TODAY -

The tyranny of ignorance (or the curious case of disowning one's own self)

Thokchom Wangam *



I have been a student of history for more than five years now having just completed my masters recently. This institutional learning of history has taught me a lot about the happenings in Britain and America, the revolutions in France and Russia, and the disasters that engulfed Germany and Japan. I know my Pallavas from my Cholas, the debates surrounding the behemoth that was the Mughal Empire, the coming of the Wellesley(s) and Cornwallis(s), about Chauri-Chaura and Jallianwala Bagh. The scarring experiences of the Partition, the violence involved, and the hostile relationship which has existed since then have been drilled into me. I would, however, be all at sea if you were to ask me anything about Manipur, the land where I am from. This, I have slowly realized isn't accidental at all.

To borrow from Michel-Rolph Trouillot, "the production of historical narratives involves the uneven contribution of competing groups and individuals who have unequal access to the means for such production." In other words, there is politics involved in the writing and production of history, with groups of people often enjoying hegemony over such a process. To write a history is to take a stand, to make a statement. Historical facts can be, and indeed are, utilized in myriad ways to make a claim. What happens, however if one forget the facts in the first place?

Reading about the happenings in Manipur over the last couple of weeks, I am overcome by a sense of déjà vu. It feels like we have been here before, have shouted ourselves hoarse time and again, have burnt countless tyres and have endured enough rubber bullets and tear gas shells; but still it is as if we have never moved on from 2001 or 2004 or 2009 or 2012, well you get the picture. Robinhood wasn't the first and it is increasingly looking like he won't be the last. I have tied my mind into knots questioning why no one has done anything to change the situation aside from just questioning why it happened. It seems to me that we as a society are continuously fire-fighting from one problem to the next.

'Save Manipur' screams the red ink on the walls and the bodies, 'protect Manipur's integrity' screams the hundreds on the streets. Look a little closer and this is not Manipur. This is Imphal, the Meiteis. I have no sympathy for majoritarianism of any kind, and I admit Manipuri nationalism smacks of Meitei-domination. But that isn't the only facet of a 'Manipuri-ness'. It is interesting to note that whenever the so-called 'mainstream media' talks about Manipur, it is always in terms of Naga or Kuki or Meitei, but never in terms of a 'Manipuri'. Why talk about Assamese or the Tripuris or the Arunachalis then? It would be a mistake to fall into, for want of a better word, an 'ethnicized' mind-set. Tribes, I would argue, can be created, for instance, the Zeliangrong and the Chakesang tribes.

This is not an enquiry into the question of 'tribes' or ethnicity but rather an attempt to recover a past and perhaps, find a way forward from the present. The modern history of Manipur remains poorly understood based more on hearsay and pre-conceived notions. October 15 of every year remains as a black day and yet no one looks into the significance and the history behind the day. No one appreciates the fact that the state of Manipur had the first assembly in the entire South Asia, which was elected based on universal adult franchise. It is Manipur's misfortune that this assembly never got a chance to function properly, disbanded as it was when Manipur became a part of India and came under the direct rule of one person. The bud of a new awakening was snipped off as soon as the old colonial masters left and a new one took its place.

If one cannot talk of a 'Manipur' today, it is precisely because the process of creating that 'Manipur' wasn't completed. I have people from Manipur whom I count as my friends but who doesn't consider themselves as 'Manipuris'. This wasn't necessarily the case as shown by the camaraderie between members of that assembly or a cursory glance at the history of the proscribed UNLF would show. The chance for a 'daily referendum' was never afforded to the people of Manipur; instead what followed was six bloody decades of 'military rule'.

The past which I am grappling with today is an attempt to answer a question which I asked myself back in 2011. Delhi was witnessing a spurt of movements in support of Sharmila then (a certain Anna Hazare had gone on a fast) while the highways of Manipur had been blockaded for more than 70 days. Articulating the deeply unsettling racist attitude which I have encountered since my arrival in the national capital a year back and concerned as I am now about who I am, I had asked 'What is to be done?'. This was following Lenin's pamphlet published in 1902 titled 'What is to be Done? Burning Questions of our Movement'. This pamphlet would play an important role in the emergence of the Bolsheviks and the eventual success of the Russian revolution. While nowhere near as profound as Lenin's, my article did raise several questions none of which I had answers to then.

