Survival of Manipur: Now in the hands of Meiteis
"Mors janua vitae" (death is the gate of life)

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh *

Manipur Map

Defeat is a humbling setback. Failed flavours are laid to rest at the cremation ground of ideas without any landmark. An analysis of popular search terms like saying "we'll keep the integrity of Manipur" tracks on fears, hopes and confusion for Meiteis. Such search terms mirror the political mood of Manipuris in almost real time. A top search result is, " Can we in Manipur get some peace"?

Stirring up a combustible mix of hope and action that does not entail making people in Manipur suffer, would be a perfect swan song for me, while I wonder why Meiteis show a shocking lack of shock in that, the ethnic minority Nagas have now gained a strong enough position to try to disintegrate Manipur, while other communities big or small, prefer to sit on the fence to watch the melee.

I find it inconceivable to imagine that the very shape and historical demography of this tiny and endlessly diverse patchwork state of Manipur is about to splatter on impact like a snowman. And, in these days of rising tensions and a hundred small irritations I recall a write-up by a Hmar history professor of Manipur University in a book that, "Manipur is not a gift of any community." I simply think he has a sense of scatological humour. At the risk of highfaluting, I'm tempted to say that Manipur is a gift of Meiteis to all Manipuris with their flesh and blood.

Meiteis are the autochthones of the composite Manipur; not bits and bats that migrated from China, Tibet or Thailand. I challenge anybody to provide any prehistorical/historical, or archaeological evidence, or genetic proof, that Meiteis are migrants.

Saving Manipur is again in the hands of Meiteis who should take the temperature of crisis-ridden Manipur, without sinking into complacency. I'm prepared to be the flag-bearer for any march against tyranny, when the time comes to face the music. I'm a Meitei, for whom "Manipur Sana Leibak", is my birth country, and breaking it asunder compromises my birth right.

Watching the Bollywood flick "Lagan" yesterday on my TV, in which a few Indian villagers devised a plan to win the cricket match over the seasoned British officers, gives me the idea that Meiteis need new strategic thinking to make sure that Test wickets are flat so that they have to bowl with more zip and spin.

Staring down the barrel of some community's ill-conceived ideas is to gather up the horror of it all, and the recent speech of Rajnath, Union Home Minister in Nagaland that, "Central Government is committed to do its best to fulfil the aspirations of Naga people for a brighter tomorrow" is conspicuous by the inauspicious lapse of statement referring to the integrity of neighbouring states, while exerting a benign influence on the Nagas themselves.

That speech has bought renewed fears in pit of Meitei stomach, reminding them of the Great June 18 uprising, which accrued from a careless declaration made by K L Advani, deputy PM at that time, in favour of NSCN, but to the detriment of Manipuris. He's got his comeuppance. He's licking his wounds as he was sidetracked by Atal Bihari Vajapaya, and replaced by Narendra Modi for the top job.

Although the same resentments fester in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, it's Manipur where golden ages are likely to give way to dark ages. The whole world is ready to read cowardice among Meiteis, who should prefer not to sing the tear-jerking ballad, "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina…"

There're many like-minded Meitei people, floating in a foamy broth of phobia of being drowned when the flood gate of Indo-Naga talks opens up. One such person is Lt Col M Ranjit, whose article in the Sangai Express in November 2015, illuminates with neon strobes, the shambles of Indo-Naga talk that has been rolled out across Manipur with cotton ball clouds:
"The Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isaac-Muivah) (NSCN-IM) signed an agreement on August 3, 2015. This agreement has been read by many as a successful conclusion or perhaps the roadmap towards the same in the Naga Peace talks that has been going on since April 2001. One must welcome this agreement, the fourth such peace agreement on the Naga issue since 1947, as it promises to usher in peace in the Naga dominated areas where there had been violence for many years.

The details of the agreement have not been made public. Probably the Government of India is keenly watching the reactions of all concerned before finalising the details of the agreement. At such a juncture, one needs to caution that solving the problem of Nagaland must not lead to triggering of problems in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur. If that happens then the whole purpose of peace building would become self-defeating.

