TODAY -

The Wretched People Of Manipur And Their Aspirations
- Part 2 -

Puyam Nongdrei *

Maps showing the hill districts, particularly the Naga dominated districts of Manipur
Manipur Maps showing the different districts



In Manipur, the counter-insurgency forces have indulged in the 'strategy of barbarism' by committing atrocities such as rape, murder, torture and enforced disappearance to destroy the people's WILL and CAPACITY to fight. However, India will find it extremely difficult to escalate the level of violence and brutality beyond a certain level. Many armed groups and armed gangsters also have attacked civilians intentionally or unintentionally causing loss of lives, psychological trauma and disabilities. The suffering of the people continues unabated.

Interestingly, India government is trying to stop or delay the development of anti-war constituency through subsequent public debates and discussions, reaching the 'marketplace of ideas'. By filtering the battlefield news and brutalities, like any other governments, India government is trying their best to stop reaching the same to the people elsewhere that can lead to anti-war protests within the country and abroad.

Moreover, the government of India uses the anti-Chinese or Sinophobia of the general Indian citizens to favour its activities in northeast telling the danger posed by China to India's security on the eastern flank implicitly citing the doubtful loyalty of the people of the north eastern states to India. India, therefore, uses its anti-China rhetoric to stir the sentiments of the people from time to time by playing racial similarities to serve its policy of naked violence towards the mongoloid races in north eastern states.

Besides, the strategy of isolation is applied in Manipur through two measures namely 'benevolent conversion' and 'intimidation'. Ethnically, or otherwise heterogeneous population of Manipur is victim of 'divide and rule' which is practiced as part of counter-insurgency strategy. The hill brethren are more prone to conversion and intimidation because of their geographical isolation and poor socio-economic development. Thus suitable 'draconian measures', violence and coercive measures are taken to generate fear and a 'reign of terror' is established in Manipur for decades.

As India cannot think of shedding its democratic colour to suit its activities in north east and Kashmir, India's military actions will become more and more costly with each passing day as more economic and political clout in international politics demands more responsibilities on its part. There has to be an end to the militaristic policy of India with increasing political consciousness of the people and their resistance to naked violence. Hiding the ongoing conflict in this age of information technology is another issue that India government cannot handle for long.

The civil society organisations that are active both in the valley and hill districts need to look beyond the 'small cocoons of ethnicity' to safeguard and further the 'collective interests'. At the same time we should not forget that blind devotion to the organisation over rational study of the socio-economic and political realities of Manipur and the northeast as a whole will be a costly affair. The importance of the said organisations should not be for the organisations' sake but for the cause that the organisations stand, work and sacrifice. And that cannot be something detrimental to the welfare of the people that they claim to represent.

Besides, reclaiming and understanding the national heritage of this land can pave the way to our national rejuvenation. We need to understand the place of the hill ranges surrounding the valley and the valley that is encircled by the hill ranges. Moreover, the people need to respect the age-old ties that bind the destiny of the two into one. One must learn new ideas and old ideas from the bloody pages or the pages that tell the never ending stories of love, unison and fraternity between the hill and plain.

Here, one must remember the proclamation of His Highness Maharaja Bodh Chandra on the inaugural function of the first Manipur State Assembly on 18 October 1948. He said: "I expect that every one of you, as a part of his obligation, will take care to acquaint himself with the mode of life on hills too by studying the four walls of the territory of Manipur...."

Our focus should be on studying the actual realities that the people of the state are facing right now. Their pain must be our pain. If we fail to see their problems and feel the pain of their wretchedness, no organisation should claim to be representing the interests of the people.

The proclamation also says: "Do the right that you may be brave. Whether you use pen or tongue, let your hearts be pure; and your resolve, manly. The prosperity of a nation does not depend on the number of buildings, but it depends on the number of men of character- that is, radiant man of well-disciplined mould."

Manipur being a multiethnic state has citizens having multiple loyalties to ethnicity, language, religion and others. As the loyalty of the citizens is prerequisite for the survival of the state, the institutions and conduct of its authorities must work ceaseless to earn the loyalty of its citizens. By loyalties, citizens contribute to the preservation of the political society and state need to produce men of character with its goods and services to the masses.

A major task of the state is to forge, promote and defend its 'distinctive identity' (read Manipur) by overcoming those deformations of loyalty that tend to pervert political loyalty by subsuming it under a religious or ethnic loyalty. Citizens of Manipur are losing trust and confidence in the state because of the distributive injustices, undelivered goods and services, inability to safeguard their interests and living up to their expectations.

