TODAY -

The Manipur We All Want

Fr Paul Lelen Haokip *

Map of Manipur



Walk every nook and corner of Manipur, every one secretly longs for an atmosphere of freedom and peace where each can carry on their daily lives without any diktat from other people or groups or elements. Even the poorest person prefers to work in the jungles or anywhere rather than sitting at home because of war or tension. So what actually is the situation we all want in Manipur? To my limited experience and grass root observation, every denizen of Manipur wants a peaceful life.

Now, that is just a wish in the air. No peace comes from the blue sky on a platter for you and me. Peace is a process, it is cultivated, harvested and fed on. Shall we leave this responsibility to animals, birds of the air, the trees, to mere children, GoI, GoM, or to all of us?

THE HEART:

The human heart is the seat of war or peace. "There is nothing outside of a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him. For from within, out of the heart of man, comes evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and they defile a man" (The Bible). The cause of all tensions, wars, rifts and commotion is the heart of man.

Oh man, how do you treat your heart, is your heart fooling you or you are fooling your heart? This is the only place where the inner voice of GOD is heart distinctly. You may hear it often. You may ignore often and die with a heavy heart of regret or listen to act good for your neighbours. The choice is yours just as the reward/punishment will be solely yours.

UNBIASED MEDIA:

Media can build or destroy peace. Mass media freedom is one of the major guarantees of the freedom of speech, an obligatory element for ensuring other civil rights and freedoms. The freedom of the press involves the possibility to freely discuss and criticize the activities of both the authorities and civil and private structures. Journalists contribute to the realization of the right to express unpopular opinions or agree with the point of view expressed by the majority.

The journalist must defend the freedom of speech, retain independence of his/her political views and convictions. He/she must resist any efforts to distort information or introduce censorship. Like any other citizen, the journalist has a right to political and other convictions. However, in his/her professional activity he/she should remain neutral and objective.

Media houses should present facts not favouritism. Unfounded news can mislead the ordinary people that can lead to loss of lives and property. Above all trouncing of relationship between different communities is an irreparable loss. Exaggerated write-up, video clip or film can do more harm than good. Polarisation and exaggeration are extremely harmful. It may sell for those few who propagate but creates bigger chasm between communities. The healing process is slow and usually never takes place. Once the seed of hatred is sown, it grows like a weed. The distrust created destroys society.

DEDICATED LEADERSHIP:

In Manipur, the number of leaders coming up is tremendous. Some come up, chosen and elected by people after much reflection and contemplation for the need of the organization. To mentions some apex bodies, AMUCO-UCM, UNC & KIM etc are the governing bodies for the Meiteis, Nagas and Kukis. The respectable leaders at these posts hold very very responsible jobs. Their distant sightedness or short sightedness, endurance or impatience, their magnanimous or selfish decisions will affect the rest 28 lakhs populace Manipur. Instead of 'Versus' mindset, the apex bodies could sit down for dialogues to resolves as much as possible areas of common interest and larger good.

On the other hand, there are also on-the-spot leaders coming up due to incidents of rape, death, theft or dispute. I hope and pray that these posts end with the resolve of the problem. Ordinary people in the villages and leikais don't think much. They just act. So the leaders should be God fearing, genuine, peace-loving and above all with a humane personality. Else, unlettered, ethnic-centred leaders and intolerant leadership can destroy the social fabric of unity, co-existence and love.

PEN OR SWORD:

We are privileged to live in an age of 'Pen is mightier than the sword'. The barbaric style of "Might is Right" is considered uncouth and inhuman today. Discussion and amicable solution is far more cordial and lasting than bullying and dominance of one community over the other. The hurt feelings if developed are like dormant volcanoes what will erupt one day or the other at a time when you do not know. v The two worded deal called "Framework Agreement" signed between the GoI & NSCN (IM) on 3rd August 2015 sent ripples to many north-eastern states. That is the power of pen. This is the power of negotiation and dialogue. We all have a choice. Either to go for negotiation (dialogue, meal, relationship) or sword (gun, bullet, bomb). Dialogue is the modern form of settling differences.

MANIPUR SANS NON-MANIPURIS/NON-INDIGENEOUS:

We all have come to Manipur at some point of time in history. Some came early, others came later. But we all came from somewhere to Manipur. Even if the so called Non Indigenous people of Manipur are asked to go back to their places (citing a particular base year), don't you think they still can control out market/business from outside? Today, Manipur is depending for food provisions and almost everything from other states. Can they also disturb our peace and unity from outside? Do we ever reflect in these lines?

What would happen if some people who are considered immigrants in Manipur leave Manipur? Is it not possible that they will chase out the Manipur people from their places (Indian states or from Myanmar)? I hope we are ready to face "home return" and provide job opportunities for them. Probably the Government of Manipur is equipped to address this issue.

