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Ganja Jaunts : A Theory Of Manipur

Here is a question which is never going to come up in any competitive examination:

What’s common about Nagas’ Alternative Arrangement, Kukis’ Homestate demand, Meiteis’ claim for ST status, and a bomb blast in front of the almost fortified CM’s bungalow, nearing Independence Day?

The answer is obvious. It is all happening/happened in the tiny state of Manipur, in that far flung corner of India’s grossly under-developed NER. In the background, we can still hear the cry of the ‘separatist’ movement, calling for an Independent Manipur. We also are in the midst of the growing realization of Manipur’s strategic location as regards the ASEAN countries; a gateway to South East Asia. Furthermore, as if all these are happening in a far away world, totally unperturbed, we also have our Eche Sharmila’s silent quest for justice.

This is Manipur circa 2013. And Manipuris, inter alia, are living in interesting times indeed.

On this year’s Independence Day, the Hon’ble CM made quite a ‘Tryst with destiny’ kinda’ speech. Supremely rhetoric and almost poetic. He started off with a clarion call to all the insurgents, the ‘misguided youths’, to leave the trail of violence, bid adieu to arms and to re-enter mainstream society, the doors of which, are always wide open to welcome them back. Maybe, this was his answer to the bomb blast in front of his bungalow, a few evenings before the Independence Day. Side-stepping the fact that a segment of that busy road is now closed to traffic after 6 p.m., his response was beautiful. In some grotesquely unfathomable way, to me, he sounded more like a father, solemnly and gently, admonishing his son for coming home late at night.

Well, moving on, he also made a statement regarding the twin demands of Nagas’ Alternative Arrangement and Kukis’ Homestate. He termed both of these as fantastic and outlandish; and impossible, only to be fulfilled when the sun rises from the west. You might think it was sarcastic. And when he smiled, you knew, it was meant to be. In other words, he meant that Manipur is on the road to development (read increase in budget allocation) and he is not going to let anything interfere in the way. Unlike our two National Highways, strewn with potholes, landslides, bottles, bottlenecks, mud blocks, road blocks, bandhs, blockades and what not, he want this particular ride to be smooth, very very smooth.

Actually what he stated is an assertion of a truism. Because, in any case, if we look over the proposed maps of Nagas’ Alternative Arrangement and Kukis’ Homestate, we will find that their respective demands, for want of better words, clash with each other. Not only in principle, but also in territory! I am not much into detailed statistics, but leaving aside the four valley districts, there are landed settlements where both the communities are righteously claiming as their own. One flower, two gardeners. Maybe, I should just mind my own business and not poke into other people’s affairs. But it cannot be help noticing that it is quite absurd. Hell, the maps themselves are absurd anyways. Okay, okay, I don’t have a dog in the fight. Maybe, I should just sit back, relax, smoke a joint and see which better side (community) emerges. Seriously though, there is one glaring flaw in these demands. One major intrinsic flaw. Like Agent Smith of the Matrix fame would have remarked, “…. a disease, which icy tentacles have spread over, permeated and infiltrated the entire fabric of the Manipur society, and sometimes even when we take the NE as a whole”. I will come back to this later. But first, let me take a dig at this concept of ‘separatism’. Because, the history of Manipur in Independent India is more truly a history of ‘separatist’ struggles.

It is not exactly wise to dabble with the concept of ‘separatism’. For the simple reason that blood has been spilled and lives have been lost in the pursuit of it. For it is one thing to write on a piece of paper what your beliefs are, but to die for what you believed in, is another matter altogether. It is what separates the heroes from the writers! But if one fancy politician comes, and every now and then, takes a jab at ‘separatism’ then maybe, just maybe I can do the same. Of course, by any fancy politician, I don’t mean our Hon’ble CM. He is supra cool!