As the aspirations of the people increases day-by-day following their exposure to other places in the country and the world, they have started questioning the accountability and role of the state government which claims to be representing the interests of the people.

Social exclusion of some groups from the social goods and services is linked with inadequate realisation of social rights. It looks into the question of basic rights of citizenship as guarantee of minimum standard of living and participation in major economic opportunities in society. We know the condition of the people living in the far-flung areas of the state. Even the capital city and other towns have lack of minimal infrastructure to run the daily life of the citizens smoothly.

A larger section of the people faces denial of access to the valued goods and service in society. There is lack of adequate resources to be effective, contributing member of society at the same time facing denial of recognition as full and equal participants in society. Actually, there is no lack of resources but denial to the larger section by a minority group for their vested interests and their desire of getting richer. Now, Manipur is more or less a divided house with diverse ethnic groups fighting for their parochial interests.

Even a majority of the Meeteis cannot think beyond the valley thereby pushing the state of the affair to the lowest rank. We cannot be indifferent to the vital interests of the people living in other parts of the state saying Meeteis have nothing to do with Ukhrul or Tamenglong for there are no Meeteis. To be frank our elected representatives do not serve properly the constituencies from where they are elected forgetting about serving the state. The need of the hour is to produce leaders who can 'think and work' for Manipur as a whole without subjection to any barrier of ethnicity, language and religion.

We need to find out those sections of the people which have been excluded from the benefits of the present corrupt system and make every possible effort to reach out to them.

The history of Manipur is not complete without citing the battles fought at Kakching, Wangjing, Pallel and other places in present day Chandel district. Similarly, many important historical events that shook the Kingdom took place in different parts of Manipur and elsewhere. Integrating these events into a single history binds the land and people together forming the national heritage of the people of Manipur.

We now see two forces hitting the 'core' which represents the region(s) benefitted by the system and the inhabitants of such areas as target of the hill districts and peripheral regions in the Imphal valley. Time is ripe for those who can travel the 'length and breadth' of the state to wake up and know Manipur. Firstly, their ears must hear the true voice of the people and their eyes must see the actual misery of the people to work for them. Political education of the masses is now a historical necessity to rebuild our national unity.

The black sheep who are destroying the land and taking advantage of the present situation must be booked at the earliest by the combined strength of our politically conscious masses. Because of their dirty acts, there is a regression going on- 'switching back from nation to ethnic group and from state to tribe'. Those groups who have access to power and resources of the state living in their world of narrow-mindedness, cut off from the people and who cannot evaluate pressing issues on the basis of the state as a whole need to change their inward-looking mentality. They also have to play an important role to bring back the national unity for their sacrifice for the larger and collective interests speaks directly to the marginalised section of the state.

Controlling their obsession with the immediate interests without seeing further than the end of their nose would help in building a solid, constructive foundation on which a new Manipur can be rebuilt. Those who live in relatively 'prosperous regions' of the state need to reach out to the rest of the state where many who have been systematically denied of any substantial benefit from the state live.

By doing this, the crumbling national unity and the lost solid foundation of our national consciousness can be restored up to a certain extent. Most importantly, the political education and greater consciousness that comes with this will strengthen the bond of nationhood against nefarious elements. This will also strengthen the ground under our feet to face the strong winds of globalisation sweeping across the region in future.

The state government should come out of its couch always trying to 'stabilise the regime and perpetuate the domination of the few elements'. Our elected leaders should not become mere agents representing the moral force behind which few anti-social elements make money to grow rich. Instead of erecting imposing edifices in the capital and continue with some of the 'prestige projects' here and there, a well thought out development programme is the need of the time.

Our luchingpurel must stop acting like the 'CEO of the government of some profiteers' who are trying to get the most out of the situation. The harmful bourgeois elements in our society which thrive with or with the blessing of the state lack productivity. They are parasites which suck the public fund to finance their lavish lifestyle without industries and manufacturing units of any sort in our land.

Simple talking about development while pointing at the 'diagrams and statistics' only on paper has caused immense loss to our national life. While millions have been sanctioned for road connectivity, villagers are ploughing the roads with vehicles every rainy season with no permission to sow paddy on it. Also, commuters on the road are experiencing Arabian Desert like sand storms living in Manipur every dry season.

