TODAY -

Antagonistic or protectionists?

Somchandra Nahakpam *

A strong community is a prerequisite for a healthy economy because it alone produces social trust.
Jeremy Rifkin.


The excerpt given above hints on the need for trust and faith among people in order to bring overall development. It is an open-secret that there is a growing division among the various ethnic groups in the North-Eastern region. And Manipur is not lagging behind in this phenomenon. We have witnessed major clashes between different ethnic communities in the recent decades and these antagonisms instead of subsiding are more breeding up day by day. Every community is apprehensive of the other. The question of reconciliation has become a fantasy and out of context. In this era of globalization-which professes the idea of Global village-people of this region are engaged in asserting their rights(with respect to one another) and are constantly trying to create a border line with each other. Everyone is anxious with of their own community and doesn’t seem to look past. The mentality of the people has been completely diverted away from the perception of growth and development.

Manipur faces a very gloomy situation. Each major community in the State is divided along communal lines. If one looks at the distribution of population of population in the State, one would find that most of the districts are divided along ethnic lines (except for few districts but in that case also there is usually a majority group).The Tammis dominate the valley districts, while Chingmis make up the hill areas. Few chingmi villages are located at the valley districts, as well as a sizeable population of chingmis are found in urban areas of Imphal.

Migration of people from one place to another rarely happens. In another sense people are less mobile. Few people do migrate to towns looking for better oppurtunities.There is no good census record on migration within the State (among the local people).The main reason contributing to less mobile character of the people is due to the existence of certain Acts with regard to land..I will not delve into those Acts. Some of the Acts forbids people from the valley or non-tribals to acquire land in the hill areas. This is also a major contributor to the growing antagonisms and misapprehensions between the people. The notion of “outsider” and “insider” is created automatically. People from the hill districts have moved into valley districts in significant numbers and quite a many of them have settled down permanently.This contributed, to a certain extent, in bridging the gap. People began to share their feelings and there is a transition from “us” or “them” to “we” feelings. People are more drawn each other. By existing together people promote tolerance and ignorance slowly fades away. On the contrary, very few people from the valley (Tammis) move to the hill areas (those who are there don’t settle down permanently).

The perception of people is that if a person is a tribal or chingmi he/she surely doesn’t belong to valley and this is the case with a tammi. Suppose if a Tammi is asked where he belongs to and if he responds, say from Tousem or Phungyar, people will be shocked and it would be unbelievable.But, this situation is not impossible either. The point is, if we have to appreciate the diversity and plurality of our society, of our region, we need to understand and value each other. Let people move freely from one place to another to be aware of each other. Confining oneself in one group leads to abhorrence of the other group. One is an easy prey to antagonism. The Acts may have been created to protect the tribals but it has also sown the seed of hostility and enmity between the people especially between the Chingmis and Tammis. Exploitation of people should be prevented at any costs. Equal opportunities are a must for each and every individual irrespective of race, gender, religion etc. We need to constantly work toward achieving an egalitarian society through uniform law.

Trade and commerce is an important characteristic for growth and development. And this also has the influence of bringing people closer. Montesquieu foresaw this in 18th Century, “The natural effect of commerce is to lead to peace. Two Nations that trade together become mutually dependent, if one has an interest in buying, the other has in selling; and all unions are based on mutual needs”. This clearly explains the need of the hour. Until and unless people interact with each other there is less chance of peace to descend in the region. There is also one interesting remark, European Nations whose conflicts in the past lead to two World Wars are now brought together by monetary union. In this context, Thomas Friedman has coined what he called the ‘global arches’ theory, that no two countries who have a McDonald’s have ever fought a war against one another.

Everyone is aware of the fact that the incursion of alien culture and religion lead to separation among the people. It is time to lay to rest the past. Digging the past will only lead to increase in resentment and bitterness. People can utilize the diversity and plurality of language, of culture by co-operation and creating a mutual trust. But, it also imperative that the majority group or community be more tolerant and make space for others, especially the smaller ethnic groups to get in. Ignorance need to be come over because it is one of the major factors for hostility, prejudice and distrust between the various communities. Jonathan Sacks in The dignity of Difference, has stressed the concept of covenant.Covenant, according to the dictionary implies, (law) formal agreement that is legally binding. Sacks, points out that Covenant is an answer as to how we can establish relationships secure enough to become the basis of co-operation. It is an attempt to create partnership without dominance and submission.

It is absolutely sensible to realize or acknowledge that each ethnic community is different. But it would be more so if we appreciate the diversity and work towards achieving the common goal i.e. peace and development.Cosmoploitan nature can be built up in the entire State or the North-eastern region as a whole. It’s time to critically think about the laws and Acts, which are more of an antagonistic than protectionists in nature.


* Somchandra Nahakpam contributes to regularly to e-pao.net. The writer can be contacted at somnahakpam(at)gmail(DOT)com. This article was webcasted on March 14, 2008.

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