HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone in Manipur and Let’s sing “Thou (prime minister in Delhi) art the ruler of the minds of all people of Manipur – dispenser of Manipur’s destiny”.
As I join Editor Rajesh of TSE in wishing pluralism and cultural materialism for the whole Manipur (cf. Editorial 29.11.15) I am very touched by a long email from a young Tangkhul college student in Imphal, who read my article Vive le Manipur. How he wished we all live in Manipur as Manipuris together, abhorring calling himself a tribal.
This student has rekindled the memory of my first lost love as a college boy with a beautiful Tangkhul girl, light years ago. It did not occur to us then that we were different. He has shown early signs of symbolic unity to foster a sense of community building among all the segments of Manipuri population.
Manipur is littered with the corpses of dead people – an affair to be followed by further dark forebodings because of the efforts of the United Naga Council (UNC) to put another brick between the Nagas on one hand and the rest of the communities of Manipur on the other. All of this may sound intolerably abstract and unreal, but it is real and the emotional content for Meiteis in it, is in fact the precise opposite of abstraction.
Founding another mother country is complex as Kukis have found out while demanding 65% of Manipur’s whole territory. Sensing such an intricacy for Tangkhuls, a Meetei/Mangang, as late as November 2015,TSE, wrote a loving supplication to Tangkhuls not to leave Manipur.
Our good Samaritan Mangang (Mangang was a small tribe that got absorbed into prehistory Meetei; cf. Ch Kumbaba), still believes in the Tangkhul-Meitei biological brotherhood jazz, without realising it is ahistorical with no ability to advance reasonably certain truth-claims. It’s like Nagas’ claim of Aimols, Anals, Marings, Koirengs, Koms to be Nagas, which they are not. A truly unhinged bit of satire.
Just for the lark, Meiteis regarded Kabuis as a part of their social fabric. It goes back historically at least to Kabui Salang Maiba in Moirang Kangleiron. Kabuis settled in Imphal before I was born, some endless age ago. Zeilangrong is a new concept.
Meiteis always felt close to Khongsais who were codefenders of Manipur. It’s recorded in Meitei ballad Khongjomparva that one thousand Khongsais were among the troops King Chandrakriti took with him to the infamous Zila Durbar.
Economic dimensions of ethnic diversity have now changed mutual historical affinities. In this premise of unleashing a forgotten kind of energy of coexistence in Manipur, it seems Meiteis are left to carry the can.
As a patron of International Meetei Forum (IMF) and Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee (STDC) I have the privilege to reproduce a passage from a small book – ‘The song of the bird’ by Anthony de Mello S.J. It is aimed at Meiteis for action as their political discourse analysis is unbalanced between their theory and practice.
One Meninzies gave the book to me in May 1996, while holidaying with my wife in Goa, along with my Bombay friend Mohammed Patel and his wife Munira, staying at their enchanting palm fringed holiday villa on the bank of Mandovi River at the far side of Panjim.
The passage – ‘Holiness in the present moment’ – describes how a Japanese warrior was captured and thrown into prison. At night he could not sleep for he was convinced he would be tortured next morning, then the words of his Master’s voice came to him: “Tomorrow is not real. The only reality is now.” So he came to the present and fell asleep.
Without further stories to create a moral meal, a didactic fare, it is proposed, based on the above maxim that Meiteis should in these days of rising tensions and hundred small irritations, inculcate a sparkling attitude as opposed to indolence and unmanly despair, to stem the tide of separatism before the final negotiated settlement between the Government of India (GOI) and the Naga Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM).
Meitei politicians should convince the GOI not to fall in line with the absurdities of modern history of Manipur and that, Indian prime minister is also Meiteis’ Bhagya Vidhata and all Meiteis sing “thy praise – all pray for thy blessings”. Tav shubh name jage – Tav shubh ashish mage.
Meitei integrationists ought to indoctrinate other Manipuris in pluralistic thought and feeling, against ethno-nationalists that are trying their damnedest to tear the map of Manipur, dominated by a desire for gratification and aversion to anything which might frustrate it.
