Manipur: From glorious past to chaotic present to bleak future

In the backdrop of the heightened anticipations and apprehensions, depending on which side you are, for a solution to the protracted political dialogue which has been going on between the Government of India and NSCN-IM, there emerge two interesting claims or proclamations viz the unique history of the Nagas and the more than 2000 years old written history of Manipur. To the first claim, each community or tribe or nation has their own history and each of them has something unique. As for the second, there are many civilizations far more refined and older than the Imphal Valley (sic Meitei) civilization. At the end, both the claims have nothing extraordinary and they are no edifice for demanding special honour or respect. Neither the unique history of the Nagas nor the long 2000 years old written history of Manipur guarantees any extra political, economic or social rights. If we are talking about rights, it is universal. All men and women have equal rights regardless of whether they have unique history or ordinary history, old written history or not so old history. This does not mean history is not important. No doubt, one should know one’s history but undue glorification would serve no purpose in this age of globalization. The world today is highly dynamic and people as a nation or community should learn from their own history to move forward rather than projecting or manipulating histories as sources of conflict. Unfortunately, this is one ugly truth seen in this part of the planet. Coming back to the proud claim of having a written history of over 2000 years, we would like to introspect how advanced we are as a nation and in the area of statecraft. Looking to Manipur as a whole as a political entity tells a very sorry state of affairs. All the people of Manipur, particularly indigenous communities may be progressive individually but as a community or a nation, it cannot be said so with any degree of certainty. It seems all the communities are living in the shadow of their own histories, real or constructed. This is testified beyond any doubt by the multi-layered conflicts, distrust and fragmented imagined homelands.
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 have come to define the State’s political process in recent decades. 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 cost of dignity, honesty and justice? Whose history and which history are we talking about? These are certainly disturbing questions that the present generation need to ponder over. 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. A glorious past can be no alibi for present mess and bleak future.


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