The colonel has taken words from my mouth. Meanwhile, contemporary Meiteis, as the last representatives of our dream of a briefly independent Manipur from 1947 to 1949, when it was annexed to India, leading to an armed struggle for independence by Meitei insurgents, should tune in to the poem: "Manipur sana leibakna matou asumna palami/ maong asumna leirami/…" (Manipur, the golden land, flourished like so/existed in such a style/…) to pick up some echo of our past valour, particularly with its fuzzy sense of place.

The ghost of partition of Manipur has been intermittently appearing over the landscape of Manipur for 15 years. Now it's looming larger like Hamlet's apparition. It's now time for slow winnowing of facts of the Indo-Naga peace talks until, just the grittiest chaff could be thrown in the faces of the stultified, to stop radical Naga expansionism and the appeasing policy of the Union government. The territorial claim by the NSCN-IM is tales of stress and self-harm. It's not only unconstitutional, but an act of aggression in international law. How could the Union government yield to such a demand?

To avoid despair, disgrace and untimely death, Meiteis have to plough the unpleasant furrow of Manipuri nationalism. We have to forge ahead in the larger interest of 'Manipur for Manipuris'. How does this political philosophy stack up with current history? Past history is a helpless witness to current history. The problem is exacerbated because history is always telling the past through the eyes of the present, such as the "unique Naga identity" through the political evocations of the 21st century Nagas.

It's time for Meiteis to learn to be uncomfortable being comfortable, and to plan an elective course of action to thwart any attempt at disintegrating Manipur. The need of our time is to follow the political treatise by the great Italian political theorist Nicolo Machiavelli in his little book, The Prince, which I read in one hour. His book is a kind of Bible for people who want to succeed politically.

Doing the wild card shuffle, with whatever little abilities Meiteis have, they should take the offensive by executing a defensive style – a strategy that should be made familiar with all Meiteis, for use when they wake up in cold sweat. We aren't reaching out for something that's not our own, but retaining our ancestral land intact, where emotions shouldn't be a dirty word.

The deadline panicker is in front of Meiteis. The clock is ticking on Meiteis' must-be-sorted list. Meiteis must not debauch into a violent backlash like a mini 1947 partition of India, if the final Indo-Naga handshake wears them down and their illusion dissolves beneath them. It'll be a test of legendary Meitei courage, which all Meiteis but no others, eulogise.

I've always maintained "There'll Always Be An Intact Manipur". My faith is in no way shaken. Every Meitei can grasp the horror of this 'Great Divide'. The Indian Constitution accepts the age-old boundary of Manipur (as in the present map), demarcated in 1881 by a Boundary Commission under James Johnstone, defining the "State of Manipur", the sovereignty of which was handed over to Maharaja Bodhchandra at 12 midnight, Thursday August 28 1947. That included both the valley including the British Reserve, and the hills that had been under British control.

Won't it be shame to spoil the slowly prevailing peace in Manipur from the chaos of insurgency, because of massive deployment of Indian Army and paramilitary forces (1 soldier for every 4 Manipuris; 5,000 of them on patrol at any moment of time)? None-the-less, in the simmering tension, it might as well be that, Meiteis organise themselves for the kicks, flicks and spins with mind and body to parade that, it takes two to tango, but Meiteis won't be left out.

I will end this column by quoting Ranjit again: If God forbid, i say God forbid, the Government of India still decided to break the boundary of Manipur as a part of the peace agreement then I can only venture to think of the statement made by the nuclear scientists of USA on July 16, 1945 just before the trial explosion of Atomic bomb at New Mexico, "WE were reaching into the unknown and we did not know what might come of it."

I know what might come of the agreement in question if it involve disintegration of Manipur. Chaos and bloodshed. Manipur is the land of the braves, Terre des-braves.

* Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is based in the UK.
This article was posted on December 28, 2017.

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