TODAY -

Romanticizing the monumental and antiquarian past and delaying change: The Manipur context
- Part 2 -

Wangam Somorjit *



The autocracy of monarchy was abolished in favour of democracy with the inauguration of the Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947, where out of six ministerial seats, two were reserved for the minority hill people and one for minority Muslim community, besides remarkable dual voting system was introduced in the constituency where minority communities were settled.

Besides, the autonomy of hills was also granted under Manipur Hill Peoples Regulation, 1947. Although, the dominant ideology of the state was kept under reserved with the consent of the masses which is manifested on the Proclamation of Bodh Chandra on the inaugural function of the first State Assembly, held on October 18, 1948, affirming the state's authorized hegemonic history. The democratic arrangement lived for a short period of time with the annexation of Manipur in 1949, and substitution by militarization.

The Janmabhumi in its editorial dated Nov, 26, 1950 lamented "When the Manipuris has seen the dim light of democracy and felt a feeling of political consciousness in 1947… the dawn of democracy had been totally enveloped by the autocratic stoke from an unknown hand by setting up a bureaucratic regime… The Manipuris cannot be ruled by a police regime."

As a direct consequence Hijam Irabot formed Red Guards to resist Indian occupation. His movement ended with his death in 1951. Since the 1960s, the resistance movement has been resurrected with the emergence of a series of armed revolutionary organizations, which intensified the armed struggle against the Indian State for more than 60 years, but continually reaffirming the state-authorized 2000 years old 'written' history.

It shows the sense of inability to depart fundamentally from the romantic feudal legacy of the past and the political beliefs surrounding around feudal family feud, apparently perpetuating the proclamation of 1783, in which only a section of dominant group is legitimated to rise into authority, and the proclamation of 1737, in which valley people are described as superior and hill people as inferior.

If in the core of this 60 years old liberation movement lies the politically beliefs surrounding around the romantic feudal legacy of the past and ideology associated with it, or even if it is based on the principles of this decadent state-authorized history or dead record of the past, then it is a dying struggle.

It is risking the future with "delusion, injustice and blind passion" as Nietzsche warns that history, an expensive surplus of knowledge and a luxury, is not merely for glossing over the egotistical life and cowardly bad act but it should be used only to serve living.

Through the prism of Aimé Césaire, if this 2000 years old 'written' history proves incapable of solving its present antagonistic situation created by it, then it is a decadent history. The closer we approach to the ruling class ideology, the more we diverge from reality, leading inexorably towards "false consciousness", keeping the common people from recognizing and rejecting their oppression.

Destroying of past relations or traditional ideology is as difficult as creating the new one. Even if it is succeeded we may find ourselves in a critical phase, what Gramsci called it as "the old dies and the new cannot rise."

The situation in Manipur can be summed up as the effect of 1949 annexation, the oppression of one nation or group by another, in the words of Freire "cultural invasion" and the oppressed people, being unable to transcend from this present situation, romanticize the "monumental and antiquarian" memory of an earlier period or historical knowledge, putting the past on the pedestal, albeit its oppressive nature, and thus gradually emerges a situation where the old still shapes contemporary political and popular attitudes and common sense.

In such situation Nietzsche suggests a choice making progress towards liberation, "Only man whose breast is oppressed by a present need and who wants to cast off his load at any price has a need for critical history, that is, history which sits in judgment and passes judgment."

Besides, it is also necessary to concern the essential of materialistic understanding of history. Feuerbach's materialist doctrine, where Gramsci revives "matter" as "historical and socially organized for production", implies that men are essentially the products of environment and education or upbringing, so for a change, men need to make another environment and different education, in archaic Manipuri proverb "meena semmaga lai oi; laina semmaga mi oi" and in Sartre's phrase, "Humanity makes history and history makes humanity".

Precisely for this new environment one should become self-conscious, which means one's political sense of self and recognition of his true position in history, for "concrete action" to change his rule of behavior and world view, so that he could perceive the reality and build up a collective political force in recognition of his true nature, besides he would be able to direct others to realize their true human nature and potentialities by the construction of counter hegemony, which is rationally understood as revolutionary practice and its extension.

To establish a new environment characterized by cognition of material reality, i.e. science and recognition of necessity, i.e. freedom, and to move forward towards growth and progress, it is necessary to look at historical reality, which is subjectively experienced by the masses, instead of devoting excess to historical knowledge, i.e., historiography, which is the subjective creation of ruling elite's interest and values, as Henri de Saint-Simon visualized "The golden age of humanity lies not behind us, it is in front; it lies in the perfection of the social order…"

Concluded...


* Wangam Somorjit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is the author of the books"The Chronicle of Meetei Monarchs, 1666 to 1850 CE" and the forthcoming, "Manipur: the Forgotten Nation of Southeast Asia"
This article was posted on February 13, 2016.


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