By Heigrujam Nabashyam
In a polity like ours – semi-tribal, slightly modern and jocularly wild – the most right political move is just to go with the flow. To question the loud opinions of the vocal groups is, forget politics, just suicidal; you run the risk of becoming ‘anti-people’ and would inevitably be ostracized by the ‘Meeyaam – in the name of the people’. I was also given a caution notice once by a friend after I wrote something about the statesmanship of T. Muivah, the NSCN(IM) leader a few months ago. But and the important but is, someone should take the risk and say “Faraga fei fatraga fat-te’ – call a spade a spade, even though the loud opinion may just be the opposite, because we have landed up in a situation where communal forces are unrestrained and their activities continued unabated threatening our very social fabric. Or has anyone got any doubt about this ?
Speaking on the 45th conference of the Director Generals and Inspector Generals of Police, a week ago the Prime Minister expressed his cautious optimism for the Northeast but he had noted emphatically his concern of “the Naga-Meitei divide” in Manipur. He also had stressed that the “unfortunate” development – the “divide” – “needs well though-out and sensitive handling”. And there is no reason to doubt the wisdom of the prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh at that.
During the last six decades or since Phizo, the Naga national leader, had led Naga independence movement some communities of Manipur especially, Mao, Paomai, Tankhul etc. had clamoured for unification with the Naga tribes of the Naga Hills of Assam which eventually became Nagaland by amalgamating with the Tuensang district of then NEFA, the present Arunachal Pradesh.
Later this trend of Naga national movement was spread to other ethnic groups of Manipur including the non-Naga community : the old Kuki tribes in Chandel and Senapati districts of today. However this spread of the feeling of unity despite difference of languages, customs, ethnicity, etc. among these groups were helped by the Meitei outlook of religious purity that was translated into a horribly ridiculous form of untouchability. This untouchability or the purity of the Meitei-kind was a matter of great social concern which had caused division in Manipur especially between the devout Hindu convert Meitei and the rest of Manipur.
However despite all these developments – the spread of Naga nationalism, the neo-religious conservatism among both the Meitei tribe and the Naga tribes and also other indigenous peoples – the spirit of brotherhood and fraternity, the sense of belongingness and common heritage to this ancient land was never questioned even by the NSCN(IM) whose principal aim: independence or sovereignty turns into Greater Nagaland or Nagalim .
It may also be noted that since the beginning of the Naga movement till about the last four/five years there never was such wild accusations, heated exchanges and insults thrown against one another in public between the Naga and the Meitei. Even during the Mao-gate incident of August 27, 1948, which had cost three valuable lives, a limit was maintained and that neither the Naga Civil society organizations attacked and insulted neither the Meitei nor the vice-versa. In fact despite all the disagreements a level of decency was maintained – except maybe the incidence of some angry protests from the Naga civil society organizations in the aftermath of June 18, 2001.
And barring such few incidents there never was such an ugly turn of events of throwing insults at one another and wild accusations and heated exchanges against the other. This has become too much and this is probably what the prime minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh called “the Naga-Meitei divide”. This observation has also found resonance in the opinion of most intellects in Manipur.
There is no gainsaying that this “unfortunate” development is the result of the “now or never” policy of the advocates of Nagalim coupled with the insecure minds of the Integrity people led by the chief minister of Manipur. However the SPF leadership in its wisdom seems to think otherwise and that may explain their being not bothered nor embarrassed by the “unfortunate” development.
The Prime Minister – sensing the gravity of the situation – has sent out his message in the most intelligible term to the people of Manipur, especially to those who are in the seat of power to find a way out. And it is the person in the driving seat of Manipur – the Hon’ble Chief Minister – who has the resources and the legitimate mandate to see that this unfortunate development finds a logical conclusion before it gets worse.
Keeping up the pretence that the divide is no serious matter; as the PM had made out to be; only works against Manipur. One must understand that construction of statues and memorial or professing love of Ecin-Enao – brethren or even, buying out some leaders are no substitude for the “well thought-out and sensitive handling”.
It would also be absurd to blame others for all the time because it is our elected leaders who have miserably failed to play their part of the game. Ever in the history of Manipur has any government been so inept, so inefficient and so fatuous that an issue as new or as old as the recent history of Manipur is allowed to morph into a communal plague.
Being a democracy the public have the right to know what measures have the government taken up to stop this most “unfortunate growth” of communalism or as the PM put it diplomatically “Identity-base assertiveness” which has proliferated in the last few years in most sections of the society. If this trend is not stopped by well thought-out and meaningful policies it may not be long before the body politic is eaten up by the communal virus and turn it into a wild tract of indigenous tribes fighting against one another to the finish, hopefully only to be saved by the Assam Rifles and the CRPF.
If the message of the PM bears some meaning the CM must understand that the matter is too important to be flip-flopped. What is important is the government instead of making inconsistent statements and decisions – – telling there is no threat to the integrity of Manipur at one time and then pushing the panic button after an interval, should have a clear vision of its policies and a clear roadmap to reconciliation; to start with the CM can make a special address to the people with right sensibility to the issues of the different sections of the society and initiate a process of meaningful reconciliation through sound logic and honorable commitment.
The CM should also have allayed doubts in the minds of the public instead of waiting for something miraculous to happen or for Delhi to intervene. At the same time the government cannot wait the matter to die down because it would not die but it could have a logical conclusion; or is the government convoluting for a quick-fix ? But what is important at this juncture is does the CM understand the gamut of the matter and realize the gravity of the situation?
Writer is ex-candidate of Singjamei Assembly Constituency, Manipur.