Manipur State Welfare : Politics 1 – 0 Citizens

Boilal Gangte
Few days ago, an article in the Indian Express reads “Culture Ministry to study ‘racial purity’ of Indians”. Prima facie, it sounds interesting but a deeper enquiry makes you a bit concerned as to what is the need for such study ? We all know that irrespective of the outcome, it will not make much of a difference in being an Indian, right ? At the same time, the article also interestingly mentioned that “The Kolkata-based Anthropological Survey of India (ANSI), which has, “of late”, expressed “disinclination” to proceed with the exercise to trace the genetic origins of early Indians because the issue is “politically loaded”, is also part of this project which was initially conceived in 2019.”
This brings us to the current discourse of the State amongst various sections trying to establish who the real indigenous settlers of the land are ? While I don’t have an answer to the motive or objective behind, but I’m not seeing much merit in what it would add to the welfare of the people of the State. Apart from being unhealthy discourse, such debate tends to be inconclusive and hence susceptible to exploits from vested quarters. Let’s try and reason out.
How do we define Indigenous-ness?
Cambridge dictionary defines Indigenous as “used to refer to, or relating to the people who originally lived in place, rather than people who moved there from somewhere else”. According to Merriam-Webster “produced, growing, living, or occurring natively or naturally in a particular region or environment”. Bringing this definition to our context of who the original Manipuris are, the answer may not be so simple and straightforward. It’s intuitive that human beings have not originated or evolved from the current land of Manipur State or even in the entire North East Region. If we were to trace our origin, it would be one of the earlier civilizations and which none of them have included the entire North East Region and even to the far surroundings. At some point in time, we would have migrated to this beautiful land from somewhere else. Yes, some groups would have arrived earlier than the other. Post 1947, all of us have become Citizens of India. Hence, even if we establish someone coming before the rest, but that doesn’t make his/her degree of citizenship thicker. Therefore, trying and establishing the degree of being-indigenous is unlikely to lead to a specific answer or absoluteness, rather it will instigate series of more questions leading to more frustrations and susceptible to exploits from vested quarters.
Can we go the scientific route?
Sure! in today’s advanced world, there do exist sophisticated tools and experiments of DNA/genetic tracing or analysis. Therefore, if the issue is so pressing then there is an option of DNA Profiling on specific individuals or DNA Barcoding of various ethnic groups of the State and establish who really are whom. I guess the cost can be absorbed by the State’s exchequer. However, this route still has challenge in the form of “Reference Genetic Database” with which benchmarking or referencing has to be done. While we can get the DNA fingerprint of the current day people, but how do we get the DNA fingerprint of the earlier people with whom matching has to be done ? The problem here is that “DNA Databanks” are still recent developments in the world and it is unlikely that these Banks would have DNA database of our fore fathers or the earlier settlers of Manipur. Hence, the only way to do would be to dig up a fossilized old indigenous body and get a DNA sample, which is unlikely.        
It may be hypothetical !
As we all know, the grapevine doing around with respect to the “indigenous debate” is that the Meitei & Tangkhul are the main indigenous community of Manipur. God forbid, what if Greater Nagaland happens ? And the Norther Naga inhabited districts merge with Nagaland and leaving the Valley and the non-Naga hill areas intact with the State of Manipur ? So, the Manipur indigenous Tangkhuls will then belong to the State of Nagaland…isn’t it ? Meaning, the indigenous Manipuri (Tangkhul) suddenly become an indigenous of the neighboring State overnight, giving away centuries old legacy and title of being the indigenous settlers of Manipur ?
It can be as crude and hypothetical as this - just a redrawing of boundary line can change what you have been for centuries with a single stroke! And, we all very well know that boundaries are man-made by men who are in power.          
To Conclude !
Few days back RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said “Why look for Shivlink in every Mosque. Gyanvapi matter is ongoing. We can’t change history. Neither today’s Hindus nor today’s Muslims created it. It happened at that time. Find out a path through mutual agreement...If a path does not always come out, people approach Court.” Maybe the RSS patriarch also feels that our present politics is becoming too polarized and he should douse it down. Do you think our representative can echo in the same way ? The answer seems unlikely. Many bad bloods have been spilled already across various platforms on this topic off late and we all know that if it continues, the end result will be murky and dirty and un-benefiting CITIZENS of MANIPUR. At the same time, we have not seen the Government machinery sincerely trying to douse this toxic fire. Neither are the people’s representatives taking the matter serious enough. While certain political personalities from each quarter arose like the Phoenix in this conundrum, but I’m quite doubtful whether this discourse is tabled out enough in the Assembly for serious discussions for arriving at a quick solution. Therefore, the end—responsibility lies in you and me to end it for our well-being and the State of Manipur. Because unlike them, we are the one without security guards (which are funded by our public money). Let’s embrace each other and change our course before the score line reads
Manipur State Welfare : Politics 10–0 Citizens  

The author is an IIM Bangalore alumnus, an entrepreneur and an independent analyst