L Bimolchand Singh
The Meiteis and the Manipuri tribals co-existed harmoniously for hundreds of year till the Meiteis converted themselves to Hinduism about 300 years back. The Meiteis became orthodox Vaisnavs and started treating the Manipuri tribals as untouchable. Till about 50 years back they were not allowed to enter inside the house of the Meiteis and the meals were served separately in different utensils. Meitei insurgency against the Hinduism started in 1930 and “Meitei Marup” was formed to restore the original religion. Now, large sections of the Meiteis have reconverted back to “Sanamahi” and the remaining Meiteis have also come out of the narrow orthodox mindset. However, the shameful behaviour of treating the Manipuri tribals as untouchable by the Meiteis in the aftermath of converting to Hinduism lasted about 250 years. It had done tremendous damage to the harmonious relation between the Meiteis and the Manipuri tribals. However, there was no hatred campaign by the Meiteis against the Manipuri tribals. The Meitei were blinded by the religious belief like the Hindus in other parts of the India and untouchable become an offence in 1955 in the country. According to some Naga politicians and writers certain undesirable section of the Christian Missionaries highlighted the condemnable behavior of the Meitei and aggravated the situation.
The relations among various ethnic groups have deteriorated in the last few decades. Certain sections of Manipuri tribal have been spreading hatred and discontentment as a full time activities for many years; and relentlessly working for the disintegration of the state. Most of the policies of these tribal organizations are made in their foreign offices or from the neighbouring states. The hatred and discontentment resulted in the Naga-Kuki conflict of 1990s, violence in 2001 for the extension of Indo-Naga Ceasefire Agreement without territorial limits, violence at Churachandpur for the introduction of the Manipur People’s Protection Bill 2015, imposition of number economic blockades by the Naga organizations on various occasions, counter blockade by the Meiteis etc. The level of hatred and mistrust among various ethnic groups are so much that even a minor incident between two different ethnic groups can flare up into violence engulfing the entire state. The problem is further compounded due to the geographical location of Nagaland and Mizoram adjacent to the Naga and Kuki dominated hill districts respectively. The magnitude of the forces working behind the scene for the disintegration of the state has increased manifold with the direct involvement of certain political parties of Nagaland and Mizoram in the politics of the state. These political parties can easily instigate their supporters in Manipur and interfere in the policy matter of the state by remote control.
As per 2011 census, the percentage of population of Naga and Kuki were only 18.7% and 15.7% respectively and out of which 8% live harmoniously with other ethnic groups in the valley. The demands by the Nagas to include four districts of Manipur viz. Urkhul, Chandel, Tamenglong and Senapati to Nagalim or by the Kukis to include areas from the above districts and Churachandpur to Kukiland are strongly opposed by more than 80% of the population of the state. The above districts are cohabited by the Nagas and the Kukis and there is no ethnically homogeneous area that can be aggregated into either the Nagalim or the Kukiland. The present territorial boundary was drawn by the representative of British, Dr. Brown and General Thangal of Manipur on 13th December 1873. Manipuri people fought against the mighty British Empire in Anglo-Manipuri War 1891 to protect the freedom of their motherland. The integrity of the state is very dear to the people of Manipur and is determined to preserve it in any circumstances.
Violence and hatred can never resolve the above problems of Naga, Kuki and Meitei. Violence would lead to more violence, loss of precious lives and misery to the people in Manipur. It would make hardly any effect to the life of Nagas and Kukis in the neighbouring states. The lives of the Nagas, Kukis and Meiteis in Manipur are more interrelated than people from other states. Therefore, peace and reconciliation is the most viable option to ensure safety and harmonious coexistence of future generations. The people of Manipur should unite and fight the external divisive forces for the peace and safety of our children.
Recent initiative of the Government of Manipur such as “Go to Hill” or thrust for the development of hill districts are conducive to peace and harmony. However, sufficient funds should be allotted and the results should be visible on the ground within reasonable period. The Government of Manipur should enhance the power and functions to the Hill Areas District Council so that they take full responsibility for the development of the hill areas. Efforts for the promotion of integrity of the state by the Government of Manipur, civil organizations, women’s groups and NGOs are extremely valuable. However, considering the strength and the might of the forces involved in spreading hatred and working for the disintegration of the state, these efforts are grossly inadequate. The Government of Manipur should drastically increase its overall efforts to check the spread of hatred, discontentment and create atmosphere conducive to peace and harmony. Some of the initiatives the Government may consider are as follows:
(1) To constitute a committee including members from the hill areas to recommend measures for promoting harmonious relations among various ethnic groups.
(2) To open a full fledge department for the promotion of integrity and factors conducive to the peaceful co-existence of various ethnic groups in the state.
(3) To initiate confidence building measures among the students from the hills and the valley.
Adoption of schools and colleges from the hill by the schools and colleges in the valley or vice versa on voluntary basis. Visits and interaction of the students of the adopted schools/colleges with their respective counterparts to learn about their respective society. The students should attend their respective classes together and they should be encouraged to visit each other’s house and participate in their festivals. The visits should be arranged and financed by the government department. It is very important to plan such visits meticulously to show love and affections by various ethnic groups and to avoid any disturbance by undesirable element of the society. However, safety of the students participating in the visits is paramount and any failure will have severe consequences.
(4) Similarly the villages in the valley can adopt the villages in the hills and vice versa. The villagers themselves can plan and finance the visit with some assistance from the Government.
(5) The education policy should be very sensitive to the requirement of various ethnic groups. Important Naga, Kuki, Kom-Rem, Zeliarongs and Meitei panghal events and personality should be included in the Manipuri history.
(6) Arrangement of combined cultural activities, workshops, seminars etc.
(7) The policy and the progress of the Integration works may be reviewed at suitable interval by the Cabinet Committee headed by the Chief Minister.
(8) Many more suggestions can be obtained from the public and the districts for consideration by the Integration Committee.
The writer is retired Captain Indian Navy, NM, and can be reached at Email: [email protected]