Of all the beautiful things that life has given, to be born in Manipur is the zenith of it, for it has given experience and momentary joy of being alive from the hide and seek game between life and death. All we know is what it takes to be alive next day, next week, next month and next year. To be alive in Manipur is not within everyone's wit and capacity. It needs great skill of negotiation, a great power of endurance to suppress our own emotions, and remain silent in the face of brutal injustices; and a perfect balance to tread between thin line of life and death.
The Chandel molestation case of 18 December 2012 followed by the public outcry against the incident, the Napet Palli episode of molestation of a young lady student, the death of two villager from Kamjong in an unfortunate incident and later on recovery of death body of one Laishram Ibohanbi, missing since 29 December 2012, at Fince Corner of Ukhrul Town are the series of untoward events that have rocked the state in recent weeks at the fake end of 2012. Varied responses to all these incidents have emerged as important markers, telling significant stories of ambivalent social relations and undercurrent political stands in Manipur. Polarised politics and fragmented homeland imagination based on ethnicity; and consequent sporadic social tensions and gap generated by such politics on the one hand and failure or lack of political accommodation on the part of major community on the other hand, have come to define state’s political process in recent decades. At the social and economic context, the state seems to fall in the hands of a few oligarchs, who have embarked on the rampant exploitation of the state in every opportune moment through corruption, through power, through capital etc. For them crisis is opportunity.
As a result a social climate has come into existence in our midst where corruption has been accepted as a norm and way of life, where death has an exchange value in the form of ex-gratia, where each one of us think of the shortest routes to get rich. In the process, society gets completely lumpenised and Oligarchs hold lordship over it. It is the real picture of Social Darwinism and food-chain system of animal kingdom, which have surfaced as the hallmark of our social character. Disheartened with the emerging trend in Manipur, many scholars have commented that Manipur today has buried under layers of problems and when we are searching for solution to one issue, another issue surfaces. This characterization is definitely true to a great extent but our failure lies in our difficulties in fixing the issue which has decisive implications upon all the other issues or problems. Mao once wrote that winning battles are important, but more important is winning the war. Every battle is not equally significant; the wisdom lies in winning that battle which can have decisive bearing for winning the war. Today, our energies are diversified, not focused; fragmented, not united and we are pulling each other, where one community becomes enemy of other or at least the object of hate, anger and frustration. Yet, at the face of such dark realities, most of us continue to chant ‘2000 years old history and civilization,’ ‘Rich Manipuri Culture and Tradition’, etc. but we failed to question ourselves and our thinking; can a people having a history and civilization of 2000 years be so ineffective in evolving a political strategy to promote plural character of the state with due political accommodation? Can a people having rich culture, tradition and glorious moments in its history be so easily lured by material benefits at the altar of dignity, honesty, justice and love of one’s motherland? Whose history and which history are we talking about? These are certainly disturbing questions that the present generation need to ponder over.
The present generation requires a serious dialectics with our history (past) to find out where we have gone wrong, what is lacking in the history that has been accepted in the common parlance and also to inquire its representative character in the larger context of Manipuri peoplehood and nation. There is a need for selective application of historical, cultural elements and making new elements in order to adapt to the changing needs and requirement of the present. What is necessary should be appropriated and what is unnecessary and counterproductive should be kept aside. In short the battle for history has to be fought within history itself.
Today, the threat to existence of Manipur as historico-political entity remains no longer our perception but real with each day throwing hardened challenges from protagonists of Alternative Arrangement, statehood demand etc. with the ostensible blessing from New Delhi. Recent cartographic war or ‘carto-politics’ (such maps are probably meant for the record in order to validate their claim in future) showing maps of imagined homeland or ancestral domain for Nagas and Kukis only indicates the seriousness of the crisis and long dark haul lying before us. Never before in the long years of its existence, had the concept of Manipur and its collective moorings been so seriously challenged as today. Manipur today seems to be standing in the twilight of life and death with New Delhi trying to have a simple solution for a complex problem. While we continue to pull each other harping on different political vision and trajectory, there is ceaseless effort to exploit our precious resources such as land, forest and other natural resources from pro-corporate government and other Multinational Corporations (MNCs). Penetration of foreign capital, international financial institutions and MNCs which are taking place in Manipur and other North East states only show the emerging importance of this region as virgin area waiting to be exploited. However our fragmented political vision has prevented from evolving a common platform to discuss and assess the long term implications on our livelihood, culture, identity and resources from such exploitation and penetration of foreign capital.
Our predicament and tragedy is that we have enough problems in our hand but not a single solution. Our wisdom lies in finding out one decisive issue which has inextricable relations with other issues and taking on that issue. While opposing any move to balkanise Manipur, it is equally necessary and important to offer political concession in order to accommodate the genuine concerns and fear of Nagas and Kuki community. Our effort to preserve and protect Manipur should not be confined only to political front; it should also be extended to economic, social and cultural domain. In these entire domains, due considerations should be given to accommodate fear and concerns of each of the community of Manipur. In short a clear cut strategy and framework is necessary for developing a peacefully co-existing plural state. Instead of having reactive responses, it is time to think of strategy, which may in the long run help in building a prosperous and peacefully co-existing plural Manipur.
This article was published in The Sangai Express on Sunday, January 13, 2013