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Meiteis And Jews

Martial Meiteis

“If one goes jogging in the morning, he can cross Israel in one-and-half hour right across the middle from the West Bank to the Mediterranean. It can be cut into two. And therefore we will not leave the West Bank in any situation”. Recently a column of an English writer, in The Telegraph reminds me of a day in Poona University sometime in 1981/2. One of our Professors whose specialty is International politics invited us to join an interaction with the Israeli Consul General on the problems of the Middle East. It was quite unusual then to have an Israeli as a guest speaker, which was normally the domain of professors and dignitaries from the North American and British Institutions.

Those days, there was no establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Israel – no Israeli Embassy in India, nor Indian in Israel. However, there was the Israeli Consulate in Bombay, to facilitate migration of people of Jewish origin – at least that was the purported reason for the existence of the Consulate. In fact, many people from Maharashtra and the Coastal regions have migrated to Israel – the Promised Land of the Jews.

Manipur has its share in the global Jewish movement – some people from Manipur have migrated to Israel who claims Jewish. And for one’s interest, it may be mentioned that some people also believe that there is a connection between the Meiteis and the Jews. They believe Khamba, the hero of the Khamba-Thoibi epic of Moirang Kangleiron was born to a Jewish mother, who happened to be a member of a group of Jewish people migrated to this part of the earth at one point of time. Anyway, let this be for those with fertile imaginations!

India from the beginning has a soft corner for the Arabs vis-à-vis the Israelis. The majority of the Indian intellectuals do not favor the Jews, though some changes have been noticed in the last few decades. That again, has to do with the general perception and stakes of India’s global interests. During the interaction the Israeli Consul General put forth the Israeli point of view on the conflict situation in the Middle East – the Arab-Israeli conflict. He had built up strong points, why Israel should have to be always on the guard – rather offensive! Why every Israeli man and woman should have to be prepared for the security and development of their land in the midst of a hostile terrain?

The Consul General spoke and explained his points like an eloquent politician, but in a no-nonsense manner. He showed us a large map of the region to make his points clear. Pointing to the map he showed us how important the West Bank is to the security and existence of Israel. He said if Israel had to give it up, the remaining strip of land between the West Bank and the Mediterranean Sea well-nigh indefensible. And the remark seen at the beginning of this write-up was how he summed up the importance of the West Bank to Israel.

The interaction was participated by quite a few Indian, Irani, Thai and one or two African-Arab students. However, an infuriated Irani student countered – a reproachful personal attack of course! – the points of the Consul. It is only natural that when matters boil down to one’s country and its interests, what counts is one’s nationality, his involvement and his knowledge. The Israeli Consul politely asked the student if he was a Palestinian? When the student said he was an Irani, the Consul, with no passion, said, “Iran does not have any problem with Israel”.

Now the problematic land of Manipur, which resembles the Middle East in a way, has become the sick-man of the region. It has a projected population of 25 lakhs people of which, 7 lakhs according to the Government, are registered job seekers or without jobs. They mostly become casual workers of any sort, to earn a living.

But one good thing for the Government in Imphal is people – the local populace seems to be oblivious of what is happening around us – in Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam and Nagaland. They seem to believe that electing their representatives has nothing to do with their well-being. And therefore they sell their votes with no sense of guilt – a privilege that comes once in 5 years; or they succumb to the lure of food, drinks and money! But interestingly, they find all the wrongs either with the Government in Delhi or with the Naharol – the insurgents, much to the pleasure of the powers that be in Imphal. And to top it all, some sections of the people aver – only to the advantage of those politicians who would resort to stolen money power – that they do not believe in the elections. And therefore money power, or nothing does bother them. The fact is, the people who win the elections are the ones who make or unmake even their future and the future of this land. And none else take a decision for Manipur. Curiously, many who work for the good of the society – the social workers and the various activists – seem to believe that elections have nothing much to do with the society!

The Israelis who have a pre-Christian era foundation of Jewish culture upholds the spirit of their past till today. Their spirit have surmounted all the hurdles on their way to build the most powerful and developed country in the West Asia out of a sand dune. One thing that has made them different from the Arabs is that they are true to themselves and can see things as it is, unlike the Palestinians who look patriotic but do unpatriotic things and cannot see things as it is; and incidentally, in many ways the Meiteis and the Palestinians are quite alike. The Jews have built up Israel on a scientific foundation of the Jewish culture based on knowledge compatible with any contemporary knowledge in the world in politics, economics, science, arts, et al.

The Manipuris, Meiteis in particular, who talk of two thousand years of history and a rich cultural heritage must remember that senseless noises and other cultural manifestations which cannot be connected meaningfully to the present cannot be our cultural foundation. Perhaps, we only have local ambition; but we won’t make much progress if we are not equipped with knowledge compatible with the contemporary world.

There was a time when we thought the world centered around us; but it was childhood, and children anywhere in the world would think so. We know that our population is less than a day’s passengers who come to Howrah Station of Calcutta. Should we – who are politically sophisticated in talking and debating in the locality and the Chaa-hoten – not feel the need to ponder on the future of our children?

Shouldn’t we, the social workers, and the various activists and the intellects – spare the Nupi-Angang – pause for a moment and ask: are we true to ourselves?

*The article is written by Heigrujam Nabashya.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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