Meitei leaders need an action plan to execute a structured preparation to achieve unity – perhaps with the motto of the American General Patton, who said to his soldiers before advancing to Berlin on August 8 1945: “Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
They could formulate to legitimise their objective of keeping Manipur intact, de jure, with reference to the declarative doctrine that Manipur has been existing for 2,000 years with faith and fortitude. There should be evidence-packed lobbying of the Union government that relations between the majority of Nagas and Meiteis have become better in the previous couple of decades and partition of Manipur will be as lethal as the 1947 partition of India.
Meiteis must have ‘intentionality’ ie the power of minds to look at the mental landscape of images of a broken Manipur and the rough terrain through which Meiteis will be passing, with neighbourly alienation that imply redundant ethnic relationships. Today is the reality, for tomorrow may be the day when Meiteis may not be able to master and may end in disastrous partition of Manipur. Why? Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, an “interlocutor” in the GOI & NSCN-IM dialogue, came from the land of Aryan man. He had been like the apparition of Hamlet with no palpable presence. But on November 4 2015 his shadowy figure had materialised like the ‘Ghost of Denmark’ – also known as the ‘Tragedy of Hamlet’. He rambled on about Manipur’s changing timetable for breaking up before a few uneasy Meitei intelligentsia.
His thought initially, was silent, invisible, at best inoffensive until its mysterious ambiguity became an emblem of obscure and dangerous potential. He used sophisticated linguistic sleight of hand to con wary Meiteis of their Sana Leibak Manipur. As his creative juices dried up he retraced to the most moving and terrifying Naga suffrage as their badge.
Middle aged, slight of build, moustachioed and with a facial angle of a bumpkin, he carried a portmanteau containing oddments of His Masters Voice from Delhi. He looked laboured with the
weight of the burden he was carrying on his mind. His facial muscles were taut as if he feared a deadpan smile might inadvertently escape from his lips. Using silence as a means of manipulation, passivity as a tactic to gain momentum, he retreated behind a dull, grave camouflage of his otherwise plain Aryan face.
Depending on who he was meeting, somehow horribly, the Aryan man wore the same face, or worse the same two faces. Subtlety of thought made me decide upon giving our interlocutor a cold name – the ‘Tragedy of Meiteis’. His nameless mode of naming the unnamable was rather good. Like the cutting laser, emitting a thin pencil of scarlet light, he cut out words without really articulating them, that the NSCN-IM would not have signed the August 4 2015 accord without the GOI conceding to one of their two principal demands, and we know the obvious.
After flip-flopping across the valley the “Tragedy of Meiteis” left for Delhi. He looked as if he was filled with frustration that coated his failure like a layer of syrup. Meiteis meanwhile, like dried bookworms, are in a time warp, as their capacity for thought and feeling has shrunk to a senseless zero. Nostalgia harks me back to the unpleasant 1947 partition of Bharat (India) and Pakistan. Whisky swirling Quaid-E-Azam Jinnah, politically outmanoeuvred teetotaller Pundit Nehru.
Manipur’s partition into a trammelled landscape of Kangleipak (Manipur) and Hills (later as Naga and Kuki Hills) may not be as far as you think, but it is not something that Meiteis cannot get outside of and stand over against.
The Telegraph, Kolkata, November 5 2015 reported: “New Delhi is weighing its options of giving ‘more autonomy’ to the Nagas of Manipur as a part of the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) talks. R.N. Ravi made it very clear during a series of consultations with several Manipuri groups, including UNC, Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) and Citizens’ Council of Manipur (CCM).”
Autonomy and separatism are synonymous. Despite unsubstantiated media report of which there is zero factual proof, Meiteis in this predawn chill, should not lose their voice to the uptick of domestic propaganda machine of the UNC until the wind shifts. It’s good to have more than one string to your bow to avoid waddling through treacle.
The journey will not be the ersatz kind. It will take sweat, determination and hard work. Remember, the winner takes it all.
The writer is based in the UK