Naga liberty or forced disintegration of Manipur ?

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh *

 Mera Houchongba , re-affirming close bond and ties between hill and valley people at Konung :: 16 Oct 2016
Titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba organized Mera Haochongba ( at Konung on 16 Oct 2016 : pix Shankar Khangembam)

Titular king Leishemba Sanajaoba and Mera Haochongba
Shri Leishemba is the ‘Best Thing since Sliced Bread’ in integrating various communities of Manipur.
I am nobbled by his dignity and composure.

I had an epiphany. A gleeful epiphany. As a new wind of change is blowing through Manipur, an old memory dawned as I ploughed through my experiences of yonder days just after WW II. That, there has never been a Manipur, which has been as integrated as it is now.

The political advisers to the incumbent BJP Government of India, are of course, aware of how a cavalier decision in Delhi to disintegrate Manipur, would have a "Butterfly effect" in Manipur itself. It may sound like the preamble to some arrogant swagger. No, it's not. Knowing Meitei spirit, it will create 'deterministic chaos' in Manipur, whose domino effect to Delhi will be drastic.

Ever since World War II came to Manipur, all the ethnic communities in Manipur have learnt to live together for the common good. Communal bickering does occur as it always does in a family. And it should. Notwithstanding, one swallow does not make a summer. A handful of political Nagas of Manipur who talk about breaking Manipur does not carry the will of the vast number of Nagas.

There have been many such hollow talks, such as "Mongoloid Pan Northeast" or "Tamil country in the south" or "Muslim Kashmir in the north" separated from the "Communal and fascist regime" of New Delhi. They were as Machiavellian as the egoistic political scheming of 'Lilius Caesar'.

The flying and leaping of a Naga political group with rhetoric of breaking up of Manipur, appearing constantly on the media like "Baadar-Meinhoff Phenomenon" would soon be in the lap of gods as the vast majority of the community prefer to remain authentic Manipuris.

Adaptation to the changes of time and survival by natural selection for Meiteis cannot be overlooked in the way pop songs are replacing lullabies in the UK in about 85 percent. 'Twinkle twinkle little star...' is now replaced by Rihanna's 'Shine bright like a diamond; find light in the beautiful sea..."

Eight out of ten young English mothers cannot remember old lullabies and thus pop songs edge lullabies out of the nursery. How many young Meitei mothers can remember ancient Meitei lullaby: "Tha tha Thabington, Nacha morambi pobige, Pobi sanam nambige, Heibong charong amatang thada birak-oo thabington".

Meitei political thought and political philosophy have likewise changed to "Manipur for all Manipuris". It will be very hard for Meiteis to abrogate this fundamental political belief that bridges between identifying social harmony in Manipur and the invincible interpretation of the status-quo of Manipur's geography and demography.

Breaking up Manipur is moral side-slipping by the Nagas of Nagaland. There is no "Unique Naga Nation", which interpreted historically, would mean a nation of all the naked people in the world. There are still many primitive nude people. 'Naga' word is phonetically corrupted from Nanga (clothes-free), meaning naked in Sanskrit (or Mayanglon – Mayang language)) as in Nanga Parbat – naked mountain.

In view of this fake Naga national identity, and in the context of Naga integration that has been the focus of disabling paradoxes, Manipur has now, a duty to wage a "just War" in defence of Manipur's genuine national identity that has been formed as early as the beginning of Jesus' ministry at about 33 CE (30-36 CE). The theory of Just War that was first espoused by St Thomas Aquinas is grounded in biblical ideals.

This is a last resort effort to seek prudent goals - to defend its denizens, its moral values and justice. Keeping the faith in its ethical and political authenticity, my joined-up thought process guts me to think that, integration among the Manipuris is not as big an issue as it is between the Manipuris and the Mayangs who are xenophobic of Northeasterners with oriental facial physiognomy.

Thanks to Narendra Modis' BJP government. With its effective hands-on look-East policy, Northeasterners are getting increasingly recognised as Indians by the Mayangs.

There are secessionist campaigns of a jostle of ethnic Manipuris at this late hour after Independence, both in the hills and the valley. I do not blame them as I know how they feel.

What they feel is how they feel. Who am I to judge? Likewise, I am merely entitling myself to my opinion. Only logic and persuasion might change their mind. As it did in the case of the ruler of Jodhpur, Hanwant Singh in 1947, as for example.

