The old king is dead, long live the Hungpung King!
In recent developments that led to the Titular king of Manipur becoming a candidate for the Rajya Sabha member, the public discussions and discourses have been divided into the support and condemnation of his moves. Beyond the simple binary of condemnation and support what is more interesting is to get into the narratives surrounding the condemnation and support.
One such narrative or section of the public angst is that the king is the head of the erstwhile independent kingdom of Manipur which became a part of the Indian Union in 1949, as such becoming an MP is a demotion rather than promotion. That even inside the political system of India the King of Manipur deserves much more than to be titular or an MP. Diverging from it but that sees the king in the same light is that he is the head of the “Nation-state” of what would have been a proud South East Asian nation of Manipur/Kangleipak/Meckley.
While the supporters represent at least three political spectrum: One, who sees the move as an opportunity to do something better for the people of Manipur, with at least better power and access to resources than a titular of a king. Two, who sees it as the merging of the Kingship of Manipur and the Indian political system, something of a completion of a 71 year long process undertaken since 1949. Third of course, being the fact that an MP comes with certain entitlements i.e. of wealth, power and prestige, and the king must take up the opportunity as such. In a world without the “Privy Purse”, the third narrative incurs a viable option, for one knows one often think a little power is better than no power and more economic resource is better than less, that is the social reality despite many ideals, and the support surrounding the recent move through the third spectrum would also expect a trickle-down effect of the wealth, power and prestige; as it is in a liberal democracy surviving on the electoral system that is dependent on workers and karyakartaks of a candidate/party.
Before we move on to more complications about the things at hand, let us draw attention to the dogma of Marxism that has plagued our society. And the minuscule voices coming from that dogma are yet much popular among the university students. The narrative of the voice coming from this dogmatism survives on rhetoric to make appealing cosmetics, in an effort to gain supporters from young blood, while the dogmatism has fairly become unpopular to older players in the academic circles as compared to the young minds. The call for abolition of King and his oppression come from this dogma. While lacking diagnosis, this dogma has been done too much prognosis. While dwelling on ideals, it has forgotten that between ideals and social reality, praxis runs on pragmatism. Marxism can be an art or a science, it is a dogma when it runs as an art of rhetoric residing on populist politics, and so has been the case in India where university brahmins call for revolution while looking for popular support through the politics of electoral democracy. The rhetoricians do not challenge the foundations of an unjust society i.e. wealth distribution, accumulation of economic, cultural and social capital, which is what the science of Marxism is concerned with.
The science of Marxism is unlike the rhetorical art under the guise of Marxism so prevalent in India and in Manipur too, which is produced in university spaces and is a product of western liberal democracy rather than Marxism itself. It was not too long ago that Bengal was a Marxist haven, but not too long did it fall out because the landlords became Marxists leaders to avoid land reformation, and with the social capital like education it was easy for them to become leaders practicing the art of rhetoric. So goes for Manipur, as many feudal lordships have led the people’s movement since 1960’s with a tinge of the rhetorical art, and it is the university corps taking it too seriously as a dogma and calling for revolution demanding the King’s head.
But Manipur is neither France nor the Soviet, there is no Louis XVI to behead, no proletariat carpenter to make the guillotine and no Tsars to be swept off by a “Meetei Lenin”.
A call for scientific Marxism demands land reformation for example as a pragmatic solution to unequal wealth distribution, which would certainly demand beheading many feudal “Marxist Lordships” of Manipur rather than the titular of a king, therefore the practice of Marxist rhetoric rather than the science can be seen as a diversion technique to avoid real concrete and achievable objectives. A viable land reformation would also certainly solve many incidents like what happened in Chassad village, in the future; besides perks of beheading the feudal Marxist lords of the valley.
The science of Marxism demands that it goes beyond the European realities, for the science of Marxism applies historical materialism in each “local/ geographical/national” context i.e. the class analysis through the understanding of wealth formation and distribution in each epoch of society and each local/geographical/national space, which is how “Maoism” also came about as a Chinese reality or the Zapatistas as a Mexican reality. But while the feudal Marxist lords remain through the feudal structures of the old kingship, the king of Manipur remains nothing more than “Titular”, he is no longer a supreme sovereign, neither can he institute law nor constitute the order of political lives of the people, the Palace has already shifted to the Governor’s Bungalow long ago.
The ideas of seeing the king just a Sovereign power and still the supreme sovereign by the “Marxist rehtoricians” have to be the most Eurocentric infestation of the ideas on Sovereign power. The Kings/Queens of England and many European sovereigns had long battles for powers with the Church, because of the separation of the Church and the state, the powers of the sovereigns was split with the Church and it became equally powerful as the sovereign or sometimes more powerful. It was to prevent this split that for example King Henry VIII of England started his Church of England in the 16th Century; this is an example of how domains beyond the political life emanating from the courtship of the king, were as powerful although lying in the circulation of the symbolics. Hence in England at the time, the king constantly attempted to capture it all i.e. the religious life beyond the political. While if we look at Manipur, the nature and the politics of Kingship has been an altogether different battle in history to separate and split the political from the cultural, and then the religious life. The western ideas of secularism i.e. the separation of Church (or religion) and State did not cause the split in Manipur. Rather the split in power came at the onset of the 20th century with institution of constitutional monarchy instead of an absolute one. In complete reversal of the sovereign being the head of the state, and the church (religious institution) being head of the religious life hence its influence on the state, in Manipur the King instead remained the religious head and the cultural symbolic head as the Supreme “Piba/ Patriarch”, considered ever so necessary by the cultural practices like for example “Merahouchongba”. Imphal remained the site of cultural as well economic capital, Rasleela of the Meeteis for example became a cultural symbol of recognitions around the globe instead of, for example “Rai-Pheichak” (war dance) of the Tangkhuls.
The “Assembly/parliament/house” of the elected representative, existent before 1949 was for that brief period the sovereign state power. And despite so many rhetoric of class struggle, it is on this model of western liberal democracy that many “armed struggles” are being carried out for “national self-determination” i.e. “on the claims of the illegitimacy of the merger agreement signed between the titular king and the Government of India, without the legitimate transfer of power through the Assembly/parliament/house.
(To be contd)