Pluralistic Manipur & divergent forces
Equitable or uniform development is not only desirable but also highly essential in any society, more particularly so in multi-ethnic societies like Manipur. If we are not mistaken, one oft-repeated phrase of the incumbent Government is uniform development. Everybody will appreciate such an approach if uniform development is really an agenda of the Government rather than being just a catchy rhetoric. No doubt, the incumbent Government has been reaching out to the people in both the hills and the valley through its Go to Village and Go to Hills missions. The Government is already in the second leg of its missions. But only time will tell how effective are these two missions in bridging the gap between the masses and the Government and also between the hill people and plain people. Many are of the opinion that uniform development can be an effective tool in bridging the gap between the hills and the valley. Unfortunately, it appears that two opposing forces are always operating in the State. Take for instance the demand for inclusion of Meitei/Meetei community in the Scheduled Tribe category. The same demand is vehemently opposed by another section of people. Again, the demand for greater autonomy of the hill areas always runs into a wall of stiff resistance. These contradictory positions or lack of consensus on many key issues of the State point to absence of a comprehensive Manipuri identity. So the Government, apart from focusing its will and resources on bringing uniform development across the State, needs to pay special attention to moulding a comprehensive Manipuri identity. No doubt, Manipur is a common home to many ethnic communities which have their own cultures and identities but it remains a big question how many of these communities genuinely identify themselves as Manipuris. This can be partly attributed to the fragmented ethno-exclusive imagined homelands and partly to marginalisation of smaller communities.
Moulding a comprehensive Manipuri identity does not mean bulldozing the cultures and identities of smaller communities. In a multi-ethnic society like Manipur, each and every community should respect each other’s cultures and traditions. The society must be accommodative enough to let even the smallest community preserve and promote their own cultures and identities. Majority communities should not wield any air of superiority and minority communities need not harbour any inferiority complex. The universal concept of all men being equal should be applied when it comes to one’s culture or identity. A comprehensive Manipuri identity must encompass and preserve the cultures and identities of each and every community. Ethnic polarisation is anathema to the very idea of Manipur. Since ages, Manipur has been a plural society and its pluralistic character should be upheld against all challenges. At the same time, there should be no room for chauvinism or dominance by any majority community over others, should civic nationalism be promoted to consolidate composite Manipuri nationality. Let all the communities, small and big, uphold their cultures and identities. As these communities are interdependent and share a common history apart from living together for ages within a well defined geographical boundary, they can definitely churn out a composite Manipuri culture and pan-Manipuri identity. The building of civic nationalism does not mean the eradication or suppression of all ethnic or religious affiliation or feelings. It means the transcendence of parochial or narrow ethnic or religious feelings for the greater good of all communities. This is exactly the need of the hour if Manipur must survive as a pluralistic society. At the same time, all divergent forces must stop tearing into the fabric called Manipur.