Bridging disconnect and need for delving deeper
Was there any disconnect between the hill people and plain people of Manipur? If yes, how deep is the disconnect and how successful is the Government in bridging the gap? What are the main factors which are pulling apart the ethnic communities in diverse directions? These are some pertinent questions which we must ponder as the year 2019 would become history in the next couple of days. We need to identify not only the political and economic factors which are pulling apart the ethnic communities but also social chasms, if there is any. As we step into the New Year, one and all need to work sincerely to address the root causes of whatever disconnect that existed/exists between the hills and valley of this beautiful State. Unlike its southern neighbour Mizoram and northern neighbour Nagaland, Manipur is not named after any particular ethnic group or community. As the name suggests, Nagaland is a land of Nagas and their cognate tribes. Same is the case with Mizoram even though a few minority communities settled in different corners of the two neighbouring States. Manipur, on the other hand, is a common home of many ethnic communities including tribes and non-tribes. Even though Meiteis constitute a majority in Manipur, there is a sizeable Naga population. At the same time Chin-Kuki-Mizo groups of people constitute a major community of Manipur. With such multi-ethnic demographic profile, Manipur has over the years evolved into a pluralistic society. There cannot be any place for ethno-centrism in a pluralistic society like Manipur. However, any observer knows that ethno-centric politics is one major force which has been threatening the integrity of Manipur and also the very idea of Manipur as a pluralistic State. Then we need to go deeper to find out the causes or circumstances which gave birth to these political aspirations of exclusivity. There is also economic factor or more precisely economic disparity which has been abetting ethno-centric politics. We need a holistic approach to address all these issues and we must also undo the wrongdoings of the past if there should be genuine harmony and synergy among all the communities of the State.
There is no imaginable valid argument against the fact that ethno-centric politics and mentality should be given no space if Manipur must survive and prosper as multi-ethnic State. If any community living in a multi-ethnic society is preached to give up or abandon ethno-centric politics, the other ethnic groups must reciprocate, complement and supplement. In another word, the call to give up ethno-centric politics should be applied to all ethnic groups of the State. The idea of a multi-ethnic, pluralistic Manipur can never be complete as long as all the different ethnic groups or any of the ethnic group clings to ethno-centric politics. In addition to the multi-layered divisions of varying degrees seen in the contemporary Manipuri society in terms of ethnicity and topography, there are also divisions between Imphal and other parts of the State and between urban and rural areas. These divisions though subtle can sometimes become causes of conflict and confrontation. Majority communities should shed all hegemonic practices and suppressive attitude, and all minority communities should be enabled to exorcise the ghost of inferiority complexes. In a nutshell, there should be harmony, mutual respect and equality in order to free Manipur from the quagmire of communal distrust and conflicts. All the people should be entitled to equal shares of political freedom and economic welfare. Opportunities for development should be distributed uniformly cutting across community lines and topography. The political leaders as well as the top bureaucrats need to look beyond Imphal. People living in hill areas and far off rural areas too should be given equal opportunities to reap the benefits of Government sponsored projects and development programmes. By then, there would not be any disconnect between the hills and the plain or any two ethnic communities.