I still don't have answers, but at least now I feel I am going on a path. It upsets me greatly that people are sharply divided and there is seemingly no common platform. The question is not of whether Meiteis attacked the Kukis or a Naga molested a 'Meitei' actress. Violence in any form is deplorable. It has to be realized that the tactic of 'divide and rule' is a favourite of any colonial power, whatever flag they may fly. I had started with how the Partition of India and Pakistan has scarred both. It is to be remembered that it was talks of 'Muslim-contiguous areas' and 'Muslim-dominated areas' that had led to Partition. It is disheartening to see this being played out on the 'eastern frontier' as well. The partition hadn't solved any Hindu-Muslim problems and it would be foolhardy to expect one to solve the Naga-Meitei problems.

I now speak directly to you my friends, my peer-group. It is said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I would say it is far more dangerous to forget and ignore one's own history. Our identities (however incomplete they may be) claims and demands a part of the land into which we were born. I am indecently restless, patience is something which I don't have and I am increasingly getting disillusioned with the same-old talk of our older ones.

The tyranny of ignorance has seemingly taken a hold on all of them. A new imagination demands a clean slate and an appreciation of one's own past. Meiteis need to stop taking a big brother's role. The continued existence of Manipur is an endeavour in which all of should have an equal stake. An acknowledgement of one's own history needs to precede the start of a journey towards 'liberte, egalite, fraternite'.

If as Marx says, 'history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce', then the Partition of India and Pakistan was a tragedy by all accounts. Let us not wait for the farce to play out in Manipur.


* Thokchom Wangam wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at wangamth(At)yahoo(doT)com
This article was posted on August 26 2015.


* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.




LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Kanchan Soibam :: eRang Photos
  • Handloom @Temporary Market #2:: Gallery
  • Ahing Ama : Book (short story) review
  • Seminar on 'Life of Gangmumei Kamei' #3
  • Oil happy in Manipur
  • Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2017 at Imphal
  • NE students hail Higher Education initiative
  • Forced Displacement of Chin Civilians
  • National Robotic- 'Escalade 6.0' @IIT Ghy
  • Winners take it all : BJP on a roll
  • Opportunity towards progress
  • NEROCA, 2nd Div League winner:: Gallery
  • Thounaojam Loiyangamba :: Gallery
  • Nachom Arts Residency #1 :: Gallery
  • Bombing of a bridge in 1944 during WWII
  • Road side hawker culture in Khwairamband
  • Maharaja Bodhachandra Samadhi :: 360 °
  • Jadhav case: Return to India will need more
  • Admission Counselling in NE, Delhi
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Letting professionals run DIPR
  • Articulating freedom of speech
  • HSE 2017 : Toppers in Science :: Gallery
  • CCpur victims laid to rest :: Gallery
  • Class XII result announced :: Gallery
  • 2nd Startup Weekend Imphal
  • Interdependence is key to #endTB
  • Urban flood effective mgmt strategies #2
  • Public Meet resolves No Oil Exploration
  • UG admission info for Delhi University 2017
  • College Principals' Conference at NEHU
  • Mortal remains of CCpur victims laid to rest
  • Redefining Manipuri Hindu
  • Last rites of CCpur bodies performed
  • Private tuition : Financial burden on parents
  • Nungbi Chaphu - Ukhrul Pottery :: Gallery
  • International Yoga Day #1 :: Gallery
  • New Government, New Hope #2
  • Auditorium of High Court of Manipur :: 360 °
  • Book publishing as a career option
  • Simplifying the pursuit of happiness
  • Shirui festival: Let us not go with words..
  • Count pigeons around you
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Hill dists : Lagging in Science stream
  • The lesser truth of National media
  • HSE 2017 Result :: Science Toppers
  • HSE 2017 Result :: Arts Toppers
  • HSE 2017 Result :: Commerce Toppers
  • HSE 2017 Result :: Science Stream
  • HSE 2017 Result :: Arts Stream
  • HSE 2017 Result :: Commerce Stream
  • Barak Spring Festival @Senapati :: Gallery
  • Phalneilhing, Sinchui :: eMing
  • Incarnations of Goddess Nongthang Leima
  • Ebudhou Thanjing Laishang #1 :: 360 °
  • Media & Contemporary Manipuri Society #2
  • Cleaning up the air we breathe
  • 'Maj Rati Keteki', an author's insight
  • SC notices in Biren son case
  • Army act extended by six months
  • Timely acted, but need to rethink...
  • Lamkang Cultural Day @Chandel :: Gallery
  • Ambassador Of Japan with CM :: Gallery
  • JNIMS Ortho scripts history
  • Indigenous people are ST, so are Meeteis
  • Grooming security experts in admin service
  • Parents are supposed to be cheer leaders ..
  • Applauds CM for Building Peace & Harmony
  • 2 trucks carrying logs seized
  • Japan to invite 25 people from Manipur
  • Bomb blasts rock border town in Manipur
  • Shirui Lily Festival, Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • 73rd anniv of Battle of Imphal :: Gallery
  • Nachom Arts : Encouraging Artists
  • Manipur: In the waiting room of justice
  • Cheiraoba Ching Kaba :: 360 ° View
  • Of storms, flying saucers & lazy thoughts
  • Anti-Terrorism day observed
  • Ex-Servicemen Meet organised
  • Managing natural resources
  • Ksh Bhaktakumar- Mr India 2017:: Gallery
  • Tanglei Music Festival :: Gallery
  • Effort To Bridge The Hills And Valley
  • Colloquium: Japanese Culture & Nationalism
  • Meet rejects oil exploration at Khaidem
  • Training on Service Marketing in Healthcare
  • Illegal migrant detection with 1951 cut-off
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Ghost of 2010 continues to haunt
  • Brahmacharimayum Roji - Actress :: eRang
  • Handloom @Temporary Market #1:: Gallery
  • New Government, New Hope #1
  • Nightmares of event management
  • Big data for big impact
  • Free Counselling & Awareness Program
  • One belt one road
  • Jobs: Counseller for Family Court, Ukhrul
  • Sadar Hills Demand 2011-2017 : Timeline
  • Total shutdown against blast in Moreh
  • Tribals reject MoU signed- govt, JACAATB
  • Naga Hoho appeals NIA over arrests
  • First visible step to check corruption
  • International Dance Day :: Gallery
  • Gudui Ngai @Majorkhul #2 :: Gallery
  • Manipur Children Club:: 360 ° View
