TODAY -

Can Indigenous People of Manipur Coexist ?

Fr Paul Lelen Haokip *



Introduction

The broad classification of people into the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) and General Category community are measures of the Government of India. The State/Union Territory-wise list of Scheduled Tribes in India has listed 34 recognized tribes in Manipur. In the long term, this classificationhas its positive and sectarian ramification as well.

No law is sacrosanct or entirely unacceptable. There are grey sides in every endeavour. Many persons in Manipur still use the term "occupied territory" after the merger agreement effected on 15 October 1949 that has permanently led to the annexation of Manipur as an integral part of India and its subsequent statehood on 21 January 1972.

Now, the occupants of this "occupied territory" are on cold war. If the 22,327 square kilometre Manipur is divided into parts for Meiteis, Nagas, Kukis and Meitei Pangals, each will get just a slice. There is both a possibility to coexist or co-perish. We could unitedly progress or fall into shards.

Ecosystem Model Competition

In an ecosystem model of living, even a beetle is important, the moth has a role, the bees are considered great pollinators, etc. There is "inclusiveness"in an ecosystem model of living. Each species needs other (if not all) species for survival and multiplication.

A state like Manipur is an ecosystem. It is not a piece of meat for one-time consumption. The biotic and abiotic forms of life are always in constant competition for survival but not primarily for obliteration.

In a biodiversity set-up, biotic and abiotic forms of life thrive on interconnectedness and interdependence. For a state like Manipur, the competitive graph is rising rapidly in areas of Central services, State services and entrepreneurship.

This graph will go up higher with the Act East Policy in full function.With liberalization, privatization and globalization, the world is shrinking and indigenous people are becoming more aware of their share of ecosystem for survival now and for the days to follow.

An Indigenous Trait

The Government of India has not officially declared "tribals" as "indigenous people", it is a "considerable contention in India today" (Virginius Xaxa). But the term "indigenous" is popularly used at the international platform.

On the 13 September 2007, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) was adopted to the good fortune of millions of indigenous people around the world. One of the clear traits of indigenous people is "coexistence" with nature, with animals, with humans.

Indigenous people are bent towards ecosystem model of living than the Anthropocene model where humans rule (or everything centres around human power geopolitics). In Manipur, the towns of Senapati, Imphal, Churachandpur, Chandel, Moreh and Jiribam could pose as models of various communities living together, an indigenous showpiece in existence.

Indigenous people thrive with interdependence and care for nature. At the same time, indigenous trait like coexistence is taking political landscape and highly influenced by economic dividends. This value-erosion is a challenge to indigenous culture.

Religion as a Mask

"Lord, Lord, Halleluiah, God is good, Praise that Lord, taking recourse to fasting and prayer, talking about peace, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, turning the other cheek if someone hits" inside the Church but not practicing Christian values outside the Church is the highest form of hypocrisy. "Not everyone that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

The will of God the Father is to love one another. Domesticating God as if He is only for a particular community, tribe, group is a complete opposite of the mission of Jesus Christ who came to save the earth (not just a group).

Thinking that God will be in one's side even while doing wrong to humans and nature is a whole distortion of truth and turning religion into a form of opium for hallucination. Selective choosing of Biblical verses for one's survival at the expense of others equals to defilement of the good book.

While the Old Testament is filled with themes of revenge, war, sectarianism, etc., the New Testament is completed with Jesus' call for love, brotherhood and mutual coexistence. If your religion makes you to hate others, then perhaps you need a new holistic religion that can accommodate the world. Are we wearing religion as a mask to flaunt unchristian behaviours?

Need for enlightened leaders

Mere rhetoric and sweet-talk are not the brand anymore.Today, we need leaders who know real histories (not distorted), science, social sciences, politics for growth, long-term visions. We need daring game changers who are educated and broadminded to join the legislative assemblies.

We expect leaders with values and those who are aware of National and International goals (like SDGs) which aim at coexistence and peace. We need leaders who can ascend clan-centric politics, tribe-based propagandas, and see humanity as a family here on earth. Inclusive pluralism is a building block for authentic leadership. We need people who can show us a way forward from regression and stagnation.

Conclusion

We can choose to survive together or perish together with the coming of the railways and Act East Policy. We don't need sectarian leaders anymore. We need to see the truth of the gospel, not a personal (faulty) interpretation of the Bible. Christianity is not just for Sunday; it is a way of life.

To what extent can Christianity take us for peaceful coexistence? Inclusiveness should be an overriding model for coexistence and development. "Ching-Tam" slogan should see practical and fruit-bearing projects for coexistence. Exclusivism is a "no-no" for a 21 century model of living.


* Fr Paul Lelen Haokip wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is a PhD Research Scholar, Dept. of Sociology at CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, India
The writer can be contacted at paulhowkeep(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on October 29 2020.



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