E-Pao! Opinion - Paradox of minority and periphery strike back in Manipur

Paradox of minority and periphery strike back in Manipur

By: Ningreingam Shimrah *

The then Prime Minister of India late Nehru called present Manipur as 'Jewel of the East'. Topographically Manipur can be divided into two i.e. the valley and the hill. The Meitei community, who are in majority numerically, inhabits the valley and on the other hand the tribal, who are in minority, inhabits the hill.

The valley part of Manipur was once a princely State, ruled by the Maharajas; it has a rich cultural and literary tradition. Later on, the Meiteis cultural belief systems were effectively influenced by the Hindu Vaishanavism belief system, and as a result it has brought a paradigm shift in the belief system of the Meitei people.

And today, to a large extent the Meiteis consider Hindu as their religion and practice contentedly. Thus, the idea and concept of purity and Hindu Brahmanical practices were imbibed by the Meitei people thereby, considered the hill inhabitance people mostly the Nagas and the Kukis as 'Hao' or uncivilized people.

The Hills of Manipur are inhabited by the so-called 'Hao' or uncivilized people i.e. the Nagas and the Kukis who proudly claimed that they are settling in their indigenous land, which was given to them by their forefather. They also happily practice their old age traditional cultural practices and later on they were converted into Christianity, and today, they also proudly professed Christianity as their religion.

The hill people inhabited on a hilltop with numerous villages are governed and ruled by the village elders or the village chiefs. Thus, unlike the valley this part of the land was not ruled by the Meitei Maharajas at any point of time, but governed by the village elder or village chief through a democratic procedure.

The Meitei Maharajas failed to rule the hill areas because, probably because it was not possible for the Maharajas to climb the hill and do not perceived the need for controlling the hill areas after all it is inhabited by the uncivilized people.

Thus, considered not important for both geographical and demographic consideration. But today the attitude has changed and it has a different image.

Gradually, this once princely State was also annex and merged into the India Union along with the other Northeastern States, thus ending the long age traditional Maharajas rule and became part of the Indian Union. Later on, the hill areas along with the Valley merged into Indian Union and formed the present Manipur State.

In both the valley and the hill, the British and the Indian ruler did not ascertain the people's consent at the time of merger. As a result people especially from the hill and particularly the Nagas strongly agitated against the merger of their land into the valley and subsequently into the Indian Union.

The equal amount of resistance was not visible in the valley at that time. The Nagas still committed and continues their struggle till date.

Today, however, the neo conservative thinking Meitei community are regretting for what their predecessor have done in the past (i.e. cultural assimilation and merging to the Indian Union).

Thus, attempts are being made to restore back the old age rich political and cultural tradition, and as the outcome of their attempt incidents like banning of the Hindi movies in the valley of Manipur, burning of the Bengali script books and an attempt to replaced it by their own script and denouncing the Indian state etc. are some of the emotional regrets manifested by the Meitei people in recent times.

A kind of Cultural Revolution is on in the Valley of Manipur at present.

The valley people seem to have woken up from their sleep and today, they are trying to reclaim back their past glory and ironically blame the Indian state and the Hindu religion and partly to the Nagas for their political misfortune.

Hence, the consequences like the banning of Hindi movies in the valley and followed by attacking the Government buildings and public library etc. Vehement agitation against the removal of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) is one area where the Meiteis try to get mileage and empathy from non-Meiteis.

All these attacks in a way manifested the frustration of the valley people against the symbols of the Indian state power and forces. Some Meitei assert that they wanted to restore back their freedom and independent Kingdom of the past. In this entire episode the hill people seem to have shown their outmost restrain for not going against the Meitei people.

I say this because the government building or the public library properties etc. does not solely belong to the Meiteis but it is also equally the property of others/non-Meitei as well. This in a way reflects the Meiteis intolerance attitudes towards the other communities' rights and their existence in the present Manipur state.

Again, the agitation that triggered in the Valley in the recent years following the Government of India announcement that the Indo-NSCN (IM) ceasefire be extended to Manipur state left the entire state with total anarchy and chaos. And the subsequence provocative slogan against the Nagas like 'there are no Nagas in Manipur, all the hill people are Meiteis etc. and the subsequent declaration by the Government of Manipur that the 18th June be declared as 'Martyr's' day and hence declaring as state holiday.

This not only expresses their sense of intolerance towards the minority in the state but it is also a sheer expression of their fear and insecurity of their existence in the Indian state hence asserting the majoritarianism force seem to be the only option left. This declaration was however, feverishly opposed by All Naga Students Association of Manipur (ANSAM) and called for a month long economic blockade in the two National Highway i.e. NH 39 and NH 53.

The paradox is that the Meiteis are in majority in Manipur when it comes to the numerical demographical factors but in the geographical terms they just have merely 10 per cent of the total land in the present State and the rest belong to the Nagas and the Kukis.

Today, Meiteis are so concern about the others land and when to the extent of giving their life and not even sure whether the Nagas exist and own those land in Manipur or not. It is high time that the Meiteis should start respecting the other people and the land and not just respecting the land alone, which they have done in the past.

In doing this the Meiteis will be also respected by other people. The matter of the fact is that Meitei cannot afford to lose the neigh-borhood of the Nagas and the Kukis.

Thus, if they continue to assert their majoritarianism power without respecting and recognizing the presence of the minority then the minority can also effectively play their parts, which can equally cause the damage, we have witnessed this dramatic politics played out by the Meiteis and the Nagas over the years.

Meiteis should not act as if they are blind rather they should open their social eyes and admit the reality. The Meitei should not continue to ignore the presence of the Nagas of Manipur in the future.

The majority of the Meitei's attitudes of we love your land and the resources but really not the people have made the non-Meiteis difficult to live together in one political unit. The mass rapes carried out by non-tribal UGs in the Churachanpur district are some of the worse incident that took place in the civilized world.

The latest hill house tax collected by the United Naga Council (UNC) and attempted to submit to the Central government is a clear testimony that the Nagas of Manipur can no longer be part of Manipur state. The matter of the fact is that it is not just the house tax and the money but more importantly Nagas do not feel worthy to be a part of that state.

Again, the UNC have directed all the private schools in the four Naga hill district of Manipur to affiliate in the Nagaland Board of Secondary School (NBSC). All these reflect the total failure of the Manipur state legitimacy to rule over the people. This is nothing but the reflection and the outcome of the failed and intolerance state towards the minority community in the state.

The latest ongoing agitation by the All Tribal Students' Union Manipur (ATSUM) regarding the failure of the State in fulfilling the 33% reservation of job in the Government services for the tribal community is another example of the repeated failed story of the state towards the tribal community in the state.

According to the ATSUM released in the Morung Newspaper dated 29th June stated that" the State Government conventional reservation of 33% for SC/ST has rooms for manipulations and encourage the recruitment practices of Adhoc / casual / muster-roll / work-charge / part-time / contract / substitution so as to avoid reservation norms."

It is also pertinent to see that the Manipur University is presently under processes of recruiting 21 professors, 23 posts of reader and 23 lecturer posts where only one post is reserved for ST and only two reserved for SC, this is a clear indication of violation of the reservation of the State's own policy.

All these categorically testify how majority community in the State often takes away even the very rights of the minority community, overlooked and deprived by the Government. Under this circumstance it is crucial to see the life of the tribal community in Manipur, who often live with insecurity in their own state.

Today, it would not be wrong to say that this 'Jewel of the East' has turned into a 'scandalous State'.

Ningreingam Shimrah wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on August 07th, 2006

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