Time Past and Time Present


Manipur turned 43 today as a State of the Union of India. The antiquity of the State`™s history, of course go far beyond this, and through its long journey, understandably it went through good as well as bad times. In human terms, 43 is middle age and as the cliche goes, it is also a period of mid-life existential crisis, marked by many uncertainties. But 43 is also well into middle age, and the crisis that mid life brings would have been around at least half a decade. This is a time when the ambitions and ideals of the Spring years, the heartbreaks and disillusionments of the Summer years, have all begun to give way to Autumn, the `season of fruitful mellowness`™, when resolutions begin to be sought through constructive and realistic compromises. It is a time to look back and assess the road left behind, never to be travelled again for unfortunately time is a vehicle without a reverse gear, and to look ahead to the road to be travelled still. The onset of these Autumn years is also a time in anybody`™s life when the next generation becomes important, therefore also the time to begin seeing the future not just from the his or her interest but from those of his children. Is middle aged Manipur ready for such a self search?

This search is essential and important even if many of its problems are inherited from past disruption of its historical march, and the tumults that resulted from it. In fact, even the culture of protest so pervasive in this State is also in many ways a conditioned response. A brief tour of the Statehood history of Manipur will demonstrate this. In 1949 after Manipur merged into the Union of India, for reasons unfathomable Manipur was made a Part-C State, after dissolving its democratically elected Assembly. This probably was also a result of what Fali Nariman says is a manifestation of an underlying fear of the Union, having just gone through the traumatic Partition, that it may further balkanize. It therefore needed to ensure that the Princely States it absorbed, especially rebellious ones, were made to feel subservient to the Union. Manipur`™s wounded pride rebelled and when the rebellion got too intense for comfort, concessions were made and the Manipur was upgraded to a Union Territory. Progressively and in piecemeal, the status of Manipur was upgraded as concessions to agitations until in 1972, it was made a full-fledged State along with Meghalaya and Tripura. By then the psychological conditioning had happened leading the place to believe no concession would ever come without violent agitations predicating them. This legacy has lived on to make life in Manipur miserable, with bandhs and blockades being called at the drop of a hat by any and everybody. The question is, why was Manipur not given full Statehood in 1949 itself?

Whatever the answer, Manipur must get over the scourge of this protest culture and get on to living life normally and healthily. This will not be easy, but it is almost a survival need for it to accomplish this. What Manipur is going through would fall into what trauma writers such as Saul Friedlander, have pointed out, is a condition called `fidelity to trauma`™. This makes the victim remain literally faithful to the memories of traumatic events of the past, and that the present is solely a by-product of the past. The victim therefore begins to perpetuate his victimhood, harming himself and his prospects for the future. Friedlander and others have a suggestion which Manipur can learn from. The victim must work through this condition, and without betraying the past, dissociate it from the present and therefore the future. In `mourning`™ the dead past, the living present must not be allowed to be trapped in benumbing `melancholia`™ perpetually. There must come a time to say farewell to the dead so the living can live. Moreover the present is not just a legacy of the past, but also an autonomous creative being forging its own future.

Leader Writer: Pradip Phanjoubam


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