In the language of Frantz Fanon (1963):
"The people understand that wealth is not the fruit of labour but the spoils from an organised protection racket. The rich no longer seem respectable men but flesh-eating beasts, jackals and ravens who wallow in the blood of the people".

However, many continue to pay blind eyes to corrupt background of many such self-styled social workers and leaders and decorate their necks with garlands. The masses also need to realise that the government is at their service not the other way round. Now, the Manipur government gets a people it deserves; at the same time, the people of Manipur also get the government they deserve.

The present trend is that of people sacrificing their well-being for the sake of few corrupt politicians and their fellow profiteers. Again, without healthy social capital, we have a bad situation which is characterised by 'everybody suspecting everybody' and 'everybody against everybody'. There is repeated failure on the part of the civil society organisation to lead the masses against the corrupt practices of the government officials.

Nevertheless, many civil society organisations are also toeing the line of Manipur government asking the general public to sacrifice their interests for the self-proclaimed leaders so that they can get recognition from the established politicians and contest elections or get some contract works for making a good sum. May be it is because of this that many organisations have no true followers among the masses but those few who are also toeing the line think of getting 'something' not for the genuine cause. At least this is what many feel nowadays.

As acts of mystifying and numbing the senses of the masses cannot go on forever, our leaders must start connecting with the masses, listen to their voices and see the miserable lots of the land. A new start, a new way of thinking is the best means available to all of us. Even though there is requirement for modern infrastructures in the capital city, we cannot bring development to the people of Manipur with few modern high rises and their glittering looks.

That glitter will not kill the hunger of those sitting on the hilltops far away or those who get to hear only of such concrete structures that will fade with the passage of time. A sustainable economic development programme is one that will change the lives of the impoverished people of Manipur not just few who can afford lavish lifestyle.

The most sustainable development programme in our state can start with HEETA which stands for Health, Education, Electricity, Transportation and Agriculture. A healthy and educated population who have access to better transportation throughout the state will make better use of electricity and the cultivable land of the state to increase the GDP of the state.

Better living conditions of the people and means of livelihood will change the face of the state. More people will engage in agricultural and allied services to sell their surplus produce to the markets both within and beyond Manipur using the better transport networks. More and more educated and trained manpower of the state will use electricity to connect them with the world thus helping in human resource development.

All the hill districts and the far flung villages living in the valley districts can change the destiny of Manipur provided the people have access to HEETA. We need no multi-storeyed buildings with glittering glass panes in the hill districts to show the presence of the administration. Nobody is asking for building Eiffel Tower, or Palm Island or Taj Mahal in Manipur. We need these minimal infrastructures to start anew for a better future.

Let's hope our leaders will not exclude dusty roads and unavailability of potable water from their definition of health and hygiene. One can cite many more examples of such loopholes in the development works. Without electricity, children are forced to study in dim light which affects their eyesight and this is very connected with the health of the individuals.

Hope every right thinking citizen of this land start shouting for the same as our survival and continuity is directly connected with the minimal infrastructures of HEETA.

The elected representatives of this land should stop using the army and police force as pillars of their unpopular regime and instead seek the people to be the solid foundation of their authority and hence the need for serving people. As prosperity of the nation does not depend on some 'prestige projects', we need development projects that reach the people first.

Such an approach to life will also help in reversing the trend of our sisters turning their backs on the state and marrying Mayangs who happen to be richer and leading a better life elsewhere without the fear of army men knocking the doors late at night. Our wretchedness and sub-human living conditions under repressive policy of the state have nothing to provide but despair and hopelessness. Most importantly, the grass-root level economic development programmes can bring hope to end the wretchedness of the people and most importantly it shall establish the national unity and ensure survival in the face of rough winds of globalisation.

Reference:
Frantz Fanon (1963), The Wretched of the Earth, New York: Grove Press.
Renate Zahar (2010), Frantz Fanon- Colonialism and Alienation, Delhi: Aakar Books.
Thant Myint-U (2011), Where China Meets India, London: Faber and Faber Limited.
Gil Merom (2003), How democracies lose small wars, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Mayengbam, Anand Mohan Singh (2005), "Shillong 1949", Imphal: Lamyanba Printers.
R.C. Vermani (2006), Citizenship in a globalised world, New Delhi: KK Publications.
Steve Biko (2002), I write what I like, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Concluded...




* Puyam Nongdrei wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at khuman_mei(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was posted on December 21, 2012.



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