  • Take smart choice before admissions
  • Love one another ... for living together
  • Shirui Lily Fest off to a grand start
  • On Shirui festival
  • Shirui Lily Fest @Shirui, Ukhrul #1 :: Gallery
  • Civil Service Tennis Tournament :: Gallery
  • Barak(Spring) Festival at Senapati
  • When will India cashless island go cashless
  • The winsomeness of human mind
  • Jobs at NIELIT centers
  • Aadhar Registration & Distribution Program
  • Work starts on Trilateral Highway in Myanmar
  • AI plans NE expansion, to inject more flights
  • People's Day Bridging the gap
  • Reality bite - something seems fishy
  • Meeyamgi Numit hosted by CM :: Gallery
  • Andro AMMA FC : Winner of Doon Cup 2017
  • How great is my mother's love for me
  • Boat House, Kangla :: 360 ° View
  • Pinch of love :: Poem
  • Fingerprint & Iris code for Aadhaar
  • Sharmila solidarity with Africans
  • Trust deficit in Framework Agreement
  • Equality in place of majoritarianism
  • A hope for better Manipur
  • Kangleipak Kang Trophy #3:: Gallery
  • Featured Photo for 2017 #2 :: Gallery
  • Gudui Ngai : Festival of Zeliangrong
  • Fishery as an agenda for Barak Festival
  • Supermom :: Poem
  • 2nd Startup Weekend Imphal
  • May Day #2 :: Essay
  • For inclusion of Meitei in ST category
  • Hands that rock the cradle rule the world
  • Film Personalities #1 :: eRang Classic
  • Handicrafts of the Zeliangrong #2
  • High Court of Manipur :: 360 ° View
  • From head-hunters into money-hunters
  • Importance of dialectic in Philosophy
  • Binalakshmi Nepram threatened by Police
  • Cleanliness drive conducted at CCpur
  • Gudui Ngai @Majorkhul #1 :: Gallery
  • Bringing TB out of the shadows
  • Women are the salt of the earth
  • Superstition and its side-effects
  • Temples of learning
  • Guidelines of play schools
  • Bucket of cold water after a hot shower
  • Breaking the barrier
  • Lai Lamthokpa @Yaiskul #2 :: Gallery
  • MIMS (MU) - ManFete #4 :: Gallery
  • Impact of October Revolution Manipur #2
  • Bir Tikendrajit Park :: 360 °
  • Nurses are heart beat of healthcare
  • Go to the hill districts too
  • Beginning of a new era; but ...
  • Seminar on 'Life of Gangmumei Kamei' #1
  • OORJA football Closing ceremony :: Gallery
  • May 10, 1942: first bomb hit Imphal in WW2
  • Manipur killings: Amicus Curiae on Army...
  • A white paper on good governance
  • Butterfly a living parable of resurrection
  • Global Manipuri Mega Photo Contest
  • Inquiry on "School Van accident"
  • Inking an MoU with CCpur JAC
  • Calls for human security
  • Laishram Lalitabi - Actress :: eRang
  • Manipur & Nagaland CMs :: Gallery
  • Cheirao Ching Kaba #1 :: 360 ° Photo
  • MLA - defection politics in Manipur
  • Japan interest to develop Education in NE
  • CM floral tribute to Martyred Jawans
  • More than a 'courtesy call'
  • Development & security matters
  • Thongjao potters adapt to modern reqt
  • Prize Distribution- MU Sports :: Gallery
  • Handicrafts of the Zeliangrong #1
  • Imphal Intl Airport : How International?
  • The mystery of nine :: Poem
  • RIST popular talk 29 - Molecular Electronics
  • 122nd rank in the list of cleanliness
  • Consumers' rights
  • Sagol Kangjei Exhibition :: Gallery
  • Musuem, Kangla :: 360 ° photo
  • Keeping workforce healthy-smart business
  • Brief story of Karl Marx (199th Birth Anniv)
  • Manipuri resurgence & Jewish lessons
  • Visit of Japanese Ambassador to MU
  • Poems released at Barapani, Meghalaya
  • CMD, NHPC Visit to Loktak Power Station
  • Right venue for seminar on bridging the gap
  • Landscape of Manipur #6: Wallpaper
  • Lai Lamthokpa @Yaiskul #1 :: Gallery
  • Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon #1 :: Gallery
  • Arbind Soibam - Emerging Singer :: eRang
  • MIMS (MU) - ManFete #3 :: Gallery
  • Traditional Thabal @Pourabi :: Gallery
  • Henjunaha - A folk play :: Gallery
  • The Mighty Mystic Manipuri Women
  • Arambai show #2:: Gallery
  • Shakuhachi meets Pena, Manipur & Japan
  • Laishram Birendrakumar recieve Padmashri
  • Kei Onba Kom Gi Eshing :: Funga Wari
  • 'Nura Pakhang'(Video) @Portugal:: Gallery
  • Mr India 2017- Ksh Bhaktakumar :: Gallery
  • Purul, Senapati :: 360 View Panorama
  • Ethoi Oinam #1 (Actress) :: eRang
  • CM N Biren visit to Ukhrul #2 :: Gallery
  • Manipur Sangai Festival 2016 #4 : Ooba
  • Nungshiba Khongel @Sylhet :: Gallery
  • Maphou Dam :: 360 View Panorama
  • SPONSORED ADS