TODAY -

On the Question of Nation and Nationality

MSAD *

Manipur Students' Association Delhi (MSAD) Logo



After about hundred to two hundred years when Europe has long engaged the question of nation and nationality, MSAD seeks to revisit the question on the same in the present context of Manipur. It comes at a time when the dilemma of having failed to answer the question on nation and nationality by various movements and organisations and interested contesting parties brings out the need to do so.

The question of nation begins with "what is Manipur?" Is it just a territorial state inside India having taken part in the political formation of Indian nation-state or is it a South East Asian nation as proclaimed by many narratives?

The existing discourses concentrate on the contradiction between India as a nation and Manipur as a past independent nation of South East Asia, thereby creating the discourse of WESEA.

By looking at the socio-cultural and economic-political realities that have failed to produce a shared collective imagination of being a nation, we want to re-examine the idea of nation which has been the basis of various mainstream movements that have dominated the discourses and narratives on nation and nationality.

For too long, the concept of nation has been based on the idea of the dominant narrative of the lost Meetei nation that has a "civilization of two thousand years." This dominant narrative in the process created an exclusion that failed to incorporate the various aspirations of all the oppressed people. In the present time if the imagination of Manipur as a nation do exist, it is only in the sense of a Meetei nation, an idea of nation that is built on the denial of the historical existence of various oppressed people.

And it is in the above case that we want to make certain clarifications between what we see as a Meetei nation and what we see as a Meetei state (state in the sense of an organised political power). We see that the historical understanding of Manipur has been the idea of two thousand years of civilization, while the civilizational history being only a history of state and state power, of kings and queens, of landed aristocracy.

Therefore, we understand that the state power has been in the hands of the landed aristocracy and nobility of Manipur, and when we talk of the two thousand year old Meetei civilization we understand it as the national aspiration of the landed aristocracy and nobility so as to serve the interest of the only ruling few.

So, when we open the most legitimised book of the civilizational history called "Cheitharol Kumbaba" we find only the names of queens and kings, not its subjects such as the Meetei peasant or a labourer. Therefore, we see the narrative of Manipuri nation vis--vis Meetei nation has been the narrative of the landed aristocracy and nobility through the narration of history of state power.

Now this is where we want to make certain assertions that the so called Meetei nation has been nothing but the representation of the landed aristocracy and the nobility at the expense of repressing certain national aspirations of the common everyday peasants, labourers and those far away from state power. Through this critique we want to connect the national aspirations that are contradictory to the Meetei nation state, like the Naga national aspiration, or the push for political economic and social emancipations by the Pangals etc.

It is in the contradiction against the Meetei nation state represented by the landed aristocracy and nobility that we find the unity in struggle and a common national aspiration to overthrow the remnants of the above mentioned Meetei nation state and other colonial forces by the collective forces of the repressed, poor and exploited Meeteis, Nagas, Kukis, Pangals and all other subjects of that two thousand years old state.

We are very much concerned on the position of the privileged class that has monopoly on various movements for ages. The poor Meeteis who have not much hands in the state power are subjects of the state power and must find unity and solidarity with other oppressed subjects of the state, be it Pangals, Nagas, Kukis etc. instead of finding reminiscence and glorification of the oppressive regime of the Meetei nation state.

Viva La Revolucion!


* MSAD Manipur wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at msad(DOT)manipur(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on February 16, 2018.



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