By: Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh

Karl Marx (German political philosopher and revolutionary, 1818-1883) said History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. …

One does not have to read books such as The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788) by Edward Gibbon, to find out. The Romans were ignorant of the extent of the dangers and the number of their enemies.

The greatness of something always led to its eventual collapse. Take USSR. People forget the chance that the other side of the coin being gold. What you see is not really what you get.

The Bourgeois ruled the world. Revolutions arose, killing millions of people. The Proletariat
came to power, destroying thousands of people and now back to the Bourgeois. This is what Karl max famously described.

Forget Karl Max. History is repeating here in such a short time in Manipur. It is an extremely important epoch in Manipur’s history when the Big Brother (Meitei) having learnt from the mistakes of their forefathers, are trying to integrate with other inhabitants of Manipur in an equal footing , with freedom from discrimination and equal share of prosperity.

History does not have to repeat itself. History repeats itself because the world doesn’t learn.
As George Bernard Shaw said: if history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience?

History gives good lessons to those who are willing to listen. Nehru’s Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai diplomacy was the death of him. For those who are not listening, a bit of history is about to repeat at the door step of the Naga of Manipur.

Meitei shed some blood on June 18 2001 uprising. So did two Mao Naga boys in May 2010. Is it necessary for the Tangkhul or kuki to spill some more blood likewise? There is a greater likelihood of a settlement without resorting to violence. Mediation can take place. If proper steps are taken then a future disaster could be avoided.

Only the big problem is the question of ‘proper steps’.

The Sadar Hill entanglement draws parallel with the Kosovo crisis. Like in Kosovo, tensions between the Tangkhul and Kuki simmered throughout the second half of the 20th century with occasional eruption into major violence from both sides. The present crisis needs
to be nurtured in its embryonic state.

If the Americans had condemned Kosovo Liberation Army violence, and taken action to stop the supply of weapons over the Albanian border, there would have been greater likelihood of a settlement. And this might have encompassed a multi-ethnic community with autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia.
In the beginning of the 21st century, Manipuri Naga’s demand of ceding the Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur and merge with Nagaland was politically unacceptable to the non-Naga inhabitants of Manipur.

Ibobi Government has since introduced autonomous district councils that will lead to further freedom of organising themselves. The more recent demand of a complete secession of Naga-inhabited area from Manipur has brought the ongoing tripartite talk.

The Kuki have been asking for a separate revenue district of Sadar Hills in the Senapati District within Manipur itself for about forty years – not secession, unlike the Naga demand.

This is similar to the 2011 demand of a separate Phungyar District in Ukhrul in Manipur itself, for a better administrative structure, assessment of needs, and inventory of resources and definition of priorities.

Knowing the deep emotive issues that exist between the Kuki and the Tangkhul it seems cogent to me that the Kuki ask for a small separate district. They are not taking away that bit of land elsewhere.

The United Naga Council does not want to lose even an inch of Naga land but any inch of their land is not going anywhere. Besides, there is no such thing as Nagaland, Meiteiland or Kukiland in Manipur. Manipur belongs to every one of us, in as much as Imphal belongs to all the communities.

At a recent rally organised by the UNC, the Tangkhul Katamnao Long et al announced a firm declaration that not an inch of Naga’s land can be touched nor severed for creation of Sadar hills district without ‘the consent of the Naga people’.
The Tangkhul strongly condemned the alleged ‘divisive policy of the Ibobi Government to sow the seeds of communal hatred among the tribals who have been otherwise co-existing in harmony’.
In fact, successive Manipur governments have been resisting the creation of Sadar hill district for some forty years. The Kuki women are not fasting to death for Ibobi’s divisive policy. It is the other way round.
Perhaps, it’s time that the gutsy Iboby Government should stop musing – “To be or not to be” like Hamlet. It’s time to act. There will always be opposition to any project or any economic development by some groups of people or the other.

The Tangkhul called upon the Government to respect the various MoUs signed between the Government of Manipur and Naga social organisations. They claim that More than 47 Tangkhul-Naga villages are situated within the boundary of the proposed district.
They stress that the Naga have been living in the land of their forefathers since time immemorial, unlike the Kuki who allegedly migrated mostly from Chin-Burma (Myanmar) province. It cautions the Government of Manipur to look into the issue thoroughly and ‘not to take any hasty decisions’.

There is truth in their statement. It is also true that the Kuki have been fighting side by side with the Meitei to keep Manipur independent. Indeed, we all belong to this old country of Manipur.
I am glad about the Tangkhul statement such as “without the consent of Naga people” and “not to take any hasty decisions” because they give room for a concerted negotiated settlement.
It must not be forgotten that the Meitei are not sitting on the fence to watch the bull fight. They are facing tremendous hardship because of the blockade, which is now nearly four weeks old.
Blockading the Highways – the lifelines to the existence of the Manipuris has become an easy gambit for the tribal in the hills, to get their baroque demand granted by the government.
It’s like killing a fly with a sledge hammer. It shows lack of humanity compassion for any demurrer to let innocent and ill people suffer, in their attempt to influence the policy of the government. The end does not always justify the means.
CM Ibobi should convene a tripartite meeting of the representatives of the Sadar Hill Kuki and Tangkhul, he acting as a mediator to get the views of the Kuki and Naga. Then he should make a decision with the Manipur Legislative Assembly; come what may.
Creation of Sadar Hill District will serve as a precedent to Phungyar and Jiribam.
It’s hard to convey a feeling that permeates a generation. Both the Tangkhul and Kuki should think in terms of peaceful coexistence in Manipur, along with the Meitei, Pangal and other tribes. We are going to live together in Manipur whether one likes it or not.
I have a gut feeling that Manipur will stay intact within India. Nagaland will stay in India with some select autonomy while Kashmir will stay divided as it is. With this in mind, I think of Manipur where all the tribes live with freedom to choose their own religions, stay in a Swiss-style peaceful coexistence with equal share of the economic advancement and progress that are inevitable.
Old wounds heal very slowly. What different tribes do to each other today will remain smouldering under the ashes for generations to come. The wound of the ancestor Meitei treatment of other tribes is still a hot potato.
The showdown between French and English armies, headed respectively by generals Marquis de Montcalm and James Wolfe, was fought on a wide expanse of land outside Quebec City’s fortified walls that became known as the Plains of Abraham. It still has a particular negative significance in the French-Canadian collective consciousness.
The wounds of the genocide massacres by both sides during the Partition of India have not healed after an entire generation of Indians and Pakistanis.
I dream of a time when any of us living in Manipur is proud to say I am a Manipuri instead of I am Manipuri Meitei or Manipuri Naga or Kuki.

The post-War Manipur is on the brink of adolescence and in the ongoing journey to stretch our wings towards self-definition and identity we need an effort to stress Manipuri values of pluralism, mutual respect and understanding.

A peaceful negotiation is the only way out. Let the history of Kosovo not repeat in Manipur. Let us not obfuscate the Sadar Hill entanglement with tragedy of the fasting Kuki women or as a farce with bloodshed from both the parties.

As the 2011 is skittering to an end, let’s advocate engagement not disruption. Let’s stand on the Promised Land of integration. We must learn to live together as brothers in a Manipur society, or we will perish together.

The writer is based in the UK. Email: imsingh@onetel.com
Website: www.imsingh.uk.co.uk


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