-direct our energy and resources in over coming these vexed outstanding issues.
Here comes the role and responsibility of intellectuals. The policy of deliberate ignorance on the part of larger section of intellectuals is unhealthy and counter-productive for the simple reason that 'our deliberate ignorance does not mean that issues have ceased to exist and our existential reality is inextricably related to these issues'.
No matter how hard we endeavour to construct our own isolated personalised world untouched by present turmoil and turbulence of Manipur, we cannot succeed. Rather than running away from various issues that have engulfed Manipur, it will be prudent and wiser to face them. The sooner, the better. Taking position on a particular issue through creative articulation, putting the issue or problem into right perspective, nurturing and spreading of ideas that can lead to an order of greater common good to the people of Manipur can be cited as some of the vital roles that the so called intellectuals, scholars and academicians may play in the present critical juncture. Intervention and engagement in the outstanding issues are highly crucial in this regard. So called intellectuals, scholars and academicians should not follow the Government of India’s policy of ‘wait and watch’ and ‘let them fight’ attitude.
In addition to the issue of Manipur’s sovereignty, the issue of territorial fragmentation or preservation is another vital issue which has posed a serious challenge upon the existence of Manipur as a historical and political entity. The issue of territorial integrity or fragmentation demands utmost caution and a finespun and politically mature approach as it has the potential to ignite communal flare up and conflict on ethnic lines. Any laxity or misjudgement on engaging the issue may lead to a confusing situation over the question of priority of the issues, sovereignty and integrity.
For the NSCN-IM and the protagonists of Naga lebensraum, the priority area is very clear. It has been already made loud and clear that integration of Naga inhabited areas is the foremost agenda and perhaps, the most cherished dream.
Integration of Naga inhabited areas became the core issue and foremost priority of NSCN-IM and Naga frontal organisations ever since the I-M group entered into cease-fire agreement with the Government of India and subsequent rounds of political dialogue which is already 13 years old now. Though Manipur was never taken into confidence in the process of the political dialogue till date, spillover impacts and direct threats emanating from the peace talk have been witnessed repeatedly in the socio-political landscape of Manipur.
As expected and quite obvious, along with a paradigm shift in the priority of NSCN-IM’s agenda from sovereignty to integration of Naga inhabited areas, there has been a near total change in the policy and strategy of the rebel group. Predominant strategy has been the persistent attempt to project Meitei as hegemon, exploiter, imperialist, enemy of tribals, source of poverty, backwardness of hill areas and what not, if one has to go by the malicious propaganda of NSCN-IM and their supporters.
Going on with their offensive propaganda, the advocates of Naga lebensraum have been attempting to identify the Government of Manipur and the State of Manipur as synonymous with the Meitei. Seen from this misplaced logic, what the Government does becomes Meitei’s doing. Even the organically related territorial space is divided based on ethnic communal line, viz; valley for Meiteis, Churachandpur district for Kukis and the rest for Nagas. These are some of the indigestible arguments and languages that we frequently heard and read through in newspapers and other forms of mass media. Taking a cue from such statements, it is quite discernible that the Naga lebensraum camp has intensified its systematic ethnicisation process of the socio-political landscape of Manipur. The much needed impetus was provided by Thuingaleng Muivah’s proposed visit to Somdal, in Manipur’s Ukhrul district and Government of Manipur’s ban on Muivah’s entry to Manipur.
What is disheartening is that many civil organisations blamed the Meitei squarely for the turbulence and the violence that were witnessed in some areas of hill districts recently. The Naga civil societies blaming Meiteis for what the State of Manipur did would do themselves justice to their sense of judgement if they can recall that it was against the same so-called Meitei led or Meitei centric Government that the valley people, more precisely Meitei fought for almost half a year, even to the extent of boycotting class for four months. That was in 2009. The Meiteis, like any other community, have been bearing, for years, the brunt and atrocities of security forces including those composed of our own people, the Meiteis, the Kukis and the Nagas. The point here is, the Government or the State operates on its own system of mechanisms and laws.
The unfortunate Mao incident of May 6 intensified the ongoing blockade sponsored by ANSAM in connection with ADC elections. Even the NSF based in Nagaland plunged into action by banning Manipur vehicles from passing through Nagaland based on a very lame excuse that their executives were prevented from entering Manipur.
Even if one is fighting against the Government of Manipur, every citizen in Manipur have had first hand experience of the misery and hardships caused by frequent blockades on national highways 39 and 53 which are considered lifelines of the people of Manipur. One can imagine the hardship created by the ongoing blockade which has broken the record of 52 days blockade kept in 2005. It is a tragedy that highway blockade has evolved into the most convenient and popular tactics of ANSAM and other organisations to bring the Government to its knees while holding millions of people under ransom. It is only the black marketers, big traders and ruling politicians who benefits from blockades.
Such blockades intended to suffocate an entire population is against ethics, morality and values of humanity. Beyond the ethnic or nationalist centric identity, we all have the universal identity of human being. Human beings have shared values of humanity based on which human rights are formulated and respected. While there must be room for expressing our dissent and space for articulating our aspiration, but attempt to starve millions of people in the name of rights and democracy by blocking lifelines is nothing short of waging war and the very act of blockading highways for such a long period is an offensive strategy condemnable by the entire world. The blockade is in itself antithesis to the very fundamental principle of rights and democracy.
This article was posted on The Sangai Express on Sunday, June 13, 2010