‘Reach out to the valley brethren in the spirit of peace: RN Ravi to the UNC (Imphal Free Press, Saturday, November 16, 2019). This is the exhortation given to the leaders of the United Naga Council (UNC) of Manipur by the Governor of Nagaland, who is also the Interlocutor for the government of India for the Naga Peace talk when the team waited on His Excellency at Kohima Rajbhavan. The interlocutor reminded the team of their responsibility in ensuring that Naga tribes of Manipur maintain cordial relationship with fellow communities of the state at the present juncture. A very timely and wise advice. Having come from Mr Ravi at this critical juncture the advice acquired added importance and gravity. Mr Ravi is destined to be an important part of the history of the Northeast India, perhaps of the India’s nation building narrative and will be remembered long for his present roles.
Jesus of Nazareth, Apostle of peace, whom millions in the world including the Nagas in Manipur worship as Lord Jesus Christ, preached: Love thy neighbours. He went further to entice people: Love thy enemies. Jesus pleaded for his crucifiers: Father, forgive them for they not know what they are doing. Beauty and extant of the philosophy of Jesus Christ are fascinating. If the neighbours are loved and also the enemies the World will be full of love having left no one without love. Peace will bloom everywhere.
Even if there have been some slackness on the part of the UNC and the Nagas of Manipur in following strictly the sermons of Christ it would be prudent for them to follow the exhortations of Mr Ravi appreciating his position and the critical juncture they are in.
To love neighbours, not to say of loving enemies, is not easy. To cultivate hatred, jealousy, criticism, and to indulge in finding faults of others are far convenient and natural for human beings.
To point accusing finger is so easy. But, the wise says when a person points his accusing finger to another his three fingers are pointing towards himself. People take it easy glossing over their own faults.
This brings me to a parable in the Bible. Once when some men were stoning a woman accusing her of un-chastity Jesus happened by on the scene. Jesus stopped the men and after some enquiries told the angry men to let the one among them, who has not committed any sin throw the first stone. The men put down the stones, turned back and went away. Then Jesus wrote on the sand something for the woman, perhaps an admonition. For faults and criticism we are wont to look towards others forgetting ourselves.
To establish trust, peace and harmony among neighbours in Manipur for happy co-existence and a meaningful life, progress and prosperity every community and its members should adopt a positive and constructive outlook. Undertaking endevours to control one’s mind to free it of negative thoughts is the initial step essential. Our minds are full of negative thoughts.
All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become. Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. These are the teachings of Gautama Buddha.
Wrongly or rightly Meeteis felt that Nagas are not amenable to the idea of a peaceful co-existence with them and in building an united prosperous Manipur together. Mr. Thuingaleng Muivah, his cronies and the UNC aggravated the situation by their posturing and pompous claims.
The British and the Religions played strong roles in dividing the people in Manipur. The British while trying to protect their commercial interests in Northeast took various measures to keep at bay the tribes they considered troublesome and unconducive to their commercial interests. Innerline Permit promulgated under the Eastern Bengal Frontier Regulation, 1873 was one such measure.
Meeteis in the valley adopted Hinduism in the 17th century and became devout Hindus. Nagas in the hills of Manipur, on the other hand, were converted into Christianity through the British missionary, Mr William Pettigrew in the 19th century. Thus, these two communities, though considered descendants of one racial stock and have intertwined cultures, were placed on two extreme poles by their faiths. But, the core essence of the philosophy enunciated by Jesus is not different from that of the Hindu philolosophy in the Vedas and Upanisad. Be that it may, it is not necessary that two persons taking different roads to reach the same goal should fight and shout at one another.
Let us look at the present realities of life. Many Naga women are married to Meetei males and many Meetei women are also married to Naga males and they are living happily. I myself have married a Naga lady from Nagaland. If all these people who have taken Naga wives and all these Meetei women who became wives to Naga husbands become suspects of both the communities and treated as infidels then what would be the plight of such families? More importantly, to how much turmoil and hardship the two communities will be thrown into by such shallow attitudes? Both the Meeteis and the Nagas should be on the constructive and enlightened path of building a strong, progressive and peaceful Manipur as against taking to roads of destruction.
Meeteis have been for long shouting hoarse that Meeteis and Nagas are brothers, even quoting examples of traditional relations. But, the Nagas remained mute and unresponsive looking towards Hebron like Muslims turning to Mecca for deliverance. Meeteis even started inviting tribal women to feasts of Ningol Chakouba, another version of Bhai Dooj to establish a relation of love, trust and goodwill. To placate the people of the hills the present state govt. came up with an innovative spirited campaign: Go to hills and held Cabinet meetings in the hills by rotation besides earmarking a specific day for the Chief Minister to meet hill people every month. I hope all these gestures are not misunderstood for weakness of the Meeteis.
It may be pertinent to remind every community and every individual that it may be a big lapse not to understand the seriousness of the situation and not to try to make amends.
When Manipur is disintegrated because of parochialism and shortsightedness all of us would be buried and Manipur would be turned into a phantom country. Prudent thing for every community and every individual at this momentous juncture is to leave behind hatred, prejudices, malice, suspicion, jealousy, pettiness and all forms of parochialism in the interest of their children’s the future. Mouthing prayers will not suffice. Prayers for fraternity, love, goodwill, peace and co-existence should come from down the bottom of hearts. Let no one cheat the God.
With the advent of Christmas let us hope Santa Claus will bring gift packages of joy, love, understanding and wisdom to Manipur and Nagaland.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my friends and foes.
(The author is a Senior Advocate and former Chief Minister of Manipur)