Usually, or should I say it is quite a favorite ruse of most of our ‘rajnitiwalas’ and‘babus’ to bring out the economic factor vis-a-vis the movement of separate Manipur. They will point out eloquently that Manipur is so under-developed (as if we are not aware of it) and that our economy is in shambles. So first and foremost, we should give our undivided attention to the development of our economy, and Manipur as a state in general. And then, we should think of continuing our struggle for independence. Okay, I get it till the development part, but totally lost it after that. For one thing, how are we supposed to ‘pause’ this movement, do some constructive work and then continue the struggle later on? And if we do become economically developed, how are we supposed to ask for independence? Because economically developed means we also become economically interdependent. To my euphoria induced mind, it just didn’t make any sense. And these Netas are supposed to be our leaders. Yeah, we can look up to them, count on them in times of crisis.

The point is, if we are to think in ‘economic’ terms, the time to break away is now. When our economy is still non-existent. Because, in any possible scenario, we have to build our economy, either as a part of India or as an independent state. This point is rather moot though.

However, the second and the more important point being, we cannot tie up the ‘separatist’ struggle with our stagnant economy. The real question is not are we economically able, but are we politically able? Suppose in the hypothetical scenario that Manipur do get independence, we would most certainly be following democracy. But taking into account the capabilities of our present leaders, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence and hope amongst the people. I doubt if the general population will be really optimistic or excited about the prospect, considering the present state of affairs. Of course, there is always the argument that new and better leaders would emerge. Maybe. But it is still an argument, and there are always two sides to an argument.

Nevertheless, the ‘separatist’ struggle, like any other sphere of life at Manipur, also suffers from that same basic flaw mentioned earlier. The absence of unity. There is no frigging unity amongst us. We keep shouting for an independent Manipur. But in the meantime, the Nagas want their Alternative Arrangement, and now the Kukis demand a separate state for themselves. So what exactly has become of the concept of ‘Independent Manipur’? I don’t reckon the four valley districts will make up the idea called ‘Manipur’? Unless a common voice surfaces and resonates in tandem amongst the different communities, the Great Manipuri Dream of Independence better remain a dream; because it will be a nightmare if it comes true.

Apart from this visible differences between the Manipuris- the Meiteis, the Nagas and the Kukis; there is also the lack of unity within the communities itself. For instance, how many organizations do we have in our valley districts, which are supposedly fighting for the same cause? Apparently, with so much differences of opinion amongst them, we can’t really expect the people to be really united as well. Hoping for that will just be an exercise in banality. People have got confused and disenchanted. The ideals have become blurred and vague. When they are not even able to work out the differences between themselves, how are they supposed to lead us to a better future, a better Manipur? And with time, this chagrin has translated into something much more sinister, or as a curse or blessing in disguise. We can take it in any way we like. Now, people have become indifferent. They just don’t care anymore. With differences galore, the tolerance of the people have reaches its extreme, way past the point of no return. And this is also precisely why the twin demands of the Kukis and Nagas appear highly improbable and highly unrealistic. Keep aside the resistances offered against these ideas; I have reservations if the majority of the Kukis and the Nagas even care about these demands. I am not going into the merits and the demerits of these demands. And well, it is not really worth going into anyways.

When the people don’t really care about it, there’s not much point in arguing about it. Likewise, the claim of ST status by Meiteis. It is met with firm opposition from other communities, but nobody I know amongst the Meiteis is much bothered about it. ST status or not, life will definitely go on. And apart from some random theoretical discussions in the academia and online forums, I doubt whether this demand is going to make any headway with the general public. Life cannot and should not be dictated by the whims and fancies of a few people. And if the assertion of this demand is going to cause further friction between the different communities, then it will find very few takers. I believe, this same sentiment holds true for both the Nagas and Kukis as well. The bottom-line now is that the people have had enough. Time to grow up for a change.

P. S. – It is really ironic that we keep shouting Mainland Indians doesn’t care for us. That was the crux of the matter. The genesis of all ‘separatist’ movements. But seriously, forget Mainland India, do we really care for each other?

*The opinion is written by Czadanda Saint.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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