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Our Men In Delhi

Gouramangi Singh, IAFF Player of the Year 2010.

Another Republic Day is once again upon us and as has been the trend or rather the rule in the last many years, empty streets, tight security measures, especially on the eve of January 26, with all the citizens of the land, preferring to stay within the safe confines of their homes rather than venture out and court trouble will be the order of the day. At best we may see some people out on the street on emergency such as going to the hospital or for some religious rites and rituals and the vehicles that one sees, will literally be that of the security personnel and the VIPs, that is the Ministers and the booted, suited bureaucrats, who have to attend the Republic Day parade.

Deserted streets, people rushing home in the evening of January 25 to beat the deadline of the general strike imposed by the underground outfits, are all unmistakable characteristics associated with Republic Day and the interesting question is, why and how such a situation has come to pass. For those who grew up in the late 70s and early 80s, Republic Day was not always like this. To many, it meant mummy taking out the carefully tucked away winter woolens and the best possible shirts and pants to dress up her children so that they can go ahead and watch the Republic Day parade. The salute was usually taken in front of GM Hall and the parade used to pass through the Kanglapat road on NH-39, snake its way through Khoyathong, Thangal Bazar and Paona Bazar after which it converged at the starting point, which was usually the 1st MR Parade Ground. It was a sight to see the smart girls from Little Flower School staging their march past in perfect co-ordination with each other as well as in step with the drum beat while the boys from Sainik School, Imphal held the crowd’s attention in their smart khaki uniform with and the accompanying drum beats which all went together to define the character of the school and its students.

The Punjabi Bhangra was another favorite item with the people, with the Sikhs, dancing to a beat, with such gay abandon and energy, which we can identify with only the Sikhs and none else. In all, there was a jamboree like atmosphere on this day and after the parade, it was time to head to the nearest eatery to have a bite of alu angouba or pakora usually at Eikhoigee Hotel at the princely amount of 50 or 75 paise per plate.  This was what defined Republic Day before the guns started booming across the hills and valley of Manipur. The boycott call of Republic Day and Independence Day on August 15 is significant in the sense that it is a symbolic protest or rejection of the controversial Merger Agreement signed on October 15, 1949. It is the controversy surrounding the situation that led Maharaj Bodhachandra to sign the Merger Agreement and perhaps, the boycott of these two important dates in the calendar of India is a grim reminder of the fact that the idea of India as a Nation is yet to fully mature.

With the UNLF, easily one of the most well organized armed groups in the North East, showing no signs of capitulating, despite the arrest of RK Meghen, its Chairman, and with no other group, particularly those led and dominated by the Meiteis, such as the PLA or RPF showing any sign of coming to the negotiating table, we may well ask, whether the disillusionment with Delhi runs deep or is made to appear so under pressure from the armed outfits. Republic Day is perhaps one of the better days to introspect and ponder over this question sincerely than any other day. Certainly, there are reasons for many to develop a sense of alienation for Delhi is known to have reneged on its promises many times and for taking Manipur for granted, which is akin to insulting the history of an erstwhile Kingdom with a history of 2000 years. When the Merger Agreement was signed in 1949, it was more or less understood that Manipur would find an equal place in India’s overall scheme of things, but as it turned out, a kingdom with a 2000 year old history, having its own rich culture and traditions was reduced to the status of a Part C State of the newly born Union of India. Thereafter, it became a Union Territory and it was only after a series of agitation and political pressure that Manipur finally attained Statehood in 1972, that is after more than two decades of becoming a part of the Indian Union.

This is where the first seed of frustration, desperation and distrust towards Delhi was sown. The second and most visible point is the failure of Delhi to  live up to its promise of giving due attention to Manipur but this has not been translated into action and it was only when the guns started booming, did the Centre realize their folly. These are the common denominators that run through the minds of every Manipuri or the peoples of the North East and while some of these points may stand the test of time, striking an anti-India stand or accusing it of biases, since no political leader has been given a plum portfolio in the Centre, would be missing the cheese for the chalk. The reality as it stands today has shown that given the merit and the willingness to work hard, no system in India can put a man down on the basis of the place of origin from which one comes.

Gouramangi from Manipur has been voted the Footballer of the Year in India this time. We see no discrimination here. Mary Kom is not only a world champion, but has also been awarded the country’s highest sports award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2009. All professional football clubs in India have a bunch of players from the North East. Nanao Singh is a hero is boxing and Dingko Singh has already become something of a legend. No one has stopped the genius in Ratan Thiyam or the beauty of the Manipuri dance. In other words, the truly meritorious can never be ignored, and seen along this line, we can get a brief understanding of why our politicians seldom make it big in the National scene, ignorant as they are of the change of wind blowing across the world. No wonder, a contractor, who has struck it big, is today seen as a potential political figure in the future. Let’s not blame Delhi for this but take a deep breath and study the type of politicians we have been sending to Delhi. Nagaland already has an SC Jamir; Assam had HIteswar Saikia and now Tarun Gogoi, while Meghalaya has PA Sangma and his daughter Agatha Sangma. Can we say the same thing about any political leaders here?

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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