Communal violence & over-lapping ethnic aspirations
The sudden conflagration that broke out at Chassad village of Kamjong district on March 15 and 16 is rather unfortunate. What provoked the violent confrontation is not clear at the moment but it is crystal clear that there is a deep-rooted distrust between the two neighbouring communities, if not outright animosity. Manipur, though very small territorially and demographically, have had fair share of communal violence in its contemporary history. It is extremely unnerving to recall the communal violence which razed through the hills of Manipur in the early 1990’s. Hundreds of innocent people were slaughtered and thousands were displaced from their own villages. There have been other cases of communal violence of smaller scale too. Each and every case of communal violence puts the inter-community relationship under enormous strain. Every blow or assault made by one group on another leaves a deep scar and it takes years and sometimes decades to heal. For this very reason, every section of the society needs to exercise maximum restraint to avoid communal conflicts. While some cases of communal conflicts were caused by circumstantial misunderstanding and/or sheer communication gap but many others were unfortunately fuelled by ethnic aspirations for exclusive domains. It is too early to say whether the case of Chassad is a case of circumstantial misunderstanding or was fuelled by over-lapping ethnic aspirations. But it is these over-lapping ethnic aspirations which must be addressed collectively if communal violence of all shapes and degrees must be rooted out from the soil of Manipur for good. In spite of all the cases of communal violence which threatened the socio-political fabric of Manipur from time to time, Manipur has over the past many centuries 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, apart from fuelling communal conflicts from time to time. 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 a 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, and moreover, the whole society will always remain vulnerable to communal conflicts. It is an undeniable and unchangeable fact that Manipur is home to over 35 ethnic groups. These communities or ethnic groups are interdependent and share a common history apart from living together for ages within a well defined geographical boundary. If there must be real peace and harmony in the State, ethnic aspirations must give way to collective aspirations, exclusivity to inclusivity, distrust and hatred to mutual trust and respect. These are the areas on which we must work together with sincerity and commitment.