TODAY -

In defence of ancestral land and freedom

Dennis Misao *

 Memorial stone unveiled at C Aisan village in Saikul sub division of Kangpokpi on October 16 2019
Memorial stone unveiled at C Aisan village in Saikul sub division of Kangpokpi on October 16 2019 :: Pix - TSE



An eight word slogan coined by the Anglo-Kuki War Centenary Commemoration Committee and in usage for the last two years has only recently caused alarm bells to start ringing in all the wrong places for all the wrong reasons.

No such fuss was created at the inaugural event of the 3 year Centenary celebrations in Lonpi Village in 2017 when the honorable Education Minister had participated as Chief Guest.

The honorable Minister had also unveiled a monument at the event which bore the same slogan, and laid a wreath in honor of the departed souls.

In 2018, when the next phase of the 3 year event was held at Tuibong, the honorable Health Minister in his capacity as Chief Guest had unveiled another monolith with the same dreaded 8 words. Incidentally he had also laid a wreath in obeisance of the fallen warriors.

It is not as if no one had any idea what the Anglo-Kuki War Centenary Commemoration Committee were up to. If after 2 long and uneventful years, critics of the slogan have only recently begun to cry foul, I must commend them for their sharp powers of observation.

It is perhaps native habit to be dim-witted. No wonder the rest of India looks down upon our mannerisms with disdain.

A slogan meant to adorn memorial stones of brave hearts who stood up to the mighty British has now become an object of scorn and suspicion. Such criticism of the departed is not warranted, even by our own low standards.

Perhaps the problem lies with an interpretation of the word "Ancestral ".

In the Kuki Custom and usage, all land and property is inherited from our ancestors, and passed on from generation to generation through the line of male patriarchy. The genealogical tree is kind of a big deal for us. This institution has withstood the test of time. It is the basis of who we are. It is the basis of who we aspire to be.

Another problem lies with an interpretation of the word "Freedom ". If freedom implies the state of not being enslaved, then that is exactly what the Anglo Kuki War of 1917 - 1919 was all about. Our forefathers chose to fight rather than suffer the ignominy of servitude in the Labour Corps.

The biggest problem lies with an interpretation of the word "Land ". Land, by definition does not exist in a vacuum. It exists to perform a collective function.

However, this definition is poorly understood by all the communities that make up the state of Manipur. If good fences make good neighbors, then we have consistently broken fences all around the land. Hence, the land is increasingly transformed into factories of dissent.

This is not about rewriting history. Or geography. The historical events of 1917-1919 have already been written at length.

Enough water has flowed down this bridge already, and I am not in the mood for another history lesson. History, by itself has enough burdens of its own and scholars are often at pains to carry it objectively.

This is not about history at all. This is about giving a fitting tribute to the memory of the valiant Kuki Chiefs who led their people through a most turbulent time.

They provided strength and leadership, courage and fortitude when their people needed it the most. They set an example for us to follow. Hopefully, their feats will not go unrecognized. Hopefully, this will bring some closure to the souls of the departed.

Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.


* Dennis Misao wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at lungphou(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on Ocotber 17, 2019 .


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