Manipur: The land of Keibu Keioiba, Thabaton and the cannibalistic democracy
- Part 2 -

Puyam Rakesh Singh *

Kabui-Kei-Oiba at MDU Hall by Children Theatre Workshop :: April 9 2012
Kabui-Kei-Oiba at MDU Hall by Children Theatre Workshop in April 2012 :: Pix - Tiken Thokcom

Not only the water quantity but also the quality of the water delivered is taken care of to ensure health and well-being of the family. She is a woman who is willing to go hungry and thirsty for the right cause but does not bend under pressure or illogical statements of Keioiba. She is a kind, dutiful and hard working woman who cares about her family and make sacrifices for the same. Keioiba has no easy excuse to let her go thirsty. Dehydration, water scarcity and water-borne diseases hardly visit the family.

Interestingly, Thabaton was not abducted by Keioiba in the second and the third scenarios unlike in the first case and she is entitled to her rights and claims. Unfortunately, the Thabaton of the third scenario is not in Manipur. In fact, we see the second scenario Thabaton dealing with a reckless and egoistic Keioiba in order to make ends meet in our society. There is high probability of the second scenario Thabaton dying of water-borne diseases, anaemia, malnutrition, dehydration and organ failure.

As absolute power corrupts absolutely, the modern Keibu Keioibas of Manipur have shown the tendency of reverting back almost to the first scenario. They have not acted convincingly to make John Dalberg-Acton wrong. Power abuse and despotic nature of the high-ranking officials and self-styled leaders have carved out the space where they have found their niches. In doing so, these agents have succeeded in sustaining the Cannibalistic Democracy in the land of Keibu Keioibas.

If Lu Xun (real name is Zhou Shuren) has to say anything of the present state of the things in our society, the Chinese word 'chiren' (eat people; cannibalism) may be the best word to define almost everything like in his short story "A Madman's Diary (Kuangren Riji). While talking about Manipur, the right question is: who is not corrupt? A keen observer can see how everyone is an accomplice in the game of eating and being eaten in our society. Are there still some clean slates? The world does not have any 100 percent clean society but the endeavours for a cleaner one is progressive. So what is stopping us?

Is there a fear psychosis in our society? Is the Thabaton of the first scenario still acting in second and third ones? The demand for a democratic government in which the people have the say started during King Churachand's reign. Because of the WW II, the constitutional reforms did not take place and the responsibility and the pressure to make some democratic space in the state's affairs fell on the shoulder of King Bodhachandra.

The history books record the public demonstrations and rallies shouting for democratic rule in the state. The monarchy was blamed for all the ills in the state. Now, the people of Manipur have failed to exercise their democratic rights and forgotten the duties. As a consequence, the leaders and high-ranking officials have started seeing the chairs in the offices and the Manipur State Assembly building as thrones.

A conceptual differentiation of the people's representative (Meeyamgi Meehut) from the hereditary monarchs and lords is desirable.

The Manipuri language dictionary and social scientists have to work hard to define and ascertain the concepts and terms such as Meehut, Thougal, Thoumee, Thougalloi, Paokholloi, Luchingba, Lamjingba, Thoupuba, Thoudangloi. When the people stretch their hands to sell their votes, see development projects and development funds as alms or charity given by the elected representatives, democracy losses its value and colour. But it is the reality that we see in everyday life.

The elected leaders were given the bamboo tube to fetch water from the brook by the people of Manipur (here Thabaton) for their well-being and advancement. They willingly took the responsibility of doing it but do not deliver the right quantity of water on one pretext or another. The tube was given by the people for them, but the water is mostly diverted to serve the vested interests of a few henchmen. The roads are dusty or muddy and potholed, there is irregular or no water supply, electricity is a luxury and the development funds do not change the quality of life of the people.

Are they building an underground city like New York with the development funds? When Thabaton cries for water, Keioiba comes with some drops of water in the bamboo tube and he gives it to her as a charity. Thabaton took it for her survival and Keioiba forced her to accept it as a culture.

Democracy says that Thabaton has the right to ask Keioiba to deliver the right quantity of water in time and also has the right to ask him to arrange a pipeline instead of the tube for better service. That is called progress and the responsibility to ensure such advancements was handed over to the Keioibas when they claimed the responsibility of the bamboo tube. The question of legitimacy based on accountability has been sidelined to run the show as it is. As a result, Keioiba does not think of improving the delivery system and has instead, defended himself of the irregular or minimal supply with lame excuses.

The Crow knows the things well and has been observing how Keioiba is fooling Thabaton. The Crow is supposed to be the opposition members and intellectuals in a society. Many times, Keioiba did not turn up to the brook to fetch water and make excuses for his inability. Sometimes, Keioiba will deliver water to his henchmen but not to Thabaton. One day, the Crow was waiting for Keioiba near the brook to expose his conducts. Keioiba listened to the words of the Crow but paid no heed. He drank water from the brook and fetched some for his second wife's family. The Crow was asked not to meddle in the family affairs. Angry with the sneer of Keioiba, the Crow sang the following lines as Keioiba left for the palatial house of his second wife:

Hada Keibu Keioiba Meewotpa
Nachin Nakhutsu Manada
Natu Achanbi Sanana Yom
Leima Thabaton Pat Tat
Naran Nathum Langei Chon
Nareibak Naramdam Kang Kok

Moreover, the Crow must remind Thabaton that she is entitled to certain rights as the wife of Keioiba. In a democratic set-up, Thabaton (read as 'the people') must exercise her (their) rights to make sure that the tube has no hole or the leakage is minimal. By raising her voice, she is just claiming her share of water from the brook, not the share of the other woman. An anaemic Thabaton is not far from the eyes of the second woman and her relatives but they do not want to share some percentage of the high quality of life they enjoy with Thabaton. Instead, they are for further exploitation of her situation to improve their social standings. This should open Thabaton's eyes and see the truth that these people are cannibals waiting for her flesh and blood.

Besides, a system that works with no such promise and accountability to ensure maximum delivery to the people is a failure. Any single word that means different thing is part of the lie. Thabaton has to claim her rights, exercise them and create the democratic space where she gets the entitled share of Keioiba's resources. Like in the folktale, this Thabaton must act cleverly to teach Keioiba a good lesson. Unfortunately, she is not even acting like the Granny of another folktale 'Ita Thaomei'.

She must speak up for her share if she is aware of the fact that she and her children cannot survive without water. Should she think of another bamboo tube? That is up to her. Is there a way she can deal properly with Keioiba without making herself another cannibal in this Cannibalistic Democracy? The famous French philosopher named Jacques Derrida said that there is no single answer to all the problems.

But rightly he was of the opinion that the future is to be found, is being made, is being written, in what we are doing. Though it is not the single answer to all the problems we are facing today, mending the leakage hole or minimising the loss to ensure availability of enough water for a flourishing life will be an integral part of the answer we seek.


* Puyam Rakesh Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on May 09, 2015.

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