The old king is dead, long live the Hungpung King!
Contd from previous issue
The government of India has failed to take the importance of this claim and is anywhere but near to solving the 71 years old conflict.
While the unprecedented move to give Rajya Sabha seat to the titular king can be seen as a carefully calculated move to solve the problems of the merger, it has failed to understand the nature of kingship in Manipur i.e. the king is only the religious and the cultural head. While, it is apparent this will not solve the problems of the merger, it is clear that it will merge what the merger agreement left out i.e. the cultural and religious powers of the king of Manipur with the sovereign powers of the Indian government. Although if the move was to be made it should have been made 71 years ago, at least that would have sounded like a feasible attempt at bridging peace, if in fact at all the move is an attempt towards more possibilities of bridging peace through this latest merge, and not further attempts hard-headed approach to the merger conflict of 1949. The narrative of “would have been a proud King” of “an erstwhile independent kingdom” also suffers from amnesia. Interestingly, this is the view that the “revolutionaries” resorting to “armed struggle” also bank on, as the foundation of their legitimacy and a proof of having been “nationally self-determined”. But what calls into question is that these narrative only talks about the symbolic importance of the king as a historical artefact from a nation trampled on by a powerful Indian state. While opinions are still divided on this narrative itself, one being that the erstwhile independent nation should be independent and the “illegitimacy” of the merger is hence important. The other, while being proud of the erstwhile independence and giving it as proof of a complex political life with thousands of years of civilization, and have not much problems but grievances inside the political system of India and that has been the story of other erstwhile kingdoms of India; which is also the view that supports this latest merger of 2020 and the basis of legitimate claims to the king’s pursuance of life in the electoral politics.
When all is said and done, all the narratives have yet to consider the separation of the king and his kingship. It is along this line that the importance of his cultural powers comes in the question concerning the ideas of historical social justice and why it is said amnesia. The phrase “The old king is dead, long live the King!” means literally the king is dead but the kingship lives on, the rule of the king’s law dictates even the king; this is why even after electoral democracy he was the king through the ideas of divine kingship i.e. the king’s own blood (a first son) as the king. For the meeteis/meiteis, the king may be long gone in the political scene but the king lives as the symbolic and a real political power in the minds of the people dwelling in the hills, whether it is the Marrings, the Kukis, the Tangkhuls, the Marams, the Liangmeis. But what is this symbolic yet real power? The figure of the Meetei king at Imphal, he exists to the Nagas for example as the one who sold them out to a different race and a different nation-state.
(To be contd)