TOURIST FRIENDLY:

Our neighbouring state Nagaland has ILPS but still the state is very much visited by foreigners especially during the Hornbill Fest. No foreigners visit places where their lives are at stake. Rather, they go to place where people are friendly, cordial and peaceful.

There are also the hill people of Manipur who visit Imphal once in a year, almost like a tourist. But I have literally observed that the prizes of things go high especially during the Christmas season when the ordinarily or poorly-clad Tribals come down to plains to shop. Looking at the appearance, the shop keepers say prices as they like. The poor pay heavily; this is how we treat each other. What will happen if a tourist visits us? The talk on tourism still remains in the cold pages of books and projects. Safety is the top priority for tourism to flourish. But, bandhs, strikes, curfews and anti social elements are strong shields to ward off tourists. We need people who are tourist-friendly and infrastructure of standard quality.

CONSTRUCTIVE WORDS:

I remember, as a child I use to hear our beloved grandmas sitting in the LUKMAIS telling me "ibungngo paisa adu thadaro". After buying their things, I had to literary drop the money. They also would keep the money on the floor and I had to pick up. I dint know the reason then. Now, I come to know that Tribals/Haos were considered unclean, so the transaction had to take place that way. Probably the Hindu philosophy of untouchability and Caste notion might have influenced them. The derogatory terms like "Haothu/Haochak/Haomacha" etc build strong walls of hatred and disunity.

Now, if the Meitei become Scheduled Tribe, will they like the same "Haomacha" tag? The daily words referred to 'Christianity' like "Haogi dharma", "Chingmigi dharma" or a reference of going to hills or outskirts of Imphal as "lawaida chatpa" etc are actually destructive to the highest degree. How can we possible envisage relationship? This can be new 'apartheid' or 'racism' in some remote way. So "do to others what you want them to do to you" is the reminder from the good book. Constructive words should replace negative words. Else, mistrust and disunity will hold us tight.

PARADOXES:

First interesting thing to note, the MLAs from CCpur district seem to find that all the three bill passed by Manipur Legislative Assembly on 31st August 2015 are not at all danger to the Tribals. But the various student organizations and tribe apex bodies of Nagas & Kukis decry the same said three bills. How come the law makers (legislators) are not aware of their office works? Are they unfit or are they prompted?

The most advanced tribal hill district of Manipur reacted in a very violent way leading to the sad demise of 9 precious lives and injury to many. CCpur district also record the best education environment and the highest producer of Civil Servants in the State. They are the most fit to compete even at the National Level. Do you think this district head quarter will react this much unless there is a logical reason?

Second interesting thing to note, now the various CSOs and the Government of Manipur is open for dialogue and negotiation (after deaths and destruction). It's is too late dear stakeholders. You are not able to read the minds and aspirations of your people. Our beloved Robindhood died and almost 2 months of normal life was disrupted. Now 9 people died, how long will it take to come back to normal life is the question lingering in the minds of ordinary people. Let us pray for peaceful Manipur and amicable solution at the earliest.

PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE BETWEEN TRIBALS AND NON-TRIBALS:

In India, about 460 ethnic groups are recognized as Scheduled Tribes. These are considered to be India's indigenous peoples. In mainland India, the Scheduled Tribes are usually referred to as Adivasis. With an estimated population of 84.3 million, they comprise 8.2% of the total population. India can be proudly called the largest tribal country in the world. The Fifth and Sixth Scheduled under article 244 of the Constitution of India in 1950 provided for self governance in particular tribal majority areas. Being backward socially, educationally, politically, the Constitution of India lays down various measures to protect and alleviate the predicament of these unfortunate groups of people.

As far as my experience goes, there are few pockets of Manipur where the Tribals and non-Tribals are living in rather peaceful manner like Kakching, Sugnu, Pallel, Andro etc. There are hardly any racial comments made or witnessed in these places. Each one is happy as they are and uphold their unique customs. It is also very encouraging to see the Tribals and non-Tribals attending each other's festivals of joy and sadness. Probably the "itao" vocabulary is mostly heard in these places.

CONCLUSION:

We came to this earth, naked. When we die, we can't take anything other the fruits of few good works we did and show to the almighty God for entry into heaven. If this fact is known to all of us, then, why don't we live peacefully together without much tension and fights? Just as we all came to Manipur at different points of time, we will all leave Manipur separately at different moments of time and space. We achieve what we want.

If we want hatred, we should build up arsenals, derogatory dictionaries, have verbal or social network virtual wars, brainwash our children with hatred towards other communities. But if we want peace and survival of all, we need to build blocks of friendship, co-existence, tolerance, sincere respect for others and shun violence. Nations that went to war and got destroyed heavily were Japan and Germany, today, they decided for "no-war". Progress is the by-product of peace and unity. So what do we want Manipur to be?


* Fr Paul Lelen Haokip wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao and The Sangai Express
This article was posted on September 15, 2015.


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