Peace or Pandora’s Box in 2020?

2019, another year with full of events, both pleasant and painful, is now history. 2019 is past and 2020 is present. As we step into another new year, we need to look back what the bygone 2019 taught us and look ahead what is in store for us. The mysterious death of Ningthoujam Babysana, a Class VII student of Standard Robarth School, Canchipur is still fresh in public memory but justice has not been delivered yet even though protest agitation raged on for months throughout the Imphal Valley. The BJP-led coalition Government was also caught in a very unsettling situation with a horde of MLAs led by some Ministers demanding replacement of Chief Minister N Biren. The rebels camped for months at Delhi and elsewhere but ultimately N Biren emerged victorious. Then came the biggest news of the year, solution to the Naga peace talk followed by the Citizenship Amendment Bill, now Citizenship Amendment Act. Whereas the Naga solution has been kept in the closet of the Government of India for the time being, violent protests raged across the country against CAA with dozens killed in police action. As everyone remembers, a tense situation prevailed in the State too. It subsided only when the Inner Line Permit System dawned on the horizon of Manipur amidst the December chill. What about the Naga solution? Will it bring peace to the entire North East region or would it turn out to be a Pandora’s Box?  It is this question which has been haunting the collective psyche of the people of Manipur since many years back and it would continue to cast its long shadow in 2020 too until the final solution is sealed quickly. These are some key issues and events which constituted the hallmarks of 2019.
As we welcome the new year with hopes of a better tomorrow and a more secure and peaceful future, we as a people need to look back at the year gone-by. Each and every one of us living in the troubled State of Manipur fractured with disjointed imagined homelands need to retrospect the years gone by and introspect into our future. No doubt, 2019 added volumes of events to the more than 2000 years old written history of Manipur. Any solution to the protracted political dialogue between Government of India and NSCN-IM has been a serious source of anxiety to a large section of people in Manipur. At the same time, it sounds like manna from heaven to another section of people. It is this deep-chasm which demands serious introspection as we step into the new year. In between this divide, there are two interesting claims or proclamations viz the unique history of the Nagas and the more than 2000 years old written history of Manipur. With regard 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.  Neither the unique history of the Nagas nor the long 2000 years old written history of Manipur guarantees any extra or special political, economic or social rights.  There is no denying the fact that Manipur is a very tiny State. Then, is fragmentation of Manipur to fulfil the political aspirations of imagined homelands desirable? Can the different communities progress separately something which they fail collectively? Can’t we, as people living together for centuries, devise a formula under which we can live harmoniously and advance collectively? Is there no way to uphold and promote the pluralistic character of Manipur? Or should we sink together in the quagmire of ethno-centric politics? These are some pertinent questions we must introspect as we step into another new year.