A letter-rejoinder to Bala and some "Manipuri Feminists" : on the recent opening of an unlikely pandora's box

Rajkumar Panthoiren *

Dear addressed,

To begin with, let me "confess" I am not a big fan of your creative work unlike many of my brethren, some of whom are quite fanatic fans of yours (thankfully, I'm entitled to my opinion); as far as actresses are concerned, I have my Ellen Page, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nicole Kidman, Vivian Leigh, Anne Hathaway, Judy Davis, Jodie Foster, Kate Beckinsale, our very own Tonthoi and so on, who have my deep, abiding admiration and esteem for the substance they bring to the screen and also off-screen in their personal lives. Well, to get to that level, they certainly must have needed intelligence, grace and conviction.

Why am I telling you this, my personal taste? Because I would like to make it crystal clear in no uncertain terms that there are also (happily deviant) people like me in this land who have different tastes and thus, are not really taken in by the supposed celebrityhood of "stars" like you (and the sort of murdered, wannabe English accent and grammar propagated by your ilk). But since you have attained a considerable amount of acceptance and even fan base among certain people, what you speak out publicly carries a weight for your fans who have assigned you as some sort of a cultural and social representative.

Considering this context, let me bring into attention the current burning issue of extreme backlash against you regarding your opinion that it is okay for a Manipuri lady to be married to a non-Manipuri. Many of the comments on social media were derogatory and distasteful, along the lines of "Are you a mayang?", "You are a traitor" and so on. It is not acceptable and I apologise on behalf of those commentators.

But then, on the flipside, there might be some credible reasons for some of the outrage because even level-headed, non-opionated people have turned vocal against parts of your opinion. And that is, I believe, because of the blatantly ignorant way in which you asked rhetorically, "Akhoi mutkhidwrena mangbei kiriro? Nasagi naral do nasana uthokchabaneba adudi, ntro?" (roughly translated as: "Are we [our race] afraid of going extinct? That means you [the people] are exposing your own faults, isn't it?)

This is exactly where you went full wrong and the insensitive manner of articulation, if at all it was one, didn't help you highlight your other fine points such as the need to stay united and help one another out. Your one faulty, naive counter-question completely discredited your other logical points and thus, shows you need to work on your ideation and speaking skills. And many people (surprise! the sane and tame ones too) found your tone of speaking quite abrasive and tinged with arrogant cocksureness, which to a large extent I attest to (you weren't interacting with a bunch of kids, remember?)

Let me break down to you why that particular counter-question of yours was insensitive. Firstly, the danger of being overrun by the non-Manipuris in terms of land occupancy and population and the consequent hegemonic control over our economy, politics and even culture is imminent unless some constitutional safeguards are put in place and that is not a myth (Many would join me in replying: mane, mangkhidoinena kirine; yes, we are afraid/anxious of going extinct). This has been widely considered by local analysts as a colonial plot planted by the vested interests to subdue our people.

That aside, did you even ask yourself why the dreaded and draconian AFSPA, 1958 is still imposed on us by the beloved non-Manipuri political and strategic movers and shakers at the centre? Did you even know that an estimated 20 military soldier per civilian is posted in our state?

Did you even ask yourself 'Why this blatantly discriminative and excessive militarisation is imposed on us despite repeated oppositions'? Do you think it is our 'eral/fault' that the hands of Indian colonialism thickly guised as democracy are strangling a minority such as us in sinister, subtle ways?

Was it Manorama's 'maral' to be gang raped and then shot multiple times in places you wouldn't even want to imagine by the non-Manipuri soldiers? Was it Sharmila's 'maral' to give away her precious youth to fight against the black law? What about those young people like Robinhood who died during protests for safeguarding our identity?

Lastly, as a matter of principle, marrying a non-Manipuri, considering our fractured social reality catalysed by the designs of the bigger non-Manipuri players, is a no-no for many of our people. It doesn't mean Manipuris haven't married outsiders in the past or will not marry in the future too. And those who did marry outsiders haven't been excommunicated or lynched. But again, for many people with genuine nationalistic leanings (which actually is not a bad thing, the last time I checked), such marriages are ideologically treacherous. They have their reasons and justifiably so.

As much as you are free to exercise your individuality in terms of choice of a life-partner (frankly, I don't care who, local or otherwise, you marry or not), you need to be aware of the unique social milieu of our people while publicly speaking on matters touching upon identity politics. And the tone in which you delivered that notorious counter-question – please do get it checked soon by a voice trainer or better still, someone well-versed in social etiquette. Sometimes, you need to separate reality from cinematic snobbery.