Hanwant did not see much future in India for him or the lavish lifestyle he wished to lead. He did not want integration with British India. So, he entered into negotiations with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was to lead a partitioned Pakistan. Jinnah was cleverer than Nehru. Mountbatten persuaded him that the idea was contrary to the principle of the "two-nation theory" of partition, and that there would be communal violence in his state as his people were anti-Muslim. Hanwant saw the logic. He changed his mind.

Sensing the 'separation anxiety disorder' and being conscious of the complexity of "Indianness" among the multitudes of communities in India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru convened a conference and set up National Integration Council (NIC) in September-October 1961, to find ways to counter problems that were dividing the country.

The NIC was designed to review national integration issues and make recommendations. The NIC met for the first time in June 1962. The fourteenth meeting was held in New Delhi on 13 October 2008. The fifteenth meeting was held on 10 September 2011 in New Delhi.

 (L) My orthodox Hindu mother Mani Debi, reading Prayer beads before lunch after a bath. (R) My Hindu sister-in-law Ibemhal Devi ritually  bathed & dressed up for a communal feast of  Utsav-chaba
(L) My orthodox Hindu mother Mani Debi, reading Prayer beads before lunch after a bath.
(R) My Hindu sister-in-law Ibemhal Devi ritually bathed & dressed up for a communal feast of Utsav-chaba

The latest meeting (sixteenth meeting) was held on 23 September 2013. Its mention is only relevant here in that Nehru's Congress government paid scant attention to the Northeast in the manner it did to Ladakh. He came to Manipur for the second time in 1953, only to give away our precious Kabaw valley to U-Nu of Burma.

After independence the Indian Government inspired tolerance, secularism and national integration. How could it now, be thinking of disintegrating Manipur?

The constitution of India tried to provide equal opportunities to every Indian irrespective of caste, creed, religion and place of birth with the realisation that the most serious threats to the national integration of India are – linguistic differences, communalism and regionalism, such as the Sikhs of the Punjab, the Tamils of the south and the Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir.

To my horror, whether by commission or omission, the ethnic problem of the Oriental-looking people of the Northeast that has nothing to do with regionalism, language or communalism was slighted in toto, as they were considered only a fly in the ointment. Just bete noire in French (people who are particularly disliked) or hath ki maila in Hindi (of no importance).

Later still, the Indian government had official campaigns of "Indianess" (2007) featuring Amitabh Bacchan in "India Poised" followed by "Lead India" featuring Shah Rukh Khan, which was preceded by "Torch of Freedom" (1984), and "Mile Sur Mera Hamara" (If you and I sing to the same tune then the tune becomes ours) in 1986. They were meant to establish the ideal of unity in diversity in India. Still, the campaigns completely ignored the identity and existence of Oriental-looking Northeast Indians.

In post-independent Manipur, there is no need for such a crusade. Post-War education and the consequent liberalization in social investment have done the job. Before the War, integration in Manipur was only loose coupling. We had only nodding acquaintances with each other. Only dribs and drabs of chingmees would come down to Imphal in summer, while valley dwellers (tammees) hardly ever went to the Hills.

The Meiteis were then living with mendacious contentment, like fruit flies in a rotten apple, with illegitimate sensuality about themselves, humming the old classical make-belief refrain of "chingna koina punsaba, Haona koina punngakpa Manipur sana Leibak. The golden land of Manipur, fortified by the hill ranges and guarded by the hill people.

Meiteis are now not so bull-headed and are getting close to the meaning of educated. They are now able to think critically and unbiased. In a similar vein, and without shouting from the rooftops about some of the basic mitigations, the pre-War history of Manipur was not a story of neatly divided civilisations. Because of a substantial difference in culture, hygiene and religiosity, the Hinduised Meiteis could not be blamed solely, for the oft-repeated segregation of hill people from Meitei society. There are two sides of a coin.

All these past social ghettoisations are now history, as all the communities are equally educated and civilised. We are all painfully aware of the pitfalls of disunity. Let us not look back in anger nor forward in fear, but for a united and prosperous Manipur.

Viva le Manipur.

* Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at irengbammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com and Website:
This article was webcasted on September 29, 2019.

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