By the way, on a related note, any male actor, if he had raised the same insensitive counter-question as you did, wouldn't have been spared the backlash either. Could you imagine Kaiku or Bonny saying the same line, in the notorious Bala tone, "Akhoi mutkhidwrena mangbei kiriro? Nasagi naral do nasana uthokchabaneba adudi, natro?" and be showered with thunderous claps? Maybe in a distant dreamland. How about some pinch of reality?


Here comes the interesting part. Some self-appointed outside-state educated (no prizes for guessing which University) Manipuri feminists have a uniting feature— conveniently divorced from social reality and its dynamics, and reacting at every turn of the corner by spewing the overused word "patriarchy" as if they have acquired an involuntary reflex for that. And the western-imported words like "mansplaining", which they brandish conveniently every time a man voices his opinion (dear hypersensitive, entitled feminists, an opinion/an analysis from some level-headed guy and a derogatory remark from a social media cretin are like feminism and biased feminism, Iboton Apaibi and Batman, Jack and Ross, yongchak and singju, etc etc- meaning they are poles apart with a huge chasm defined). What does that word even mean?

So, your logic is like: in patriarchy, a woman's well thought opinion is discarded mercilessly, without considering its merit. So, using our tags as feminists why not discard a man's well thought opinion in today's time because that would be a sweet revenge, ain't it? Plus, we get to use such derogatory and radical feminist propagandist terms like "mansplaining" which have only helped widen the gender divide rather than stitch it.

By this logic, aren't you replicating the vices of patriarchy yourself? Oh, try some originality, will you? Maybe too much of exposure to your copy-cat, redundant mainstream Bollywood movies have ruined your critical thinking faculty or you didn't possess one in the first place? So sad (not really; being stupid and superficial is a choice).

And funnily and strangely enough, in the wake of this imbroglio, we got to see some mentally handicapped males, who have got the definition of feminism all mixed up just like the current crop mentioned above posting on social media like "All Meitei men are so shit. But women are angels." (the male-hating and denigrating version, blaming patriarchy's existence in today's time and age solely on men, while turning their backs on the role of passive acceptance by women.) The hordes of bewitched female feminists agreeing and nodding in the comments section is unsurprising.

When did painting one whole group with a single, judgemental brush become the basis of the fight for gender equality? God knows, or should I say, entitled feminists know! Ah, the exquisitely imposed asphyxiation of that sweet thing called rationality!

These men, without doubt, are an annoyingly big part of the problem of perpetuating gender division. I adore them so much that I have given them a name: 'fem-male desperados' (a cocktail word, feminist-male; yeah, turns out non-feminists can also invent quite quirky and useless terms, ladies). They are always passively and sometimes actively engaged in appeasing the biased feminists' camp.

Final note: When the outrage has multiple dimensions, you only choose to see what you want to see and that is patriachal oppression of a woman's opinion. Fair enough, that was done by some people, including women too, mind you. But tell me, geniuses, how did you even manage to turn the matter into a by men-only oppression narrative? Are you that deaf and naive not to see the biased jibes of many women too when the actress in question affirmed her stance on the legitimacy of a Manipuri marrying a non-Manipuri?

Or, you just looked the other way so could start your male-bashing diatribe? Come on, people are not so dumb not to realise that. By the way, I saw how your group supported personal attack against a man, a relatively new political activist who just happened to give his opinion (who supposedly you had supported till he started showing his true colors: an unapologetic concern for his land even at the risk of being politically incorrect.) That is what is called an ad hominem response that goes to show how shallow your comebacks are, if at all they can be considered as comebacks.

Is your version of feminism 'Let's-jump-on-any-chance-to-blame-and-mock-men-because-we-like-to-ignore-patriachal-women' and 'While-we-are-at-it-let's-also-create-a-gender-war-because-that-is-feminism-to-us'? How about doing away with your long-held, personal grudges and biases, and choosing objective analysis for the benefit of one and all?

And lastly, individual freedom (the 'my body, my choice' so-called progressive type) of any person (of both genders) is not more essential than that of the people's collective freedom when the latter is in dangerous waters. We owe to where we belong, and not the other way round (sorry, not even in feminist utopia.) Oops, reality not your cup of tea?

Not a fan.

* Rajkumar Panthoiren wrote this article for
The writer can be contacted at panthoirk94(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on July 13, 2017 and later updated on July 15 2017 for some addtions.

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